5 Exercises to Help You Rip Corners Faster

May 10, 2010 at 0:07
May 10, 2010
by James Wilson  
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Few things separate great riders from average ones like the ability to corner. Being able to glide into a turn, avoid overcooking it and sail out with maximum speed is a thing of beauty to watch. For a lot of riders it seems like voodoo black magic and it seems impossible for them to figure out how to go that fast in a corner without washing out or wrecking.

The good news is that cornering ability isn't magical and you can significantly improve your speed with a few pointers and some training.

Video and details inside,

The bad news is that it will take more than reading this article; you'll have to actually put in some work. If you practice and strengthen some key movements needed on the bike you'll be amazed at how easily they can transfer to the trail.

Views: 17,280    Faves: 269    Comments: 15

First, some pointers about cornering:

- Cornering comes from leaning your bike, not from turning your handlebars or leaning your body. You have to be able to separate yourself from the bike so you can lean it over while maintaining a balanced position over the bottom bracket.

- Your hips need to shift laterally to stay balanced over the bottom bracket. If you lean your bike over you have changed its center of gravity (the bottom bracket). This means that you have to change your center of gravity (hips) to compensate.

- Pointing your belly button/ hips where you want to go also helps you turn better. Your hips are your guiding force – where they are pointed is where you body wants to go.

This makes lateral hip mobility important so you can get your hips into the right position. It also makes lateral core strength important because you have to be able to hold your hips in position and counteract the forces of cornering. These foundational movements make up an important part of cornering technique and can be improved and strengthened through strength training.

By using strength training as a chance to address these foundational movement components you make it easier to improve on the more complex movements needed for cornering. It can be tough to really think about the points above on your bike – you have a lot to think about and pay attention to in order to stay upright. But in the gym you can focus like a laser on how you are moving and really dial in these foundational movements. This makes it easier to apply higher level skills, like cornering, on your bike.

With that in mind here are my Top 5 Cornering Exercises (see video for demo of each exercise):

1 – Lateral Body Bend: Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and your core tall and thin. Bend side to side as far as you can without twisting your hips or shoulders. Drive the bend from the hips, not the shoulders.

2 - Side Plank: Lie on your side with your feet stacked and your elbow underneath your shoulder. Bring your hips up off the ground and hold for a count of 10. Lower back down and repeat for the prescribed number of reps (usually 3-6 holds on each side).

3 – Side Bridge: Just like the side plank except that you only hold for a count of 1 at the top and then come back down, repeating for the prescribed number of reps (usually 8-12).

4 – Side Press: This is a combination of a shoulder press and a lateral body bend. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart while holding a dumbbell in one hand. Raise the dumbbell up to a shoulder press position and brace your core. Press the dumbbell up and bend over to the side. Try to time it so that your reach the top of the shoulder press and the end of your bend at the same time. Bring your torso back upright by driving the hips back to the center before lowering the dumbbell back down and repeating for the prescribed number of reps (usually 5-12 on each side).

5 – Windmill: Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and a dumbbell pressed over your head. Turn both feet away from the side that the dumbbell is pressed out. While watching the dumbbell slide your other hand down your leg towards the floor. Try to touch the ground next to your heel before driving your hips back under you to come back upright. Keep the dumbbell pointed up towards the ceiling the entire time and repeat for the prescribed number of reps (usually 5 – 12 on each side.

Most of the time riders don't see much from strength training because they don't understand how it really relates to what they need. When you do these exercises think about the points I've mentioned here and in the video about cornering technique and how these exercise relate to it. Only by being mentally engaged on this level can you turn a workout into the deliberate practice you need to noticeable results on the trail.

Lastly, this article is not a "workout". There are no recommended sets and reps for these exercises as they are meant to be a part of an overall program. The side press and windmill are also advanced exercises that may not be appropriate for everyone at first. I recommend having a plan on how to improve as a rider and then use these exercises and tips to help enhance that effort.

I hope that this article and video have helped you understand what athletes in other sports have understood for years – you can use strength training to enhance your ability to execute skills needed in your sport. However, it takes more than just riding your bike and doing some "training". You have to be mentally engaged both in the gym and on the trail if you want to really improve your ability to rip corners with the best of them.

James Wilson is the owner of MTB Strength Training Systems, the world’s only company dedicated to developing strength and conditioning programs for the unique demands of mountain biking. He has helped hundreds of mountain bikers around the world ride faster and longer and his current clients include National DH Champ Aaron Gwin and the Yeti/ Fox Racing Shox Factory Team. Riders interested in learning more about how strength training can help them have more fun on the trail can visit www.BikeJames.com.

Did you enjoy this article, do you have specific questions for James? Ask them below and we'll be sure to pass them along to him.
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  • + 9
 This type of content really adds a lot to the site. Especially if it is archived somewhere for new people to find. Best thing about this is that it is still good for those who have been riding for years. It helps to remember to focus when in the gym on what your muscles should be doing when you are going to be on the bike.
  • + 5
 These are great, thanks James for sharing your knowledge. I love your emphasis on how these translate to biking instead of getting strong just for the sake of being strong. An archive system would be great for regular bits like this and Tech Tuesdays, where you could click on 'Bike James' or 'Tech Tuesdays' or whatever. The archive navigator leaves a little to be desired right now.
  • + 2
 Wot About Fitness Fridays.Great Vid This is the kind of things Pinkbike needs to help everyone. Salute
  • + 1
 Yeah, that'd be a great idea, just general tips on getting fitter and stronger which will benefit our riding
  • + 9
 Good stuff more please!
  • + 7
 This helps! Yesterday I crashed bad because I suck at cornering...
  • + 1
 Great video! Really nicely presented, and loved the shout out to the big dog, Mr Peat! Will definitely be getting some of these into some sort of routine. Putting the extra effort in makes very noticeable difference to your riding.
  • + 2
 Nicely structured and well presented. Keep up the good work, these videos will be very useful in the coming months when i put together a program for myself.
  • + 1
 I think these exercise tips are awesome. my body is starting to feel the pain of 5+ years riding whistler and the shore. It would be great if you could talk about ways to escape lower back pain. cheers!
  • + 1
 Great stuff James, really appreceiate it. Been doing supermans, side and front planks but didn't know about using weights. Keep up the good work.
  • + 2
 Any help for back problems? My back hurts like a bitch since I tried nac naccing on my tramp bike...and failing.
  • + 2
 my favorite strenghth and support builder for back is to: lay on stomach on bed with upper torso hanging off, have someone sit on your legs, then do somthing like a reverse sit up. don't go past a horizontal position. thats how to do it at home at the gym there are specific machines.
  • + 6
 it's called a superman. I do them in tight little red underwear with one arm outstretched while making a fist and flying noises like swoooooosh. I get weird looks cause I do this at the gym.
  • + 1
 Haha. Very rarely does a comment on here make me laugh.
  • + 2
 Thanks for providing this video.
  • + 1
 Cool. That's awesome that he's giving this info for free. I'd like to see him ride.
  • + 0
 I just decline pressed 275, that must really help with cornering too right? Sweet tips, thanks.
  • + 1
 great info - thanks!

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