Musings of a Mountain Biker

Hi, Gilly here. Unfortunately, I’ve not been riding lately; my Strava thinks I’ve retired! Sore knees got the better of me. So whilst resting, I took to the internet to find out what I was putting my body through each time I go out riding and work out what ‘Injury Prevention Strategies’ (get me) would be best for me and my beloved riding.

WORDS Gilly Grateley

What muscles do we use when Mountain Biking?

Pretty much all of them! As expected, the leg muscles are constantly working to propel the bike forward; the quads, hamstrings and calf muscles work on the downward push and upward pull of the pedals, the glutes move the thighs forward and, when standing, they work with the abs to keep the body stable. Then the upper body and arm muscles absorb the bumps, assist with stability, help to manoeuvre the bike as well as grip, shift gear and brake – it’s all going on.

What is ‘Injury Prevention Strategy’?

At a base level, it’s a simple plan of action to help protect yourself. The obvious ones we have already covered are protective gear, hydration and bike maintenance. There is an interesting one that I think lots of us can benefit from, and that’s about correct bike fitting, which I’m currently researching for next month. This month I am considering how to warm up our muscles pre-ride and stretch them after we ride. Then on a higher level, Pros and Clubs will be well versed with strengthening, conditioning, agility and flexibility strategies!

Cycling is considered a low-impact activity. Sitting down puts less stress on your joints than, say, running. However, suppose you ride regularly in varied terrain. In that case, the repetitive motion and constant standing can put strain on your knees and knee pain can be a common problem for cyclists, so it is essential to ensure the muscles are strong to support the joints. To find out on a practical level what I could be doing to help myself, I hooked up with Phil Soames, a Personal Trainer with active sports interests outside of the gym. Phil put together three great short sessions that I need to make part of my regular routine and the bonus for you guys is we made a video of him demonstrating the exercises, ‘boom’, I’ve dropped the link in the QR code below.

Thanks, Phil, for all your guidance and support. Phil is a great guy, very mindful of my sport and my injuries. I would highly recommend him to anyone looking to improve performance or get back from an injury. He can be contacted on +351 913 425 893 or at

As always, have fun, ride safe and feel free to share your riding stories with me at:


Pre-Ride Warm UpDynamic stretches, keep things moving, don’t hold 

A nice short set of dynamic stretches that you can do curbside before your ride, actively moving the joints and muscles through a full range of motion to increase the blood flow, but you don’t want to overstretch and lose performance, so don’t hold them. We worked the main leg muscle groups, gently extended the back, stretched the shoulders and activated the wrist muscles; 10 reps, but keep it real; you can start with six and see how you feel. Then don’t forget to start your ride with five to 10 minutes of easy cycling before hitting anything challenging to ensure your body has nicely prepared itself for your ride.


Again, end your ride with some nice easy spinning to allow your body temperature to cool down, and your blood pressure and heart rate to return to normal levels. Then think about static stretching those tight muscles; stretching a muscle as far as you can without feeling any pain, then holding that stretch for 30 seconds will help reduce stiffness. With the emphasis on the lovely feeling of stretching, one stretch per muscle/muscle group is enough.

Here are some lovely long stretches, just one of each but hold for at least 30 seconds.

  1. Hamstrings
  2. Quads – take support from a wall or table if needed
  3. Hip adductors
  4. Glutes
  5. Lower back
  6. Chest


A stand-alone session for a day you don’t ride, to strengthen supporting muscles and stabilise joints, targeting all the same leg muscles, lower back and shoulders. Start at your own level and as the muscles respond and strengthen, you can progressively increase the difficulty of the postures, the number of repetitions and the number of sets. 

Progressive exercises, start at your own level and as the muscles respond and strengthen, you can increase the difficulty of the postures, the number of repetitions (start at 4 or 6 and increase to 8 or 10) and the number of sets (start with 1 or 2 and increase to 3).

  1. Strengthen quads, leg squats to chair (hover, don’t sit) – if needed, start with a higher chair and hold a table for support. 
  2. Strengthen hamstrings and glutes and engage the lower back, bridge with raised leg – if needed, start with both feet on the floor
  3. Side plank, this is one to hold so just do 2 on each side – if needed, start with your knee on the floor
  4. Counter the arched back with dorsal raises
  5. For good core stability try the plank and if you can touch alternate shoulders – if needed start this from your knees
  6. To open the chest try the T-raise

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