While mountain biking has a lot of positive benefits, one thing it isn’t good for is your core. That’s right, this beautiful sport that we all love is slowly eroding your core function and strength, setting you up for back pain and decreased performance.

Let me explain why this is. First, mountain biking finds a lot of riders in a mostly seated, forward leaning position. When you sit down your core isn’t as engaged and it is hard to not round at the lower back, which means you are creating a lot of fitness on top of a weak, misaligned core.

In addition, pedaling a bike tends to be an ipsa-lateral movement. This means that we use the same side of the body to create the motion, using the right side upper body to anchor down for the right foot to pedal for example.

The problem is that our bodies are made to use contra-lateral movement. This is where you use the opposite sides of the body to create movement. Think running, walking, jumping or throwing for example.

Now, all of this wouldn’t be a huge problem if we didn’t live in a sedentary society and we didn’t specialize so much in our play time. But we do sit around too much already and most riders tend to do little else other than ride their bikes, which adds up to a weakened core and poor basic core function.

Of course, this isn’t really news to a lot of people. There are countless books, articles and videos geared towards core training for cycling/ mountain biking, which means that a lot of riders already recognize the need to improve their core strength.

However, it takes more than some planks and other “core training” exercises to fix the real problem. In order to really improve your core strength and function there is one thing you need to be doing… Post Continued :: Click to Read More

MTB Ultimate Program

One of the biggest mistakes I made early on with my core training for mountain biking was avoiding exercises that directly worked the hip flexors. These muscles are located in the front of the hip and act to pull the knee up towards the chest and they tend to be short and tight for most people, a result of years of sitting down too much.

The reasoning for this makes sense – if they are short and tight then you want to avoid adding stress to them and work on stretching them to get them to relax. Short, tight hip flexors can pull the pelvis out of alignment and result in low back pain and trouble with recruiting the glutes and hips so you wanted to avoid doing anything that made the situation worse.

But what I realized over the years is that there is a big difference between having hip flexors that are too tight and hip flexors that are strong throughout a full range of motion. Often what you find is that tight hip flexors also have restrictions in their range of motion, which affects larger movements both on and off the bike.

For example, off the bike if you have weak hip flexors you will struggle to pull yourself down deep into your squats and hinging patterns (deadlifts). You will hit a range of motion and have to rely on the weight pulling you down, which usually results in some form breakdown as well.

On the bike you will struggle to apply these movements as well, especially when trying to pull yourself down into your Attack Position. When you can use your hip flexors to pull yourself down into a strong, position you can stay there with less effort. In fact, one of the main reasons riders struggle with things like cornering and manualing is that they can’t get and stay low in a balanced position and tend to pop up or round the back when executing these skills.

And while you don’t need to be pulling up trying to add power to your pedal stroke, you do need to be able to use the hip flexors to pull the trail leg up to get ready for the next strong downstroke. Riders with weak hip flexors tend to rely more on the momentum of the pedal stroke to get the foot up, which can take away from the power of the lead leg.

As you can see, having strong hip flexors that can control a large range of motion comes in handy. And luckily they are also easy to train and get stronger.

The first place to start is with Lying Leg Raises. You can watch this video to see some progressions to help you safely start using this exercise and some ways to progress into it if you struggle with it at first.

Once you have the Lying Leg Raises down you can move on to Hanging Leg Raises, which also work on your grip strength and lat strength as well. Here is a video showing you the best ways to progress into this exercise, as well as some ways to make it harder as you get stronger.

I suggest doing 2-3 sets of 5-10 reps for these types of exercises. And remember to focus on expanding your 80% effort level rather than pushing 100% with them as well – one of the reasons Leg Raises get a bad reputation is that people push them too hard and end up straining something, which won’t happen if you don’t push your limits.

I hope you enjoy the Leg Raise as much as I do. While you should still focus on stretching them out and keeping them from getting tight, adding some Leg Raises to your routine will help you develop a stronger, more functional core.

Until next time…

Ride Strong,

James Wilson

MTB Strength Training Systems

Pedaling Innovations

A persistent myth with mountain bike strength training is that because it is an “endurance sport” then you need to focus on higher reps and lower weights. Using 10-20+ reps per set and the relatively lighter weights they demand is supposed to help build the muscular endurance you need on the trail.

