Improve your wrist position on the bike with this one tip…

One thing that a lot of riders miss out on when training with kettlebell training for mountain biking is not focusing enough on wrist position. This is a really common mistake and unfortunate since it is such a vital area to strengthen for the trail. When used correctly, kettlebells are a great way to improve wrist strength, which increases control and helps you avoid wrist pain on the trail.

Too many riders have weak wrists and lean into bent wrists on the handlebars, causing wrist pain and hand numbness, not to mention less control and stability.

I call it “letting the kettlebell win the arm wrestling match” and it is essentially letting the KB pull your wrist back like you see in the first picture below.

While you don’t need it perfectly straight, getting your wrist positioned like you see in the second picture and keeping it there is the goal.

This second position does several things for us. First, it is a stronger position to press from and you will be able to lift and handle more weight. Second, it mimics the same wrist position you want to apply to the bike, making the type of wrist strength you build from it very valuable on the trail.

Too many riders have weak wrists and lean into bent wrists on the handlebars, causing wrist pain and hand numbness, not to mention less control and stability. By making sure you are using the correct wrist position you’ll be able make sure you are not one of them while also improving your upper body strength. In this video I show you what good wrist position looks like as well as some tips on how to find it for yourself.

-James Wilson-

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  1. Carole Beauchamp says:

    Hi, I am wondering how many other riders are experiencing stifness in there hands like I do since I have started mountain biking. I do ride a lot in single tracks which are demanding on steering and where the terrain is pretty rought. During the periods I ride a lot, I find myself with a difficulty to bend my fingers during the night and afterworth. Apparently it could be related to a sort of inflamation of tendons. Is there anything that could be done to help provide this?
    A rider who would like to keep going in the single tracks!

    Reply • November 23 at 10:20 am
    • bikejames bikejames says:

      Getting stiff fingers on long descents is pretty common and I’ve had to pry my hands off the handlebars more than once after a long, super technical downhill but it shouldn’t last for very long. If you are experiencing prolonged pain and stiffness after rides then you may just need to ride for less time or take more breaks. One of the worst things that happen to new riders is thinking that they need to start out with several hour rides immediately. Most of my rides are around an hour and I focus on riding as hard as I can for that hour, not being able to ride at a slower pace for longer.

      Hope this helps. Go on shorter rides and build up your stamina so you don’t end up causing damage over the long run.

      Reply • November 24 at 9:23 am
  2. max says:

    There are a few reasons why stiffness in the hands and fingers happens.It is mainly due to gripping and vibrations from rough terrain.It can also be worsened due to “death grip” (gripping too hard)and using more than 1 finger for braking.Getting your brake setup right(short finger reach and bite point,tilted downwards) definitely helps.Also another major factor is your grips.Thin, hard grips do little to dampen vibrations and if your hands are large ,you will end up gripping too much.In Dirt magazine they recommended the ESI grips which look good,i’m definitely going to get some.

    For me,it was tendonitis in the little finger that was being aggravated by riding downhill.I had a shot of Cortisone to treat it which did not help much,but apparently can help in some cases.I would reccommend leaving your hand in cold water after heavy rides,gently stretching the fingers and forearms and massaging the whole hand ,getting right in between the joints.
    Cod liver or (or any fish oil) are great anti-inflammatory agents,take a few a day.Strengthening the forearms would surely help aswell James?

    Reply • November 24 at 1:09 pm
    • bikejames bikejames says:

      The forearms have to work with the rest of the body to create movement, which is why things like high rep swings and bottoms up KB exercises are great for building the type of grip/ forearm strength we need as riders.

      I’d try to avoid cortisone shots – they don’t fix the problem and just let you keep doing whatever is causing the pain, causing further long term damage. If you get paid to ride and you need it for your job then that is one thing but even then your goal needs to be to find the weak link in the kinetic chain and fix it.

      Reply • November 27 at 10:27 am
  3. Carole Beauchamp says:

    Hi, Thank you very much for your answers. The thing is that I like it so much that all summer long I had to force myself to go back home after more than one hour and a half of riding. I too had stiffness in the little fingers (more on the left hand)before it got to the other fingers as well. I asked different people about this matter and was suggested to reajust my break levers, which I did. I saw an improvement but the problem didn’t disapear. My next step is to get new grips (I think all go for Ergon AG1)since my actual grips might be too thin for the type of vibrations I get during my rides. In a bicycle shop where I asked about that, they seemed convinced it was more related to proper positionning on the bike than the grips; but according to all the researches I made I seem to be pretty well balanced on my bike…so I believe that appart of taking better care of my hands after my rides, I will also have to do specific exercices related to my hands and general fitness of the upper body. I will take a look on high rep swings and bottoms up KB exercices. 🙂

    Reply • November 28 at 10:38 am
    • bikejames bikejames says:

      I don’t like those winged grips, they don’t fix the problem but just mask it. They can also only be set up optimally in one position, usually seated on level ground. Your wrist position should change slightly depending on going uphill, downhill or standing up and with those grips you can’t make those subtle adjustments.

      Check out the post I did on cockpit setup and do the KB exercises I show here for at least 3 months before deciding you need those grips.

      Reply • November 29 at 11:15 am
  4. John Williamson says:

    James, just as I started my KB exercises I endo’d breaking my 4th metacarpal (ti screws in place now). Forget the wrist, at least the right one, Doc said “do nothing” for at least 6 wks.
    Do you have suggestions for training that will at least maintain my current level of fitness w/o using my left hand?

    BTW, this wrist position idea is excellent and much ignored by the general population.

    Reply • December 5 at 7:49 am
    • Dennis says:

      I’ve been there with the 3rd metacarpal. I stayed off the bike as the Dr. recommended, then I rode my hardtail on strictly pavement with wrist support for a while. Then I began riding w/o wrist support and focused keeping my wrists in line with the tib/fib. I’d give my hand a rest by putting my entire hand on top of the grip when conditions permitted. I added bar ends later on so I can stand on the pedals and keep the wrist straight. I stayed off the trails for several months and re-focused on fundamentals like keeping my wrists straight. The idea was to get healthy again and not get hurt during recovery. You may note a recurring theme of focusing on keeping the wrists straight and being gentle enough to let the hand heal while re-gaining function. YMMV.

      Reply • January 17 at 11:35 am

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