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 Bodyweight Exercises
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.

MTB Kettlebell Workout
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.

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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

MTB DB Combos Program
March
10

As you probably know I have some different views on mountain biking compared to most “experts”. From the value of flat pedals to the ridiculousness of spending hours on a road bike to improve your mountain bike conditioning I try to get riders to stop and think about things, if only for a second.

Standing pedaling is only a bad option if you don’t have the mobility, strength and endurance in the core, upper body and hips to sustain it.

Funny things happen when riders stop and think about things. Some of them start to realize that there may be more to the story than what they were told. The world of mountain biking is littered with myths, half-truths and outright lies and one of my goals is to help shed some light on what it really takes to improve your riding.

One area that I’ve talked about before but I think needs some special attention is Standing Pedaling. Most riders view Standing Pedaling as something to be avoided unless absolutely necessary.

They are told that they’ll tire themselves out too quickly and they think they need to sit down in order to weight the rear tire on climbs.

They end up shackling themselves to their seats, which really impedes their growth as a rider.

Once you understand that standing pedaling is better than seated pedaling in many ways and how you can incorporate it more into your riding you’ll never look at the trail the same way again. More riders are held back by this one myth than anything else on the trail. Break free of the seat shackle and you’ll have way more fun on the trail.

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My wife and I standing up to enjoy some sweet singletrack.

To help dispel some of those myths and help more riders break free of seated pedaling I created this podcast where I go over all things standing pedaling. I’ll dispel the myths surrounding it and reveal…

- Why it can actually be easier on your knees to stand up while climbing.

- Why you have to stand up to execute skills properly.

- Why clipless pedals can make it harder to stand up.

- How to use standing and seated pedaling together over the course of a ride.

Use the link below to download this episode of the MTB Strength Coach Podcast

Download this episode (right click and save)

I also wanted to share 5 things you can do today to improve your Standing Pedaling. Just like anything else on your bike, it is a skill that you must understand and practice to improve.

5 Keys to Standing Pedaling

1 – Use your pedals to help support your weight. You can do this by using a gear that gives you some tension at the pedals. This is usually going to be a harder gear/ slower RPM than you would use when seated. You also do this by getting the ball of your foot in front of and not on top of your axle, which will allow you to achieve better balance and use your hips more efficiently.

2 – Use your upper body to stabilize/ support your body and to help add power to the pedal stroke. The better you can get your upper body into the right position and the more you can pull to add to the pedal stroke the easier standing pedaling will be.

3 – You want to simply drive hard with your lead leg i.e. mash your pedals and use your upper body to hold you up and keep you smooth. While you don’t need to stomp every bit of your weight into the pedals don’t try to “spin” circles or keep a “smooth” pedal stroke either. Just try to stay light on top of the bike using your upper body while keeping pressure on the pedals with good gear selection and foot placement.

4 – Know how to use your hips to get the most out of your traction. When traction is good then you want to push the hips forward, almost like you would fall forward and your bike is keeping you from hitting the ground. When traction is poor you want to sit your hips back over the rear tire to weight the rear while also keeping your shoulders over the front end to keep it down.

5 – Focus on your shoulder and upper back position and as it is the real weak link in the standing pedaling kinetic chain, not your legs or lungs. In other words, you can have the strongest legs and the best VO2max but if you can’t help maintain an optimal shoulder position and posture for standing pedaling then you’ll waste so much energy it won’t matter. This will be the hardest habit to overcome so it has to be on the top of your mind.

Last, I want to share this new video I shot this weekend showing you how to instantly improve your standing pedaling balance and traction by understanding how to best use your hips. Through the power of bad stick figure drawings I’ll show you exactly what to do when you stand up and when traction starts to get loose.

So there you have it, a blueprint for overcoming the weaknesses that keep you from easily standing and hammering out singletrack. Attack those weaknesses with a good training program and that is no longer an issue.

Standing pedaling is only a bad option if you don’t have the mobility, strength and endurance in the core, upper body and hips to sustain it.

Sure, you’ll have riders in your group tell you that you will tire yourself out quicker, you’ll just have to wait for them to hear what they were saying at the top of that steep hill you were killing them on.

So how about you? Have you heard this advice only to find out that it wasn’t true? Or do you have any questions about getting better at standing pedaling? 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

MTB Ultimate Program
March
7

I was talking with one of my private coaching clients yesterday and we were talking about how to adjust their training once the riding season starts. In the past they would stop training their legs as they did more intervals and got out onto more rides in order to save their legs and they wanted to know if we were going to do something similar.

Strength and mobility provide the foundation for your cardio and a good program will balance riding and training to help you get the most out of both.

I understand where he is coming from – for a lot of mountain bikers riding is their leg training and the idea of adding more squats, deadlifts and swings would seem to take away from their ability to pedal.

However, as I explained to him that there are a couple of things to keep in mind. The first is that somewhere between not training legs at all and doing too much is the sweet spot and that is what we are looking for.

There is a level of intensity and volume that your body can handle without adversely affecting your riding.

What’s more, that level will change with training. After an off-season full of Goblet Squats, Swings and Stagger Stance Deadlifts his body is used to those movements and can handle more this season than last season. Basically, as your strength levels and experience grow you can do more without it wearing you out.

