April
9

Last week I wrote a blog post about what I learned at a Dan John seminar I had the chance to attend. One of the things I mentioned was an exercise called the Stick Windmill that I promised would really help your hip action when cornering.

You see, I’m a strong believer that the reason that most riders struggle with cornering isn’t because they don’t know “what” to do. I think it is because they don’t have the lateral hip movement needed to get their body into that position in the first place. All the videos and coaching in the world can’t help you if your hips are literally stuck in place.

In the past I’ve struggled to find a good place to start riders out with this concept but the Stick Windmill fits the bill perfectly. Unlike the regular Kettlebell Windmill or the the TGU Windmill it is more of a stretch than an exercise and a way to establish the needed movement first before getting into the more advanced exercises to build strength.

Screen Shot 2014-04-08 at 10.25.10 PM

In this video I explain how to perform the Stick Windmill as well as how to use it as part of your routine. If you really struggle with this movement then do it every day for a week or two and you’ll start to see some big changes both on and off the bike.


There you have it, another way to work improve how you ride on the bike by improving how you move off of it. Try using the Stick Windmill along with some of the other cornering tips and videos I’ve posted and you’ll be ripping corners faster than ever.

If you have any questions about how this can help you or about cornering in general just leave a comment below this post. And if you liked this tip please help me spread the word by clicking one of the Like or Share buttons below.

Until next time…

Ride Strong,

James Wilson

MTB Bodyweight Exercises
April
2

Last Saturday I got the chance to attend a seminar by Dan John. Dan is one of the brightest strength coaches in the world and someone I have followed for a long time. When I found out he was just 4 hours away I jumped on the chance to see him present his training philosophy in person.

Dan is one of the guys who have stood the test of time in my book and one of the few guys I still follow in the fitness industry. His blog www.danjohn.net and his books Never Let Go, Intervention, Mass Made Simple and Easy Strength are gold mines of information and have had a big influence on my programs.

In fact, those of you doing the Ultimate MTB Workout Program v5 can thank Dan for all the loaded carries, something I had been neglecting for way too long and make a huge impact on posture and performance.

So after driving the 4 hours and suffering through one of the noisiest nights ever in a hotel thanks to some out of control kids and a desk clerk who decided to keep the pool open until midnight I found myself sitting down in front of Dan waiting to write down some wisdom from the man himself.

IMG_20140329_141836_919Four pages of notes later (I’ve been to multi-day seminars that I didn’t come away with as many notes) I found myself looking forward to the 4 hour drive back to decompress my brain and think about it all. Here are some of the big takeaways I had from a lot of great insights…

- If you need more than 1 pillow to get comfortable at night then you have some sort of joint mobility problem. This includes two pillows under your head or one pillow folded in half (I asked). After going home and trying to sleep with one pillow under my head I found that my neck felt better and the reason I needed two pillows was because I was using two pillows.

For everyone else, though, this is a good question to ask yourself and if you find that you need several pillows in strategic locations you need to do more mobility work.

- People need to learn what “reasonable” workouts and diets are. The fitness industry is full of workouts and diets that are close to impossible to carry on long term and few people really understand what a reasonable workout should look like. The trick is find things that are effective but reasonable and repeatable long term.

- Finish the hunt. This came from the Gnolls Credo which is 1) Plan the hunt, 2) Hunt and 3) Discuss the hunt. The idea is to have a way to improve your approach but so many of us get lost at step 2. We get a great plan but we get a week or two into it and then we lose interest and start to tweak things or change things up.

The problem is that never lets us get to step 3 and we have nothing to really “discuss” and analyze. When there is no plan or we fail to execute the plan and “finish the hunt” we have no real way to improve our approach. For me planning the hunt is no problem but I need to be more consistent with finishing the hunt.

- Strive for mastery. People need to understand that there will be plateaus in the process and that mastery falls in love with those plateaus. I love Dan’s emphasis on the word Mastery and how he encourages people to seek it on the path to strength and fitness.

I encourage the same thing from my clients because it is the only way to stay in love with the training process for a long time. Eventually you’ll run out of new exercises, training tools and routines and the only thing left is to go deeper into what you already know instead of seeking new things.

- Focus on standards and gaps and let everything else come from playing your sport. You need to have some movement and strength standards you look for and the program should look to fill in the gaps. And since all sports emphasize some movements and patterns over others, making sure that you are addressing those things before more gaps appear is another goal of a strength training program.

For the record, Dan feels that deep squats and loaded carries are the key to taking care of a lot of the common standards and gaps issues we see with most people.

- Lifting helps you learn how to play with the “tension knob”. For me this term was worth the price of admission because it sums up something I’ve been trying to figure out how to explain for a while. Most riders have no control of their “tension knob” and can’t fine tune how hard their pedal stroke is, especially when standing.

