Mountain Biking Is Good for Core Strength: An In-Depth Look at The Benefits on The Body, Health and Sleep.


If you’re looking for the perfect workout for your body, then mountain biking is good for core strength. As you race up or ride down mountain trails, you’ll be exercising and building various muscle groups in your body including your upper and lower body and core. In this article, we take a detailed look at the association between mountain biking and core strength.

Mountain biking is good for core strength and builds the rectus abdominis, external oblique, internal oblique, transversus abdominis, and erector spinae muscles of the core. 

Mountain biking has a well-documented list of health benefits, including muscular, cardiovascular, and even mental benefits, as this article from Better Health Channel details. It helps improve heart and lung functioning, burns calories, and tones most of the major muscle groups in the body. While the primary muscles targeted are the lower body muscles, the core muscles and upper body also get a great workout. To find out more about the effects of mountain biking on muscle building, check out our guide on whether you can build muscle by mountain biking.

Reasons Why Mountain Biking Is Good for Core Strength

The core is the group of muscles responsible for keeping your body aligned, stabilized, and balanced and the nature of mountain biking requires these muscles to be activated and work optimally. 

Mountain biking is good for core strength because it tones and works the core muscles in various riding postures and terrains, for improved balance, stability, and control. 

According to this research paper from the Sensors Journal, mountain biking involves various postures from standing to sitting on the bike, which help to activate the core muscles. These muscles help to keep the body upright and steady on the bike while riding through varied terrains. As this article by Harvard Health Publishing explains, the core is constantly engaged to keep you and your bike stable and balanced while pedaling. As a result, mountain biking is great for building and improving core strength.

These are the reasons why mountain biking is good for core strength:

Reason 1. Mountain Biking Tones and Works the Core Muscles

According to this article from the Journal of Clinical Anatomy, the main muscles in the core activated during cycling are the abdominals in front and the erector spinae at the back. These muscles contract synergically to help provide a foundation for the power needed for pedaling. They are also needed for steering and control while riding challenging trails. As these core muscles get toned and strengthened, your core strength improves significantly.

Reason 2. Mountain Biking Requires the Rider to Shift Body Postures 

As this research paper from the Institution of Mechanical Engineers discusses, there are up to nine different riding postures from the full upright to the aerodynamic position. Mountain biking typically requires the rider to constantly change positions - which works the core muscles - to optimize performance. Whether standing, leaning forward, ducking, or even holding a static position for extended periods, core support is needed to sustain these movements. These shifts in body posture place pressure on the core muscles forcing them to engage, and help to tone and strengthen the region. Having a proper bike fit also ensures the muscles are worked effectively without aches and pains. Our article on how to fit a mountain bike saddle will help guide you through the process and you may need a mountain biking tool kit like this.

Core strength makes it easier to transition between different positions while mountain biking.
 Any kind of biking requires a rider to change positions for various reasons. Source: images.giant-bicycles.com.

Reason 3. Mountain Biking Improves Overall Body Balance and Posture 

According to this research from Frontiers in Physiology, the core muscles help provide the necessary stability for generating force in the lower legs and controlling body movements. To help keep the body and bike stable, these muscles are constantly contracting and fully engaged while riding. This is especially important while riding through rough terrains as the core is activated to support the body and stabilize the bike against repetitive shocks and vibrations. This constant activation further helps to enhance your balance and coordination, building your abs and strengthening your core naturally.

How Important Is Core Strength for Cycling?

Core strength is important for cycling. Having a weak and imbalanced core can lead to problems all over the body, including neck and knee pain. As a result, mountain bikers need to ensure they develop a strong and stable core.

Core strength is important for cycling because it improves cycling mechanics and performance. It also helps in preventing neck and back pain. Additionally, it plays a vital role in balancing and stabilizing your body and bike while cycling. Furthermore, maintaining different postures while riding is also made easier with a strong core.  

The core refers to the group of muscles that help to stabilize and control your spine and pelvis, as this article by Harvard Health Publishing discusses. The article further explains that core strength helps to unload the joints, promote efficient movement, boost resiliency and prevent injuries. 

