October
15

When you break it down to its most basic element, riding a mountain bike comes down to the interplay between your Center of Gravity (COG) and your bike’s COG. Usually referred to as “body position”, this relationship determines your balance points and ability to move on the bike.

On your body the COG is roughly at the hips and on the bike it is roughly at the bottom bracket. Everything on your bike comes down to manipulating this relationship to achieve an outcome like pedaling, cornering, bunny hopping or anything else you can think of.

The problem is that it can be tough to tell exactly what is going on with this relationship until it is too late. After you blow a corner you realize your COG was too far back or after you fly over the bars you realize it was too far forward but that doesn’t help you avoid those situations.

Luckily, there is a fast and easy way to tell where your COG is in relationship to the bike’s COG and how you should adjust if needed. In this video I show you how your hands are the best tool you have to check in on this because the weight and pressure there will quickly tell you the story.

Learning how to listen to your body instead of just focusing on how you look when executing a skill is the next step towards taking control of you progress as a rider. When things feel right they always look right but they can look right and fail to achieve what we really want.

Hopefully this tip can help you improve your balance and confidence on the trail. Give it a shot the next time you ride and let me know how it goes.

Until next time…

Ride Strong,

James Wilson

MTB Ultimate Program
October
8

In this new episode of the BikeJames Podcast I share my thoughts on Enduro Racing and how to approach
training riders for it. A lot of riders are making some common mistakes with their training and my goal is to help you avoid them while knowing what you did need to focus on to be successful at Enduro Racing.

Click the link below to stream or download the MP3 file for this episode.

Download this episode (right click and save)

Remember that you can download the BikeJames Podcast through Itunes and Podbean as well.

If you are a seasoned vet looking for an edge or a new racer looking for a place to start your training
journey, then this podcast will have a lot of great info for you. Enduro Racing can be a fun and rewarding part of your mountain biking experience and with the right training plan it can be even better.

Until next time…

Ride Strong,

James Wilson

MTB Strength Training Systems

Pedaling Innovations
October
1

When my little boy Z was a baby he was like a ninja crawling on the ground.

When something caught his eye he would zip over to it to check it out and see what trouble he could cause with it, which always kept his mom and I on our toes.

However, the real problem was that he wouldn’t practice walking.

He could do it, he just had the problem that all toddlers have when learning to walk – it is a slow and cumbersome way to get around at first.

I mean, you can see how from his perspective walking was a disaster. All that falling over and now his mom and I could have time to stop him from making his way to something he shouldn’t be messing with.

Why screw around with that when crawling has been working just fine, thank you very much.

But then one day something happened that completely changed how he saw the world and walking suddenly became worth the trouble. And luckily, I was there to see it because it taught me a valuable lesson as well.

Z and I were hanging out in the backyard when he found a long, thin metal rod that that he grabbed and tried to crawl around with. The problem was that he already had something in the other hand and trying to crawl around with both hands full isn’t easy.

Then he tried a different strategy and stood up. He took a couple of steps and it was I like a light bulb went off – you could see in his eyes that something had changed.

Standing also makes it easier to work on bikes.

He had realized that when you walk you can easily carry something in both hands. You can literally double your carrying capacity for weapons or toys or whatever it is that you want to carry.

And this was worth dealing with the pain of the drawbacks of walking. I never saw him crawl again from that moment on. Once the shift had been made he never went back to using it.

That was a powerful lesson for me as well. To be there for that light bulb moment and to see how quickly and dramatically it changed his behavior really drove home the point for me that we have a huge capacity for change…but only if we really buy into why we need to do it.

It is the buy in that changes how you see the efforts and sacrifices you are making. Changing your behaviors without changing how you see those behaviors won’t last.

In the mountain biking world you see this from people who “know” that they need to do strength and mobility training but for some reason they just can’t find the time to start or they give up after a few weeks. Once the initial motivation wore off they didn’t have the fuel they needed to keep things going.

That fuel has to come from how you see the world.

For example, most of us brush our teeth because we see the world in a way that motivates us to do it. No one wants bad breath and rotten teeth and so we perform the ritual of brushing our teeth a couple times a day.

However, most people just don’t see the world in a way that motivates them to take care of the rest of their body. Strength and mobility training are a time-sucking pain in the butt, which is how they see it even when forcing themselves to do it.

No wonder most people don’t start or quit. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

We’re not taught in school that as humans we have a couple of cool super powers that we need to tap into if we want to live the lives we really want.

The first is one I’ve touched on already, which is the ability to change your reality. The story you are telling yourself isn’t “real”, it is just a reflection of how you see the world. You can change that story and, as a result, your reality.

This is how people make lasting changes – they start to tell themselves a story that makes it impossible not to change. If you see yourself as the kind of person who doesn’t make excuses and appreciates how getting stronger and more mobile will help you then you have no choice but make time for it.

