MTB Strong: 5 Exercises to Create Strength

Apr 25, 2017 at 19:02
by Dee Tidwell  
Strength, we expect it in our frames, tires, parts and protective wear, but have you thought about how your present level of strength contributes both to your self-protection and performance? We hear it frequently, “I want to be stronger on my bike,” yet, year after year these same riders continue to do the same thing that gets them the same results. The culprit? Thinking they can "ride themselves into shape."

It's that phrase that continues to lead to trail-fitness mediocrity while simultaneously contributing to the potential of a magnification of injury, and almost worst yet, getting beat by your buddies! Like we’ve learned in the last three videos since the beginning of the year and leading into this strength article- being mobile, stable, flexible, having good posture and a good base of muscle provides this foundation to create strength.

A perfect example is the picture below. I truly believe there could’ve done major damage to my body, yet there wasn’t. Yes, I had some soft tissue damage to my left elbow, but I broke nothing despite snapping my carbon seat in two. In fact, the guy in front of me who crashed broke ribs, his arm and punctured a lung.

2016 EWS on stage 8 on DH course
Photo cred- my mom!

I'm confident knowing that even at 48 years old, all my training, strength included, kept my injury potential level lower than I may have ordinarily incurred. In fact, it’s the same strength that helped me get 5th in the 2016 EWS Aspen race this picture was taken, despite this big crash. Strength is crucial for us mountain bikers and it truly is the difference between us and roadies. Yes, roadies need strength, but we need a whole body strength that prevents major trauma from happening to our body's as well as the ability to handle the repetitive beating we take simply because we ride off road, and for that, our training must be different. To help you create strength going into the season, I created a two-part superset (doing exercises back to back without rest) for you designed to train your entire body with different planes of stress occurring at all angles just like with riding/racing.

First, with the help of lady shredder and Yeti/Fox Factory Race Team pro, Anne Galyean, we'll take you through this two superset, five exercise workout.

Be sure to watch the video for the form details and then get to work!

If you’ve tried any of the prior videos at all (listed at the bottom of the article), adding this to what you've already been working on will definitely give you a tangible difference in your strength in less than a few weeks from now!

Views: 4,542    Faves: 64    Comments: 1

Here are the variables I mentioned in the video for this superset of exercises:

- Do 2-4 sets of 12,10,8,6 reps depending on your ability to maintain perfect form.
- Rest 2-5 minutes second between supersets
- Breathe in through the belly and gently hold your breath on the "negative" and exhale slowly through pursed lips on the "positive."
- Perform three to four times a week.
- Don't forget to warm up well before any workout or riding session!

Superset #1 is a hip lift and farmer's carry. Hip lifts fight gravity and training the “posterior chain” (the hamstrings, glutes and spine muscles) to handle loads of stress as a team which is crucial to maintaining a strong position, especially when ripping one of those long downhill’s where fatigue can set in and possibly contribute to a nasty crash.

Glute Bridge 1
Hip lift start
Glute Bridge Start
Hip lift end

The farmer's carry is excellent at creating postural and axial (vertical) loading through a perfect posture. I love how it forces you to prevent postural breakdown and how it makes it difficult to breathe, both of which trains the ribcage to “understand’ how to maintain a stable position so the lungs can function optimally under stress.

Farmers Carry 1
Farmer's carry start
Farmers Carry 2
Farmer's carry walk

Superset #2 is a front squat, single arm/leg cable row, and Swiss ball single arm press and reach. The front squat will challenge your postural system, hips, spine, and shoulder complex to be strong while wearing a pack for long rides and races.

Front Squat 1
Front squat start
Front Squat 2
Front squat at bottom

I love the single arm/leg cable row because of its emphasis on balance, coordination and opposite arm-leg-in-downhill-position focus!

Single Arm Leg Row 1
Single Arm/Leg Start
Single Arm Leg Row 1
Single Arm/Leg Pull Finish

Lastly, the Swiss ball single arm press and reach focuses again on the hip complex and especially the thorax. This chest press is truly important for DH’ing strength for those gnarly sections when you have to resist outside influences like rocks and roots trying to knock you off line!