Core strength is important for cycling for the following reasons:

Reason 1. Core Strength Improves Cycling Mechanics and Performance

According to this research from the Journal of Strength and Conditioning, core strength provides the platform from which power is generated while pedaling. In addition, it helps to maximize power transfer from your lower body to your upper body and vice versa. A strong and steady core helps prevent unnecessary energy loss, allowing you to maintain speed and power for long periods of time, as explained in this article from the Journal of Science and Cycling. This is done by ensuring any power used to move your body and bike forward is not wasted by twisting or rocking the body's torso. To further improve your pedaling efficiency, you need to consider your bike pedals. You’ll find everything you need in our article on how to choose mountain bike pedals for grip maximization.

Reason 2. Core Strength Helps in Preventing Neck and Back Pain

Several studies, such as this from the International Journal of Sports Medicine, have demonstrated that neck and back injuries are among the most common overuse injuries sustained during long-distance bike tours. These injuries can be traced to weak core muscles - the back and abdominal muscles, as this article by Sports Health discusses. While riders may be able to generate power early, extended aerodynamic postures can lead to lower back fatigue and pain and consequent loss of significant pedal power. This article from Current Sports Medicine Reports concludes that a strong core is necessary to prevent such cycling-related injuries. As a result, core strengthening exercises such as these are effective in preventing and rehabilitating back pain, lumbar spine injuries, or other musculoskeletal disorders in cyclists. Core strength and stability will allow riders to remain in aerodynamic positions for longer periods without discomfort or injury. 

You can also check out our article on how to choose the ideal MTB saddle position and how to reduce mountain bike saddle pain for more information on reducing discomfort while mountain biking.

Reason 3. Core Strength Helps in Balancing and Stabilizing the Body and Bike

Mountain biking is as much about balance as it is about performance on the trails, and core strength plays an important role in both. As this article from the Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Clinics of North America details, core muscles help to balance the body for optimal production of force in the legs. As one of the major muscle groups in the core, the abdominals get activated while mountain biking, helping you to maneuver and control the bike, according to this study by The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. They are responsible for providing the foundation for support and smooth steering. Core strength is particularly important in rough and technical climbs, where the abs and other core muscles contract isometrically to keep the body balanced and stable.

Reason 4. Core Strength is Needed to Maintain Different Postures While Riding

Another important aspect of mountain biking is riding postures. There are a wide variety of postures you can adopt depending on your bike, body type, riding conditions, and purpose. These positions have a significant influence on your riding experience, as this article from the Applied Sciences Journal details. A strong and steady core is said to allow for proper body positioning, helping to provide postural stability while riding. The major back muscles in the core, the erector spinae, help extend and flex the body to assume positions from upright to aerodynamic, according to this article by the Journal of Physiology. Additionally, just as the core helps to maintain suitable postures, proper posture also helps tone and strengthen the core.

Does Mountain Biking Work Your Core?

Regular mountain biking helps to build and improve core strength in riders. These muscles include the rectus abdominis, external oblique, internal oblique, transversus abdominis, and erector spinae muscles. They are particularly activated on steep or rough terrains to help brace and balance the body during impact. In addition, the muscles get built on downhill rides in the aerodynamic position as they work against gravity.

Mountain biking works the core muscles such as the abs and back muscles by toning and strengthening them during downhill and uphill rides in aerodynamic and upright postures.

Although mountain biking particularly works the lower body muscles, the core muscles are also toned and strengthened while riding, as this article from the Journal of Sports Sciences explains. 

Mountain biking helps to improve core strength by working all the core muscles.
Mountain biking helps to work your core muscles for better balance and stability. Source: Liv Cycling.

Does Mountain Biking Burn Belly Fat?

Yes, numerous studies have demonstrated that due to the aerobic nature of mountain biking, it tends to help you burn fat, torch calories, and lose weight. However, the percentage of fat or calories burned depends on the intensity of your cycling pace. That is, the faster you cycle, or the more intense your ride, the more calories you’ll burn and the more weight you are likely to shed.

