Functional Grip Training for Mountain Biking

Grip strength is one of the most important yet least understood qualities for most mountain bikers. The rougher, gnarlier and rockier the trails and faster you try to ride them the more your grip gets taxed. The trail is literally trying to rip the handlebars out of your hands and if it succeeds you will go down…hard. While most riders know they need grip strength, the most common exercises used are not training the type of grip strength you really need on the bike.

Part of the confusion comes from the fact that anything that you hands and wrists do can be labeled as “grip strength”. However, on the trail you need two types of very specific grip strength and some of the most common exercises that riders do don’t address them.

Specifically, we need to build wrist stability, a strong “crush grip” and a reflexive grip strength that allows us to not death grip the handlebars all the time but still be able to quickly react with extra tension when needed. This means that exercises like wrist curls and those “gyro balls”, two of the most common grip training exercises, are next to worthless on the trail.

In this video I explain why we need those very specific types of grip strength and how you can effectively train them with Bottoms Up Kettlebell Exercises and Kettlebell Swings & Snatches.

Functional Grip Strength for Mountain Biking on Pinkbike

-James Wilson-

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  1. Jukka says:

    In case you haven´t still tried out those Fat grips I highly recommend giving those a try! I do just about every pushing movement with those. Occasionally a workout that includes deadlifts and chin ups definitely gives your grip strength something to chew on.

    Reply • June 21 at 11:20 pm
  2. Joe says:

    James, Glad to see you cover this. I asked this question last season after suffering through a few 6-7 mile Enduro races. My hands were screaming in pain around the 2/3rds mark.

    I tried pushing through the pain but it was honestly scary to try and ride that fast thinking I’m going to loose my grip any second now. My endurance / recovery was high – so I should have been killing it and making up ground – but I was holding back because I couldn’t hang on to the bars.

    Thanks for covering this again.

    Reply • June 26 at 2:16 pm

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James Wilson
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Mountain Bike Coach
James Wilson