Split Stance Exercises for Faster Cornering

Oct 11, 2010 at 0:07
Oct 11, 2010
by James Wilson  
 
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One of the things I've realized is that being able to ride switch-foot is not an option, it is a must for good trail riding. Besides it being good for when you do find your feet switched for some reason on the trail it also helps to fight imbalances - you'd be amazed at how bad riding with the same foot forward all the time is for your hips and lower back. However, the most important thing in my book is how it helps you corner better.

Read on and become a better rider,

Here is a video demo I shot of some of these exercises and some more coaching tips on how to get the most from them:

Views: 12,556    Faves: 128    Comments: 4


The idea is that you can turn a lot of exercises into more "mountain bike specific" versions by using a split stance with them. I also like to use 1/2 kneeling variations (where you're down on one knee) as a way to introduce people to the core demands of this stance.

Lastly, it is vitally important that you keep your hips square when using the split stance position. I tell people to keep their belly button pointed forward - letting your belly button point off to the side lets your hips open up and this misses the core demand we're looking for. Working on the the movements you need on the trail while in the gym will help dial them in when you need them the most.



One of the keys to cornering is to separate yourself from the bike and lean it over into a turn. As you lean the bike over your outside foot should drop to help facilitate the lean. This works best if you set up for a turn with your inside foot forward - this will get your inside leg's thigh out of the way of the seat when you lean the bike over and also set your outside foot up for the drop.

If you try to corner with your legs switched you'll end up with your seat running into your inside thigh and your outside leg being in the wrong position to drop down and set the "edge" on your turn. This is why most riders aren't ambi-turners (50 bonus points for the movie reference) and find it much easier to corner one way than the other.

Being able to ride switch basically boils down to your stability in the split stance position where you have one foot stepped forward and one foot stepped back. I'll guarantee you that doing a simple exercise like a split squat will tell you a lot about yourself - you'll find that you're much more stable with one foot forward compared to the other and that most likely matches up with how you feel on the bike as well.

Working hard to get strong and stable in split stance exercises in the gym will work wonders for improving your ability to ride switch on the bike. Here are some of my favorite staple exercises for this:

- Split Squat

- Bulgarian Split Squat

- Split Stance Shoulder Press

- Split Stance Row

However, I've been playing around lately with some new split stance exercises that advance things a bit:

- Split Stance Single Arm Swing

- Split Stance KB Clean & Snatch

- Split Stance Jump Rope




James Wilson is the owner MTB Strength Training Systems, the word's only company dedicated to developing strength and conditioning programs for the unique demands of mountain biking. His clients include the current US National DH Champ Aaron Gwin. James currently owns a training facility in Grand Junction CO and is the strength coach for the Yeti World Cup Team. You can find more tips and training info at his blog www.BikeJames.com.
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24 Comments

  • + 6
 ZOOLANDER! 50 pts please Smile
  • + 8
 ^could go either way...i mean u did ask for 50pts.
  • + 0
 Winner winner chicken dinner...or 50 bonus points.
[Reply]
  • + 2
 I'm using a Pivit Board to improve balance and help decrease the dysbalance between right and left leg. Has made a huge difference in how I corner on the bike - much more confidence leaning the bike , especially on right handers ! Maybe he could do a segment on using these Balance Boards.
[Reply]
  • + 2
 Always great to see this videos from James Wilson. I'd love to see something from him about aggro XC/trail training. I'm totaly unsure what should I do actualy to get faster, more strength at longer time. I'm doing some training on a road bike for some time now, but got totaly opposite effect: body just started hating uphills and intervals, never had problems with lactic acid, now all I feel is PAAAAIN...
  • + 1
 Road works you at endurance when all conditions are almost the same over a long period. It helps your mountain biking only with your cardio and if you either are climbing in harder and harder gears or going faster and faster. The irregular flow and stop and start of mountain biking requires a mix of endurance (cardio) and weightlifting in the low reps at one weight and then shifting to another. If you want to work on your mtb muscles in the off season try the split stance stuff while doing low rep high weight exercise.
  • + 0
 thx! I also just remembered that James did this cardio vs endurance vid. That explained a lot just as you say Smile I'm thinking about training short uphills too, like 1 minute long steep uphills in repetitions, as pretty much this what I do a lot on "proper rides".

