Fitness: Strength Training for Mountain Biking

With more and more pro riders posting their workouts on social media, you probably have noticed a lot of them aren’t only posting about their riding sessions, but also their strength training. A good example of this is Nino Schurter who constantly released training clips. But do we ‘normal‘ mountain bikers need this type of training? Isn’t just riding our bikes enough?

The benefits of strength training are varied, the most obvious one is developing a stronger body, which in turn will allow us to put more power onto the pedals, resist injuries better and essentially ride faster.

Other benefits from strength training are increasing our bone density (which tends to be lower for cyclists), improve joint health, correcting imbalances and poor posture, weight loss and prevent muscle loss from ageing.

Nino Schurter has posted many of his workouts online. Needless to say, strength training plays a big part in how the champ keeps in supreme shape. 

However it is important to note that these benefits can only come from a well executed strength program, that takes into account you particular goals and needs, but also limitations (knowledge, skills, equipment, injuries, mobility among others).

So in short – yes – the above benefits make it worth spending time in the gym or on a simple (but effective!) exercise routine. Below is an example of 5 simple exercises you can do with minimal equipment. Where possible I provided alternatives if you don’t have access to a gym.

These are included as they complement the muscles used when riding, but also to develop strength in areas more likely to be weaker (e.g. hamstrings), to prevent injuries, address imbalances and correct posture problems.

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Walking Lunges with twist

To develop individual leg strength, lunges are my go to exercise. Walking lunges challenge all muscles used in cycling, and adding the twist takes your body out of that ever forward facing position. The twist also helps better activate the glutes which tend to be under-active for most people.


Walk forward bending the front and back knee to 90-degree almost touching the ground, but keeping the front shin vertical. Turn towards the same side as the front leg (right foot forward means tun right), turning your head together with your shoulders.

You can add weight is all sorts of ways, just make sure you can maintain good form with a straight back and not lose balance. Try to aim for 30 steps to begin with.

Ball pushup

Another simple but effective exercise, this time to develop upper body strength. Adding a ball under one hand creates a less stable position to push from, much like when you are rumbling down that downhill section, get thrown out of balance, and need to get yourself back into attack position.


Simply alternate the ball under one hand and then the other while doing a pushup. Any other contraption to create an asymmetrical position helps too. Make sure you are holding a straight back and your hips don’t drop trough (pull your abs tight!). To make it easier, have your hands elevated against a table and progressively make it harder, starting at 10 reps.

Deadlifts (and single leg variation)

Probably my favorite exercise for raw strength, and an excellent option to develop strong hamstrings to counter those strong quads you (hopefully) already have.


The key is to maintain good form, a straight back, hips behind the heels, lats (side of your torso and back) engaged and lifting from the hips until locking out (squeeze your butt!). If you feel that your back is in any way doing part of the lifting, review your technique until all you can feel is your hamstrings and glutes.

I also love the single leg variation with lighter weights, to develop individual leg strength, balance and increased glute engagement.

Renegade row or TRX row

To get a strong and healthy upper back, this is a key exercise for my athletes. All that pulling on the handlebars to bunnyhop, jump or just get over that bigger rock needs strong pulling muscles. Also a stromg upper back will counter the hunched over position we spend too much time in (riding and also sitting, driving, etc.).


You can either do the plank based renegade row, pulling one weight up to your shoulder, or using a TRX pulling your bodyweight up.

For either variation, you must maintain a straight body, keeping the hips aligned with shoulders, knees and ankles, but also pull your shoulders back, squeezing your shoulder blades backwards (think of puffing your chest out).

Side plank drops (with reach)

This exercise will strengthen your core and shoulders. Your core is constantly being called into action while riding, positions where you are leaning sideways into a corner are a good example of engaging the side of your trunk, but also any really strong sprint needs a steady core, to allow the force from your legs to go into the pedals and not wobbling side to side losing energy, speed and control.


On your elbow, with the shoulder stacked vertically put both feet on top of each other. Drop the hip to touch the floor and come back up to side plank. If this is easy, add a twist and reach towards the ceiling, for even greater stability challenge and core engagement.

Try to progress towards the harder options, increasing the weight or reps (or both) as you see fit. For more advanced exercises, find a good trainer and program, and always work prioritizing good form and technique over speed or higher weights.

Complete 3-4 rounds of the above exercises, give this a try for 4 weeks, aiming for 2 sessions a week like the above and let us know how you go!

Mathias Witt is a qualified Personal Trainer as well as a strength and nutrition coach. A former elite athlete and lifelong sports fanatic he is passionate about sharing his knowledge and expertise to create better performing and goal orientated athletes.

In his past life Mathias was part of the Chilean National MTB team as well as a Karate black belt and running enthusiast. He is an MBA qualified engineer who 4 years ago decided to change paths and share his unique approach towards sports performance and overall wellbeing by becoming a fitness and health coach.

Mathias lives and works in Sydney’s Northern beaches, CBD and offers remote training as well as online programs. You can get in touch with him on and [email protected] or follow on instagram @orbis_coaching.


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