By Matt Kaspryzk
These last couple seasons I’ve welcomed some time off my bike. The winter months have given me time to prepare both mentally and physically for riding in the coming season.
I like that the time away from trails makes me excited for returning to them as the weather improves. "Absence makes the heart grow fonder," right? It’s fun to plan which events I’m going to do and where I’ll be traveling this coming year. It’s my mental recharge without the stress of travel and deadlines, and in my imagination my riding is at it’s best.
Physically though, it’s not a time where I hibernate like a bear and emerge with my lower half emaciated and neglected. I try not to pack on extra weight or wait till spring to worry about fitness. (Well, maybe pedaling fitness.) But there’s a lot you can do off your bike in the winter to make those early season rides easier and your riding better.
Here are few exercises I think all mountain bikers should consider doing.
1. Push Ups
These may come as a surprise for some. But it’s at the top of my list for all mountain bikers for a couple reasons. The first being there’s not much you can do on a bike to supplement weak upper body strength. I don’t think these are as important for roadies or more XC racer types, but if you’re into any type of technical riding and DH they are a must.
Absorbing impacts and controlling the bike over rough terrain is easier with a strong upper body. Pushing and pulling your bars while having the endurance to control the front of you bike is very important.
There are two different types of push-ups I like to do.
Push-Up to T-Plank: These target your chest, shoulders, and triceps while aiding core strength and stability.
Push-Ups with a Single-Leg Raise: These are my favorite. A normal push up, but keep one leg raised while doing a push up. I alternate legs half way through a set. As with most push-ups keep your back straight. These engage your glutes and quadriceps as well as your upper body.
If you want to make them more challenging, elevate your legs on a bench, and you can certainly add a T-plank while alternating raised legs. When you’re ready for something more advanced, try resting your feet on a stability ball for an even better core work out.
2. Bulgarian Split Squats
These are absolutely my favorite leg exercises. Balance, flexibility, and strength training all in one. Many trainers and coaches agree that these are perfect for mountain biking. They are difficult and can be awkward at first.
If you’re new to the exercise, try them without weights first then add dumbbells, kettlebells, or a bar as needed. Here’s what mountain bike strength training coach James Wilson has to say about them.
3. Leg Curls with Ball
These also improve stability and leg strength. Lay on your back with your arms extended to the sides. As with push-ups, keep you body straight like a plank, and curl the ball towards you butt. These are great for glutes and hamstrings.
There are two specific core work-outs I like to do. First being Back Extensions. You can use a ball at home if you don’t have Roman Chair. I also make sure I twist my torso helping active the oblique muscles on your sides while doing these. I feel that this exercise has greatly reduced my lower back pain, which often plaques longer rides or early season outings.
The second core specific work-out I like are Hanging Leg-Raises. There’s a myriad of different variations. I like alternating between straight raises – bringing my knees to my chest, and twisting my legs to target the obliques again. Again, James Wilson explains it best.