6 Simple Training Tips for Mountain Bikers
by Daniel Cox, DPT, Cert DN
AzOPT Glendale Clinic Manager
Are you ready to improve your riding on those beautiful Arizona trails? Avoid time-off from your peak riding form by taking the time to improve specific aspects of your physical fitness. Focusing on the following will not only improve your riding, but also help prevent injuries that can potentially sideline you from those important races. Try these training tips for mountain bikers before you hit the trails:
1. Stretch it out
Because cyclists spend so much time hunched over, it is important to spend time mobilizing and reversing the negative effects of that posture. Spinal and hip extension over a foam roller is a great way to counter the typically forward-flexed position. Foam rolling is a great way to keep those powerful leg and hip muscles supple and ready to attack the trail. A weekly yoga session for general flexibility and joint health is also beneficial. For some videos on proper foam rolling techniques, click here.
2. Don’t forget about the hamstrings
A common problem with cyclists in general is quad-dominance. Why is this important? Well… too much of a disparity between your quadriceps and hamstring muscles inhibits your ability to perform at your very best; and more significantly, puts you at greater risk for knee pain and injury. A couple exercises to build up your hamstring strength would be Romanian deadlifts, and stability ball bridges with hamstring curls. These are also good for your core strength!
3. Shore up the Core
Mountain biking requires a lot of core stabilization– weight shifts in turns, climbs and descents. You will benefit from more power and endurance by strengthening up your abdominals, back and hips. Some great exercises are kneeling ball slams, or planks on a rocking surface, like a BOSU. It’s important to challenge your core in more positions than just straight ahead, and will improve your ability and confidence with rocky terrain and on steep turns.
4. Train your heart and lungs
Mountain biking is unique because it requires both power and endurance. There are a couple terms often used in athletic training that are important to understand: aerobic and anaerobic.
- Aerobic is “with oxygen,” meaning if you’re performing aerobic exercises, they will be endurance-based, and your heart and breathing rate will increase over a long duration. These are moderate intensity, and sustainable over a long time.
- Anaerobic is “without oxygen,” meaning if you’re performing anaerobic exercises, they will be short bursts of high-intensity activities, to which you can only perform for a brief amount of time, like sprinting.
In order to prepare for this variety of intensity on the bike, you should make sure you’re incorporating anaerobic and aerobic variety into your pre-season training routine- on and off the bike with other activities like running, HIIT, or swimming. A heart-rate monitor can help. Try spending time in a specific range of heart rate, typically around 50-60% of your maximum. Intermix short bursts of 60-90 seconds at max effort.
5. Make it functional
Like with any training, it is important that your preparations away from the sport are going to translate well to the sport itself. For mountain biking specifically, performing movements that incorporate various surfaces to simulate uneven terrain, and staggering your hand/foot positions to replicate handlebar and pedal placement is a great way to mix it up and replicate the variability of mountain biking. A few suggestions: body weight squatting with staggered foot positions, push-ups with one arm on a raised step, or exercising on a rocker board.
6. Listen to your body
So often riders complain of knee or hip pain, and their only method of treatment is simply reducing time spent on the bike rather than seeking treatment for their issues. Unfortunately, a lot of these instances turn into bigger problems, and then people find themselves taking unwanted time off the bike due to injury.
Cycling, as with many sports, is very repetitive. Don’t let a nagging injury continue to the point where you now have chronic, inflamed tissue. Don’t ignore your pain or discomfort. Contact your nearest AzOPT location to schedule a FREE assessment and find out what you can do to improve your pain and discomfort immediately!
Hopefully these training tips for mountain bikers inspires you to get moving. Let’s get you moving and feeling better and keep you on the trails!