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Mountain Bike Blog



MTB Workout for the Deskbound


Iíve spent a lifetime avoiding gyms and training in preference for just getting out and doing the activity. Earlier this year I decided I wasnít getting as much out of my MTB trips as I could but I knew I would never stick to a formal training program so I had to think a little differently.

(Nine Days in the Rotorua Redwoods - Exploring The Kowen Forest)

Apart from my core hatred of training I lose out because I have a desk job. While others spend 5-6 days a week climbing trees, carrying gear, swinging heavy stuff and holding onto power tools the only time Iím building muscle strength and stability is when Iím riding.

What has evolved over the past year is a little odd, but the results have been quite amazing. The best part, Iíve not had to take time out of my schedule in fact itís actually given purpose to otherwise wasted parts of my day.

I'm not a qualified trainer nor a fitness specialist by any stretch of the imagination however I've stolen a few ideas from various sources and applied them to my day.

My disclaimer: Some of these exercises can probably lead to RSI type issues and others are dangerous so make your own decision about whether you should do them, how often you do them, whether you should seek advice before doing them and what you should do if you get any pain. Just like you do every time you get on your mountain bike.

The Daily Stand-up or WIP

Same thing - different clothes

Very common within IT circles but I'm guessing that many other jobs have these daily stand-up meetings that last 10-20 minutes. I use this time to work on my stability by standing on one leg for as long as I can. Iíve found the key to doing this correctly is to put a reasonable bend in my knee. When I'm doing it right I feel it in my feet, calves and thighs but afterward I find the outer edges of my arse are the muscles that hurt the most. I stand on one leg until I can't do it anymore and then I switch legs.

The Public Transport Commute

Don't take it too seriously

I've found a number of great ways to work on biking muscles while on public transport, but my bus leg work has been the revelation of the year.

Bus Legs

Standing in the attack position with one foot in front of the other, spaced as if I was standing on the pedals, I bend my knees and sit slightly as if I was going down a rough steep descent. As the bus moves around, forward/backward and side to side I use my legs like suspension and bend to absorb each change in direction. I typically hold onto the rail with one hand but try not to use my arms, in fact Iíve found if I really bend my legs like a freestyle snowboarder itís very rare that I need to use my arms to stay upright.

When my legs get too tired I simply switch my feet around so that a different set of muscles is at work on each leg. Doing this 10-20 minutes twice a day increased my descending strength and endurance enormously.

I've done the same thing on the train but the workout is less effective as trains are pretty smooth. Bus drivers on the other hand are crazy bastards who think their bus handles like a Mini and the brake and accelerator are on and off switches .. therefore you get a real work out.

Bus Arms

If my legs are too buggered Iíll put my feet together and keep my legs locked and straight and hold onto the rails, in this position there is very little stability. Trying to keep upright requires a fair bit of strength and seems to work a lot of different upper body muscles. Also itís a good opportunity to work on grip strength by holding a tight grip for a long time.

Train Stairs

Most railway stations have a good set of stairs to burn the legs on. I try to climb 2 stairs at a time regardless of whether Iím running or walking. I find it really works a range of muscles.  In fact going slowly makes me focus on stability rather than power.

Stairs are also good to go down. For me fast, single-step descending is an exercise in focus, self-control and rhythm. However, one day itís not going to end well .. keep an eye out for the security video of that.

Watching the TV

"I just spent the last 3 days lying in bed working on my grip strength."
I should have thought that through before announcing it to the entire department.

Grip Strength

Last winter I spent a ridiculous amount of time home sick with colds Ė put that one down to the geniuses who implemented Hot Desking - where you get to touch a keyboard, mouse, chair arms and desk covered in a different personís snot every day. But I digress.

I have three main methods that have improved grip and general arm strength - all while watching TV.

Wristball Ė Itís a gyro ball that gets harder to hold the faster you spin it. The Wristball takes a bit practice to get working but itís kinda like riding a bike .. eventually it just clicks. I got mine from Kathmandu but they are all over the internet.

Stressball Ė They are great, especially if you can find some pretty solid ones that are either footy shaped or tubular rather than round. There are a number of ways I use them.

  • Squeeze on and off for a set amount of repetitions, then swap hands. I keep doing this until I canít do any more. Sometimes I go for speed other times slow.

  • Squeeze and hold. I use a stopwatch and try to extend the time each day or just hold until I canít hold any more.

  • Squeeze and row. So despite doing all this arm work for weeks I went out on the trail and found a muscle on the inside of the forearm just near the inner elbow that couldnít hack the pressure. I have no idea what inspired me to do this but I tried squeezing and holding the stress ball and then moving my arms in and out to simulate moving around on the bike Ė a rowing type motion. Not a particularly strenuous exercise until Iíd done about 20 of them and that muscle I talked about started to absolute WRECK. It stung and burnt like nothing else, in fact it felt like it was going to tear. Somehow Iíd managed to isolate the muscle that was struggling when I was riding with a simple action of gripping the ball tightly and moving my arms in and out.  Weird but very effective.

  • All of the above but donít use your braking finger to grip, that way you know your outer 3 fingers are the ones doing all the work.

Dumbbell Ė I have some pretty lightweight dumbbells and I found that doing bicep curls with different wrist/hand angles isolated different muscles all the way up my arms and onto my shoulder. For a desk jockey this delivered instant results.

Let me know if you have any other unusual training techniques.



This website is brought to you by MTB weekend warrior Aaron Markie.
There are plenty of great websites out there with a wealth of information about Mountain Bike Trails,
however in my experience its hard to get a good mix of info, maps, photos and videos of trails I've never ridden.
The idea of this website is to tie those 4 elements together and give you a more detailed look at the MTB Trails I ride.
If you have anything to add then let me know.