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…
That’s right, getting down on the ground and moving around is one of the best ways to restore core function and strength.
In fact, Crawling and other ground-based training has become a staple of my training and the programs I write for other riders. The reason that crawling is so good for us is because it 1) re-connects the X patterns in the core and 2) re-establishes your basic core function.
And while crawling doesn’t have to be complicated, there are a few things to keep in mind…
1 – Stick with the ABC’s of crawling. While there are a lot of great crawling variations out there you should start off with the basics, which are the Ape Walk, Baby/ Bear Crawl and Crab Walks. These three represent the basic crawling patterns that everything else is built on and, like everything else in life, mastering the basics is what will make you successful in the long run.
2 – Go slow and aim for balanced, graceful movement. Just getting on the ground and scooting across it is better than nothing but if you really want to enjoy the benefits of crawling then you need to slow down. Speed covers up technique flaws and core instabilities and doesn’t allow you to strengthen your weak links.
3 – Have fun. While you do need to focus on a few things when crawling, it isn’t rocket science. Yes, you will look like a dork at first but that’s alright. Just don’t take yourself too seriously and remember to smile.
To help you get started I recorded this 27-minute webinar going over why you need to be crawling as well as showing you some some easy ways to start using Crawling in your own routine.
Hopefully I’ve convinced to you get down on the ground and give crawling a shot. A strong, functional core is one of the most important things for you to have as a mountain biker and crawling is one of the best ways to develop it. Spend just 5-10 minutes a day working on your crawling skills and in just a few weeks you’ll notice the difference both on and off the bike.
Until next time…
MTB Strength Training Systems