Use these 3 tips to improve the lateral hip movement you need for faster corners on the trail.

Cornering remains one of the most common skills riders ask me about improving. The ability to maximize your momentum and speed in corners will help you go faster, save energy and look cool in the process, making it a very valuable trail skill.

Being able to move your hips around the cockpit on the bike to maximize balance and control is the key to improving your flow on the trail, especially when it comes to cornering.

At the heart of cornering lies two things – the ability to lean your bike over and, more importantly, the ability to lean your hips laterally to counterbalance the lean of the bike. The lateral hip mobility needed to execute this skill is usually the weak link in the equation and so addressing it it usually a priority.

To do that there are two things you can do with your foot placement and one exercise that will really help with this on the bike.

First, make sure you have your foot set in a –mid-foot position. This means that you will set the ball of the foot in front of the pedal axle instead of right on top of it. This will make it easier to drop the heel of the outside foot so you can sit back into your hip instead of just bending the knees and squatting down.

The second thing you can do is to set your inside foot forward going into a corner. This makes it easier to drop the outside foot and “carve” the corner much like skiing. This also means that you’ll need to be able to ride switch-foot on the trail, which is something you’ll need to practice along with cornering.

Lastly, you can work on using the Rotational Deadlift to teach your body the lateral hip movement you need on the bike. I’ve done a post on this exercise before but I recently shot a new video going over some details and coaching cues that have really helped me teach this exercise even better.

Being able to move your hips around the cockpit on the bike to maximize balance and control is the key to improving your flow on the trail, especially when it comes to cornering. By using exercises like the Rotational Deadlift to improve this movement off the bike you’ll have a much easier time learning how to apply it on the bike.

Try doing 3 sets of 6-8 reps on each leg in one workout for the next few weeks and you’ll see what I mean.

That’s it for now, if you have any questions on this exercise or have an exercise you’ve found helpful for improving your cornering please post a comment below. And if you liked this post please click one of the Like or Shore buttons below to help me spread the word.

Until next time…

Ride Strong,

James Wilson

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  1. Orca_Xiang says:

    Hi James!
    I had been using the techniques on your website a lot and it is great help! I just want to know which of your exercises or programs I shall use if I am only 11yrs old, ride DH & Enduro and needs improvement on cornering and jumps/drops. I am too small to get access to the gym but maybe I can get some dumbbells/kettlebells/sandbags. I really want more flow on the trail and I will do a lot for it but please keep in mind that I have school and homework so I can’t take a lot of exercises as I don’t have enough time.
    Thank you so much!

    Reply • May 4 at 4:24 am
    • bikejames bikejames says:

      You would like the No Gym, No Problem Bodyweight Workout Program. It is great for someone you age since it focuses on bodyweight control and awareness, something that you will pick up easily and will really benefit you as you get older. When you are ready for something with weights I’d recommend the DB Combos Program, it is a good place to start with strength training for mountain biking.

      Reply • May 5 at 11:20 am
      • Orca_Xiang says:


        Reply • May 10 at 10:50 pm
  2. Anne says:

    This is an incredibly good way to get people’s backs hurt. I like a lot of the advice you have, but this is just asking for trouble.

    Any type of rotation with resistance is bad, this is even worse because the spine is already in a compromised position.

    Reply • December 2 at 1:24 pm
    • bikejames bikejames says:

      I agree that it carries a higher risk of injury than a standard deadlift but at what point in the movement is my spine compromised? You’ll notice that because I have good hip rotation and mobility I can do the movement without my lower back or spine ever moving to any large degree. This means that it is safe – if it isn’t moving then I am not transmitting shearing forces through it that can get it hurt.

      The problem is that we need this movement on the bike. If someone can not do this properly in the gym then they can not do it properly on the bike. This means that they are using the lower back to much on the bike, which opens it up to injury and messes up your balance on the bike.

      If a rider can move through the hips properly then this exercise is safe and productive. If not then the focus should be on fixing the problems so that they can perform movements like this and the KB Windmill.

