July
16

One of the biggest myths in the cycling world is the need to be on the ball of the foot on your pedals. We’re told that this leads to better pedaling power and agility on the bike so it’s easy to see why so many riders buy into this idea.

But what if I told you that this foot position was not only worse for power and agility on the bike but also a leading cause of knee pain?

Well, you’d probably call me crazy, which you’d have every right to do. How could so many coaches and experts be wrong about this fundamental thing?

That’s a big question and one that I’m not going to dive into with this post. Instead, I’ll refer you to my Mid-Foot Manifesto podcast where I cover the long, twisted path the cycling industry has taken to get here, how we got off track and the truth about what the science and movement principles really tell us about the best foot position on the bike.

You can also check out this video where I explain how putting someone onto the balls of the feet doesn’t help them with their Hip Hinge, a.k.a. The Attack Position, and instead just forces some compensations that look like an improvement but really puts riders in a less balanced and stable position.

In this post I want to address the 3 specific reasons that being on the ball of the foot is bad for your knees. Knee pain during and after rides is the #1 complaint among riders and this foot position is directly leading to a lot of it.

3 Reasons Being on the Ball of the Foot is Bad for Your Knees.

1 – No Heel Pressure = Less Hip Recruitment and More Knee Stress.

This is a basic movement principle that everyone knows in the gym but forgets on the bike.
This is why a good trainer will coach you to drive through your heels when doing your lower body exercises in the gym.

Without pressure on both ends of the arch of the foot you literally can’t recruit your hips properly, which places more stress on the knees. Imagine doing all of your squats, deadlifts and lunges on the ball of your feet and how quickly you would blow your knees out.

Pushing through the ball of the foot without any support under the heel so it can also apply pressure is placing shearing forces on the knee with every pedal stroke, which leads to excessive wear and tear on this sensitive joint. The mid-foot position with a pedal that can support both ends of the arch eliminates this issue.

2 – Foot can’t spiral into the pedal and forces unnatural lower body movement.

Another basic movement principle that gets overlooked on the bike is that your foot doesn’t apply force into the ground or pedal in a straight line. Instead, it spirals and “screws” into and out of the ground, which helps create and apply more force with less effort.

But this can only happen if you have pressure on both ends of the arch and a solid surface under the foot. Your foot can’t spiral into small pedals as efficiently and “float” on clipless pedals just allows the foot itself to turn, which is an unnatural movement and wastes energy.

This forces the lower body to start moving in an unnatural way to compensate for these things. By not letting the foot spiral naturally the forces running through the knee are more linear, which again places excessive wear and tear on them.

3 – Less stable foot makes it harder to stand up, resulting in more seated pedaling which is bad for your knees.

One of the best things you can do for healthy knees on your bike if to stand up more to pedal. When you stand up you get full knee extension and a co-contraction between the hamstring and quad to stabilize the knee, both of which are much better for your knees than what happens during seated pedaling.

During seated pedaling you get neither of these things, which means that you are running stress through an unstable joint. No bike fit in the world can fix this problem, which is why despite spending more than ever on them more riders than ever still have knee pain.

The problem with being perched on the balls of your feet is that it is an unbalanced foot position and hard for your feet and calves to hold. This leads to less standing and more seated pedaling, which increases the unnatural stress on your knees.

Taken together, these three things result in a lot of stress on the knees, which leads to knee pain during and after rides. This can also aggravate previous knee injuries that may have nothing to do with the bike but flair up when exposed to this unnatural stress on the pedals.

The problem is that every pedal on the market – except one – is designed to support the ball of the foot and not the whole arch. You can move your cleats back in your clipless pedals or move your foot back on your flat pedals and you still won’t get the foot stable and balanced enough to take the stress off the knees.

To do this you have to stabilize both ends of the arch, allowing you to apply force through the whole arch. This allows for better hip recruitment and less stress on the knees.

Which is the magic behind the design of the Catalyst Pedal. By giving you a longer platform to stand on, I designed it to mimic how your foot interacts with the ground, which includes stabilizing the both ends of the arch so you can drive with the whole foot and even out the stress through the lower body between the hips and knees.

Of course, you don’t just have to take my word for it. There are a lot of medical professionals who are recommending the Catalyst Pedals to their patients for these same reasons.

For example, in this blog post from regenerative medicine specialist Dr. Chris Centeno, M.D. he shares the results one of his patients had and why he recommends the Catalyst Pedals to patients with kneecap pain.

You can also read this blog post from Dr. Marty Hughes and Dr. Robyn Hughes on why they recommend the Catalyst Pedal as the best foot and knee healthy option for riding.

As far as I know, the Catalyst Pedal is the only pedal being specifically recommended by medical professionals to patients for the express purpose of improving cycling related knee pain. And as more and more people experience the almost immediate results from switching to a more natural foot position and the pedal stroke that is a result from it I expect this trend to continue.

