April
23

Nutrition is a funny subject – we all know that it can make a big impact on our results and performance but it can be a daunting task trying to figure it all out. Every day there are different diets and supplements coming out, each promising better results than the other.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Getting your nutrition dialed in to help you in training and on the trail isn’t as hard as you may think.

I know this because I found this out myself. I found the sports nutrition world to be a very confusing place with opposite claims being made about the importance of proteins, carbs and fats – plus everyone had a study to back up their claims.

Eating clean isn’t the easiest thing for me and I needed to develop the habits that would help me maximize my results and minimize the damage from my indulgences.

And in that search I came across the team at Precision Nutrition. Founded by John Berardi, Ph. D, Precision Nutrition has been my go-to resource for nutrition info for well over a decade now.

I love Precision Nutrition because they use a principle based model that allows people to focus on those successful habits instead of getting lost in the details. They can certainly talk details with the best of them but they excel at making sure you put first things first.

A few years ago I got the chance to interview two members of the Precision Nutrition team and ask them all the questions I had about how to apply their approach to mountain biking. In it we covered…

-  Basic nutrition strategies that you can easily apply today to get your nutrition on track

- Race day nutrition and how to fuel for your best performance

- How to carbo load and if it works for mountain biking

- Mountain bike supplements that work and which to avoid

If you have any questions about nutrition in general or how to dial your nutrition strategy in for the demands of mountain biking then this is one interview you won’t want to miss.

Download this episode (right click and save)

Once you understand the basic habits and how to tweak them to keep us riding longer and stronger on the trail you’ll see that it really isn’t that tough. You’ll also get a lot more out of your training and odds are you’ll just feel better and have more energy as well.

Hope you enjoy this interview with Precision Nutrition, it is one I think that every rider should listen to at least once. And if you are interested in learning more about them and how they can help you dial in your nutrition (I highly recommend their cookbooks) then click here.

If you have any questions about it or how it applies to your nutrition just post it in a comment below and I’ll get to it.

And if you liked this interview please help me spread the word by clicking one of the Like or Share buttons below.

Until next time…

James Wilson

MTB Strength Training Systems

MTB Bodyweight Exercises
April
21

I recently posted a video on Facebook from Pavel Tsatsouline (the guy who re-introduced kettlebells to the fitness world in the late ‘90’s) and in it he talked about the role of strength for endurance athletes. In it he talked about two studies from Norway where some endurance athletes (elite cyclists and marathon runners) saw an improvement in their race times after using a strength training program that had them do 4 sets of 4 reps on the squat.

In theory, theory is just like reality but in reality it isn’t.

The point he was making was that getting stronger can improve your performance in an endurance sport and not just the light weight/ high rep nonsense usually prescribed to endurance athletes to target their “slow twitch muscle fibers”.

It sparked a discussion with one rider who said that that there was no way that strength training could improve endurance. He said out that strength training and endurance training produced opposite results and that strength training could actually hinder an elite endurance athlete.

After a few exchanges between me and few other rider who had experienced the power of getting stronger themselves I realized the mistake that this rider making in his logic.

He was talking about laboratory measures of improvement, not improvement of performance in an actual sport.

This is a classic mistake made by the “science guys” – the lab is not where things actually count.

In the book The Sports Gene David Epstein points out that laboratory markers of fitness like VO2Max and  Lactate Threshold do not automatically equate to sports performance. The sports world is full of overachieving athletes who succeed despite being “genetically inferior” (at least as far as we can measure in a lab right now) and genetically gifted athletes who squander it all away.

So when Pavel or I say that strength training will improve your performance in an endurance sport like mountain biking we aren’t saying that strength  training will lead to a measurable improvement in lab markers like VO2Max or mitochondrial density. That is the direct cause and effect trap that can severely limit your perspective on the human body.

We’re simply saying that if you get stronger you will see an improvement in your ability to ride faster and/ or longer. Your actual performance where it really counts will improve even if you can’t point to a direct cause-and-effect relationship to something you can measure in a lab.

The clock doesn’t lie but lab numbers can.

The real truth is that no one really knows exactly how things cause improvements in performance. Our understanding of the human body is constantly changing the narrative we tell people about how things work.

The best example of this is Lactic Acid. Not to long ago it was the metabolic boogeyman that we need to control and banish. Entire training programs and supplements were created under the premise that lactic acid caused muscle fatigue, muscle failure and too some extent muscle soreness.