What I noticed interesting though is: I was doing only XC this year, and I never ever before felt so strong. I'm not riding as much in general (road, FR) as I did in previous years and still this summer I pulled these 2h+ AM style uphills I could never do in my life!. So ig uess thanks to XC my strength went up significantly.

and regarding this road thing vs mtb... good advice to everyone: look out who are you hanging out with - I rode few times with these guys talking about cardio and avoiding carbohydrates and got into it: ending up with lactic acid allover my legs after an XC ride
  • + 1
 James has alot more video's then whats on Pinkbike. Check out his facebook page.
  • + 2
 Road bikes are a terrible way to train for mountain biking. It's like telling a golfer to go hit some baseballs because they are both sports that involve swinging something at a white ball so they must be the same thing, right?

You can find an article series I wrote on my blog called Top 3 Reasons to Leave the Road Bike to the Roadies. Do a search at www.bikejames.com and you'll find it. It should explain why your getting worse riding a road bike, which is not really that uncommon if more riders would be honest with themselves about their results from using that thing.
  • + 1
 Ive been doing a strength training routine you put together with 6 exercises 5 reps each 3-4 rounds and it is AWESOME!..just started it close to 2 months ago and feel a bit stronger when i ride..i do it 2-3 times a week including heavy weight lifting ( which ive always done in between days)...just want to say thanks for puting these vids out!!
[Reply]
  • + 1
 Awesome stuff James. I'm a trainer up in Canada and I've used this technique before. Works awesome. Love how you explain stuff in these videos and how your program is all specialized towards biking. Cool stuff man. Keep it up.
[Reply]
  • + 1
 Thanks for the coaching tips! I really enjoy these segments.
It's amazing how we take things for granted or how we get into a comfort zone of favouring one leg forward. I'll be changing it up and forcing myself out of that comfort zone. I snowboard and skateboard as well and it's incredible how things change when you "switch stance" if you're not comfortable or familiar with it, it makes everything feel like the first time.
[Reply]
  • + 1
 Nothing but props to James and the work he does. I have his training system, and have learned so much in doing only a small portion of it so far. He is great at explaining his techniques, which is great for a new to the gym kind guy like myself. In the small time I have spend doing some of the methods he has taught I have became a much faster rider.
[Reply]
  • + 1
 How is there any more benefit to doing this than doing a traditional split style training routine that allows for core isolation movements? I'm not saying I disagree with it, I'm just curious.
  • + 1
 The S.A.I.D. Principle (Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands) tells us that in order to get stronger and more stable in a split stance position like you use on the bike you have to train the split stance position in the gym. Bilateral and single leg movements with some core work won't do the same thing, although they are an important part of an overall training program.
[Reply]
  • + 1
 I've been practicing aikido for many years. It is very two sided and really helps with being able to ride with either foot forward as well. It also helps with core strength and balance.
[Reply]
  • + 1
 I have never even thought that I favor one leg over another when I was mountain biking but I really think that I do. I am always up for new ways of training and working on my weakness. Zoolander, I concur.
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  • + 5
 yay less hitting trees!
[Reply]
  • + 2
 i've alway focused on getting the outside foot forward as this opens your hips to the direction of turn....?
[Reply]
  • + 1
 mtbstrengthcoach
Some one forgot to let Levi in on how road bike training is bad for the mountain bike riding/racing.
[Reply]
  • + 1
 Ambi Turner. She was a matress-actress from the 1980's.
[Reply]
  • + 1
 kettlebells rulzz
  • + 1
 yes they do!
[Reply]
  • + 0
 get athlean-x the bombest training in existence!
[Reply]

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