Mountain biking burns belly fat by breaking down fat stores in the body into energy for cycling. 

Since mountain biking is good for core strength, it also assists in burning belly fat in the region. Moderate steady biking uses your aerobic metabolism system, helping your body mobilize fats stored around the muscle, efficiently. On the other hand, higher-intensity biking uses your anaerobic metabolism system and increases the amount of energy used up. Other factors such as riding terrain, posture, altitude, aerodynamic drag, and weight also influence the number of calories burned.  

According to this study done by Harvard Health Publishing, BMX or mountain biking will lead to a 155-pound (70.3 kg) person burning 306 calories in 30 minutes. A person who weighs 125 pounds (56.7 kg) will burn 255 calories while someone weighing 185 pounds (83.9 kg) will burn 357 calories in that frame. You can track the number of calories by using online calculators such as CaloriesBurnedHQ. You can also make use of a Fitbit like this or a heart rate monitor like this to keep track of your heart rate and other physical factors.

If you want to increase the amount of belly fat burnt while biking, then you can opt for high-intensity interval training (HIIT). This involves cycling in short bursts of high intensity with intervals of low intensity. According to this study from the Journal of Diabetes Research, HIIT was shown to reduce fat mass by 10% after a 12-week program. This study and other similar research show that HIIT helps burn more calories in less time. This article from the Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism Journal concludes that HIIT is a time-efficient exercise strategy for improving both cardiorespiratory and metabolic health.

Mountain biking is not only good for core strengthening but also for fat-burning and losing weight.
If you want to lose weight with mountain biking, you need to be consistent, watch your diet, track your progress, increase your cycling intensity, and cross-train. Source: Vingo.

Does Mountain Biking Work Your Abs?

Yes, mountain biking is a great exercise for working your abs. They form part of your body’s core muscle unit and help provide support, stability, and steering control while riding. 

Mountain biking works ab muscles by activating them to help keep the body stable and balanced while pedaling. However, mountain biking alone is not enough to create defined abs as it needs to be done in conjunction with other exercises such as resistance training and cardiovascular exercise. Additionally, a proper diet that promotes fat loss is necessary for visible abdominal muscles.  

The abdominals are a group of four muscles: rectus abdominis, external oblique, internal oblique, and transversus abdominis, according to this article from the British Journal of Sports Medicine. According to this article from Lionel University, getting well-defined abs requires consistent dieting and strict exercise and is influenced by several factors such as genes and level of body fat. As a result, mountain biking is usually not sufficient to build defined ab muscles.

It is important to combine mountain biking with other forms of exercise while following a healthy diet to build your core and develop proper abdominal muscle definition.
Mountain biking is an excellent exercise for building your abs as it works the muscles and helps burn belly fat. Source: Wiesenhof.

Is Mountain Biking Strength Training?

Mountain biking does help to increase muscle mass and build strength. The lower body (legs and glutes) are the most noticeable muscles toned during mountain biking, and they are particularly targeted during uphill and out-of-saddle rides. The upper body muscles are worked during uphill and cross-country rides while core muscles are targeted during downhill rides.

Mountain biking is considered a form of strength training because it requires the rider to use various muscle groups to maintain balance and control of the bike, which leads to muscle development and improvement in overall strength. It also requires the rider to engage core muscles, leg muscles, and upper body muscles, which all lead to improvements in strength. 

As this research from the Physiological Reports points out, mountain biking helps work skeletal muscles all over your body. Various muscle groups are worked on during different types of biking. Additionally, mountain biking is a weight-bearing exercise, which means it helps to increase bone density, which is an important aspect in strength training. 

Mountain biking is considered a type of strength training and is suitable for improving core, lower body, and upper body strength.
Mountain biking is great for strengthening the muscle groups of the entire body. Source: ChunkFitness.

What Muscles Does Mountain Biking Work?

Apart from being a low-impact cardiovascular activity, mountain biking also provides a full-body workout. There are a wide range of muscles that get activated in the core, upper body, and lower body during biking. 

