Are you looking to take your downhill mountain biking to the next level? Do you want to become a faster, stronger and more confident rider? Then you’re in the right place! In this article, we’ll dive into the world of mountain bike training and provide specific workouts that improve overall fitness and performance on the trails.

I get why mountain bikers are gym muffs. Trading a fun outdoor activity for indoor struggle? No thank you. But you know what also sucks? Getting a fun ride cut short due to fatigue and lacking energy. Spending all that time in the car and money on bike, gear and tickets to then only last half a day in the bike park. That’s a bad deal if I ever saw one.

It’s a mindset shift for sure and you took the first step by seeking out this information! Glad to have you here.

Disclaimer: I’m not saying these are the best or most optimal exercise routines out there. I’m not a professional trainer or coach. I’m a fitness geek and mountain biker riding All-Mountain (Enduro) and Downhill sharing my own gym routines that keep me motivated.

DSC07146

Why is fitness for MTB so important to me?

Downhill and Enduro require endurance and also strength and fine motor skills at high heart rates. Cardio is built by trail riding, but strength and muscle gains from riding alone are limited. That’s where additional gym work comes in.

My personal goal is to be able to ride downhill lines without having to stop. All day long. Multiple days in a row. Without getting arm-pump or big calluses. On top of all that, being fit and strong is the best prevention for injuries due to overuse or crashing. On the Suspension Traveler Youtube channel, I upload videos of myself riding a full trail top to bottom nonstop in one take and I couldn’t do that without additional training.

These are the workout routines I actually do both during off-season and riding season.

Expectations & getting started

The goal here is not to become elite athletes but to better our general fitness for life and riding MTB. All the routines below take about 15 to 30 minutes so you can squeeze them into even the busiest schedule. That way we also don’t overdo it with endless grueling training that sucks out motivation.

Even a short workout is better than none.
And the best routine is worthless if it’s not motivating enough to actually do it.

I have been doing strength training for over 15 years now. I know my body can handle volume and weight. Please adjust the weight and volume accordingly to your current fitness and training level. It’s not a matter of how motivated you are or how much you could bench the last time you exercised, but how long it’s been since your last regular training routine.

Joints and ligaments have to be accustomed to the load you’re going to put them through. We don’t want to abuse those, only the muscles so they can rebuild stronger. Whenever I take a break (injuries) I start back up from the beginner level. My body are simply not used to it anymore after a couple of weeks on the sideline. I’ll be up to “advanced” quicker than someone untrained because it’s easier to rebuild fitness than build from scratch.

downhill mountain biker leaning in berm
Long hot days on blown-out, dusty trails. Not a big deal for a fit rider!

Here’s how I classified the individual workouts:

  • Beginners: Never did an exercise gym routine in their life or hasn’t done one for months. Only biking occasionally during summer, no sports during winter. Aim for 1-2 workouts a week to start off.
  • Intermediate: Regularly doing some exercise about once a week, or multiple times a month. Used to bodyweight exercises and upper body work. Aim for 2-3 workouts a week.
  • Advanced: Experienced and current in strength training or CrossFit-style workouts with complex dynamic movements. Can handle anaerobic loads and heavy weights. 3 or more workouts are in your wheelhouse.

Most routines (except the Crossfit ones) can be done at any level. Just adjust the weight and the number of reps to your level. Definitely take it easy as a beginner and lean towards more reps, especially for some movements that take some coordination. Make sure you know how to do each before bumping up the resistance (weight). Keep yourself accountable with a workout buddy.

As you get better and stronger, you can adjust one or more of the following to progress further:

  • Increase repetitions per exercise
  • Increase weight
  • Add another set or round
  • Reduce break time
  • Combine routines into a longer workout or seek out more advanced training plans or hit me up and request more of this kind of content.

Here’s what’s motivating about the training plans I put in here:

  • Workout routines for every level of fitness from beginner to advanced.
  • Challenging HIIT workouts (high-intensity interval training).
  • Testing basic motor movements at high heart rates is exactly what MTB requires.
  • Maximum output with minimal rest to simulate constant tension.
  • Mix things up with varying weights and repetitions within the same routine.

And on top of all that, you’ll be feeling like a champ on and off the bike. There are just so many benefits for health and quality of life!

I said it before in the article discussing if Downhill MTB is a good way to get fit, and I’ll say it again here: Only riding mountain bikes leads to muscle and posture imbalances. Cross training like resistance training, other cardio work and stretching not only helps greatly – it’s required in the long term when spending a lot of time on the saddle per week.


DSC07150
My simple home gym equipment: kettlebell, dumbbells, jump rope and resistance band.

Recommended Equipment

Nothing on here is mandatory to get fitter. That’s just the stuff essential to me. As you progress and make your workouts more difficult, additional gear is helpful. But you can start out with only 1 or 2 of those and go from there.

Please don’t go out and splurge your money on every fitness gadget in sight. Start small and see if you even like this kind of training. A soft yoga mat and a timer is all you need to start out with bodyweight exercises.

