Core Training for XC/ Trail Riders

For a mountain biker, building a strong, high performance core for the demands of riding for hours on grueling trails requires a smart, multi-pronged attack. You want a core that is able to connect the upper body and lower body, resist twisting and be able to coordinate with the hips for lateral movement around the cockpit.

Here are the Top 3 Exercises I recommend for building just such a core for the XC/ Trail Rider:

– RKC Plank X 3 – 10 second holds: This version of the regular plank is much more effective at building useable core strength instead of just being a contest to see how long you can hang out on your elbows and toes. Remember to keep your chest pushed towards the ground and producing as much tension as you can for the 10 second holds and you’ll see a massive increase in your ability to lock the core down for low RPM grinds.

– ½ Kneeling ARP X 6 reps each side: This exercise puts us into a split position similar to how you stand on your pedals and works on your ability to resist rotation through the core. This is important for making sure that your upper body and lower body are working together to produce a strong pedal stroke – if your core is twisting and turning when you are laying the power down then you are loosing a lot of power that could be going into the pedals and propelling you forward.

– TGU Windmill X 3-5 reps each side: This unique exercise is actually one of the steps in the Turkish Get Up. This movement specifically targets the ability of the core to stabilize and coordinate with the hips to create lateral movement, which is important for cornering and overall flow on the trail. It also builds shoulder mobility and stability, which is important for being able to muscle around tough trails without getting beat up in the process.

When taken together, these three exercises will build a strong, powerful and injury resistant core for the unique demands of mountain biking. Go through this routine 2-3 times a couple times a week and you’ll notice a marked improvement in your ability to pedal stronger, ride longer and have more flow and confidence on the trail.

-James Wilson-

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  1. Andi says:

    Hi James,

    first sorry for my bad english.

    I got a question, when you do the exercise with the kettlebel in the hand,your other hand is on the floor. Is this position not very bad for the joint of your hand? Isn´t it better to do it on your fist? and put a pillow under your fist or use a pushup helper?

    Thx and regards

    Reply • August 10 at 11:33 am
    • bikejames says:

      No, it is not a bad position at all. In fact, as a mountain biker you want your wrists to be pretty flexible – when you wreck you want flexible wrists so things don’t tear as easily. If you have a wrist issue then you can do it fisted but all you need is a thin mat, let your knuckles toughen up a bit.

      Reply • August 10 at 11:39 am
  2. Joe says:

    Hi James.. I’ve been doing the Planks where you hold for x mins etc. In this video, you are demonstrate the tension and hold for 10 seconds. Would you mind explaining “why” the tension and hold for 10 sec is more effective than just holding for like a 1 min or more ? thx Joe

    Reply • August 11 at 5:28 am
    • bikejames says:

      The idea is to hold a good, strong contraction for a short period of time and repeat instead of holding a moderate contraction for a long time. You can’t stay as “tight” for 60 seconds as you can for 10 seconds and some research from Stuart McGill suggests the shorter pulses are more beneficial than longer holds. Plus, in my experience, planks start to look like crap after a while and you end up holding a bad body position. This doesn’t apply to everyone but more often than not your overall quality will be much higher using the pulses.

      Reply • August 11 at 8:47 am

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James Wilson
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Mountain Bike Coach
James Wilson