The second super power is the ability to manipulate the future. You can do things now that will pay off down the road and strength and mobility training are two of the best examples of it.

Sure, you won’t see results in the first workout or maybe even the first couple of weeks but in 6 months you’ll be a different person. 6 months will come and go either way, but you can do things today that will help your future self out.

But, like I said, you have to be like Z and find the way of seeing that world that makes these choices self-evident. You can’t see the world the same way and just take on different habits, you have to change your perspective in a way that makes those habits easier to adopt.

And that’s really the hardest part. I wish I had something to tell you that would flip that switch for you, but the truth is that is part of the journey.

Everyone has to find what motivates them to change but knowing that you can and then looking for that motivation is the first step.

Until next time…

Ride Strong,

James Wilson

MTB Skills and Fitness Program
September
24

While it is one of the oldest training tools in the world the Steel Mace finds itself in an interesting situation.

First, there is no codified training system for them. Despite being used for thousands of years to condition the human body for swinging stuff in battle and for wrestling another human there isn’t a training system behind it like we would think of one.

Second, it is reemerging again in the age of the internet. This means that it is easier than ever to see people using the Steel Mace and learning what it can do…but without the context of a training system a lot of these movements and exercises can quickly fall into the wrong hands.

So, in some ways Steel Mace training is like the old Wild West – a frontier where the laws and rules are sketchy at best and can change quickly based on the new Sheriff in town. In this case the new Sheriff is the new Mace Training Guru with the slickest moves on Instagram, but the result is the same with a lot of people going “that looks great but where the hell do I start”.

Over the last few years of using the Steel Mace and training others with it I’ve found that knowing how to safely get started with your Steel Mace training is the key to getting the most out of it. And to help you do that I’ve made a previously private Steel Mace Basics Webinar available to the public.

Originally created for my private training and group coaching clients, I go over everything you need to know to get started with Steel Mace Training. You can check out this webinar and download the slides by clicking the link below:

If you need it, you can also sign up for the free 30-Day Steel Mace for MTB Workout. It goes along with the material covered in the webinar and makes a great place to start using the Steel Mace to help your riding.

I also wanted to let you know that I’m planning on releasing a new 12 Week Steel Mace Training for MTB program in the next week or two. I know it will be a while until the Steel Mace becomes a popular training tool, but my goal is to stay ahead of trends, not follow them, and for those of you who are willing to invest in a Mace and stay ahead of the curve I want to make sure you’ve got a resource to help you on the path.

Until next time…

Ride Strong,

James Wilson
MTB Strength Training Systems

MTB Fitness Membership Program
September
19

Ever since I was a teenager running track in high school I’ve been fascinated with how to manipulate the human body to perform better. To me it was like a video game – you could literally level up your character if you did the right things with your strength and conditioning program.

That fascination led to a career as a strength coach and eventually to becoming the first coach to focus exclusively on mountain bike strength training. Of course, that choice was a selfish one since I wanted to find the best ways to help me ride faster and longer on my bike and helping other riders seemed like the best way to do it.

And while I can’t ride quite as fast and as long as I used to – injuries and time catch up with us all – I’ve never lost that fascination with how to use training to “level up” my character as much as possible. Over the last few years I’ve been using a lot more Steel Mace and Indian Club exercises as part of my “level up program” and seeing some really impressive results.

But while I could feel the results it was hard for me to explain exactly what the difference was between training with a Kettlebell or Dumbbell and training with a Steel Mace or Indian Club. This was frustrating for me because I know that these training tools had a lot to offer mountain bikers if I could just figure out how to explain the benefits in a way they could relate to.

Luckily for me the universe tends to put the right people in my path at the right time and I recently heard a presentation that made it all click for me. Now I understand exactly what the difference between these training is and why mountain bikers need the results that Steel Mace and Indian Club training provide.

First, to understand this difference you have to look at your muscles as being made up of two basic parts.

The first are the muscle fibers, which is that most of us think of as “our muscles”. They are responsible for contracting and creating tension like when you are doing a Deadlift or Squat.

The second part is the Fascia. The fascia wraps your muscle fibers, kind of like a balloon with your muscle fibers on the inside.

Among a lot of other jobs, the fascia is responsible for helping to stabilize the body. Holding a weight out to the side and holding it there is a good example of this function.

So, it is the interplay of Tension and Stability that makes up your ability to perform both on and off the bike. And the types of exercises we use target these two functions differently.

Tension is targeted with Compression Based Tension. Compression Based Tension loads are characterized by symmetrical loads that are close to the hands and/ or centerline of the body.

A Goblet Squat or a Deadlift are good example of this type of loading. There is a lot of compression straight down onto the muscles and joints from the weight. There isn’t much stabilization needed and so the muscles fibers’ ability to create tension is often the limiting factor.

