Shoulder Mobility Exercises for Mountain Biking

Let’s face it – as mountain bikers our shoulders take a beating. Being hunched over in the saddle and getting pounded on when we crash take their toll and as a result a lot of riders have a perma-hunch going on where their shoulders are rounded forward all the time.

Besides making us look like our distant cousins the apes that posture also puts our shoulders in a weak position, making it tougher to handle the bike and absorb impacts on the trail. A lesser known side effect is the extreme position it forces your neck into when sitting down on the bike, making getting your shoulder more mobile a must for any rider who can’t pass the screen I demo in this video.

Check out this video to see how your shoulder mobility stacks up and some drills you can do to get them back on track.

-James Wilson-

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  1. Frank says:

    This post hits home. i fell off my bike and my shoulder has never been the same. i’ve been going to doctors and i’m doing physical therapy right now. she thinks i have a S.I.C.K Scapula. its a condition where the shoulder is out of alignment. My day job is a computer tech, so i typically spend all day sitting down pounding keys. One thing that just got me thinking is perhaps my bike has been too big for me or i’ve exercised improper riding form? i’ll continue my PT treatment and hopefully give these exercises a shot.

    Reply • February 21 at 6:32 am
  2. andy says:

    James, a very timely post. I think that mobility is key and yes, most of us have terrible shoulder mobility. Modern life just seems to be against it. However there is a second piece to the puzzle that I have found to be very important and that is shoulder stability. Despite (myself) being in front of a PC most of the day I have surprisingly good mobility (I easily pass the mobility screen) but turns out I had poor stability. It was all those smaller yet surprisingly important muscles around the shoulder girdle that needed strengthening. After putting up with shoulder pain longer than I should have I visited a physio who quickly diagnosed the problem and after doing the prescribed exercises for only a few weeks I have seen a HUGE improvement. My mobility is still as good but the stability has improved markedly. I dare suggest that combining your mobility work with some of the stability exercises I have been doing would possibly increase the overall results (even for those without shoulder injuries). The mobility drills would help with the actual range of motion while the exercises would address the inherent imbalances people develop in the shoulder area due to this hunched position so many of us spend much of our day in. As always, thanks again for the great information and keep it coming!

    Reply • February 21 at 4:06 pm
    • bikejames bikejames says:

      I agree, stability is a big part of the equation as well. The Arm Bar exercise I demoed in the video is actually a great way to build shoulder stability and the Turkish Get Up is probably the best exercise ever created for that purpose. When you can do a TGU with 70+ pounds you know your shoulders are pretty stable!

      Reply • February 22 at 8:07 am
  3. TR says:

    I have issues with getting injuries whenever doing overhead presses so I have started performing these exercises. My question is how often should I go through these drills? Daily? A few times a week?

    Reply • March 21 at 11:01 am
    • bikejames bikejames says:

      Do these every day for the fastest results.

      Reply • March 21 at 2:25 pm
  4. Pedro says:

    Hi James,

    I have a very unstable shoulder. I got it dislocated several times in the past. Then It wa stable for about 5 years, but it went off 2 times some weeks ago… two crashs, one very stupid! With normal bike riding it´s not a problem… the problem is when I move over 90 degrees (like trying to touch my back).

    So.. I have 2 questions:
    – Are these exercises safe for me ? Would they help anyway ?
    – Do you know If it´s possible to fix my problem (or at least help) without surgery ?

    Reply • March 24 at 6:45 pm
    • bikejames bikejames says:

      If you have an ongoing medical issue with the shoulders then some of these exercises might not be for you. I would think that it is possible to improve your shoulder stability but I would find someone with a background in the Functional Movement Screen to help you out. Check out http://www.functionalmovement.com to see if someone in your area can help.

      Reply • March 26 at 9:17 am
  5. TR says:


    In the video you mention your clients not doing press movements until getting better mobility. Because most chest exercises are press movements do you have any suggestions for chest exercises while building shoulder mobility and stability?

    Reply • April 4 at 8:06 am
    • bikejames bikejames says:

      I will do a lot of Turkish Get Ups and their variations and also push ups.

      Reply • April 5 at 5:54 am
  6. Annie Bilotta says:

    Wow, what an excellent video! You are extremely thorough in your explanations and demonstrations. I have studied with a local top notch Kettlebell instructor who also used FMS. I felt like I was getting a private session with your video. I can’t wait to start putting these exercises into practice!!!

    Reply • March 11 at 7:43 am
    • bikejames bikejames says:

      No problem, hope it helps.

      Reply • March 11 at 9:31 am
  7. James says:

    Can you define palm width. You said yours was 8 inches. Is this from the carpal -metacarpal junction to the digits (fingers). 8 ” is larger than any human I have ever seen or heard of! Do you mean wrists to end of fingers. If you are talking base of thumb across to lateral edge of palm (width), still 8″ is huge. Did you mean the circumferance of the hand? Thanks for the video info, it is great, just need clarification.

    Reply • March 12 at 7:56 pm
    • bikejames bikejames says:

      That’s funny, I meant to say “hand length” which obviously makes more sense. Thanks for pointing that out, I don’t know why I said “palm length”.

      Reply • March 13 at 9:10 am
  8. cookie says:

    great repost! Any thoughts on the use of bretzel 1 + 2?


    Reply • May 10 at 5:48 pm
    • bikejames bikejames says:

      I really like both of them and use the Bretzel 2 almost daily.

      Reply • May 11 at 11:01 am
  9. jmvar says:

    Hi James, thanks for the great post. I have been using your programs for quite some time now and my biggest challenge to date is getting mobility and stability in my shoulders and thoracic spine. If I keep up with my drills I can ride for hours without issue. However, if life, work, etc. get crazy and I fall behind I tend to get a pain/burn in my upper back between my lats during riding. Do you have any on trail quick tips to relieve pain during the ride? I know the correct answer is to stay on top of my mobility plan but sometimes life gets in the way.


    Reply • May 15 at 11:38 am
    • bikejames bikejames says:

      Sorry to hear that but I really don’t have much for that area of the body. Once things get painful the best thing is usually rest, which is obviously hard to do in the middle of a ride! I’d make note of when it happens and what triggers it and how you felt and try to avoid those situations or know you’ll need to warm up and stretch a bit more first.

      Reply • May 18 at 4:01 pm

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