Remember, simple does not mean easy.


Warm Up Routine

Warming up is boring and lame, I know. But also the key to longevity and injury prevention! Increasingly so with age or low level of fitness. Don’t skip it. Your performance will increase when warmed up as well.

  • Equipment needed: Your body, gravity
  • Muscles trained: Full body

This full body warm-up takes only 10 minutes total and prepares your muscles and joints for what’s to come. I do the same one every time habitually. Even when I’m out riding my bike.

  • 2:30 minutes jumping jacks or jump rope
  • 20x arm circles extended (10x forward and 10x backward)
  • 10x chain breakers
  • 10x swimmers
  • 10x cherry pickers
  • 10x windmills
  • 10x squat thrusts (half burpees)
  • 10x lunge and twist
  • 20x mountain climbers

1. Full-Body Bodyweight Pyramid (Beginner)

Quick, efficient, and full body for beginners. Treat this workout like a sprint and rest as little as possible. Combine with other routines for a full advanced workout.

  • Equipment needed: Your body & Gravity, optional: kettlebell or dumbbells
  • Muscles trained: Chest, Abs, Legs, Triceps, Shoulders

5 rounds of 21-15-9-15-21 repetitions. All 3 exercises are 1 round.

  • Sit-ups
  • Push-ups (drop down to knee push-ups if necessary)
  • Air Squats (add dumbbells or kettlebell for added resistance)

If you can’t do all reps unbroken, break them up into 7-7-7 for 21 or 8-7 for 15. Beginners may start with knee push-ups. Keep resting time to a minimum.

How to do each of those exercises:


2. Bodyweight Routine (Beginner)

Another quick and efficient full-body workout to mix things up.

  • Equipment needed: Your body & Gravity
  • Muscles trained: Chest, Abs, Legs, Triceps, Shoulders

Beginners can do 1 round and others can repeat the exercises between the jumping jacks for multiple rounds. Again, rest as little as possible.

  • 2 minutes jumping jacks or jump rope
  • 50 Air Squats
  • 40 Burpees (this is where it’s at)
  • 30 Alternatinig Leg V-Ups
  • 20 Hand Walk Push Ups
  • 2 minutes jumping jacks or jump rope

How to do each of those exercises:


3. Full Body Conditioning (Beginner & Intermediate)

This one’s going to get your lungs burning and work individual muscles at the same time. The quick succession of different exercises keeps you on your toes and engaged.

  • Equipment needed: Your body & Gravity
  • Muscles trained: Chest, Abs, Legs, Triceps

Tabata 40/20 (40s work, 20s rest) or Sets with specific rep counts, whatever motivates you more.

  • 7 Push Ups
  • 20 Mountain Climbers
  • 12 Squat Jumps or Box Jumps
  • 7 Dips
  • 20 Lunges
  • 5 Burpees
  • 20 Jumping Jacks
  • 7 V-Ups Leg only

All 8 exercises are one round. Do 3 to 5 rounds for a full workout.

How to do each of those exercises:


4. Intermediate Kettlebell Routine for Legs and Grip Strength

This is a 25-minute complete leg destroyer. Don’t plan on riding the following day.

  • Equipment needed: 1 Kettlebell (20-45lb or 10-20kg)
  • Muscles trained: Legs (Quads, Hamstrings, Glutes), Forearms, Lower Back

Tabata 40/20 (40 seconds work, 20 seconds rest, next exercise)

  • Kettlebell Squats (hold KB with both hands and lower between your legs)
  • Kettlebell Swings
  • Kettlebell Lunges (Hold KB in one hand. Alternate hands between rounds.)
  • Kettlebell One-Legged Deadlifts (Right leg, KB in right hand)
  • Kettlebell One-Legged Deadlift (Left leg, KB in left hand)

All 5 exercises are one round. 20 seconds rest between rounds. Do 3 to 5 rounds depending on your fitness level.

How to do each of those exercises:


5. Kettlebell Workout for Legs and Upper Body (Intermediate & Advanced)

  • Equipment needed: 1 Kettlebell (20-45lb or 10-20kg)
  • Muscles trained: Legs, Forearms, Lower Back, Chest, Shoulders, Back

16min TABATA 30/30/30 (30 seconds work, 30 seconds KB Swings, 30 seconds rest)

  • Goblet squat
  • Alternating lunge pass unders
  • Uneven Lunge
  • Uneven Lunge (opposite leg)
  • Single-leg deadlift
  • Single-leg deadlift (switch leg)
  • Bent over row
  • Bent over row (switch arm)
  • Upright row
  • Overhead shoulder press
  • Chest press or push-ups

Add a second round if you’re a masochist.
This is a workout designed by certified personal trainer Caroline Girvan I adopted 1:1 as MTB training.

