Video: In-Depth Analysis of Riding Positions with The Strength Factory

Jun 12, 2020
by Ben Plenge  

Drop Your Heels
Head Up
Elbows Out

We have all heard these when we talk about body position on the bike, but why? And how do they work together? How do you make your body do these things? How do the pro's make it look so easy?

In this video, Ben from The Strength Factory takes a deep dive into what he calls, 'The Flow Position.' He explains how one area of your body position affects another and what you can do in terms of strength and mobility to improve your riding position on the bike. By looking at the body as a whole system, we can build a better riding position that will benefit any rider or racer, no matter what level.

You can check out The Strength Factory online or give them a follow on Instagram.


88 Comments

  • 33 0
 I`ve been watching lots of videos on body position over the years and this one hits the nail on the head. Really well detailed and explained and I like the concept of flow position instead of attack position, which I never like in the first place. Good work !
  • 19 0
 I'm stoked to hear that. Cheers mate.
  • 1 0
 Agree. This was really good. Thanks, @MTB-Strength-Factory
  • 15 0
 Probably the most overlooked aspect of mountain biking, very well.
  • 5 0
 This..and vision.
  • 11 0
 @CircusMaximus:
Dentists are more concerned about teeth.
  • 4 1
 @CircusMaximus: Definitely! Being able to see is crucial! Wink
  • 4 1
 @NotSorry: haha I mean looking down the trail, using peripheral vision, etc...
  • 2 0
 @CircusMaximus: vision is key. Has anybody found a video like this for vision? No matter how many times I try, even after all these years, I regularly find myself not looking far enough down the trail.
  • 3 0
 @aquanut: same here. I'll end up picking out an obstacle, spot in a a turn or the wall of a berm to stare at. I've been riding mrb for 25+ years and still catch myself looking down every once in awhile.
  • 3 0
 I don't have my peripheral vision. Only have 150° rather than 180° like most people so cant rely on my peripheral vision as much. So end up ratcheting my vision.
  • 2 0
 @NotSorry: Teeth are important too. For plan B, eating dirt. And also for the step preceding step A. Precision is key to avoid biting off more than you can chew.
  • 2 0
 @vinay: Dirt is nutritious.
  • 10 0
 If there was one thing some pals of mine and I learned over 25+ years of coming up with a program for teaching another “action” sport, it was spotting the “here’s your riding position” trap.
I think there’s a lot to be said for identifying a position from which you’ll operate, but language and imagery is used here that can lead you to believe that you should always be in this position.
A few years back, our method changed to coaching a “centred and mobile” mindset. “Centred” refers to what you see here. “Mobile” speaks to the range of motion you need to achieve the other “shapes” you’ll want to be in. A good example of that is what the ankle is doing; While dropping the heels is a good default, being raised in your ankles is necessary to float over rough terrain. If in a demonstration as an instructor you show the dropped heel position as the presenter here has, you should also show its effective opposite and the transition between those two places. Here, it is shown as a “good” - “bad”, when depending on the situation, good can be bad, and bad can be good. You could say the same about arm or hip position; there’s an ideal spot to be, but in order to flow, you have to make different shapes.
The other side of encouraging an “envelope” of movement is allowing the student to think that other, “weak” positions are ok. With “centred” being preferable, the only way to ride there more consistently is through strength. If you are very fit, as the presenter is here, your “shapes” or “mobile moments” will be very deliberate and only last as long as the terrain requires, allowing you to return to centre faster.
The long and sort of it is that students are very susceptible to language and imagery. If you say “ride like this”, you’ll be taken very literally. If you wonder why you see people riding around like that, looking stiff, it’s because they’ve probably been instructed to do just that.
Ultimately, there are some great takeaways in here... after a hundred years on the bike, I thought I’d get my 15 minutes back from taking the time to watch
  • 5 0
 @robbyrideguide Your analysis is spot on. Though I love the information shared in thevideo and it is probably the best video I have seen as far as body positioning goes (There may be more good or better one out there) I think it misses the very crucial point what you said " depending on situation a good position can be bad or vice versa and in order to be in a flow position, one has to make different shapes and movements to flow with the terrain".
I think its very crucial to point out what you have stated coz the ideal position has nuances and though it is important to keep in mind that the ideal position is the most efficient and less strenuous body position but it is even more important to be aware that body position has to change constantly in order to be flow through a variable terrain.
  • 10 0
 Hey dude, thanks for the feedback and I totally understand where you are coming from. The way I see this position is that it is the position you hold between corners or between tech sections. You are ready to make a shape, to shift your weight, to execute a manoeuvre and all whilst in a safe, efficient and 'ready' position. Being loose and mobile on the bike is everything, but I believe that comes from a foundation of a solid riding position. Cheers.
  • 5 0
 @MTB-Strength-Factory:
We’ll often teach from scenarios, or a tactical approach that’s “terrain based”.
The idea being one where you speak to what’s needed to effectively ride a section of trail, or a certain type of obstacle / jump / feature.
When it’s specific, it’s easier for the student to achieve the goal, and for the trainer to measure progress. It also steers clear of having a student try to interpret when some move, “shape”, or position is effective or not. You just dictate a line, talk to them about how it’s done, show them how it’s done, then get them to do it and give them feedback, rinse and repeat.
It’s probably something you already do with moving weights, where the example could be showing someone one part of the movement pattern, or the whole movement from start to finish, get them to do it, then analyze with feedback.
Truthfully though, I’m riffing on one presentation. I’m sure you have others that speak to what I’m talking about. Again, it’s language and imagery in any one presentation that can either reinforce or work against others.
Good stuff though... thanks for doing it. It’s great to see a competent person presenting solid material to anyone who wants to look, and for free!
  • 9 0
 Ben is the man. Super solid advice and no psychobabble bullshit. I've been doing his online gym workouts for 6 months and it's made a huge difference in my riding.
  • 4 0
 Thanks mate. I'm stoked to hear that!
  • 8 0
 Pierron at Snowshoe last year was definitely in the attack position.
  • 2 0
 Fair enough - there is no arguing with that one!
  • 2 0
 Ahah I had the same images in mind!
  • 2 0
 Good observation but I would describe his position as aero-attack, as he gets his chest as low as possible whenever possible.
  • 6 0
 Super interesting and helpful video this @MTB-Strength-Factory thanks for posting!
  • 2 0
 Glad you liked it!
  • 2 0
 @MTB-Strength-Factory: Good stuff! Well articulated, now time to attack that flow position!
  • 4 0
 Loved your video and thorough presentation. After seeding myself ride on know I have a lot to work on here... Can you tell me why my neck hurts when (or after) I attempt to bunny hop?

