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The Performance Life

Best Moves for Mountain Bikers

Peter Macdonald Photo / flickr

As the rest of the country is under snow, I’m absolutely envious but just wanted to share what I’m up to from the southwest. One of my passions is mountain biking and I just rode in this morning on my bike (that's it, pictured below). I had an unbelievable ride, I’m feeling great, and just loving the fact that I can mountain bike year round.

Mark's bike

I started to think about a couple of my favorite exercises that allow me to ride well. Outside of developing pillar strength and optimizing balance, which is critical to mountain biking, two exercises really stand out: the split squat and single-leg hamstring curl.

I like the split squat for two reasons:

  1. You never get quite full leg range of motion when you’re pushing down to the pedal while you're in the saddle. You’ll get a similar range of motion and develop the same muscles used in riding with the split squat.
  2. Since your hips are in that flexed position so much, the split squat will help free up your hip flexors (on the front of your upper thigh) and elongate these muscles, which will help alleviate any lower back pain. It will also set you up for any other endurance activities you do by freeing up your pelvis, which tends to get locked down from riding a lot.

I also like the single-leg hamstring curl. A couple reasons why:

  1. The single-leg hamstring curl using either a ValSlide or stability ball helps optimize your upward pulling while cycling, which we know is one of the most powerful parts to efficient cycling/spinning mechanics. I really like this exercise as it turns on your hamstrings and calves one leg at a time. Many riders have asymmetries they never know about because cranks connected. We actually use some independent cranking at Athletes’ Performance to do this, but for most, the best is this exercise.
  2. The second reason I like this single-leg curl is for the same reason I love the split squat for cycling—because the glute activation with leg flexion is the best quad/hip flexor stretch out there and it’s done in a neural reprogramming way, meaning it will help reprogram the pathways between your brain and muscles to help retain the flexibility you gain.

About The Author

Mark Verstegen – An internationally-recognized leader and innovator in the world of athletic performance training, Mark Verstegen is the founder and president of EXOS.

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Tags: Training, Sports Performance, Mountain Biking