If you want to improve your standing pedaling then start using this exercise today.

One of the biggest myths in mountain biking is that seated pedaling is better than standing pedaling. This advice is usually given in the form of “sit down as much as you can and only stand up when you have to”.

There are a lot of reasons given for this advice from not tiring yourself out too fast to the inability to achieve a high RPM spin but it is all crap. The truth is that seated pedaling isn’t better, it is just easier than standing pedaling. And when did taking the easy way out really pay off…

With the right approach you can train yourself to feel much stronger and more stable when standing. This will allow you to jump up out of the saddle and lay down power at will without wearing yourself out.

The single leg squat is one of the best exercises for improving the core and leg strength you need to turn standing pedaling into a strength on the trail. However, it is also tough to jump right into them.

At my facility I developed a simple exercise progression that helped riders safely and effectively improve single leg squat strength and, as a result, their standing pedaling strength. Check out this video sharing this progression so you can put it to use in your own program.

If standing pedaling is a weakness then don’t let it hold you back on the trail. Attack it with exercises like the single leg squat and watch as the trail takes on a whole new dimension of speed and fun.

-James Wilson-

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  1. Toni Watson says:

    Nice exercise progression James.

    In Gymnastics training we use low parallel bars to help steady the body and stop the knee from overloading. Just wondered if you have also tried using the stretchy band fixed in front and above? I think if you bring the arms down as you start to contract the quads it should help to pull back up out of the squat, much as the 10lb weight counterbalances the body’s centre of weight moving backwards in the deep squat position.

    Great exercise for Cossack dancing.

    Kind regards,

    Reply • June 17 at 3:18 pm
  2. Dave says:

    What about the hanging leg squat? Should both of them be used in combination?

    Reply • June 18 at 6:34 am
    • bikejames bikejames says:

      I’m not sure what exercise you are referring to, is there a video or picture of it you could point me to?

      Reply • June 18 at 12:24 pm
      • Michael says:

        Maybe Dave refers to one of your videos, where you did a variation with the inactive leg moving to the back, because it resembles the situation on your bike more.

        Reply • June 19 at 3:06 am
        • bikejames bikejames says:

          I pretty sure you’re referring to the Airborne Lunge. It is also a great exercise for standing pedaling and I would use them both in a program, but not necessarily the same workout or Phase.

          Reply • June 20 at 10:33 am
  3. Michael Copeland says:

    Okay James, I agree with your proposals. So do you have some videos of yourself on a singletrack standing? I know that one might be tough to do, but you talk about pedaling position without any real examples of how you do it. I have an elbow tendon injury so I haven’t been doing any strength training and I can tell, so I know that getting back to the training will help my position, so that is completely understood, but having a visual example of how you pedal would be really helpful.


    Reply • June 28 at 7:28 am
    • bikejames bikejames says:

      This is an old video and yes, I’m in sandals (I forgot my shoes at home but had to shoot the video that day anyways) but this will give you a general idea of what I’m talking about. I’ll have to shoot another video but in the meantime I hope this helps.

      Reply • June 28 at 9:03 am
  4. Eric says:

    Any tips on how to shift smoothly while standing?

    Reply • July 1 at 10:30 am
    • bikejames bikejames says:

      You have to shift your weight a bit onto your hands and arms to un-weight the pedals enough to allow the gears to shift smoothly.

      Reply • July 1 at 2:37 pm

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James Wilson
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James Wilson