youtu.be/B36mknHiZUw
  • 5 0
 Don't preload like you're doing and slow down a little for the sake of practice: lean back and sag smoothly into your travel and then stand stall, just like you would on a 20" or DJ before pushing the bars out and tucking into the hop.

The only difference from a hardtail is that you need to take up slack in your suspension before you stand up, otherwise you'll just be fighting the bike like you are in the video!
  • 3 0
 If you slow the vid down you'll see that your upper back is hunched (like Ben mentions in his video). When you try and look ahead from this position by tilting your head up, you are putting enormous strain through your front body and neck. Get your body position dialled first, based on Ben's excellent video, and then see how your neck goes?
  • 4 0
 @Kortbeint: I think you are using your arms too much. The power comes from your legs. If you were standing on the ground, you squat down and jump up vertically. A bunny hop is mainly that vertical component while rolling on a bike. The other vertical component comes from the lever created when you hold the bars and pull them backwards (relative to the bb) while the bike levers like a seesaw at the bottom bracket. This pushes the rear wheel into the ground and lifts the bottom bracket and the rider vertically and provides more lift. Notice I say 'hold the bars', not 'pull on the bars'. Your arms should be straight as you rock backwards and push the BB with your legs. You take the load with your skeleton, not your muscles. (In your video, this is when you are bending at the elbows and pulling with your shoulders and neck.) Once you get the bike and yourself at the maximum height, then use the rotation of your wrists and arms to position the bike for landing.

The two comments above are great. Slow down, stand tall, preload, straight back.
  • 2 0
 The neck hurting is because you are following the obstacle with your head as you are passing over it and the act of coming down is putting strain on the neck. As mentioned, keep your eyes and chin up - let your peripheral vision do the work for you. Put something about 15-20' ahead of the obstacle that you can look at while you practice.

I noticed also look like you are trying to do a manual when lifting the front wheel, which is a different skill. A front wheel lift is as simple as pushing down (loading the front suspension) and then as it comes up, just pull up with it. No leaning back required.

Rear wheel lift is loading the rear suspension then, while putting pressure on the palms of your hands, point your toes down and "scoop" back (like you are getting dog poop off your shoe). Practice both independently before you integrate them together.

From there, do a front wheel lift, then as it touches the ground do a rear wheel lift. Once you have that, then you should be comfortable with proceeding to front wheel lift and then lifting the rear while your front is still in the air (bunny hop).
  • 2 0
 I saw your video again today in a tab I left open and something dawned on me I forgot to mention above: you have a long bike. It is much, much (much!) harder to correctly hop a bike with long chainstays, which only gets harder when your frame has a lot of reach.