This results in the rear wheel slipping out a lot and the conclusion that you have to sit down to get good traction. However, when you know how to better control your tension knob you can feel the tension in the pedals and apply just the right amount of force so you maintain traction instead of slipping out. This is a skill that you already possess and just need to learn how to apply it to the bike and the first step is using strength training to teach you how.

- Getting your nutrition under control really boiled down to some simple steps. Start tracking your food to begin establishing some good habits, using that journal to help you establish more good habits or manipulate macro-nutrients and resorting to Black & White diets which are usually a btt extreme in some way for short term goals or to shock the system.

- The quality of the food sources has much more to do with your results than anything else. You can eat one meal a day, six meals a day or anything in between and it can all work as long as you are focusing on quality. Don’t get hung up on specifics and feel free to experiment and find what works within the context of quality food choices.

- Sometimes adding more more good stuff to your diet leaves less room for bad stuff. Focusing on what you should be adding in is a different mindset than what you should take out and may be a better approach for some people.

- The sign of an authority is usually Less Equals More. They generally encourage that you use the minimum effective dosage. The goal of a program is not to figure out how much you can survive but how little you can do to see the best results. More isn’t better, better is better but this often gets lost in a world where seeing who can suffer the most often passes as “training”.

- Mastery of fundamental movements trumps everything. If your program doesn’t include this component then you are really selling your results short. This is why mobility and strength training are important for an endurance sport like mountain biking since it is the best way to work on this component.

We also had some hands on sessions where I learned some great stretches and exercises to add to the toolbox. I’ll be shooting some videos later today of the Stick Windmill, which is a stretch that will really help those of you who struggle with cornering your bike.

All in all it was one of the best seminars I’ve attended and one of the few times I didn’t come away disappointed after meeting someone I really look up to in the fitness industry. So many times you find out that people aren’t who they seem to be when you meet them in person but Dan is the real deal.

IMG_20140329_152603_535If you get a chance to see him present I highly recommend it.

Oh, and I got this sweet beer koozie as well. Here I am putting it to good use after driving back home.

IMG_20140329_200638_525That’s it for now, if you have any questions or comments just leave a comment below this post. And if you liked this article please click one of the Like or Share buttons to help spread the word.

Until next time…

Ride Strong,

James Wilson

MTB Strength Training Systems

MTB Kettlebell Workout
March
31

One of the things I love about strength training is that it has such a powerful affect on every type of athlete. Far from something that only benefits those who rely on strength and power, even endurance athletes need it in their program.

However, one of the knocks against strength training for mountain biking is that it is really only for Downhillers and Freeriders. A lot of riders know that they should be doing it but pass it up in favor of more cardio training since they need endurance more than strength.

Or so they think.

The truth is that even Triathletes and Century Road Riders find that adding some smart strength and mobility training to their overall program delivers much better results than just adding more and more riding and cardio training.

In this new edition of the MTB Strength Coach Podcast I talk with fellow strength coach Al Painter of Integrate Performance Fitness. Coach Al works with mainly triathletes and century road cyclists, as well as some mountain bikers, using a lot of the same principles and influences I do.

What Coach Al and his clients have found is that getting stronger has helped them ride longer, faster and avoid a lot of the overuse injuries that traditionally plague riders who log as many miles as they do.

It is an interesting look at how someone applies a lot of the things I talk about to true endurance athletes and how a lot of mountain bikers who see themselves as “endurance athletes” can learn something from their experience.

Coach Al and I cover a lot of ground on this podcast, including… Post Continued :: Click to Read More

MTB DB Combos Program
March
26

Last weekend I went out to the 18 Road Trail near Fruita with my dog and another riding buddy to get some laps in on Pumps, Berms and Rollers (PBR) before it gets ransacked by the summer heat. It had recently been reworked and buffed out and we were looking forward to some fun, fast runs.

I finally remembered my GoPro (I’m so bad about forgetting to bring it on rides) and got a good video of me following my buddy Jeff, a.k.a. Uncle Steeze, and my trusty trail mutt Aka.

I call Jeff Uncle Steeze because he’s 40 something years old (one of the only guys older than me) and has more style then most kids half his age. You’ll see him pulling a Huck Wizard on some of the bumps on the trail, catching air and whipping it out to flat for no reason.

So if you’re looking for a quick distraction to help get you through your Wednesday then check out the video, PBR is a super fun trail and if you are ever in the area you should definitely check it out.

You’ll see in the video that the ability to keep your speed through corners and rollers is really important on this trail. In fact, if you do it right you can avoid pedaling on most of the trail simply by being able to carry your momentum. A buddy of mine used to call it “free speed” because you didn’t have to work for it, you just had to let it flow. It is a prime example of how there is a lot more to going fast on the trail than just being able to pedal hard.

