Finding my inner unit with Enduro MTB Training

Since I started working with Coach Dee Tidwell at Enduro MTB Training, my back has not blown out.

That is a really big deal.

A little back(ground)

Over the past few years my low back and hips have been acting more and more funny. At first it was an occasional soreness, then it escalated to a frequent pop! then massive amounts of pain. I still did my work, but it did not feel good.

It turns out:

• Some idiot has been abusing my body.

• My hips have been bashed into a crazy state of crookedness. The doctor brought up the X-ray and was like, “What the hell happened?” And I was like, “Vermont DH … Northstar DH … Perris MX … Yoga Worlds 2010 …”

• Because of injury and inattention, my deep inner core muscles (the “inner unit”) had stopped working. They are supposed to engage subconsciously just before you exert yourself. They were simply not firing as they should.

• My outer muscles (the “outer unit”) are pretty smart and strong. They get the job done decently well … until they get tired.

• When the outer muscles got tired, which happened at the end of a long day or season, there was no support for the spine. I’m 40something, and my discs are getting thinner. There’s less room for the nerves to travel out of the vertebrae. Less room plus instability = pinched nerve and tons of pain.

Not rad!

The fix

Dee tested me this way and that, then prescribed a set of corrective exercises. After one month of this work, my inner core strength, as measured by Dee, improved from a D to a B. I was always sore from the workouts, but my back stopped failing.

For the second phase, he gave me harder exercises. They have been crushing me, but I’m feeling stronger and I have less pain. And: They have helped me consciously access my inner unit.

These days I continually practice turning the inner muscles on — both on and off the bike. If we’re on the phone, chances are I’m engaging something deep and important.

Coach Dee Tidwell at his gym near Denver, CO with my custom program.

The cues I use:

• Draw the fronts of my hips together. This fires the transverse abdominis.

• Engage the pelvic floor. Yoga teachers have never explained this in a way I, a male, understand. Well here are two cues for you guys: 1) Draw your pubic bone and anus together. 2) Pull your balls up and forward. This engages the muscles on the bottom of your pelvis.

• Draw your anus and the lower part of your spine together. This fires the multifidis. Start with your lower back, then see how high you can engage.

• Ultimately, you’ll do all three together. Practice doing them whenever you can, and especially right before you lift, pull, push, squat, pedal or pump.

When the inner unit is engaged, you’re way more stable and strong — and your spine is much safer. Practice this at your desk, when you’re driving, laying in bed, pedaling up mountains and on the pump track. When I’m doing a really hard effort, this helps me focus my attention, and it helps me maintain good posture/form (and more power!).

The inner unit. Click to go to

My weekly routine

I’ve done my base training, and the coaching/traveling season is fully pinned. Each week I try to:

• Warm up, coach and recover. Most weeks that happens six days, up to a few times per day.

• Drill the essential workouts in the Prepare to Pin It training program. In a busy week, one or two short, focused on-bike workouts will maintain your sharpness. Do ’em on the trainer, road, trail, pump track or slalom track.

• Two Enduro MTB Training off-bike workouts. At this point I’m focusing on consistency. I’ll do more and heavier sets as my body allows.

The results

I’ve been riding/coaching most days and putting in massive efforts on travel weekends. On the road we’re talking four days in a row, 6+ hours a day, each day with a fresh crop of Type A pinners. So far I’m riding strong and living without that terrible back pain.

If you have structural issues or just want to get as strong as possible, check out Enduro MTB Training. Dee offers a phased, downloadable program for $99. You can work with him remotely or at his gym.

Draw your balls up and forward …


Also see: Getting stronger in the ways that count

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11 replies
  1. agleck7 says:

    Awesome! I’m really trying to improve in this area (and mobility!) as well. How are you incorporating F6 into this mix? or has it pretty much evolved into Dee’s program for you?

  2. leelikesbikes says:

    Great question and a big oversight on my part.

    I do the F6 moves as part of my warmups, and I incorporate them into my coaching, so I do plenty of them.

    Right now Job 1 is to dial in the inner unit.

  3. leelikesbikes says:

    This is pure opinion:

    If your muscles are working properly, it seems like those things would help use/develop them. If your muscles are not working properly, you’ll need to learn to activate them in other ways.

  4. Kenny Carson says:

    I used this exercise during my adult video days. It is called kegel exercises. Often thought of as a women’s exercise, it provides benefits to the men: such as stamina, size, hardness, etc. I’m just joking about size, god gave us all we are ever going to have.

    There is an app for this and it reminds you something like 6 times a day to squeeze brother squeeze.

  5. Derek McDonald says:

    My back just went out a few days ago — it does it once or twice a year and it’s always something minor that triggers it. I think a book for “Bad Back Bikers” would sell nicely.


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