Single Arm Chest Press and Reach 1
Single arm press and reach start
Single Arm Chest Press and Reach 2
Single arm press and reach finish

Combined, these five exercises will impose force-resistance through your body similar to the way riding does, and when you specifically train the body to be capable of resisting these forces, it increases its efficiency. Moreover, when it’s capable of being “resistant-efficient” when you have those times of overly fatiguing rides, your energy expenditure will be less, your heart rate will be lower, your cardiovascular response will be lower and you’ll be able to finish those rides with better stamina.

Coach Dee is the owner of and the trainer for the @yeticycles / @foxracingshox Factory Race Team. He is also a 48-year-old enduro racer who's been top three overall finisher in the last three years of the Big Mountain Enduro series. To take your season to the next level, you can download the entire Ultimate Enduro/MTB Training Program here.

View all of Dee's previous articles and videos here.

MENTIONS: @yeticycles / @enduromtbtrainer


  • 24 0
 Great article. And it's called Wolff's law (bones will adapt to the loads under which it's placed, i.e. lifting weights puts your bones under that stress, that makes them stronger). Lifting weights is one of the most important things for your bones as we age. That's exactly why you didn't break anything.
  • 3 0
 Great info - thanks!
  • 1 0
 Awesome info!
  • 1 0
 @C9H13NO3: Great modeling there doc Smile
  • 1 0
 Yes sir!
  • 10 0
 OH MY GOD! I didn't know Anne Galyean was pursuing a her doctorate in environmental sciences and engineering at UNC!!! My God! This woman is soooo badass. Can I just meet her once? Hearing her life story would be super interesting.
  • 11 0
 Hi, my name is Dr. Galyean - happy to chat or answer any questions you may have! Got that piece of paper, now I'm an official, actual living scientist.
  • 1 0
 @C9H13NO3: congrats! Little bummed, though, that you're not an official, actual dead zombie scientist.
  • 2 0
 @banzonam: I'm nowhere near that cool, darn it!
  • 1 0
 @banzonam: You're a huge Star Wars fan, too? Shiiiiiiiiiit, I'm done. You've hit all the check marks, haha. By the way, what was it like growing up? Splitting time between work and play? I'm struggling with finding time to shred real trails (I'm a high school junior) on the regular because of classes an all. Any tips?
  • 3 0
 @J-Fletch: Check out this article I wrote about that very thing!
  • 2 0
 @C9H13NO3: Congrats thats an amazing achievement! All for the paper.
  • 1 0
 @photosyn: thanks!
  • 8 0
 No deadlift? The deadlift is where you can gain serious strength, also squats which is nice to see in this article.
  • 5 3
 Deadlifts are, in my opinion, the best possible movement one can perform for overall strength. Although front squats aren't bad. I found that my riding improved most when I started powerlifting: Bench, Squat, Dead, Overhead Press. But if the goal is to get strong, and you can only do one thing... deadlift, deadlift, deadlift.
  • 5 0
 Only because many articles have included deadlifts including one of my past ones. I wanted to show different exercises that can riders can add to their training regimen!
  • 2 0
 I know most of the mtb coaches emphasize the DL but in the strength world the low bar back squat, done properly drives the DL. I don't get why it's not emphasized by more coaches. Probably because it's a lot harder to learn properly.
  • 1 0
 Agree with all that has been said, but one reason deadlifts shouldn't be blindly prescribed without technical coaching is that it is also the lift that can mash lower backs the most/easiest when done improperly. Lots of room for error, and anatomical variability/limitations among people demand individualized technique. Look at the epidemiology of low back injury in cyclists, insanely high prevalence and huge time lost from bike training. Gym work should help combat this not contribute.
  • 3 0
 @briceps: It's because the low bar back squat requires good shoulder mobility, which most don't have. Especially mountain bikers.
  • 3 0
 @chapmang: Deadlifting is the most basic movement of all. Flat back, hip hinge, slight break at the knees. It can hurt you, however it builds a really strong lower back that will help solve lower back problems. Lower back issues with cyclists are derived from constant spinal flexion, causing really bad posture with tight pecs, and a weak back.
