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The 6 Movements You Must Train as a Mountain Biker

Aug 19, 2016 at 13:32
by James Wilson  
While riding your bike can look and feel like an elegant dance between you and the bike (or maybe not so elegant for some of us), when you break it down everything you do boils down to using a few basic movement patterns.

It is how well you can combine and blend these movement patterns that allow you to create the sports-specific movements that you need on the bike. But to combine and blend anything you must first own these basic movement patterns. That means that we want to focus our strength training time on improving those basic movements patterns and not on trying to use fancy looking movements that seem to replicate what we do on the bike.

Focusing on the basic movement patterns while strength training will improve your performance in two ways.

First, it will let you shore up any “weak links” in your movement patterns. These weak links lead to dysfunctions that waste power and energy, forcing you to work harder to go the same speed.

Second, losing your ability to move with efficiency and strength in one or more movement patterns will start to have long term affects. These same dysfunctions that rob you of power and energy also lead to overuse injuries. These overuse injuries can lead to missed riding time and even the need to stop riding altogether.

While there is more than one way to break down the different movement patterns, I like to keep things pretty simple. Here are the 6 basic movement patterns you need to focus on as a mountain biker (you can click on the name of the movement pattern to learn more about it)...

1 - Hip Hinge: This is the movement pattern behind your deadlift and kettlebell swing in the gym and your seated pedaling power and basic body position when descending on the bike.


2 - Squat: This is the movement pattern behind your squats and lunges off of the bike and standing pedaling on the bike.

Single Leg Bench Squat with Aaron Gwin

3 - Push: This is the movement pattern behind push ups and shoulder presses off of the bike and the ability to move in a strong, stable manner through your full range of motion with your arms on the bike.


4 - Pull: This is the movement pattern behind rows and pulls ups/ chin ups off of the bike and locking down the front end during seated pedaling and loose climbs.

Pull Up

5 - Loaded Carry: This is the movement pattern behind farmer’s walks and sled pushes off of the bike and pressurized breathing and maintaining posture under stress on the bike.

Single Arm Farmers Walk

6 - The Windmill: This exercise works on the lateral hip hinge we need to corner our bikes properly. By having some variation of it in every workout you make sure that you are always working on and refining this all-important movement.


While you can expand this list to include more things - and I often do - this basic list is always at the heart of every program that I write. The specific exercises will change based on the goals of the client and the sets and reps will change based on the goals for that workout but again, the core of the system is still these 6 movements.

Getting stronger doesn’t have to be complicated and, in fact, getting too fancy can lead to a loss of focus on the real things that lead to results. There is something called the 80-20 Rule which says that 80% of your results come from 20% of the potential things you can do, which means you need to find and focus on that 20% before worrying about doing anything else.

In my experience these 6 movements are that 20% for your strength training program as a mountain biker. Put them at the core of your program and you can see the best results with the least amount of time and effort in the gym.


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 4 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 out more 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.

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