Top 3 Core Training Exercises for XC/ Trail Riders

For a mountain biker, building a strong, high performance core for the demands of riding for hours on grueling trails requires a smart, multi-pronged attack. You want a core that is able to connect the upper body and lower body, resist twisting and be able to coordinate with the hips for lateral movement around the cockpit.

Here are the top 3 exercises I recommend for building just such a core for the XC/ Trail Rider. (If you don’t see the video above, click here to watch on YouTube.)

1.  RKC Plank x 3 – 10 second holds: This version of the regular plank is much more effective at building useable core strength instead of just being a contest to see how long you can hang out on your elbows and toes. Remember to keep your chest pushed towards the ground and producing as much tension as you can for the 10 second holds and you’ll see a massive increase in your ability to lock the core down for low RPM grinds.

2. ½ Kneeling ARP x 6 reps each side: This exercise puts us into a split position similar to how you stand on your pedals and works on your ability to resist rotation through the core. This is important for making sure that your upper body and lower body are working together to produce a strong pedal stroke – if your core is twisting and turning when you are laying the power down then you are loosing a lot of power that could be going into the pedals and propelling you forward.

3. TGU Windmill x 3-5 reps each side: This unique exercise is actually one of the steps in the Turkish Get Up. This movement specifically targets the ability of the core to stabilize and coordinate with the hips to create lateral movement, which is important for cornering and overall flow on the trail. It also builds shoulder mobility and stability, which is important for being able to muscle around tough trails without getting beat up in the process.

When taken together, these three exercises will build a strong, powerful and injury-resistant core for the unique demands of mountain biking. Go through this routine 2-3 times a week and you’ll notice a marked improvement in your ability to pedal stronger, ride longer and have more flow and confidence on the trail.

Train more than your core at James Wilson’s MTB Skills & Fitness 2 Day Clinic on October 8th and 9th in Grand Junction, CO. Get professional mountain biking specific coaching and improve your skills and confidence on the trails!

MTB Strength Training Systems by James Wilson 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 Champions, his programs have been proven at the highest levels. James has helped thousands of riders just like you improve their speed, endurance and skills on the trail. For more mountain bike training tips and a free Trail Rider Fundamentals Video Mini-Course, visit

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