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Judging by the amount of questions I get from riders about pre-ride warm ups there is a lot of conflicting information about what to do. Do you spin for while to let your legs warm up? Do you stretch? Do you simply do some jumping jacks and go? It all gets very confusing for the rider who just wants to ride hard and have more fun on the trail.

Unfortunately, most riders avoid the confusion by simply doing nothing. They get to the trail, get out of the car and go. They let their first few DH runs or miles of pedaling serve as a “warm up” which actually does little to help them ride faster and prevent injuries. In order to understand what you want from a warm up you need to know what the goals are.

In my mind there are two main goals of a pre-ride warm up:

1) Prepare body to move freely & increase mobility. If you are stiff and have a tough time getting into position on your bike you won’t be as efficient (which wastes energy) and will be more likely to aggravate an injury. Lowering the tension levels in some key muscles and then lengthening them will help your body get into better alignment and move better right the moment you start riding.

2) Prepare muscles to move dynamically. In case you have not noticed, mountain biking is a dynamic sport. It involves a lot movement and body control. If you want your body to be ready to move dynamically on the bike then we need to prepare it for those demands in the warm up

With those goals in mind I have prepared the following 3 step pre-ride warm up. Each step prepares the body for the next one and altogether they get you ready to ride harder and help you stay injury free.

1) Foam Roll – Decrease muscle tension and address trigger points. If your muscle is full of knots and trigger points then it will resist lengthening, be more likely to fatigue and cramp and will have a lower power output. Soft tissue work, like a massage, is the only way to address this underlying issue. The foam roller is one of my client’s favorite tools (you can see Aaron Gwin toting his around the pits on the World Cup Circuit) because it allows you to give yourself a targeted massage without the $50+/ hour price tag.

Here are the areas I recommend you foam roll in a pre-ride warm up (roll each muscle 8-10 times):

- Glutes
- Quads
- Adductors (inner thigh)

2) Stretch – Increase the length of specific muscles which improves posture and alignment. Stretching has gotten a bad rap over the last decade because of an overreaction to a few sub-par studies. Basically, they have found that if you stretch a muscle its power output will be lowered immediately after stretching. Newer studies have found that a good dynamic warm up (Step 3) will more than offset this temporary loss of power. Getting tight, shortened muscles to relax and lengthen so your body can work more efficiently is important and so stretching before a ride is a must.

Here are the areas I recommend you stretch in a pre-ride warm up (hold each stretch for 15-30 seconds):

- Groin
- Split Stretch
- Hip Flexor

3) Dynamic Warm Up – Prepare the muscles for work & offset any “negative” effect of stretching. Like I’ve mentioned before, mountain biking is dynamic and so you want to get it moving and ready roll. A good dynamic warm up will increase core temperature, increase active range of motion and decrease the chance of aggravating an injury.

Here a sample of a good pre-ride Dynamic Warm Up (do each exercise 6-8 times):

- T Spine Twist
- Hula Hoop Circles
- Knee Huggers
- Squat to Stand
- Reverse Lunge to High Knee & Twist

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Why waste time on the trail trying to warm up when you can hit it ready to charge hard from DH run or mile #1? This routine will take you less than 15 minutes to complete and will help you immediately feel better on your bike. It will also help you avoid “bad rides” where you just can’t seem to get it going. All in all, it could be the most important 15 minutes you spend on the days you ride.


James Wilson is the owner MTB Strength Training Systems, the word's only company dedicated to developing strength and conditioning programs for the unique demands of mountain biking. His clients include the current US National DH Champ Aaron Gwin. James currently owns a training facility in Grand Junction CO and is the strength coach for the Yeti World Cup Team. You can find more tips and training info at his blog

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