As more and more riders use my Ultimate MTB Workout Program I seem to get more questions regarding how “easy” Phase 1 seems to be. Most of the time these questions come from riders who were already training before finding my programs and as such they come into it already having an idea of what training is supposed to be like and Phase 1 ain’t it.
The problem lies in where their idea of what a workout is supposed to look like come from sources that have been heavily influenced by bodybuilding. Joe Weider and his fitness magazine empire have spread the bodybuilding mindset far and wide and today most people don’t even recognize it for what it is.
Bodybuilding is a sport and the training programs and mindset used by them is for one specific purpose – get big and shredded so they can shave their bodies, apply some fake tan, oil up and pose in front of a bunch of people. There’s nothing wrong with it if that is what you want to do but if you were to ask me if I wanted a program designed specifically for that goal I’d say no.
Even some well meaning “sports” training program still pull heavily from bodybuilding without even realizing it. So, in an effort to help educate riders about these influences I’m going to shed light on one of the biggest hurdles that stop riders from getting better at mountain biking.
Don’t judge the effectiveness of a workout by how trashed you are after the workout and how sore you are the next day.
Bodybuilders are trying to create as much micro-trauma (literally little tears) in the muscles fibers as possible with their workouts since this micro-trauma is a signal for muscle growth. They also want to burn as much muscle sugar (glycogen) as possible since this also leads to increased muscle size. This means that they want to do a lot of sets and reps and “exhaust” the muscles, which is exactly the opposite of what you need as a mountain biker.
The downside to this approach is that along with micro-trauma comes soreness, also know as Post Workout Muscle Soreness or Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. The long, grueling workouts also produce a lot of fatigue and require a lot of recovery time. We need workouts that will make us stronger and fitter without causing so much soreness you can’t ride for a couple days.
If the gym is your “sport” then beating the holy hell out of yourself on a regular basis is fine but if you’re trying to build fitness to help you in a sport or activity outside of the gym you have to factor that in. When you look at how athletes in other sports that have to get fit while also practicing and playing a sport you find a much different approach. You see programs that don’t beat you up as much and few people who are happy when they are super sore from a workout.
Now, this isn’t to say that you should never be sore or that there isn’t a time and a place to go all out in a workout and leave nothing in the gym. The ideal amount of soreness is something that lets you know the muscles got worked but after a hot shower and some light stretching you’re good to go. Being super sore all the time is a sign that something is wrong and you are doing too much.
You want to judge the effectiveness of your workouts based on your progress with strength levels and better technique. You also want to judge them based on how they affect your riding – if you aren’t seeing a significant impact on the trail then it is probably the wrong approach. Be aware of the false goal of “soreness” that has been spread by people who have very different goals than you do. Seek better strength and movement, look to learn something from every training session and look to minimize soreness so you can get out and ride your bike.