And while this makes sense on the surface, there is a flaw to this logic.

The truth is that most riders would benefit a lot from doing 5 reps or less per set and handling some heavier weights in the process. Far from making them bulky and slow, 5 reps or less would actually make them faster, improve their endurance (yes, you read that right) and create a more injury resistant body.

In this podcast I go over 5 reasons you need to be doing 5 reps or less as part of your strength training program as well as dispel some common myths about “heavy” strength training and give you some ideas on how you can use this concept in your own training.

Download this episode (right click and save)

You can also download the BikeJames Podcast on Itunes or by using the Podbean App.

Show Notes

– Heavy weights doesn’t mean max effort “powerlifting” type training.

– Like anything else in the gym, you want to spend most of your time at the 80% effort range.

– This will still allow you to lift heavier weights while also minimizing wear-and-tear on the body and chance of injury while lifting.

– 5 Reasons to Use 5 Reps or Less

1 – It helps you focus on your form and execution of each rep which improves movement learning and decreases injury risk.

2 – It doesn’t tax you as hard metabolically, which helps you recover from your riding.

3 – It recruits more muscle fibers which gives you access to more of them when riding, which increases your endurance.

4 – It helps you get stronger without adding excessive muscle mass, which improves your strength-to-weight ratio, and what muscle/ armor you do build will be functional and not just for looks.

5 – Heavy weights create an “armoring” effect where the muscles can flex harder on impact to help absorb energy and protect you when crashing.

– Some ways to use this concept include:

1 – 5 sets of 5 reps (lots of applications of this one)

2 – 5 reps/ 3 reps/ 2 reps increasing weight each set

3 – 2 reps/ 3 reps/ 5 reps using the same weight (rep ladder)

Until next time…

Ride Strong,

James Wilson

MTB Strength Training Systems

MTB Skills and Fitness Program

I’d like to invite you to join me as I get interviewed as part of the first live Regular Guy MTB Bike Chat show this coming Wednesday at 9:30 pm ET/ 6:30 pm PT.


The host Gene Arnold and I will be talking about the pedal stroke and why the mid-foot position is better for both power and agility on the bike. We’ll also talk about the real science and movement principles that govern how you move on your bike and how the Catalyst Pedals helps you take advantage of them.

As part of the live show we’ll also be taking questions from viewers and opening it up to a Q&A at the end to ask any training or riding related questions you might have. I’m really looking forward to this chance to share some important info with you and the mountain biking community and hope you’ll get the chance to join me for it.

You can register for the interview by clicking the link below. By registering we’ll send you a reminder the day of the interview as well as the replay link in case you miss the live event:


So, put a reminder in your calendar for Wednesday the 7th at 9:30 pm ET/ 6:30 pm PT, click on the registration link and get ready to learn some cool stuff that will help you improve your performance and have more fun on the bike.


Until then…

Ride Strong,

James Wilson

Pedaling Innovations/ MTB Strength Training Systems

MTB Fitness Membership Program

I’ll admit that I am a more than a bit skeptical when it comes to new pieces of training equipment. Over two decades in the fitness industry will do that to you – rarely does something new do the job better than something we already have and even most “new” training tools are just rediscovery of old ones (the kettlebell being a great example).

Which is why I was so surprised when I got my hands on the RAMRoller.

The RAMRoller is a new take on something we already have…a weighted foam roller. Post Continued :: Click to Read More

MTB Kettlebell Workout

One of the more interesting things for me as a coach to see is the over-use and misunderstanding of the coaching cue “elbows out” when it comes to good body position on the bike. Like a lot of things in the cycling world, there are a lot of myths and half-truths being used to justify it’s use as a coaching cue and a lot of it sounds pretty good, especially if you don’t have a background in movement based principles to judge them against.

But the truth is that it is bad coaching cue and can quickly lead people down the wrong path when it comes to their body position on the bike. In my experience, here are the 3 reasons you want to avoid focusing on it… Post Continued :: Click to Read More

MTB DB Conditioning Program
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James Wilson
Author and Professional
Mountain Bike Coach
James Wilson