Full guided video on this workout:


CrossFit-Style HIIT Workouts for MTB

The following workouts are designed by former Navy SEAL and 6x CrossFit Games athlete Josh Bridges (I learned so much from him, definitely check his website and Youtube channel out). All of them require two dumbbells which should give you an indication of what to expect: heavy weights, complex movements, burning lungs and heart rates in the red zone. These workouts will test you.

6. Full Body Crossfit (Advanced)

  • Equipment needed: 2 Dumbbells
  • Muscles trained: Shoulders, Chest, Triceps, Biceps, Back, Core, Legs

Strength:

Do all 3 sets of one exercise before moving to the next. Rest 30-60 seconds between sets.

  1. ) 3 sets of 8-15 reps Standing Single Arm DB Press
  2. ) 3 sets of 8-15 reps Single Arm DB Bench (slow)

Conditioning

6 rounds of 12-10-8-6-4-2 reps. Both exercises are one round. Try to do all sets unbroken (rest in between sets rather than within one).

  • 1-Arm alternating Devil Press
  • Dual DB Box Jumps (or DB Box Step-ups or 2x the reps of Squat Jumps)

How to do each of those exercises:


7. Man-Maker WOD (Advanced)

  • Equipment needed: 2 Dumbbells
  • Muscles trained: Shoulders, Chest, Triceps, Biceps, Back, Core

Strength:

Pick a weight you can only do 8-10 reps with. Rest 30-60 seconds between sets.

  • 4 sets of 8 Tall Plank DB Rows per Arm

Conditioning:

  • 800m Run or 3 minutes Jumping Jacks / Jumprope
  • 30 Man Makers*
  • 800m Run or 3 minutes Jumping Jacks / Jumprope

*ONE Man-Maker is: Push Up, Row Right, Row Left, Ground to Overhead

How to do each of those exercises:


8. Balanced Full-Body Crossfit (Advanced)

  • Equipment needed: 2 Dumbbells
  • Muscles trained: Shoulders, Back, Chest, Triceps, Glutes, Hamstrings, Core

Strength:

Do all 4 sets of one exercise before moving to the next. Pick a weight you can only do 8-15 reps with. Rest 30-60 seconds between sets.

  1. ) 4 sets of 8-12 Dual DB Push Press
  2. ) 4 sets of 10-15 Dual DB Bent over Rows

Conditioning:

5 rounds of:

  • 25 Foot Dual DB Bear Crawl
  • 25 Push Ups on the DBs
  • 25 Dual DB Deadlifts

How to do each of those exercises:


9. Leg Crusher Crossfit (Advanced)

  • Equipment needed: 2 Dumbbells
  • Muscles trained: Back, Legs, Forearms, Shoulders

Strength:

Do all 4 sets of one exercise before moving to the next. Pick a weight you can only do 8-10 reps with. Rest 30-60 seconds between sets.

  1. ) 4 sets of 8 reps Bent Over Dual DB Rows (slow)
  2. ) 4 sets of 10 per side Single Arm Cross body DB Deadlift

Conditioning:

  • 400m Run (or 2 minutes Jumping Jacks / Jumprope)
  • 30 DB Clean and Jerks
  • 20 Dual DB Squats
  • 10 Dual DB Overhead Walking Lunge (5 steps each leg)
  • 30 DB Clean and Jerks
  • 20 Dual DB Front Squats

It’s easy to do sloppy form here. Prioritize quality over speed.

How to do each of those exercises:


Bonus: Core Blaster 3000

Set your core muscles on fire with this routine. Much of the performance on a bike, especially downhill riding, comes from a strong core. This is a workout that works the abs and lower back muscles in isolation. Great for spicing your training up or as an alternative when your legs are sore.

  • Equipment needed: Yoga mat, dumbbell optional
  • Muscles trained: Core (Abs, Lower Back and Obliques)

Tabata 30/30 for 5 Rounds (30 seconds work, 30 seconds rest)

  • Situps
  • Russian twist (advanced: with dumbbell)
  • Heel touches
  • Side plank left
  • Side plank right
  • Plank
  • Hip raises (advanced: with dumbbell)
  • Superman

All 8 exercises are one round. Do 3 to 5 rounds depending on your fitness level.

How to do those core exercises:


Can you get a six-pack from mountain biking?

You can in fact get a six-pack from mountain biking. But not for the reasons most would think. Getting a six-pack is more about losing fat, belly fat to be precise, rather than building muscle. MTB is great for calorie burning but not so good as an ab workout. That by itself is enough to make the ab muscles visible. Combine with strength training to really get them popping out.

Riding your bike in combination with good nutrition and the above exercises will get washboard abs. Having abs visible doesn’t do anything for your bike riding, but is definitely a great goal to work towards and keep you honest.


Those are some of my favorite workouts that any mountain biker can benefit from. Not only for riding but being fit for life in general.

Feel free to share your own workout routines in the comments! If you got questions or if anything’s unclear, comment or contact me directly. Now without any more excuses, have fun in the gym!

Similar Posts