  • 3 0
 @dualsuspensiondave: Not to say it's a miraculous cure-all, but my constant lower back pain completely disappeared within a few months of learning how to deadlift (with good form). Bad form seems to be the cause of most injuries.
  • 1 0
 I'd make the argument that the thruster is one of the most complete functional movements out there, but the deadlift is no slouch either.
  • 2 0
 @dualsuspensiondave: This. I can't low bar, my shoulders aren't flexible enough and at least for me as an "amateur" stretching my shoulders constantly in order to even begin doing an exercise is not worth it. I'd rather just deadlift and high bar squat.
  • 1 0
 @dualsuspensiondave: Unfortunately a lot of people don't have the body awareness to hip hinge properly. They end up flexing their low back instead. So yeah, deads are basic. But if they don't have the hinge, it's only going to cause problems.
  • 1 0
 @dualsuspensiondave: agreed, but to be injury proof you should really emphasize shoulder mobility....a healthy shoulder is strong in all planes and mobile.
  • 3 1
 Ah this is rad! I've been aimlessly working out in the gym with no real idea on how to gain strength in areas that would benefit my cycling (besides the obvious leg workouts). Now I can actually focus my training on a specific set of exercises and get back on track.
  • 3 0
 Be sure to look back at the other articles too!
  • 3 0
 Squat, Press, and do lots of Pulls. Lifting is simple. People over complicate it.
  • 6 0
 It's also totally lame to be weak.
  • 2 0
 I nominate the dumbbell walking lunge instead of the farmer walk (or in addition). Quasi-unilateral movement (just like biking), and develops the glutes and adductors which are two very powerful muscle groups. Also works the grip, reinforces good posture, and easy to do correctly. Unfortunately you get next-level sore when starting off.
  • 1 0
 Those are good and I agree! The FW's are a good starter for that so the athlete can get used to holding and maintaining proper posture and stability of the KB's. Many who do weighted walking lunges can't even perform a normal lunge without the breakdown of many parts of the pattern.
  • 1 0
 Couldn't agree more! Lunges are VERY underrated!
  • 1 0
 Be careful doing chest presses on stability balls. They are not all rated to handle that much weight. There was an NBA player who had one burst on him a few years back and he messed up both his wrists pretty badly when he fell to the floor while still holding the dumbells.
  • 2 0
 Totally agree! You should always inspect the ball you are going to work on to be sure there isn't any nicks and that it's properly inflated.
  • 1 0
 There is some great insight in the article and the comments as well, but I'd like to say that the form on the Front Squat is not technically correct - rather, the improper and not safe California Squat is shown. A proper Front Squat looks different since the bar is kept in place differently, it might take a few days or weeks depending on wrist and shoulder mobility but the pay off is greater control, more stability in the upper body and better power transfer.
  • 2 0
 Thanks for this Dee. And thanks as well to Mrs. Galyean. I feel like Dee's videos are so much more...authentic than a lot of training videos.
  • 1 0
 Your welcome! Anne's rad, you should see how hard she works!
  • 3 0
 Am I the only one who thought Anne Galyean was super shredded and pretty? And damn, she's workin' out in her MTB pants.
  • 3 0
 Wait, you don't work out in your MTB pants? Either you need more comfortable MTB pants or I'm doing this all wrong!
  • 2 0
 @C9H13NO3: I've really wanted to! But every time I throw them on, I'm like "ehhh, naahh. Save 'em for the trails." Now that I've seen you do, I'm doin' it. Gotta' represent in the gym.
  • 1 0
 @C9H13NO3: Yet one more reason to need another pair of mtn bike shorts. I like it!
  • 1 0
 Just tried this workout - nicknamed it 'Yeti Galyean' in my workout log app - and was smoked after one round. Keeping the breaks to a minimum really gets the cardio/stamina going! More please
  • 1 0
 Good stuff I love the name! Keep at it!
  • 2 0
 She's got the brains to match the brawn ey. Thanks for the video!
  • 2 0
  • 2 0
 Thank you!
  • 2 0
  • 1 1
 That would totally explain my ac separation, yet no broken or fractured bones at sea otter last week in the ews....
  • 1 3
 Depth before dishonor
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