For example, someone who can Goblet Squat a 55 pound KB or DB for 3 sets of 8 reps will easily be able to handle 2 sets of 5 with that same weight and not feel much the next day. However, someone who has limited experience with the lift will get pretty sore from the same workout. The idea is not to eliminate leg training but to find what you can still do relative to your strength and experience levels.

The second thing to keep in mind is that your Mobility and Strength levels support your cardio. Very rarely does someone maintain their mobility and strength levels and see a dip in their cardio during the riding season. What usually happens is that the Mobility and Strength dominoes fall, toppling the Cardio dominoes as well.

This means that in order to stay riding strong all season long it is vitally important that you do everything you can to keep the Mobility and Strength dominoes from falling as long as you can. While you can’t help but lose some mobility and strength during the riding season you want to fight like hell to keep that to a minimum.

So there are 2 take home points for you to consider. First, you need to be working right now to build a mobility and strength reserve so you have something to carry you through the riding season. A smart program that builds mountain bike specific strength, mobility and cardio will go a long ways to helping you ride strong from your first ride this year to you last.

Second, once the riding season hits don’t neglect strength training your legs. You just have to look at “training” them differently and switch mental gears from working hard to build them up to working just hard enough to keep them strong and as fresh as possible.

Strength and mobility provide the foundation for your cardio and a good program will balance riding and training to help you get the most out of both. Don’t make the mistake so many riders make of thinking that just pedaling will train your legs because it won’t be enough, and you don’t want to find that out by dragging ass through the end of the riding season.

That’s it for now, if you have any questions about this concept please leave a comment below this post. And if you liked this post 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. You still have a couple of days to get the all new Ultimate MTB Workout Program v5 with all of the bonus workouts for only $97. You’ll get the most holistic mountain bike training program on the planet with mobility, strength, cardio, nutrition, skills training and mental prep strategies combined into one seamless program.

You’ll also get all 3 of the new race specific versions including Enduro Racing/ Trail Rider, XC Racing and DH Racing plus my In-Season Training Blocks to keep you riding strong all year long. This is a crazy value at only $97 – that’s less than some overpriced program from another major training website that only gives you a 12 week cardio workout with no strength, mobility, nutrition, skills training or mental prep.

I mean honestly, how can it really be a “mountain bike training program” if it doesn’t address everything you need on the trail?

So click here to learn more about the new Ultimate MTB Workout Program v5 and get your copy of the special release bundle for only $97 before this special ends this weekend.

March
5

I don’t know why but it seems like dogs and trail riding were meant to go together. A good trail dog can help motivate you to ride more and they make you smile more when you’re on the trail.

I’ve had 2 great trail dogs so far, the first was my original trail mutt Mojo Jojo (bonus points if you know the show that character is from). We got him when we moved to Hawaii and he was my loyal companion on countless rides, including acting as the unofficial guide on a mountain bike tour I led for a couple years.

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The original trail mutt Mojo and me in Hawaii

Eventually age caught up to Mojo and after a good, long life we lost him. After being without a trail mutt for a while I decided it was time to get a new one and in stepped Aka. Aka means Shadow in Hawaiian and we got him for $50 from some random guy selling puppies in front of Wal-Mart.

They told us he was a Black Lab/ German Short Hair/ Rottweiller mix and I remember Aka was a little stand offish at first. I wasn’t too sure about taking him home but I took a chance.

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Bringing Aka home

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Lounging with my other mutt Shadow

Luckily he turned out to be the best trail mutt ever. It took some training to get him up to speed, including getting run over twice. Don’t worry, each time was a pretty controlled accident as I saw him about to screw up and I was ready for it. He never got seriously hurt but he did get the message – don’t get in front of the bikes.

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The aftermath of a run-in with the bike tires.

Now he knows to not get in the way and he’ll readily get out of the way if you do catch up to him. That is a key skill for a trail dog and one that makes it possible to just ride without worrying if he’s going to try and kill both of us.

He’s also amazingly fast and it takes a good downhill grade for me to be the one setting the pace. Add in the endurance to easily last on a 2-3 hour ride and I’m never waiting for him to catch up. In fact, it is usually the other way around.

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Aka waiting on me to finish resting.

Resting after a long hard ride.

Resting after a long hard ride.

In fact, I’ve got a video I shot with my GoPro of Aka and me ripping some sweet local trails you can check out below. Even though this was last year we just rode there yesterday, which is what made me think about what a great trail mutt Aka is.

So how about you? Got any great trail dogs in your life or had one before? I’d love to hear about them, just leave a comment below this post sharing some trail dog love.

That’s it for now, until next time…

Ride Strong,

James Wilson

MTB Strength Training Systems

p.s. You can still get your Ultimate MTB Workout Program Release Bundle for only $97 this week. This bundle is worth over $200 and contains the Enduro Racing/ Trail Riding, XC Racing and DH Racing specific training plans plus my In-Season Training Blocks to keep you riding strong all season long. Add in the skills training, mental prep and nutrition strategies and you have the most holistic training program ever made for the unique demands of mountain biking.

Click here to learn more about how the Ultimate MTB Workout Program v5 can help you ride faster, longer and with more confidence on the trail.

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James Wilson
Author and Professional
Mountain Bike Coach
James Wilson