Mountain biking works the core, upper body, and lower body muscles. 

In this section, we’ll take a look at the key muscles worked in each area of the body:

Mountain Biking Works the Core

Mountain biking is good for core strength, as it engages a variety of muscle groups during the ride. As you navigate through different terrains and tackle various obstacles, your core muscles are constantly working to provide stability and control. According to this book By Shannon Sovndal, the core muscles in the abdominal and back regions work together to stabilize the spine and pelvis, allowing your lower body to generate power for pedaling. The four abdominals: rectus abdominis, external oblique, internal oblique, and transversus abdominis, and the erector spinae are the key muscles that get worked by mountain biking. The abdominals are constantly contracted and engaged to keep you and your bike in equilibrium while pedaling on various terrains. The erector spinae helps you maintain postural stability and generate power using your leg muscles.

The core muscles are important for supporting other muscle movement and for maintaining balance and stability.
Mountain biking helps build and strengthen the core muscles. Source: images.saymedia-content.com.

Mountain Biking Works the Upper Body

In addition to the core, mountain biking also works the upper body muscles, making it a full body workout. They are continually activated to support the body in various postures and riding conditions, according to this research paper from the Clinical Physiology and Functional Imaging Journal. The muscles are strengthened and are all used to varying degrees while riding, depending on the circumstances and discipline.

The biceps and triceps, the major muscles of your arm, are particularly worked during uphill cycling in the upright position. The deltoids, pectorals, and lats also get toned and conditioned while riding. The delts are particularly active on technical trails in the aero position by helping stabilize the torso. The pectorals absorb the vibrations caused by rough terrains and bear the weight of the body while cycling. The lats provide postural stability and transfer the body weight or vibrations to the handlebars.

The upper body muscle groups, including the core, are all strengthened while mountain biking and help to support the body.
Mountain biking provides strength training for the upper body muscles as they provide support in various riding postures and conditions. Source: Bodybuilding.

Mountain Biking Works the Lower Body

According to this research from the European Journal of Applied Physiology, the lower body muscles are the major muscle groups at work when riding your bike. The glutes are responsible for generating power during the downward phase of the cycling pedal stroke. They are particularly toned and strengthened by riding up steep hills in an upright posture or climbing out of the saddle, according to this review from the Physical Therapy in Sport Journal.

The leg muscles include the calves, quads, hamstrings, and shin muscles. These muscles contract synergically to produce force for each pedal stroke, as this study from the European Journal of Applied Physiology explains. They undergo both cardio and strength training and are particularly worked in uphill climbs and competitive racing.

Mountain biking does strengthen all muscles but the muscles of the lower body provide more power for propelling the bike forwards.
The lower body muscles are responsible for generating force for each phase of the pedal stroke and become toned and strengthened while pedaling. Source: kajabi-storefronts-production.kajabi-cdn.com.

What Does Mountain Biking Do for Your Body?

There’s a reason why mountain biking has remained one of the most popular and favorite outdoor activities for the last few decades. It allows you to lead a more active lifestyle, helping to improve overall health. In addition, biking is a fun and efficient means of getting fit and healthy, helping to increase stamina, strength, and aerobic fitness. It only takes a few hours of riding each week to see a general improvement in your health. 

Mountain biking improves blood, burns calories, reduces joint stress, improves heart health, enhances posture and improves bone health. 

If you are just getting started on your mountain biking journey, check out our article on what mountain bike you should buy, for a detailed guide.

This is what mountain biking does for your body:

Mountain Biking Increases Blood Circulation Throughout the Body

One of the most notable benefits of mountain biking is the improvement of blood circulation throughout the body, which helps to oxygenate the muscles and organs, leading to an increase in energy levels and physical performance. 

According to this study by the Scandinavian Journal of Clinical and Laboratory Investigation, blood flow is redistributed all over the body while biking. Pedaling helps boost circulation in the working muscles in the upper body, core, and lower body which means that biking stimulates and improves your heart and circulation and helps lower your resting pulse. Keep track of your heart rate by using a smartwatch like this.

