Top 4 Exercises for Better Body Position w/video

Great exercises from James Wilson!

Top 4 Exercises for Better Body Position

One of the most important movement skills for any mountain biker to posses is the basic “hip hinge”. This is your ability to bend at the hips and not at the lower back and it is directly related to your ability to get into good body position on the bike. Without this movement skill you will always struggle to find balance and flow on the trail.

However, it can very tough to learn this movement skill on the bike if you don’t already posses it off the bike. This is where smart strength training comes into play – by using strength training as a basic means of “skills training” you can re-train and strengthen your movement skills which will make it much easier to apply on the bike.

The following 4 exercises are a great way to teach yourself a good hip hinge movement pattern, strengthen it and then make it powerful. Remember that the goal is not to get through all 4 exercises the first time you try this routine – stop when you find the exercise that offers you a challenge and spend time getting it down before moving on to the next step. If you don’t prioritize movement quality then you’ll never be able to learn how to do it better.

- Ball Popper X 6 reps: This strange looking exercise is the first step to learning how to bend at the hips instead of at the lower back and ankles. You should feel as if you can really apply a lot of pressure to the stability ball between your butt and the wall before moving to the next step.

- Touch the Wall Deadlifts X 8 reps: Now that you now how to drive your hips backwards instead of just sinking down you can start to pattern the actual movement. By standing in front of a wall and bending over until you touch it you force yourself to learn the hip hinge since the wall won’t get any closer without the right movement strategy.

- Deadlifts X 5 reps: Once you have control of the hip hinge with your bodyweight, it is time to add some load and “cement” it. Everything that you have learned in the first two steps should be applied here – don’t change how you move now that you are using load. Remember to load the hips at the bottom before standing up, drive your heels into the ground to start the movement and then squeeze your thighs together at the top to ensure proper technique.

- Swings X 10-20 reps: The swing is simply a dynamic deadlift so if you don’t have strong command of the previous three exercises then you will really struggle with this one. However, few exercises are as valuable for teaching you how to absorb impacts with your legs while maintaining strong body position and how to power movement with your hips and not your legs and arms.

No matter where you are on this exercise continuum, practicing the appropriate level of exercise for you will go a long way to helping you gain better command of this all important movement pattern. Without it you will struggle to apply all other techniques to your bike and quickly hit the ceiling on how fast you can go while maintaining balance and control. Add these exercises into your training routine and you’ll see a marked increase in your balance and flow on the trail.

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MTB Strength Training Systems is the world leader in integrated performance training programs for the unique demands of mountain biking. As the strength and conditioning coach for the Yeti World Cup Team and 3 National Championships, his programs have been proven at the highest levels. As a regular contributor to several popular magazines and websites, James has helped thousands of riders just like you improve their speed, endurance and skills on the trail. Visit www.bikejames.com to sign up for the free Trail Rider Fundamentals Video Mini-Course

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6 replies
  1. James Wilson says:

    @ mike – No, these exercises are meant to fix and give you a strong command of the hip hinge movement pattern. Once you have it down and want to do some extra balance type work then doing some balance board deadlift with very light weight might work well but I wouldn’t do swings on it.

    Hope this helps…

    Reply
  2. Mike P says:

    Nice article! Just now finding it (a year later) as I’ve been doing research on Foundation Training which is all about the hip hinge.

    My question is this: Do you recommend sitting on the saddle with an active hip hinge? I certainly cannot naturally and effortlessly sit in a full hip hinge – I have some lower back rounding unless I actively contract into a hip hinge. It seems like so much work to hold that position! Especially in the drops (road).

    What’s your take on this? Can I “learn” to actively hold a strong hip hinge with seemingly little effort (and hopefully no conscious effort)? How does one do that?

    THANKS!

    Reply
    • Gene says:

      Hi Mike,

      Yes, at least on an mtb you do want to hold a hip hinge. It is much more athletic and will end back pain. The problem is most cyclist have very tight hips and a weak core, both making hinging tough. Work on increasing your hip mobility by using foam rollers and tennis balls (rolling on them until you can’t find an area that hurts, may take weeks!) and your core strength with planks, leg lifts, supermans, etc. It will take some time but your back will love you for it (so will your riding!).

      Cheers,

      Gene

      Reply
  3. Mike P says:

    Thanks Gene.

    And when you say strengthen your “core”, I’m guessing you do NOT mean abs (although it wouldn’t hurt). If anything your abs will lengthen with a hip hinge assuming you are keeping your chest/head up.

    Do you think that it’s possible to reach a point where holding the hip hinge is subconscious? Or do you find that some people just have to constantly think about it when on the bike?

    Thanks again,

    Mike

    Reply
    • Gene says:

      Hi Mike,

      A better way to think about it would be to stabilize the core. It is really similar to sitting up straight in chair versus slouching. When you slouch your hips rotate down and backward and your lower spin curves. When you sit up straight you hips rotate up and forward and your spine is straight. On the bike we are hinged slightly further forward but maintain a straight back. If is definitely possible to hold the hip hinge subconsciously but like all skills it will take a lot of deliberate practice. Many yogis that I know do this subconsciously when they ride.

      Reply

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