But you don’t have to wait. If you have knee pain during your rides or that flares up as a result of riding then you can change your foot position today no matter what pedals you are riding.

And if that doesn’t work then take me up on the 30 day money back guarantee we offer on the Catalyst Pedals. If you give them 4-6 rides I expect that you’ll be riding with less pain and having more fun…and if you don’t then send them back and we’ll give you your money back no matter what condition they are in.

Look, I know I’m pushing hard on this subject and why I think the Catalyst Pedals represent your best option. My motivation isn’t trying to sell the pedal to you as much as the concept that applying natural movement to the bike will result in less pain.

And until someone else is willing to stand up to the industry and challenge the status quo when it comes to pedal design the Catalyst is simply the only pedal designed from this viewpoint.

If you disagree then that is fine, I know that everyone is entitled to their opinion. But if you do have knee pain and are at least curious about what I’ve discussed in this post then I’d like to challenge you to try the Catalyst Pedal and see if there aren’t some assumptions that have been causing you problems and pain on the bike.

Until next time…

Ride Strong,

James Wilson
Pedaling Innovations

MTB Ultimate Program
July
9

One of the only constancies in life is change.

While I’ve been a huge proponent for Kettlebell Swings I’ve come across an exercise that has made me question if it really is the best option for us as mountain bikers.

To see why I’ve started using and recommending Indian Club Swings for building mountain bike specific power and endurance check out this new video where I show you how to do it and break down all the advantages it has over Kettlebell Swings.

Like I said in the video, if you have been using Kettlebell Swings then keep using them. But if you’ve found that they haven’t lived up to your expectations or are just looking for another, more mountain bike specific option then be sure to give Indian Club Swings a try.

I use and recommend the ONNIT brand Indian clubs which you can check out by clicking here.

Until next time…

Ride Strong,

James Wilson

MTB Strength Training Systems

Pedaling Innovations
July
2

Welcome to the world of Steel Mace Training. Based on the ancient Gada, the Steel Mace is the modern version of a training tool that goes back thousands of years.

Used by warriors and wrestlers throughout the centuries to build wrist and grip strength as well as upper body strength, mobility, and endurance, this training tool represents a lost art in the world of strength and fitness training.

As a strength and conditioning coach with almost 20 years experience, I thought I had seen it all when it came to effective training tools, but the Steel Mace proved me wrong. I am now a huge advocate for Steel Mace training and want to help to spread the word about this amazing training tool to the mountain biking community.

As part of that mission, I have put together a manual to go over the basics of Steel Mace training. Like any other training tool, you get out of your training sessions what you put into them and this makes knowing the safest, most effective principles to apply to your training important.

Whether you have already spent some time with the Steel Mace or are just curious about learning more, I hope this manual will help you get more out of your practice.

What Makes the Steel Mace Unique

The first thing that you will notice when training with the Steel Mace is that it feels much heavier than a dumbbell or kettlebell of a similar weight. The reason for this is that it exposes the body to 2 unique forces that few training tools can:

1 – Torque. Because of its offset load, the Steel Mace creates a pivot point in the hand closest to the head of the Steel Mace. This creates a rotational force as the Steel Mace tries to pivot around this point as gravity pulls the mace head down.

The rotational nature of this force places unique stress on the grip, wrist, shoulders, and core as you resist the rotation in order to hold the Steel Mace in position. This lets you train your body to more efficiently handle these forces, which are a big part of handling your bike on the trail.

2 – Leverage. Since a pivot point is created in your hand when holding the Steel Mace, you can move that pivot point to increase or decrease how “heavy” the mace feels. While most training tools require you to change the weight, by changing the pivot point and moving your hand closer or further away from the handle you can change the level of stress being placed on the muscles. This allows you to fine tune how “hard” an exercise is quickly and easily without having to change weights.

These two factors add up to a training tool that challenges your grip and your core in a unique way that no other training tool can.

In addition to exposing the body to new forces, the Steel Mace is also a great way to work on your strength-endurance. Since you can easily connect and flow from one exercise to another, you can create workouts that challenge your strength and cardio in one package.

Plus, it is just a lot of fun to use! There is something primal and satisfying about holding a Steel Mace in your hands and we all know that if you enjoy doing something you are more likely to stick with it.

So if you’re interested in finding out more about Steel Mace Training then download the free 30 Day Workout Program below:

Until next time…

Ride Strong,

James Wilson
MTB Strength Training Systems

MTB Skills and Fitness Program
June
11

If you want to quickly improve your riding you need to work on your standing pedaling power and endurance. When you stand up you improve your power, almost all technical skills require you to get your butt off the seat and it is also better for your knees and low back.

Unfortunately, though, most riders don’t have the core strength, High Tension Cardio and specific skills to really tap into the power of this position. As a result they end up sitting and spinning through almost everything, only standing up when they have to.