Pedaling is obviously important and riding your bike is super fun but if you want to really take you riding to the next level then you have to do more. Use a smart training program like The Ultimate MTB Workout Program that addresses everything you need to be a better mountain biker and you’ll be able to tap into that “free speed” as well.

And, as always whenever I have a post about my trail mutt, please post any stories about or videos with your trail mutt you want to share, I’d love to see them.

Until next time…

Ride Strong,

James Wilson

MTB Strength Training Systems

MTB Ultimate Program
March
24

The 80-20 Principles tells us that with anything in the world, it is the small causes that have big results. Also known as the Pareto Principle where it was first observed in the world of finance (named after the guy who first found that 80% of a nation’s wealth is held by 20% of the people), it has been shown to hold true in practically every facet of life.

Some things that take very little time and effort deliver big results on the trail.

Those who recognize this fact and take advantage of it have a huge leg up on everybody else. Perhaps the most popular example is The 4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferris where he showed that if you can find and focus on those small things that cause the big results you can slash you work and effort while greatly increasing your results.

Of course, this all has a lot of direct transfer to training as well (Tim even wrote a book called The 4-Hour Body based on applying the 80-20 Principle to training). The truth is that most of your potential results only come from a small handful of things you can do and that when you focus on them you can see better results in less time.

80-20 2While this isn’t groundbreaking information for a lot of people, I recently read something about the 80-20 Principle that really changed my perspective on it. Namely, the 80-20 Principle is subject to the 80-20 Principle.

In other words, once you figure out what the top 20% is that causes 80% of the results you can then turn the 80-20 Principle on that top 20% and it still holds true.

The top 20 % of the top 20 % counts for 80% of 80% of your results.

If you are a bit confused you are not alone, it took this example for me to get it…

Let’s say that 20% of the roads in your town carry 80% of the traffic. If you then looked at the top 20% of those roads – or 4% of the total roads in your town – you would find that they carry 80% of the 80%, or 64% of all traffic.

That’s right, only 4% of the roads in your town carry 64% of all the traffic. Now, the numbers may not work out to exactly 80-20 every time – sometimes it is 70-30 or even 95-5 – but the principle of small things causing big results holds true.

The more you dig down into the top 20% of the top 20% the better you can leverage your time into results.

What this means for us as mountain bikers is that if you don’t have a ton of time to train then you better be focusing on that top 20% of things you can do with your time…or better yet the top 20% of the top 20%.

But this is where a lot of riders get lost. Because they don’t understand the power of the 80-20 Principle they don’t understand that not every hour of training is created equal.

Some things you can do are much more productive than others.

And some things that take very little time and effort deliver big results on the trail (think stretching and mobility training for example).

After reading about this I realized why so many riders who follow my programs use words like “it feels like cheating” and “I can’t believe this is all I have to do to see these kind of results”. After 10+ years of focusing on the needs of mountain bikers I’ve been able to help riders tap into that top 20% of the top 20%, delivering results in much less time and with much less effort.

Things like mobility training, strength training with an eye on the movement patterns you need on the bike and cardio training that focuses on the real energy systems demands of trail riding deliver far more bang-for-the-buck than another mindless hour spent on a trainer, the road, researching the next “must have” bike part or beating the hell out of yourself in a Cross fit class.

When you tap into that top 20% of the top 20% you can have your life and your body back while riding better than ever on the trail.

And this principle becomes even more important as riding season sets in.

It gets tricky right now because you should be transitioning from working hard during your training in order to try and improve your strength and fitness to riding hard while maintaining that strength and fitness.

It also starts to become more of a juggling act as training time competes with riding time and other social/ family plans. Making sure you are doing the best with the time you have is crucial to making sure you stay riding strong all season long.

As we get more into the riding season I’ll be sharing some tips and strategies I use with the riders I coach to help them stay on top of their game. Nothing sucks worse than not being able to enjoy the riding season or to compete at the level you want to and when you tap into the true power of the 80-20 Principle you never have to worry about that again.

That’s it for now, I’ll be in touch on Wednesday with some video I shot from this weekend’s ride. My buddy Jeff (a.k.a. Uncle Steeze), Aka the Trail Mutt and I had some good rips down PBR and MoJo’s and I finally remembered my GoPro so I could catch Aka in action.

If you have any questions or thoughts about the 80-20 Principle and how it applies to training, riding or even life please leave a comment below this post, I’d love to hear them.

And if you liked this article please click one of the Like or Share buttons to help spread the word.

Until next time…

Ride Strong,

James Wilson

MTB Strength Training Systems

p.s. The best way to do this is to have a coach who knows what that top 20% of the top 20% is so they can help you focus on it. And that is why I am opening up a few more roster spots for my exclusive Distance Coaching Program.