Blood flow throughout the body is improved by mountain biking which means a healthier heart.
Mountain biking helps improve blood flow and circulation to all the regions of the body. Source: Fitness19.

Mountain Biking Burns Body Fat and Calories

Another benefit to mountain biking is that it helps to maintain a healthy weight and body composition. It leads to realistic and lasting weight loss by burning high amounts of calories and lowering your body fat level, according to this study from the Journal of Education and Training Studies. If done regularly, you can burn around 600 to 800 calories per hour and up to thousands of calories a week with mountain biking which can be tracked using a gadget like this. This helps improve your metabolic rate and is a great way to burn body fat. However, mountain biking is not enough to completely lose weight. You have to combine it with other forms of exercise and with dieting.

Mountain Biking Reduces Stress on Joints

Mountain biking is a low-impact workout, reducing strain and stress on your bones and joints, as this article from the Current Sports Medicine Reports explains. It helps to work out your muscles while also exercising your joints and ligaments. This helps protect, repair, and enhance the functioning of your joints, according to this article from the Arthritis Foundation. In addition, compared to other exercises like weight-lifting and running, biking is a non-load-bearing exercise for your joints, especially your knees and hips. As a result, your joints suffer less strain or pressure and are at lower risk of getting injured. This makes mountain biking a great option for individuals who experience joint pain or have arthritis. 

Low-impact sports like mountain biking are better for people suffering from arthritis and other types of injuries but care has to be taken to ensure that a proper riding posture is maintained.
Mountain biking in the correct riding posture places less pressure on your joints. Source: Rydoze.

Mountain Biking Improves Heart Health

Like other forms of cardio exercise, mountain biking is known for improving your heart health. It helps lower your resting heart rate, strengthens your heart muscle, lowers blood pressure, and improves blood circulation. According to this article from Aha Journals, biking is considered an important exercise strategy for preventing coronary heart disease. This article from Harvard Health Publishing also asserts that riding bikes regularly helps decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease. As mountain biking works muscle groups all over your body, it helps increase oxygen consumption and thus makes your heart function more steadily.

Mountain Biking increases and optimizes oxygen consumption which helps the heart to function more steadily.
You can significantly improve your heart health and reduce your risk of heart disease through regular mountain biking. Source: NHCPS.

Mountain Biking Enhances Posture

The constant movement and balancing required in mountain biking also helps to enhance posture and improve core strength. According to this article from the International Journal of Contemporary Research and Review, biking helps improve posture. In addition, this study from the Sports Biomechanics Journal showed an improved spinal morphology in cyclists compared to non-cyclists. For every mile you cycle, you work the muscles, joints, and bones all over your body. You also have to stay stable and balanced on the bike, which helps enhance your body posture.

Maintaining the right posture while riding will strengthen all muscle groups of the core and upper body to allow for a better posture off the bike.
Mountain biking in the appropriate riding positions also helps improve your posture off the bike. Source: Nicebikes.

Mountain Biking Improves Bone Health

The weight-bearing nature of mountain biking can help to improve bone health, reducing the risk of osteoporosis or other bone-related conditions. In fact, mountain biking helps to improve your bone mineral density. As this study from Bone concludes, bone mineral density is significantly higher in mountain cyclists compared to road cyclists and other forms of biking. The researchers stated that mountain biking may provide an osteogenic (bone-building) stimulus that other exercises do not.

When mountain biking, you pedal in a wide variety of postures and terrains and also face a lot of controlled impacts such as drops, jumps, trail obstacles, and vibrations. This helps recruit and activate your muscles and bones to support your body and bike. Biking also exposes you to daylight which helps raise your body’s production of vitamin D, a vitamin needed for strong and healthy bones.

Why Is Mountain Biking Good for You?

Mountain biking is good for core strength and is commonly considered the perfect workout for your body and mind. In addition to improving physical fitness, biking also helps improve your mental and emotional health. However, these benefits are less well-known. 

