Whether you’re threading through trees at near highway speeds, bouncing from berm to berm or cranking your way up the side of a mountain, your body should be physically prepared for the beating it takes while mountain biking. Mountain biking at any level requires just as much physical fitness as it does mental acuity. While there’s no substitute for building your skills on the bike, sometimes putting the bike on top of the car and heading out to the mountain isn’t always possible.
Ryan Leech, pro mountain bike instructor and graduate of both the West Coast School of Mountain Biking and the Canadian Mountain Bike Instructor Certification School suggests a few supplemental workouts to stay sharp when you’re off the bike. “These suggestions are potent, beneficial and accessible to most riders,” he says, “but they’re also based on the idea that riders want to ride for a long time and without pain, so a nice mix of cross training is important.”
A Stable Spine Goes A Long Way
To start, mobility is often lost as a result of injury. During the healing process, our bodies limit mobility but we often forget how to get our bodies back to our previous full range. So first, avoid injury (unlikely for most riders). Second, make sure you seek a physical therapist to relearn your full range. For me, I had to relearn my thoracic range and the following is my maintenance to continue reminding my body of the full range. These are some of those workouts that help increase and maintain your body’s range of motion. — RL
Stay stable. Lay down on the floor on your right side. Bring your left knee out in front of you and bend it to 90 degrees. Grab your left thigh with your right hand. Then, drop left shoulder down back as if you’re trying to lay your shoulders flat on the floor, all while holding your left leg in place. You can let your head ease down to the floor or prop it up with something comfortable like a rolled up towel. While in this position, take deep breaths to allow rotation of the thoracic spine. Be sure to keep your hips stacked vertically.
Squats for Stability
Seemingly simple but very effective, squats help develop the power necessary to keep the cranks turning on those high-torque technical climbs. The stability and strength generated in your ankle during a one leg squat is also a great side effect. — RL
Build strength over time. Hinge your hips so your torso is angled slightly forward. Keep your thighs at about 45 degrees relative to the floor, so not too deep to start. Then start transferring more weight to one leg, then slowly stand up. Progressively add more body weight onto one leg, standing up quicker each time, eventually completing a squat on one leg and jumping up rapidly rather than slowly standing. After time and development, you’ll be able to do multiple squats, all on one leg, with powerful vertical bursts.
Open Up Your Chest
Your body position while riding bikes is similar to that of a computer-centric lifestyle in that it creates ‘closed’ front bodies: hunched forward shoulders and neck, with a rounded spine. It’s important to keep your shoulders broad. — RL
Do it on your back. Lay on your back with your arms out to the sides. Keep your arms extended and start with your palms facing up. Then, with your arms on the ground, gently stretch your chest muscles and relax your shoulders, slowly rotate your hands while doing a sort of snow angel motion.