After I opened up some roster spots a few months ago they sold out in a day so if you want the chance to work personally with me to get your training dialed in and keep it dialed in this riding season then visit www.coachjames.com to learn more about this limited time opportunity to get world class coaching from mountain biking’s premier strength and conditioning coach.

March
17

A lot of riders waste time trying to “ride themselves into shape” after an off-season of either doing nothing or spending too much time on a road bike. They find themselves struggling to find their groove and have to spend a few weeks or even months getting their riding legs back under them.

The take home point is that if you’ve never spent any time getting stronger then it is the fastest and simplest way to see improvement on the trail.

For me, this is a giant waste of precious riding time. Who has trail rides to waste feeling like crap on the trail when you can hit the trails much better prepared to deal with the physical demands of trail riding?

If you find yourself among the thousands of riders every year who fall victim to this problem then there is something you can do to see results in just a few weeks. And it is pretty simple to do.

Getting stronger is the fastest way to see an immediate impact on your riding.

floor press

Doing some double 32 kg/ 70 pound kettlebell floor presses

The first question I ask riders who come to me with questions about how to improve their performance is how much can they deadlift. It doesn’t matter if they race DH, Enduro, XC, 24 Hour, Marathon or simply want to ride the trail with more fitness and confidence – the answer to that question tells me what we need to work on.

If they look at me without blinking and tell me that they deadlift somewhere in the 1.5-2 X BW area I know that while they may still need some work in specific areas, their overall body strength is pretty good and I need to look at what they are doing on the cardio side of things that isn’t working. Here’s a hint – most of the time they don’t use their trail rides properly and just ride as hard as they can for as long as they can with no real plan.

On the other hand, if they look at me with a blank stare of tell me that they don’t really deadlift I know that they need to get stronger before the cardio stuff will start to work. I’ll still want them to use their trail rides in a smarter way but the focus isn’t on adding more cardio yet.

The reason is that strength levels give us a good idea of how stress-proof a movement pattern is. A rider might have a good looking hip-hinge a.k.a. deadlift with just bodyweight or a light weight but terrible looking technique when trying to pull 2X bodyweight. In this case the movement pattern is there but isn’t stress-proof enough to handle that weight.

On the bike this rider may look good at low fatigue levels but starts to break down easily after a few High Tension Cardio efforts. They end up wasting a lot of energy through bad breathing and posture on the bike because they weren’t able to maintain it as the movement patterns were stressed with the realities of trail riding.

A stronger rider will be able to sustain their breathing and posture better because they have it mastered at such a high level that what they do on the trail seems easy by comparison. When you’ve pulled a double bodyweight deadlift trying to turn over a hard gear to crest a steep climb suddenly doesn’t seem as “hard”.

Once this physical and psychological strength has been built you can get more out of cardio training in the off-season to improve the ability to sustain those efforts longer.

So if you want to quickly improve your trail riding and skip the whole “ride yourself into shape” thing this year then get stronger. I’ve posted a lot of great articles over the years on methods I like to get stronger but Rep Ladders continue to be one of my favorites.

Here is a workout you can do that will quickly increase your strength and performance on the trail:

Workout 1

Deadlift – 2-3 rounds of 2/3/5 Rep Ladders

Floor Press – 2-3 rounds of 2/3/5 Rep Ladders

Chin Ups – 2-3 rounds of 2/3/5 Rep Ladders

Workout 2

DB Clean & Press – 2-3 rounds of 2/3/5 Rep Ladders

Single Leg Squat – 2-3 rounds of 2/3/5 Rep Ladders

Renegade Rows – 2-3 rounds of 2/3/5 Rep Ladders

You want to rest for 5-10 breathes/ 30-60 seconds between exercises and rounds. You can do these workouts as a circuit or you can finish all of your sets before moving on to the next exercise. Either way you only want the last set to feel “hard”, and even then your form should still look as solid as on your first set.

As you add a little weight each week you’ll find that you are getting stronger but the workouts still don’t feel any “harder” than they did when you started. After 4-6 weeks you’ll be significantly stronger and feeling much closer to mid-season form on your bike.

The take home point in that if you’ve never spent any time getting stronger then it is the fastest and simplest way to see improvement on the trail. If you want to hit the trails feeling like you never took any time off of your bike then get stronger using the routine I posted above or something like the new Ultimate MTB Workout Program v5 for a longer term approach.

And remember that strength training is more about the journey than the destination. It may take you a couple years to achieve a double bodyweight deadlift and even then that isn’t the real point. Focus on getting a little stronger every day and you’ll see benefits, if you force the issue you’ll just get injured.

If you have any questions about this workout or why getting stronger should be your first priority please leave a comment below, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

And if you liked this article please click one of the Like or Share buttons below to help spread the word to fellow riders who could benefit from the info.

Until next time…

Ride Strong,

James Wilson

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James Wilson