Strength Training at Home / 10 Exercises You Can Do Right Now

Are you ready to start strength training but you don’t have the _____ (time, energy, money) for a gym membership? Fear not! Strength training doesn’t require any fancy equipment. In fact, your own house has everything you need to sneak in a workout.

Today we are going to cover 10 strength-based exercises you can do anytime using things you already have around the house.

1. Wall

Did you know your walls can do more than just hold your roof up!  That’s right, walls are the perfect backdrop (pun intended) for wall sits! 

Exercise:  Wall sits. 

Why do they help mountain bikers: Build quad strength. Think about holding an attack position for an extended downhill like Top of the World in Whistler! You’ll be glad you practiced your wall sits at home! 

How: Lean back against a wall and lower down until quads are parallel with the floor. Press your lower back into the wall. Hold for up to 1 minute.

Advanced: place a _________ (anything with weight) in your lap!

Expert: Lift one leg.

Double Black Diamond: Do a “chop” with your heavy object! You can “chop” side to side to engage your core or lift your heavy object from your lap, to up and over your head (tap the wall).

2. Stairs

Most people begrudge their stairs but lucky you, we can turn them into a useful training tool!

Exercise: Stair Jumps

Why do they help mountain bikers: Jumping builds explosive strength. Think about doing a quick sprint to the finish line or laying down a burst of power to get up and over a tricky technical section of roots or rocks. Bonus: It also helps us feel more comfortable in the air!

How: Stand with feet hip distance apart, bend knees, swing arms, count to 3 and… JUMP! Land soft like a ninja, step down and repeat. Do 5-10 good jumps.

Advanced: Jump continuously (as soon as you hit the ground jump up again) or jump multiple stairs at once.

Expert: Take it to one leg!

3. Floor #1

Yep, this useful piece of equipment comes with every standard home these days. While floors are certainly not all created equally, they are all equally effective for the humble push-up. 

Exercise: Push-Up

Why do they help mountain bikers: The push-up is one of the best upper body exercises a mountain biker can perform! We are essentially in a constant state of “push” whenever we ride our bike. Push-ups strengthen the chest, back, and our abdominals. Strengthening our chest and torso helps us to stay upright on the bike with better posture to allow more air into our diaphragm, lighter hands on the bars, and improved sprinting and handling skills. 

How: Place hands and feet on the floor with hands stacked in line with your elbows and shoulders. Your hands tend to naturally go into their most stable position. Fun Fact: if you measure the distance from pinky to pinky in your natural push-up position this tends to be your ideal bar width! As you lower down elbows should move back towards your torso (not flare out to the side). Keep your neck in alignment with your spine and your back neutral (not arched).  NOTE: Pushups are hard. If you are unable to perform a strict push-up with neutral alignment start on your knees and build up from there. No shame!

Advanced: Push-up with a :03 pause at the bottom.

Expert: Inverted Push-up. Put your feet on a bench, couch, or stairs! Perform 3 sets of 8-12.

4. Chair

Typically we use chairs for sitting, resting, and taking it easy. But in this situation we are going to use a chair for lateral step-ups!

Exercise: Lateral Step-up

Why do they help mountain bikers: Unilateral (one sided) work is important for mountain bikers as our legs are constantly working independently of each other and helps us to even out potential imbalances in leg strength.  The lateral step-up targets our glutes which are crucial not only for producing power through the pedals, but help to stabilize our pelvis which makes us less prone to rocking in the saddle.

How: Stand next to a chair and step up onto it shifting your weight laterally rather than from front to back. Push off through heel of standing leg and come to a complete stand on top of chair.

Advanced: Hold a weight (book, gallon of water, toolbox) against your chest as you perform the exercise. Do 3 sets of 8-12 on each leg.

5. Floor #2

Good thing floors come standard in every house because they really come in handy when you’re trying to get stronger for mountain biking! 

Exercise: High Plank with Arm and Leg Raise

Why do they help mountain bikers: One of the tricky things about mountain biking is that we need a strong core to ride our best, but riding in and of itself doesn’t necessarily help us build the super strong core we need. Thus, it’s important we put in some time off the bike to work the core!

How: Think about driving the planted hand and toes towards each other to create tension in your spine while opposite hand and leg pull away from each other. Raise one arm and the opposite leg and hold for 2-3 seconds, lower and repeat with the opposite leg/arm. Repeat for 8-10 reps on each side. 

6. Floor #3

Who knew the most underrated piece of equipment has been right under our feet all along!?

Exercise: Single Leg Deadlift

Why do they help mountain bikers: Stability, hamstring, and glute strength. Strengthening our hamstrings has huge carryover onto our ability to climb and climb and climb or pedal pedal pedal really fast. So lets build up those hammies!