I would suggest trying to get your hands on a hardtail DJ or BMX to learn the motion. It helps tremendously having a baseline understanding of the core motion involved, which is easier to learn on a bike that you can take these variables (rear center, reach, suspension) out of.
  • 1 0
 Hi again,
Thanks for your comments. I'm actually quite happy with with some aspects of those bunny hops. Like the relatively straight arms and the "hands to hips"-action. But of course it could be improved. I think the lack of height comes mainly from not staying down and then springing up with the legs enough.

But the biggest shock of watching myself bike on video was body position. Had no idea about how much I am rounding my back and shoulders and the lack of hip hinging. So started thinking, do I do that while biking normal as well? not just when manualing and bunny hopping? Seem harder to fix than the other stuff I try to correct while biking. Broke my collar bone 2 weeks ago so will be a while before I can mountain bike again. Will try to focus on it while in the gym as @MTB-Strength-Factory suggest.

Not on a long bike @HaggeredShins. It's a Canyon Strive size S with 420 mm reach and short chainstays. So not blaming it on the bike. But I guess it's longer than a dirt jumper...
  • 2 0
 @MTB-Strength-Factory My right ankle is partially fused which greatly limits its mobility. This makes it difficult to keep my heel dropped on only this side and I know this also contributes to having my weight thrown forward. Would I be better off forcing myself to ride with my left foot forward more often? Or should I stick with right foot forward as it feels more natural, albeit sketchy? Any other recommendations for dealing with this limited range of motion? Thanks so much!
  • 1 0
 This is a tricky one and I have a rider who I coach at the gym who also has a fused ankle. As you know, you can never improve the mobility on that side which is a limitation. Riding switch is also really hard and to make a full switch could take months or years for us normal people, unlike some pros who seem to switch all the time! I would just ride the way that feels natural and get really strong in the hinge position. Sorry I can't offer more help.
  • 2 0
 @MTB-Strength-Factory - Hi Ben - Super interesting and I have watched it in chunks over the last couple of days (at my desk constantly stretching out my back) What is your advice on brake lever position - horizontal to the ground Yoann Barrelli style or more in line with your arm as in the recent Kyle Warner vid to keep joints in strong positions? I have been moving my levers up recently and it does feel like it has kept my head and eyes up but is there a joint issue from not having them in line. ta v much.
  • 2 0
 Hey mate, thanks for the message. I think it is worth experimenting with a bit. Personally I try to run a straight line down my arm and down my fingers and would say that mine are fairly neutral. Neither flat nor down. It is really hard to say what is best for everyone.
  • 3 0
 I was getting repressed about my posture until he said that I don't need shoulder mobility. Sweet, at least I have poor shoulder mobility going for me!
  • 2 0
 Just don't superman over the bars!
  • 1 0
 Thank you. I'll keep those images in mind on tomorrow's ride when I am in the "Flow" position. Sadly, I spend a lot of time in the "Rolling Rest" position. Posture in this position is also very important. Droppers are godsends.
  • 3 0
 I'll hit a video of that next week!
  • 2 0
 This is a great video! Very helpful! I would also like to learn how to position myself on the bike for climbing (seated position). I think that seated pedaling is the source of my lower back pain.
  • 2 0
 I'll add it to the list of future topics.
  • 2 1
 If you support the whole arch of the foot you don't need to drop the heels to create tension in you glutes and hamstrings. You also don't put a bunch of stress on your calves. Mid-foot pedal position people, it'll change you life.
  • 1 0
 I have been wondering this for a while. Back in the day I used to ride a lot of drops thinking I was a freerider. I found that more of a mid-foot position put less stress on my achilles when taking big impacts. But when racing downhill, I rode clipless kept the ball of my foot over the pedal axle and this gave more powers to the pedals it seemed. Now I almost always ride flats but rarely do big rowdy drops and I find I still ride in the more mid-foot position (except when climbing) and wondering if I need to change. I never remember to think about it and try different things when riding though haha. All the pictures I see of sam hill, his foot is always more in mid-foot position, but still heels down.
  • 1 0
 @vesania: The idea is to support the arch of your foot more than drop your heels. Dropping the heel is still necessary many situations. @MTB-Strength-Factory mentions having tension in your glutes and hamstrings. With your toes on the pedal, you can't create that tension without stressing your achilles. He recommends a bunch of exercises to strengthen the hip-hinge movement, deadlift, kettlebell swing, etc. How many of these exercised are done on the balls of your feet? Zero, we drive the force through our heels. Then we're supposed to stand on the balls of our feet on our pedals? This doesn't make any sense.
  • 1 0
 Riding flat pedals you naturally tend to ride with the mid foot on the pedal, rather than the ball of the foot. I am a big believer in sliding cleats back as far as possible for riders who choose to clip in.
  • 1 0
 @savagepooh: I know what you are saying mate, and I think we are actually agreeing with each other in terms of foot placement on the pedal but for all of those examples of exercises you should try to connect to the floor through 3 points, not just the heels. Basically you would create power through your whole foot. Heel, ball of foot on inside and ball of foot on outside.
Also when you think about running and jumping, none of that should come through our heels, so we can clearly generate power from the mid and forefoot.
As for putting a bunch of stress on calves - it is only stressful if it is underprepared. The achilles is also the largest ligament in the body and more than up to the task.
So - I agree with the mid foot being supported on the pedals, including if you run clips, but you still need to drop your heels for grip, pumping and to help straighten the knee. The hip tension comes more from pushing back into a hinge. Cheers dude. Ben
  • 4 0
 Love this vid, great stuff to work on as we come out of lockdown!
  • 1 0
 Cheers mate
  • 2 0
 Great video Ben! Fundamental aspects of riding that are overlooked by a lot of people... myself included probably even after 25 years of racing!
  • 1 0
 Cheers bro!
  • 4 4
 Great vid, but skip to 2:17 to actually get into it. I don't mind if people want to have lots of preamble, big opening (and LOUD) credits, etc, but I love it when they're self aware and put the time mark for actual content in the description. Just say'n.
  • 3 0
 Fair enough dude. I'm still getting started with the YouTube thing. Thanks for the feedback.
  • 9 2
 @Chuckolicious A professional has given you 25 mins of FREE expertise and coaching, and put the effort in to give a detailed intro to the video. The very least you should be doing is thanking him, before given your unsolicited, pernickety opinion and framing it as feedback. What was that you said about self-awareness? Just say'n.


