You use your core mountain biking more than you would think.

It keeps you stable as you ride over rough terrain.

But what are the best exercises to train your core for mountain biking?

The five best core exercises for mountain biking are the Farmer’s Carry, Plank, Side Plank, Front Leaning Rest on Rings, and the Alternating Dead Bug. These exercises target your core while activating secondary muscles also used while riding.

These core exercises are my five personal favorites.

I love them not because they just target your core. But because they also train other muscles that are mountain bike specific.

Let me explain:

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The 5 Best Core Exercises for Mountain Biking

The Farmer’s Carry


The farmer’s carry is by far the simplest exercise here. But it is also the most useful for mountain bikers.

The farmer’s carry targets your whole body, including the muscles in your core, shoulders, upper back, and your grip strength. This is ideal for mountain bikers like you and me. 

Our core is our center of balance on the bike. Our shoulders, upper back, and grip strength help us hold onto the handlebars and maneuver the bike through rough terrain. This exercise also helps prevent arm pump.

How to perform the farmer’s carry:

Grab two heavy dumbbells or kettlebells. Then walk a set distance. As you walk, actively think about standing up straight and engaging your core. Pick a weight that you can barely walk the distance with.

You should feel this exercise in your core, forearms, and shoulders.

Just getting into mountain biking? Learn what to wear on your next ride.

The Forearm Plank

Forearm plank

The forearm plank is simple but difficult.

The forearm plank is the most isolated exercise on this list. It uses the muscles in your core and shoulders. However, other ancillary muscles are activated to support this position.

You want to train the core because it keeps you centered on the bike. Your core will fight to keep us upright and centered as you encounter forces pushing you in all directions. Your shoulders support this fight, and make sure your handlebars stay pointing straight.

How to perform the forearm plank:

Lie down with your forearms underneath your body and your hands interlaced. Then rise up onto your toes into a plank position with only your toes and forearms on the ground. Engage your core and squeeze your bottom. Hold for the set amount of time. Make sure to breathe. It makes it easier.

You should feel this exercise in your core and shoulders.

The Side Plank

side plank

The side plank is a more advanced version of the forearm plank.

The side plank uses multiple muscle groups, including your core, glutes, shoulders, and obliques. This is a great full-body exercise that directly transfers to the bike. 

You use your glutes to pedal the bike and when you hinge at the hips into the attack position. The shoulders help you absorb impacts and push and pull on the handlebars in technical terrain.

How to perform the side plank:

Lay on your side with your forearm on the ground, hand pointing away from you. Stack your feet on top of each other. Then lift yourself off of the ground into a straight line. Squeeze your glutes and core. Lay the top hand down your side. Then hold for the set amount of time. Repeat equally on the other side.

You should feel this exercise in your core, obliques, shoulders, and glutes.

Front Leaning Rest on Rings

gymnastic rings
A video demonstration is linked below.

The front leaning rest on rings is an even more advanced version of the plank. The rings add instability which makes the exercise more challenging.

The front leaning rest on rings uses your core like the plank, but it also targets the muscles in your upper back, shoulders, and forearms. 

The instability in this exercise is great for mountain bikers. The rings want to move, and you have to fight them to stay in place. This mimics riding in rough terrain.

As you get stronger in this position, you will notice that it is easier to maintain a good posture in rough terrain. Also, it’s easier to absorb impacts and pull on the handlebars.

How to perform the front leaning rest on rings:

Use a set of gymnastics rings or TRX straps. Adjust the handles to six to twelve inches off the ground. Then get into a push-up position. Grab a handle with each hand and lock out your arms. Hold your core steady and keep the rings at your side. Keep your upper back flat or rounded, do not let it droop. Hold for the set duration.

You should feel this exercise in your core, shoulders, and upper back.

The Alternating Dead Bug


The dead bug is a great way to train your core and coordination.

The dead bug uses your core muscles. But what makes this exercise unique is how you move your arms and legs. This exercise teaches you to activate your core while your limbs are moving. 

This directly carries over to mountain biking. It teaches you how to keep your core active when your arms and legs are moving. For example, it teaches you how to brace as you push down on the bars to ride a rock roll.

How to perform the dead bug:

Lay on your back with your arms straight up and your legs off of the ground bent at a 90-degree angle. Then lower an opposite arm and leg to the ground at the same time while activating your core. Then bring them back up and repeat with the opposite arm and leg. Perform equal repetitions on both sides.

You should feel this exercise in your core.

Final Thoughts

This post covers my favorite core exercises for mountain biking. Right now, I am using the farmer’s carry and the plank in my training program. There’s no substitute for mastering the basics.

If you have any questions or want to chat about strength training, please leave a comment below or email me.

I'm Sean. Owner of MTBS&F and self-proclaimed ski/bike bum. Catch me on the trails on the weekends and working out during the week.

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