How: Since this is a one legged exercise, balance and stability come first. If you are unable to stand on one leg with your other leg extended behind you and keep your hips close to level, don’t do this exercise. Instead, work on that standing posture and bringing your hips so they are square to the floor!

Once you are able to successfully balance on one leg with hips mostly or completely square to the floor, lock out the floating leg in dorsiflexion (heel pointing down) and hinge at the hips. Keep your chest up, spine in neutral alignment and hinge until you feel a stretch in your hamstring, then brace your core, squeeze your glutes and come up to a stand.

Advanced: Hold something heavy. Like your toolbox, small dog, or gallon jug of water. When you add weight to this exercise make sure your shoulder blades do not come forward, keep them pressing down and back. Perform 2 sets of 8-10 reps per leg. 

7. Towel

This could be the same towel you used to change at the trailhead or to dry off after you jumped in the river post ride! Any towel will do.

Exercise: Slider Knee Tucks

Why do they help mountain bikers: Activate and stabilize the core during dynamic movement. 

How: Get back into that push-up position but place your feet on a towel. Brace your core and slide your knees towards your head. Extend legs back out and repeat for 8-12 reps.

Advanced: Keep legs straight and elevate your hips as you slide feet forwards. 

8. Cooler

Before you head out for a quick after-work ride with your buddies, load up your small cooler with ice and your favorite post ride beverage and give this exercise a try.

Exercise: Single Arm Farmers Carry

Why do they help mountain bikers: While seemingly simple, this exercise packs a big bang for it’s buck. Muscles worked include the abdominals, lats, QL, delts and traps. It’s also a tremendous way to work on grip strength as well as help prevent low back pain.

How: Load up cooler with favorite beverages. Stand tall and upright and walk 50’ with the cooler in one hand. Then switch hands and repeat. Focus on keeping upright posture! Don’t lean away or towards the cooler but rather keep your spine perfectly neutral and upright! Perform 2-3 sets of a 50’ walk for each side. 

9. Couch

Before you settle down to Netflix and chill on that couch, let’s use it to strengthen the booty!

Exercise: Single Leg Hip Thrusts

Why do they help mountain bikers: In ideal circumstances we use our glutes to produce 33% of the power we transfer into the pedals. But many cyclists are very quad dominant which means we struggle to engage (and use) our glutes effectively to help us with power production. One of the great benefits of strength training is that not only do our muscles become stronger, but we develop better mind muscle connection which allows us to engage and use those muscles more effectively on the trail! The single leg hip thrust is a classic way to not only build unilateral glute strength, but find that mind muscle connection with your glutes.

How: Place your midback against couch with arms extended. One foot is elevated while the other foot presses into the ground to lift your hips into the air. When hips are at their highest the shin of your weighted foot should be vertical (perpendicular with the floor). Lower down until your bum almost makes contact with the floor. Squeeze the glutes when hips are at their highest and keep your chin tucked! 6-10 reps per leg.

Advanced: Hold hips at highest position for 3 seconds before lowering back down.

10. Bag of dog food, case of Pellegrino, or kid

Exercise: Goblet Squat 

Why do they help mountain bikers: The goblet squat is not only an excellent way to build strength in the quads, but it also works your core by forcing you to stay upright and not round your back or slouch over.

How: Hold an item that’s in the 10-25# range close to your chest. Squat down keeping your knees pressed out and your chest up. Squat as low as you can while maintaining good form. As you stand press knees out and keep your chest lifted.

Advanced: Bigger bag of dog food/Pellegrino/kid or pause in the bottom of your squat for 3 seconds! Perform 3 sets of 15-20.

Double Black Diamond: Goblet Squat performed with small child actively throwing temper-tantrum.

What are you waiting for?

Adding a strength training routine can improve your on-bike performance, decrease pain, improve mobility and increase your capacity to do common activities such as passing your bike up to a shuttle driver or lifting a fully loaded cooler into the back of a truck. So what are you waiting for? Hit the floor and give me 20!

More info on mountain biking specific training programs for athletes of all abilities is available at my website, www.braveendeavors.com.

Come ride with me at at upcoming Ninja clinic in the Pacific Northwest and show off your new strength and agility!

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About Bekah Rottenberg

Bekah Rottenberg is a former professional enduro racer who now runs her own business, Brave Endeavors, which specializes in on-line strength training programs for mountain bikers. Bekah believes that through strength training we can improve confidence, longevity, and mindset and ultimately have more fun on the trail and move through life happier and healthier. Bekah is a Ninja instructor and coaches kids on mountain bikes in her hometown of Hood River, OR. Bekah is a NASM certified personal trainer PMBI certified Mountain Bike Instructor.

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