After taking a long hiatus from mountain biking, I have recently returned to the trails. A few things have stood out as I’ve gotten back on the bike. 1) Technology has changed a LOT! 2) I really missed the adrenaline of being on the trails and 3) I needed to be more fit in different ways for the challenges of the trails.

One of the great things about my background and training as a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) is the ability to create a list of workouts and exercises that will help me prep for the rigors of any activity. As I started hitting the mountains again, I’ve been thinking about gym workouts for mountain bikers to help me prep for more rides.

There are two specific workouts I have been implementing for myself at the studio that I wanted to share. They are very different but both, I think, really nail the various demands of mountain biking. Feel free to try them (even if you don’t ride!).

Workout #1: Endurance efforts

1) 10:00 hill walk. 8-10% grade at 3.0 mph to 4.0 mph
This is great for building leg strength.

2) Circuit of three: Plank / Wall Sit / Flexed Arm Hang



  • All three sets will be repeated and generally the plank will be the longest and the hang will be the shortest. Start with each at :30 and work your way up.
  • I am currently working on 3:00 plank / 2:00 wall sit / :60 flexed hang but sometimes bail out at the end of the hang. For comparison, Lee is doing a :90 plank / :60 wall sit / :30 side plank top leg lifted*.
  • Low plank (on elbows). Perfect form throughout. When hips start to sag, you’re out.
  • Wall Sit – 90 degree bend in knees and hips with hips and shoulder blades against wall. When hips drop below 90, you’re out.
  • Flexed arm hang* – on pull up bar. Underhand grip, pull up until chin is over bar and hold still. When you plummet back to earth, you’re out.
  • Do 2 or 3 rounds depending on time / energy.
  • The idea here is that you get these long endurance holds in while working through some challenges and maintaining control of your form.

    *We don’t have a pull up bar at home, so Lee has been substituting a side plank with top leg lifted and held parallel to the ground for the flexed hang. She does :30 per side.

3) Second round on the treadmill. 10:00 hill walk. 8-10% grade at 3.0 mph to 4.0 mph

Workout #2: Interval efforts

Make sure you are warmed up for this. A short jog, spin, etc. will get you primed for the hard efforts ahead. You should have a light sweat before starting.

Tabata Sets: “Tabatas” are interval sets that last 4 minutes a piece. Each set is split into 8 units of :20 max effort followed by a :10 rest. The work / rest intervals really mimic some of the elements of cross country trails where you have short hard climbs or technical sections followed by downhill sections.

My current workout looks like this:

  • 1-mile run on treadmill
  • 4 x 4:00 Tabata sets. One each of the following**, resting less than :60 between each activity:
    Airdyne bike (4 minutes total, :20 on, :10 rest, :20 on, :10 rest, etc. for 8 sets = 4 minutes)
    Mountain climbers
    Battle Ropes
    Kettle Bell Swings

    **You can sub in anything. Jumping jacks, ball slams, hill sprints, bike intervals, burpees (good luck), etc.

  • 1-mile run on the treadmill

The idea here is that you’re blasting the anaerobic system to prep for all the short hard efforts on the mountain. You are training to not only perform the work of the set but to also recover quickly enough to do it over and over again.


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