Mountain biking is good for a person because it provides a full-body workout, improves sleep quality, lowers the risk of diseases, improves mental well-being, improves balance and coordination, and allows for the enjoyment of nature. 

In this section, we’ll discuss the benefits of mountain biking to your overall health.

Mountain Biking Provides a Full-Body Workout

As we’ve discussed extensively in this article, mountain biking provides your whole body with a complete workout. Besides being a great source of cardio, riding a mountain bike also helps build muscle, endurance, and strengthen your core, upper body, and lower body. Due to the more technical terrain associated with mountain biking, you get to experience a more rigorous workout compared to regular cycling. Climbing and maneuvering turns, pedaling past obstacles, and trying to remain upright and balanced all help to strengthen your legs, abs, and core. As a regular mountain biker, you don’t need a costly gym membership or personal trainer to get in a good workout.

Mountain biking is a very effective full-body workout as all the muscle groups are engaged and used.
Mountain biking works out all of the major muscle groups as you pedal. Source: TheBikeTrader.

Mountain Biking Improves Sleep Quality

As an intense physical exercise, mountain biking also helps improve your sleep quality, according to this research from the Journal of Advances in Preventive Medicine. This is because mountain biking decreases cortisol, a hormone in the body that keeps you awake. Although you may feel tired and worn out after a ride due to the deep focus, strength, and stamina required, you’ll experience improved regenerative sleep at night. By regularly biking up and down trails, you’ll find it easier to fall asleep. You’ll also experience natural, unbroken, high-quality sleep that’ll help restore your body and soothe your mind. According to this article by the Sleep Foundation, if you suffer from insomnia, a late afternoon or evening bike ride can relieve the symptoms and help you sleep better.

Mountain Biking Lowers the Risk of Diseases

One of the benefits of mountain biking is that it helps boost your immune system, significantly reducing your risk of suffering from major illnesses. According to this article from the UK National Health Service, regular exercise, such as biking, can reduce your risk of developing heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and even cancer, by up to 50%. It can also help lower your risk of early death by up to 30%. Whenever you choose to begin mountain biking, you can immediately start to enjoy these positive impacts on your health.

Mountain Biking Improves Mental Well-Being

According to this article by the Mental Health Foundation, all sorts of exercises can help improve your mental health and well-being and mountain biking is no exception. While it is a known fact that biking is a great source of physical exercise, you should also know that it benefits your mood and mental health. During and after riding, your body releases natural endorphins which make you feel good, less stressed, and more energetic, as this study by Plos One explains. This is why mountain biking can make you feel on top of the world. Riding also releases serotonin, a hormone that helps prevent depression and improves your sense of well-being. Mountain biking under the blue skies and in contact with nature is sure to uplift your mood and put you in a positive frame of mind.

Mountain Biking Improves Balance and Coordination

According to this article from the Journal of Physical Therapy Science, mountain biking helps to improve your balance and coordination. Mountain biking involves riding and adjusting to varying terrains and postures. As you try to remain steady and secure, you activate regions in your nervous system concerned with balance and motor learning. You also strengthen neural pathways and reinforce muscle memory as you avoid obstacles and navigate through technical trails. This helps build stamina and endurance both on and off the bike.

Mountain Biking Brings You Closer to Nature

Mountain biking offers you the opportunity to experience nature and the great outdoors in your region. According to this article by the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, being out in nature regularly helps improve cognitive function, brain activity, blood pressure, mental health, and sleep. So if you’re feeling stressed, tired and frustrated, strap on your helmet, armor up, get out, and ride. As you enjoy the solitude and majesty of nature, you’re sure to feel more relaxed and happier. You can easily search Google for a list of biking trails near you. For protection, make sure you put on appropriate body armor. Our article on how to choose your mountain bike armor kit will prove useful.

Mountain biking out in nature has been proven to alleviate stress, improve mental health, and improve sleep quality.
Mountain biking allows you to enjoy nature, improves your mood, and provides a general sense of well-being. Source: VisitDeanWye.

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