Rowing Exercises to Improve Your Cornering Skills

Aug 1, 2017 at 12:09
by James Wilson  
Views: 4,846    Faves: 16    Comments: 0

Over the last couple of years working with the Steel Mace, I’ve been introduced to how important it is to be able to connect both sides of your body when pushing or pulling. Since the Steel Mace has an offset load that I’m holding with both hands, it forces me to counteract what I’m doing on one side with the opposite movement on the other side.

For example, when doing a Bent Row with the Steel Mace I can’t just use the side of my body doing the row. I have to use the other side of my body to counteract the rowing movement, otherwise, the offset load would have me twisting and losing my balance.

Pushing and Pulling needed to strong cornering.
Steel Mace

So what the hell does this have to do with cornering your bike?

Well, this same push-pull action is needed on your bike when applying counter-steering/pressure into the handlebars.

Instead of just focusing on pushing with the inside hand you also need to be able to counteract that pushing with pulling the other hand back.

This ability to coordinate the push-pull action comes from having the two sides connected through the core, which is something that I didn’t realize I did not have until I started training with the Steel Mace.

After making this connection my cornering started to improve and I noticed that I felt much stronger and better able to hold my position. It became clear that I wasn’t really engaging half my upper body when cornering and, now that I was, it was helping me hold my line with less effort.

Like a lot of movement skills, though, this is something that is much better taught off the bike and then applied to the bike. Trying to learn it on the bike before understanding this movement skill won’t work nearly as well.

Which is where this new Rowing for Cornering exercise progression comes in.

By using a simple three exercise progression you can help build and strengthen this push-pull connection through the core. Once you have you can then better apply how this connection “feels” to your bike.

In this video, I explain the connection in a bit more detail and then show you the three exercises you can use to help improve your cornering.

As you’ll see in the video, while I prefer to use the Steel Mace for most of them you can do them with a regular barbell as well. The point is to find ways to improve the movement skills you need on the bike so you can then focus on the trail and not how to move when you’re riding.

I hope you enjoy this video and get some ideas for your own training from it. Let me know what you think after trying some of these exercises out and how they’ve helped you corner better on your bike.

Until next time…

Ride Strong,

James Wilson
MTB Strength Training Systems

James Wilson is the owner of MTB Strength Training Systems and has been helping riders improve their fitness and skills since 2005. As the strength and conditioning coach for World Cup Teams and four National Championships, his unique approach has been proven at the highest levels. He has also helped thousands of riders around the world through his blog, podcast, and online training programs. You can find tips like this at, where you can also sign up for the free 30-Day MTB Skills and Fitness Program to get started on the way to riding with more power, endurance, and confidence today.

MENTIONS: @jameswilson

Author Info:
mtbstrengthcoach avatar

Member since Feb 3, 2009
59 articles

  • 42 1
 Just build some trails. Make some fat berms and jumps and slap the shit out of them with the shovel. Change hands every few minutes. It is exactly the same motion, but you get the extra benefit of having a new trail to ride, instead of wasting your time at home
  • 19 2
 I cant ever get past where he's always barefoot around weights. Stubbing my toe is all i can think about.
  • 5 0
 Getting used to the pain when you get your toes stuck between a nasty rock/root and your pedal is actually a part of the training course. Smile
  • 15 2
 Looks a good rainy day project. On sunny days a pumptrack will improve your cornering skills and your strength. Personaly i get better at riding by riding my bike.
  • 10 1
 I've made this same/similar comment a few times, and I just get blasted by negative props for weeks! I trained under a World Champion BMX rider, and he drilled into my head; "If you want to go faster on your bike, go fu*king faster on your bike!" If your bike trails are under 8' of snow, and it's currently snowing so you can't shovel them out, the gym is all you have. I get that.... Otherwise, you're better off riding, FAST.

Also, I don't care who you are, look at the recent PBike skills videos and be sure any "going fu*king faster on your bike" days also include legit techniques.
  • 6 1
 Off bike workouts will help u recover from injury. As u hit 40, ull wna feel and look 30.
At least yoga/stretching + riding.
  • 1 0
 @jrocksdh: im 50
Body of a 20 year old.
Riding is my only work out.
  • 12 0
 Do u want to get better @ cornering.?
Go Ride your Bike more often
  • 18 6
 This just looks beyond ridiculous in my opinion. Dislike my comment now.
  • 11 0
 I like your comment.
  • 8 0
 Right there with ya. Unfortunately, most people who actually opened the article already think it will help before they even read it. I just opened it for the comedic value. :-)
  • 4 0
 It's not ridiculous if you dress of like an extra from GoT while you do it.
  • 8 1
 I've followed James' workouts for two years and seen significant on the bike improvements. Part of that is probably the increase in training density, but I think he's got some great ideas. Even though they're sometimes strange to follow in the gym (strong focus on combination exercises instead of just standard lifts), I like having a set workout plan, and they certainly feel effective on the trail. I also supplement his workout routine with things that I specifically need to work on in the gym. Huge support to you man! I like the looks of this, especially to replace a standard row once in a while, and might try adding it to a routine this week.
  • 4 1
 Reminds me of a friend 10years ago who trained everything from James' videos, he looked really pumped. He rode the gnarliest descents and jumped every drop and gap. But the more he trained, the more he got bored of cycling and some years ago sold his MTB....
  • 3 1
 haha i know these guys, maybe thats an affect of all the supplements destroying their balls af
  • 4 2
 Always figured this would be a good exercise... Then I thought about how much people make fun of Dee for his odd-looking but hella-effective workouts. And he is literally a professional. I couldn't handle that kind of emotional distress. You're a tougher man than I am.
  • 4 0
 You can also dig trails... very similar loading and motion and benefits everyone!
  • 4 0
 I see James Wilson uses 500mm handlebars. 800mm or go home! Razz
  • 3 0
 like these video's but for me...learn the basics and get out and practice and have fun doing it......
  • 2 0
 ''Pulling, pushing?'' Pushing when i can and pulling when i can't.
  • 3 1
 Bring back Abi, bring back Abi...
  • 1 0
 I just give it fifty off the wrist at regular intervals. very satisfying and gives you a good work out!
  • 3 1
 dudes just get a riprow !!!
  • 1 0
 How can you push down something your holding on to free space surely your just lowering your hand ????
  • 2 1
 I'd imagine you could just do this with a barbell if you have good clamps.
  • 2 0
 James says exactly that here in the article…
  • 7 0
 @AJBarlas: I always rag on people without reading the article before commenting. And now I am one. :/
  • 1 0
 A less expensive route is also to start with a sledge hammer, the Craigslist a bell down the road. An 8-10 pound sledge is a good starting point.
  • 1 0
 @joose: huh. Good tip!
  • 1 1
 If this makes me faster on Strava I am game. Yes pinkbikers I said strava....
  • 1 0
 All you Strava lot seem to cut all the corners anyway so this shouldn't be a worry
  • 5 4
  • 3 1
 Alright, since I'm getting downvoted to hell, someone try this, and tell me if it actually improves your cornering.
  • 1 1
 what should I do for this broken collarbone?
  • 10 0
 Pour some Tussin on it.
  • 7 0
 @nyhc00: Agreeded, let that Tussin get in there, let that Tussin get down into the bone.
  • 2 0
 you need some coverage
  • 1 0
 Rub some dirt on it and you'll be fine.
  • 1 0
 BS, go ride your bike
  • 1 1
 What a load of old tosh ...... steve peat never ever did this !!!!!!

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