Stability is best targeted with Leverage Based Tension. Leverage Based Tension loads are asymmetrical and/ or have the weight being held far away the centerline of the body.

Holding a Steel Mace and doing a Squat or Deadlift is a good example of this. The Steel Mace is only loaded on one end and the weighted ball is far away from the centerline of the body.

This forces the body to stabilize the load before it can create tension to lift it. This puts stress on the fascia, which in turn responds by adding collagen to increase its stability.

These are two very different adaptations by the body and transfer over differently to the trail.

On the trail we need a lot of Leverage Based strength because that is usually our limiting factor, not the ability to create a lot of tension at one time. Building strength using Compression Based Tension won’t transfer over the same way that Leverage Based Tension does.

This explains why some riders don’t see as much from their training programs as they would like. The emphasis on Compression Based loading builds the wrong kind of strength, especially in the core and upper body.

On a quick side note, this is not the same as using an unstable surface to “train the stabilizers”.

This type of training usually just a Compression Based exercise on something like a BOSU Ball and while it certainly makes you have to stabilize more than normal is not the same thing as having to stabilize a Leverage Based exercise. It is the wrong approach to the problem of creating more stability in the system, which is better trained with tools and exercises created for that purpose.

Understanding the two types of tension that you can expose your body to and the different results it produces opens up a whole new way to look at “leveling up” your character. Sharing more exercises and ideas to help you train this important element of performance is going to be something I will be focusing more on in the future as I think this represents the next evolution of Functional Training for mountain biking.

In the meantime, you can sign up for a free Steel Mace for MTB Workout and get some ideas of how you can use these unique training tools to help you ride with more speed, endurance and confidence on the trail.

Until next time…

Ride Strong,

James Wilson

MTB Kettlebell Workout
September
10

Over the last 5 years few exercises have gotten as popular as Kettlebell Swings. With it’s blend of hip power, cardio and grip strength it has a lot to offer mountain bikers.

However, over the last few years I’ve started to thing that we can do better than the Kettlebell Swing. In fact, I know that we can do much better.

A couple of months ago I shared blog post and video showing the Indian Club Swing and several variations that I think are more specific to what we really do on the bike. It is also much easier to learn and has a higher margin for error before you get hurt, making it my current “go to” swing variation for the riders I work with.

But as great as that option is, after learning some new stuff at the recent Perform Better 3 Day Functional Training Summit I came home and worked up a new swing variation I’m calling The Perfect Swing.

My big insight was that the glutes – which are the biggest muscles in the body – act at the hips in 3 different ways.

The first in hip extension. This is the most common form of hip training and is usually referred to as the Hip Hinge movement pattern. It was you work on when you do Deadlifts and regular Swings and it the basic movement pattern behind good body position on the bike.

The second action is rotation at the hips. Rotating through the hips and not the lower back is a key skills to cornering on the bike and lack of this skill is the #1 reason most riders struggle with that skill.

The third action is abduction, or pushing the knees out. This helps keep your knees from caving in during the pedal stroke and placing extra stress on the knees.

As you can see a regular Swing only addresses one of these things. And while you can work these other two elements seperately to round things out you also need to have a way to integrate these things since that is how they will function on the bike.

With the Perfect Swing you are using a Rotational Swing with a band around your knees to combine all three of these actions into one movement, addressing all the main functions of the glutes at the hip joint in one exercise.

Here is the catch, though…you can’t do it with a Kettlebell. The nature of the movement requires a different loading pattern and this isn’t possible with the way the Kettlebell is shaped.

The best training tools I’ve found so far are the Steel Mace, a single heavy Indian Club or a RAMRoller. To see how this looks in the video below:

My favorite variation is the RAMRoller, followed by the Indian Club and then the Steel Mace. You can also do this movement with a Sandbag but I personally prefer these other tools.

I use these where I would normally do Kettlebell Swings in my workout, hitting 2 sets of 10 reps on each side and call it good. My hips are definitely feeling it by then and pushing your glutes too hard in the gym isn’t a great idea if you plan on pedaling you bike in the next week.

The functional training movement has made a lot of progress towards helping people train better for the demands of their sport instead of just “looking good”. Exercises like the Kettlebell Swing were a giant leap forward from the bodybuilding inspired stuff we were drowning in at the time.

But like everything else things evolve with time. Tools like the Mace, Indian Clubs and RAMRoller and exercises like The Perfect Swing that you can do with them promise to help us advance the Functional Training movement.

One last thing – this is an advanced Swing variation. If you have not mastered the basic Kettlebell or, preferably, the heavy Indian Club Swing then this is not a good choice for you. However, you can get an idea from this post of what is next for you once you do.

Until next time…

Ride Strong,

James Wilson

MTB DB Conditioning Program
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James Wilson
Author and Professional
Mountain Bike Coach
James Wilson