Now we understand that none of this is true. Lactic Acid is actually good and something that your body needs and uses for high intensity work.

My point is that you have to be able to separate science from real life. While science can give us some insights into the real world of performance training, it isn’t the same thing.

In theory, theory is just like reality but in reality it isn’t.

It reminds me of the South Park where the Underpants Gnomes were stealing poor Tweak’s underpants. When asked why they were doing it they said that they needed them as part of their plan.

UGnomeIf you don’t know, the plan turned out to be…

Phase 1 – Collect Underpants

Phase 2 – ???

Phase 3 – Profit

No one knew what Step 2 was but they knew that if they did Step 1 they would somehow get to Step 3. The exact mechanism isn’t important and absence of evidence for why the whole thing works that way isn’t evidence of absence.

The human body is a complex organism that can’t be broken down into neat little boxes like “strength” and “endurance”. One effects the other even if we don’t really know what Step 2 is.

The take home point is that for the vast majority of riders out there the fastest way to see an improvement in your actual on trail performance is to get stronger. You still need to ride but until you can do some basic things like a 1.5 X Bodyweight Deadlift and a 24 kg Turkish Get Up on both sides (with relative ease) then that is your weak link, not some metabolic lab markers of cardio fitness.

Honestly, when you understand that those metabolic markers stop improving in elite endurance athletes (no one’s VO2Max improves indefinitely) and yet their performance continues to improve you realize that there is something else that really drives endurance performance. That something else is movement efficiency.

And a good mobility and strength training program like the Ultimate MTB Workout Program v5 can improve movement efficiency faster than anything else.

Anyways, that’s starting to get off into another subject that I’ll save for another post. In the meantime just be like the Underpants Gnomes and do Step 1 (get stronger) knowing that it will lead to Step 3 (riding faster and longer) even if you can’t explain exactly what Step 2 is.

Or you can just steal some underpants and see if it leads to profit…if it does let me know.

That’s it for now, if you have any questions or comments about this subject or how underpants have anything to do with this please leave a comment below, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

And if you liked this article please click one of the social media buttons below to help spread the word.

Until next time…

Ride Strong,

James Wilson

MTB Kettlebell Workout
April
16

In my experience one of the hardest things to teach riders is how to get into good body position when standing up. I’m not talking about getting them to bend their body in a way that looks like good body position, I mean where they are actually strong and balanced on the bike.

And no, these two things are not the same.

I can get someone to act out good body position by telling them “butt back and chest down” and “get your elbows out” but that doesn’t mean that they are strong and stable there. What you will often see is someone who can act out good body position in a parking lot but will revert back to bad body position habits as soon as they get out on the trail.

The reason for this is that you need to get down into that position while maintaining a strong core and upper back position. Simply leaning over with your elbows flared out isn’t going to do that for you.

While there are a lot of great exercises to train this movement skill like the deadlift and swing, the best exercise to learn the movement is probably the Bulgarian Goat Bag Swing.

Screen Shot 2014-04-16 at 9.12.05 AMCreated by strength coach Dan John, I learned this exercise recently while attending one of his seminars. This exercise is so great because it gets you into the same position you want on the bike while forcing your hips, core and upper back to stay engaged. This gives you the same feeling you want to transfer to the bike and greatly improve your ability to hold your body position on the trail.

In this video I show you the Bulgarian Goat Bag Swing (in case you’re wondering Dan named it that so it would be obvious if someone tried to take credit for the exercise) and explain more about how it can help you improve your body position on the bike.

Try doing 2-3 sets of 10 reps of this exercise with a 25-25 pound kettlebell as part of your next workout. You can also work a set or two into your warm up for workouts with deadlifts or swings to help get the core and hips online. You can also use it before doing your skills drills to help instill the feeling you want to maintain on the bike.

All in all this is a very valuable exercise to add to your toolbox.

Remember that the real key to improving your skills and fitness on the trail is to work on improving how you move off the bike so you can move better on the bike. Knowing what to do won’t work if your body can’t get into the right position in the first place.

Hope you liked this mountain bike exercise tip, if you have any questions about this exercise or how to use it as part of your program please leave a comment below and I’ll answer it as soon as I can.

And please help me spread the word by clicking one of the Like or Share buttons below.

Until next time…

Ride Strong,

James Wilson
MTB Strength Training Systems

MTB DB Combos Program
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 Ultimate Program
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

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

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Mountain Bike Coach
James Wilson