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Functional Exercises to Develop Strength for Mountain Biking [Guest Post]

Functional exercises to build mountain biking strength

By Deyvi Mardelli

Mountain biking or cycling is fundamentally about creating force over and over again, one leg at a time. But beside legs, it also needs a strong upper body for climbing on your bike.

Incorporating some simple strength exercises can be a great addition to your training routine when you are biking. Moreover, there are some tricks or ways to train that not everybody talks about. In the long term, they will make a big difference in performance.

Before I explain the routine, I have to clarify that each person’s body is different, and it could be more difficult for some than others to follow the steps. However, as long as you are persistent, in 4 to 8 weeks, you will see a vast difference in your physical condition and look.

How is the routine like?

The routine that I do consist of my regular session of biking 25 – 50 min (depending on the day), three days a week with intervals of exercises in the middle of my ride, which means you will be on and off the bike regularly.

First, I start stretching 2-3 min (stretching my legs, shoulders, and abs), then I warm up with a slow-middle pace ride for 3-5 min, and then is when the training start.

The idea is about doing four routines of exercises (that I will explain below) while you are riding your bike in a middle-fast pace, with an interval of a slow ride between each routine to recover.

Look at this example, let’s say your session is 30 min and it is divided like this:

– First set 6 min (45 seconds ride / 4 times and 45 seconds exercise / 4 times) alternating 1 ride and 1 exercise. The exercise series is from 8 to 15 reps, depending on your body condition.

– After the first set, do 1-2 min of a medium-low ride and start the second routine.

– Repeating this process with a different exercise 4 times, and after all, do the last 2 min ride with the rest of your energy to finish.

Why is it like that, and how it’s supposed to help your body strength?

It’s simple, when we are cycling we do a lot of cardio, and also we build strength, but not that much force to improve our condition quickly. Mixing your ride with exercises will send you to the next level.

This is because unlike a regular working out session, there is no rest, your body is in constant motion, and it makes you burn more calories and get used to doing a lot of strength workouts on your regular ride.

This way of training is similar to HITT or Crossfit, which focuses on varied, high-intensity, functional movement with short rests. The difference is that the breather will be on the bike.

That kind of training does not allow us to recover much. It makes us use our energy more and accelerates our metabolism. This gives way better results for a long term performance, burns more calories, and develops strength in your full-body faster.

Your body will feel lighter and stronger, because of the many times you have to push yourself towards a peak.

Further, this kind of training helps keep your bones healthy, which is essential if you want to ride bikes for a long time.

5 Exercises


I consider squats to be a staple in any training regimen. Squats work your glutes, hips, quads, and femoral, and they strengthen your core.

Steps to follow:

– Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
– Gradually bring down your body into a sitting stance by bending your knees and pushing your hips back.
– Attempt to sit as down as possible, but keep your feet flat on the floor. (NEVER stand on tiptoe)
– At the lowest point of the squat, hold that position and count to 3-5.
– Rise back up and repeat.

12 to 25 repetitions are okay.

Russian Twist

Suitable for mountain biking. This exercise strengthens your obliques (side torso), which are the muscles that rotate your trunk, and helps you controlling jumps in a better way.

Steps to follow:

– While seated on the floor, raise your feet off the ground
– Twist your torso from left to right and back. Squeeze your abs when you turn.
– Your legs never should touch the floor
– To count one repetition of this exercise, you have to squeeze on both sides.

12 to 30 repetitions are okay.


One leg at a time works the primary muscle movers in cycling. A great exercise that trains your glutes, quadriceps, femoral, and calves and also improves your balance.

Steps to follow:

– From a standing position, step forward with one of your legs.
– Bend your other leg until the knee is almost touching the floor. Avoid touching the ground with your knee as you could injure yourself
– Return to the standing position – use your front foot to push yourself back.
– Repeat with your other leg.

10 to 20 repetitions of each leg are okay.

Planks with variations

One of the best exercises for core strength and full-body that you can do everywhere. They will work your abs, lower back, shoulders, and glutes.

Steps to follow:

– Kickback your legs into a push-up position but with your forearms as a base in the front.
– Maintain the posture and lift one of your legs as much as you can counting to 3 – 5
– Lower your leg back to the floor in the starting position. Repeat this exercise using your other leg.

10-20 repetitions of each leg are okay.


The second level of Squats, in this case, with the jump, you will give more power to your femoral, and when you land, your quadriceps will play the role of support and stability. It’s an excellent exercise to practice balance, control, and more strength.

Steps to follow:
– Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
– Have your hands stretching on the front
– Look in front; keep your back straight throughout. Now make sure you sit into the squat
– Pause for a moment, gather as much power as possible, and then take a jump. Put your hands down when you are jumping to keep up the momentum
– Land stable with both feet at the same time.

At least ten repetitions are okay, up to 25 repetitions would be amazing

Functional exercises to build mountain biking strength

Image: HansMartinPaul/ Pixabay

Progression Exercises (Next Level)

Jumping Lunges

Like the squats jumps, there is also a jumping lunges; this move makes you develop both legs and core strength, and will help you improve the stability for sure as well the strength of the hips. Lunges are always hard, and when you add jumping at the end, it becomes a challenging and powerful exercise.

Steps to follow:

– Move one step back. Bend straight down so that your rear leg is at a ninety-degree (90º) angle. (You can open your rear leg slightly to increase stability)
– Keep your front leg’s knee in line with your second toe.
– In one movement, jump up and swap legs. You should land in the same position as before, except that your back leg will end up in front and vice versa.
– Engage your core throughout this exercise. It will prevent your hips and knees from rotating.

8 to 15 repetitions on each leg are fine.


It requires full-body explosive power, and it’s maybe the most difficult of the exercises but as well the most effective. It will help you to work your legs shoulders and abs.

Steps to follow:

With your feet shoulder-width apart, take a squat. Place your hands on the ground surface in front.
Kickback your legs into a push-up position and go down.
Now, doing a push-up, hop your feet back in towards your hands, returning to a squat.
Spring into a jump, throwing your arms up and leaping as high as possible.
Land and repeat.

8 to 15 repetitions are okay.

Extra Tips:

– If in the beginning, you can’t do that many repetitions, don’t worry. Work on your pace, start with only five reps, and go up with the time.

– Good nutrition is essential to see faster results. It’s true with this kind of workout you will improve quickly, but if you include good food, the progress will be amazing.

– Supplements or vitamins like Glucosamine are helpful to avoid any injury when you do intense workouts.

– Results do not happen overnight- it takes time and consistent effort. If you go biking 4-5 times per week, this kind of training would be right on 2 or 3 of those five days.

– If you go biking 1-3 times per week and only want to focus on cycling, you can do this high-intensity routine at home. You need to buy a rope and jump between the exercises instead of rest.

– Finally, play with your gear. If you can, put your bike on high gear when training. This makes it seem heavier to pedal as it requires more effort.

Author Bio

Deyvi Mardelli is the founder of Deyvi has been riding road and mountain bikes for a grand part of his life. Now, after two years moving around mostly on two wheels, he has created a blog about green personal transportation to show the best options and why we should move more on two wheels.