@MTB-Strength-Factory This is great content, and extremely well delivered. Thanks for making it available for us all to benefit from!
  • 1 1
 @wohwee: Uh, my first two words were?
  • 2 0
 A light just went off!!!!!! I have been downhilling in the wrong position - thanks!!!! No jokes not cheeky comments -thanks
  • 1 0
 Happy Days! If you don't mind me asking, what was the main point that clicked for you?
  • 2 0
 @MTB-Strength-Factory:
It is the heels back and leg straight position. I am a ex-MTB XC racer that is always been exceptionally fit and light until recently. Therefore, I’ve been able to mask my position problems. Where previously lived most down hills lasted no more than 2 minutes before a flat section or uphill - whereas there up to 15 minute down hills where I currently live therefore my legs tickly quads been getting incredibly tired. I joked that I feel like I’m doing a wall set. Thank for the video!
  • 2 0
 Ah yes the ol’ poo stance. Common for beginners in skating, surfing, and snowboarding too. But it’s sooo funny to watch. Don’t make them all stop.
  • 2 0
 Watched this right before a ride and was a total blast to implement it and took the ride to another level.
  • 1 0
 Yes mate! Great work.
  • 2 0
 Hey Ben, I saw you up BC riding that Miami Sunset ebike. Here you are again! Excellent video, super useful. cheers!
  • 1 0
 haha, that paint job is quite memorable for sure! Hope to catch you again soon.
  • 2 0
 And then coach trimed his handlebar And finaly got a good riding position!!
  • 2 0
 Ahahahhahaha “Out the front door and eating shit“ I’m sold on his coaching it’s mint
  • 2 0
 No jargon here.
  • 1 0
 Strongly disagree with droping your heels in postions. Droping your heels is movement in some situations, not a static postion
  • 3 0
 Explained
  • 1 0
 Thanks very much mate. Glad you liked it.
  • 2 0
 Great video, what can I do to increase ankle mobility?
  • 1 0
 Start playing soccer, they will move much freely
  • 1 0
 calf stretches are a good start.
  • 2 0
 Banded distraction ankle, check out the supple leopard
  • 2 0
 Awesome clip. Super useful, easy to follow and understand. Thanks a ton.
  • 1 0
 No worries. Glad you liked it!
  • 2 0
 I enjoyed that. Maybe you’ll teach this old dog some new tricks.
  • 1 0
 We can only try....... I just turned 40 and still trying to implement it all fully!
  • 2 0
 Excellent video, I'll be following his content from here on out
  • 1 0
 Sick video! Where can i find the other vid on upper back mobility?
  • 1 0
 mmmm, I can't get a hyperlink in there. Mt channel is called The Strength Factory on YouTube and it is a video called How to Undo Hours Spent At Your Desk. It is near the top.
  • 2 0
 @MTB-Strength-Factory: thanks for the link! Very useful video for me right now.
  • 3 5
 Never take advice from someone wearing Nike socks.
  • 9 0
 If he was wearing nothing but Nike socks you’d have a point.
  • 3 0
 But what if you were wearing Nike socks when you wrote that?
  • 3 0
 TK Maxx specials mate!

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