I know that this isn’t popular to say but the truth is that mountain biking isn’t for everyone.
At least, according to one fitness coaching legend, if you can’t perform a good bodyweight squat then you shouldn’t be doing any sports until you can.
A few weekends ago I had the chance to go to a Steve Maxwell seminar, who is the “heretic” who made this statement more than once during his 6+ hours of presenting on how to improve your sport-specific mobility and strength.
Steve owned the first kettlebell gym on the East Coast…the legendary Maxercise in Philadelphia…and has worked with clients at all levels for over 50 years.
The reason I mention this is that when Steve says stuff like that it isn’t to be controversial. If comes from decades of being able to test and see what works and what doesn’t over the long run.
So, back to what he had to say, if you can’t so this…
…then you need to fix it or your mountain biking will suffer from it.
Just to be clear, a good squat has:
- The feet flat with weight evenly distributed (no coming up on your toes!)
- The knees track over the feet (no toes out, knees in stances)
- The butt gets below the knees with a relatively straight back.
You should be able to drop down and hang out in this position for extended periods of time. Steve mentioned how you’ll see people all over the world sitting in the deep squat and how it is only the hard-core Western World that uses chairs all of the time.
The result of all that sitting is a loss of mobility and core strength that limits your ability to move, including on the trail. Which is why Steve was such a believer in making sure that people can perform some basic movement skills before asking them to perform the specific skills of mountain biking (which is something I’ve always said as well).
In our case, the squat is the fundamental movement pattern behind standing up to pedal on your bike and riders who struggle with it find themselves relying a lot on the sit-and-spin approach to hide their weak squat. This not only makes it harder to use your most powerful pedaling position but it also puts more stress on the low back and knees, leading to overuse injuries with them over time.
The good news is that it doesn’t take a long time to “fix” your squat. In fact, there were a couple people at the seminar who went from “no sports for you” squats to decent squats that passed.
The point was that with the right approach you can quickly impact your usable mobility, which will help your mountain biking and decrease the risk of injury.
While we learned a lot of great stuff, here is a video with a few of the movements that I got a lot from – the Sphinx, Frog Stretch and Bear Squat:
Try doing a few rounds of these movements and re-check your squat to see if it helped. Like I said, there were a lot of great things we learned and your specific sticking points may be different but I’ll be willing to bet that it still helped it.
If you want to learn more I highly recommend checking out one of Steve’s seminars or investing in one of his videos. You can find him and sign up for his newsletter at www.maxwellsc.com.
Hopefully you take the Steve’s challenge to heart and make sure that you improve and maintain your squat, especially as you get older. Mountain biking is something that you can do for a lifetime but only if you do the things now that will keep you in the game.
Until next time…
MTB Strength Training
p.s. Need some help with your squat? My MTB Mobility Follow-Along Routines includes 10 follow along videos, including one specifically for your squat.
Mobility is the #1 thing you need to focus on in order to ride hard and remain injury free. For just $19 you can get the only mountain bike specific mobility routine available, which can keep you on the trail and off the couch nursing an injury.