      You can also do this movement with just bodyweight or a very light weight as well, there is no need to go super heavy. And while we like to preach that the spine should never move, the truth is that it does need to be able to encounter some odd positions and not get hurt – life tends to do that to us. The Russians used to train for that specifically with their athletes, using exercises that would make you cringe from a “comprised spine” perspective. Using lifts that don’t allow for “perfect” movement is needed but only by riders who have the prerequisite movement and mobility.

      Anyways, my point is that while you are right for someone who doesn’t move well, that this can be a safe and productive exercise for helping riders develop and strengthen the hip rotation/ lateral hip mobility they need to corner properly. Sorry if I didn’t make that first point clear enough in the video, sometimes I just get into the exercise and don’t cover all of those details like I maybe should.

      Reply • December 2 at 1:53 pm
      • Anne says:

        You’re making the assumption many riders have good hip movement. They don’t. There’s a lot of people who mountain bike who can pick up this video and end up hurting themselves, especially with weight.

        If you have a modified version for those who are limited for whatever reason (like myself, I have hyperlorodosis that cannot be fixed), you may want to provide some alternatives–even just a body weight version would be fine 🙂

        Thanks for responding. I’ve seen too many people do dumb things deadlifting in the gym, and too many people getting injured–even with good range of motion–doing a basic deadlift.

        Right now, my basic deadlifts involve using a broomstick. While I’m sure I can pull a heavier weight–I’ve been weight training now for over a year solidly–it’s not worth the injury and the time off the bike IMO.

        Reply • December 3 at 1:12 pm
  3. Carlos says:

    I have definitely found that having a more mid foot position and switching to the inside leg forward has helped my cornering enormously. For me it was due to the balance provided by this combination. With clipless pedals and outside foot forward I felt unbalanced and was always getting pushed to the outside of the corner on my 29er. Now I’m hugging the apex no problem. And starting to “dive in” on even loose gravel corners.

    I also recently swapped to flats and installed a dropper post and the freedom of movement has taken my cornering to the next level. The fear of front wheel washout has disappeared. In fact now when the front end starts to go I don’t even flinch, I just ride it out and keep going. Previously I would have been on the brakes and trying to unclip.

    Reply • December 4 at 2:56 am
    • bikejames bikejames says:

      Thanks for the insights and feedback. It is funny how many people argue with me about the importance of riding switch foot in corners instead of just trying it and seeing for themselves. Glad the tips have been paying off for you and helping you have more fun.

      Reply • December 4 at 10:57 am
  4. Dennis Barrington says:

    Could you help me understand how to apply this to clipless? If I turn my outer heel, I’ll come off the pedal. I also don’t understand where the pedals are in their rotation for your exercise. To have your feet even, you’d have to have one foot high, the other low (for me, the outside) and so doing your exercise should incorporate a raised inner foot. If you are instead having the pedals even, then one foot is more forward. So could you explain where the pedals are in their rotation, and how this applies to clipless (ie, unclipping? Or moving the position more mid on your setup? etc) TIA

    Reply • September 6 at 7:13 am
    • bikejames bikejames says:

      Well, to be honest with you it is hard to apply to clipless pedals. That is one of the real dirty secrets in cycling – your feet can not move naturally on clipless pedals. If you apply any rotational forces into the pedals then your feet will unclip, which forces you to learn how to move with “dead” feet on the bike.

      As far as the feet in the exercises and the feet on the bike, It doesn’t look exactly the same but the movement principles behind it are. The feet don’t drop because you “drop” them, they drop because your outside foot gets heavy as you shift your hips. The more your hips shift, the more the outside foot drops. This is why you can keep your feet pretty level in easy turns but you need to drop the outside foot a lot in tight turns. Keeping the back foot heavy – which is the same as the outside foot when your feet are set up properly for cornering – is the same movement principle you want to apply to the bike.

      Reply • September 6 at 9:18 am
      • Dennis Barrington says:

        Your teaching already explains some of what I have been doing wrong: placing weight on the inner vs the outer handlebar/pedal. That will really help. I currently have platforms on my MTB and clipless on my hardtail, but was thinking of clipless for both. I’ll experiment with both bikes as they are and see how it goes. Thank you for such key help!

        Reply • September 6 at 1:02 pm

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