Grip Training Exercises for Mountain Biking

Here are 3 grip training exercises that you may not have heard of before but can really on the trail. If you need to reduce forearm pump and/ or improve grip strength then watch this video and try some of these exercise out.

-James Wilson-

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  1. Chris Cowan says:

    I’m curious wouldn’t using too much arm pump really point to a bike skills problem instead of a strength issue? I seem to remember Gene specifically talking about that at BetterRide camp.

    Reply • April 14 at 12:36 pm
    • bikejames says:

      Keeping your weight on the pedals and only light pressure on the handlebars is helpful, as is not having a “death grip” on the handlebars but sometimes on super rough, rocky downhills the trail is trying to rip the handlebars out of your hands and you have to tighten your grip. Also, breaking hard requires squeezing the handlebars. Manualing, Bunny Hopping and Jumping all require good grip strength as well.

      If you are getting arm pump and stuff on a normal trail ride then body position and weight placement are probably the problem but anyone who says they can do DH runs all day without needing some decent grip strength probably isn’t going very fast. Absolute statements like “arm pump is caused by too much weight/ too tight a grip on the handlebars” can be a bit misleading. Sometimes you simply have to hang on and muscle that bike around the trail.

      Besides, while you may not want to use it all the time on the trail, you want a “strength reserve” that you can tap into when needed. Skills and strength hand in hand is always the answer – skills with no strength or strength with no skills is no good.

      Reply • April 14 at 1:37 pm
  2. Christopher Kelly says:

    Likewise from Lee McCormack–he suggested your grip should be dainty and I’ve found that to be great advise. Loosen your death grip, it’s a lot easier than building Popeye forearms.

    Reply • April 14 at 12:48 pm
  3. Geoffrey says:

    Hey James, I’m sorry about your injuries, but how did it happen? I would think that with all that you coach about falling properly and having a solid upper body, it seems odd that you would have TWO impressive injuries in the months so far of 2011.

    Thoughts as to why? Distracted? Too far above your ability? Attacked by Bigfoot?

    Reply • April 14 at 3:49 pm
    • bikejames says:

      Sometimes you eat the bear, sometimes the bear eats you…

      Both of my wrist injuries this year came when unexpected things happened and I had to “survive” the crash rather than roll out of it. The first one came when I overshot a jump and saw that there were big, sharp sticks in my crash zone and I had to put a hand out to save my chest (a fair trade). The second one came when I was powering up a climb and my front wheel hit a loose rock, slipped off the trail and I plowed myself into the ground. You can’t avoid all injuries but I can guarantee you that they would have been much worse without the training.

      Reply • April 15 at 8:46 am
  4. Randy Harris says:

    Two words for a killer grip: Bulgarian Bag

    Reply • April 14 at 4:30 pm
  5. Chris Cowan says:

    How often do you work specifically on grip strength? Isn’t on of the side benefits of lifting grip strength or should this be a regular part of your routine?

    Reply • April 14 at 4:39 pm
    • bikejames says:

      I only work on grip strength if I am coming back from an injury that affected my grip like when I broke my thumb last year or separated my shoulder 3 years ago. Also, if you have a grip imbalance then you need to address it with some specific work.

      Overall though you are right in that good grip strength is a side effect of a good program.

      Reply • April 15 at 8:40 am
  6. M. Griffin says:

    What exactly is arm pump? Is it just arm fatigue?

    Reply • April 14 at 7:07 pm
    • bikejames says:

      Arm Pump is when your forearms pump up and get tight and tired.

      Reply • April 15 at 8:38 am
  7. j.kaye says:

    this website is probably my best find so far!, ive recently returned to mountain biking after a 8 year break, for 5 of those years i rode bmx (which i can highly recommend to those wishing to improve their mtb riding!) and i’ve been lucky to come back a better technical mtb rider than i ever was before, except for the arm pump, the dreaded arm pump! something you just dont get on a bmx, like you said james its the long rocky downhills that are the culprit, the constant changes, drops, and braking!

    im lucky enough to be a member of a strength and conditioning gym (over here in the u.k there are only a handful of these gyms) so with their guidance and equipment and all of the extra excersises i find on here, i’m really starting to train more specifically to become a better rider, so i’ll add these to my workout from now on!

    so thanks james, i for one really appreciate all of this free advice, keep up the good work!

    Reply • April 15 at 7:47 am
  8. electric says:

    Might do some of these, in a bit, dealing with time off due to a bad fall compressing the ulnar nerve at elbow.

    Reply • April 20 at 3:52 pm

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