But once you address these specific things you can turn Standing Pedaling into a go-to position for you on the bike, helping improve your performance and fun.

I created the Standing Pedaling Program to help you improve your power and endurance from this important position on your bike. Up until a few weeks ago I had it for sale for $39 and it has already helped hundreds of riders just like you… but now I want to give it to you for free.

I’ve even recently updated it so even if you’ve bought it in the past you’ll still want to check out this new version. This free program is a full 4 week training program complete with strength training, cardio training and skills drills that are all geared towards the specific things you need to improve your Standing Pedaling.

And now you can download it for free. Just enter your name and email below to get instant access…

The reason I’m giving this program away is because I’m tired of seeing so many riders shackled to their seat. Standing up is more fun and will help you improve your performance faster than anything else you can do.

I know this because I’ve seen and experience it for myself.

In my time working with a lot of world class riders I noticed that they all tended to stand up more than “regular” riders did. Whether it was standing up to stomp up a short climb, pick their way through a technical section or execute a technical skill like cornering or bunny hopping, they made much better use of the standing position than the other riders I trained.

Eventually I started to use the standing pedaling position more based on what I was learning from how these top riders rode. And what I found out was that while these top riders had a lot of gifts that most of us don’t, anyone can become better at standing pedaling once you know how.

Which is what my goal was with the Standing Pedaling Program. From the 1st version (this is the 3rd) I wanted to give riders a blueprint to help them be able to crack the code on how to improve their standing pedaling power and endurance.

So I’ll hope you’ll download this new free workout program and give it a shot. In the next 4 weeks you can be standing up a lot more – and experiencing the improvements that come as a result – and I know this program can help you do it.


If you have any questions about the program or anything else related to helping you enjoy riding more please let me know, my goal is to help as many people as I can discover the power of strength and mobility training for mountain biking and I appreciate the chance to help you.

Until next time …

Ride Strong,

James Wilson
MTB Strength Training Systems

MTB Fitness Membership Program
May
21

As a mountain bike coach I often wondered why there seemed to be a disconnect between foot position on the bike and foot position in the gym. For a sport where we “needed” to be on the balls of our feet, in 13+ years of training riders I never had someone lift that way in the gym to make it more sport specific.

I noticed that even dynamic, explosive movements like Box Jumps, Olympic Lifts and Kettlebell Swings would start and end with the heel down. In fact, I would often emphasize driving through the heels when lifting and getting the heels down when landing from a jump, effectively trying to minimize the time someone would be creating or absorbing force without their heels down.

It was this disconnect that got me thinking about why I needed stiff soled shoes on my bike but not in the gym. I couldn’t figure out why I got on my bike and my foot turned into a weak, unstable mess that needed stiff soled shoes to maximize performance.

And that was when it hit me…

On the ground I can get heel pressure but on my bike I can’t.

Since my heel is unsupported by the pedal body and hanging in space, I can’t apply pressure through my heel. This compromises my foot’s stability, requiring a stiff soled shoe to try and compensate.

But a stiff sole supporting the heel isn’t the same as the heel being able to apply pressure into the pedal body, which still compromises your movement in three important areas:

———————–

1 – Heel pressure allows for better hip recruitment and less stress on the knees.

This is why I would emphasize to my clients in the gym to drive through or get get their heels down ASAP when landing from a jump. The brain uses pressure sensors in the heel to recruit the hips and without that pressure you are literally not able to recruit the hips as well.

The hips are the main muscles for creating power and absorbing impacts, plus they keep stress off the knees and low back, making heel pressure a must for performance and injury prevention.

2 – Heel pressure allows for more balanced forces going into the pedal, making it a more stable platform for your feet.

Being able to apply pressure through the ball of the foot and heel means that you are now pushing down on both ends of the pedal instead of in the middle. Since the pedal is a rotating platform, applying pressure on both ends makes it easier to stabilize the platform and modulate pressure to either end as needed.

When you have one pressure point in the middle through the ball of the foot and no support under the heel you end up with an unbalanced platform and no way to shift pressure on the pedal body itself, which makes it easier for your foot to roll off the pedal.

3 – Heel pressure allows for better use of the hips when cornering by allowing you to roll the pressure back onto the heels (just like cornering on skis), helping to set your edge and get your hips into a better position.

To get good pressure into the bike to set your edge when cornering you need to be able to shift the pressure from the ball of the foot to the heel. This is the same technique used for cornering on skies and it allows you to drive the bike into the corner, helping to maximize your traction and exit speed.

———————–

When you look at how the foot works you see that it isn’t about being on the ball of the foot or the heel but the ability to apply pressure through both as needed. When you have nothing under the back of the arch then you can’t apply pressure through the heel, taking away that option.

This is why the mid-foot position on your pedals is the best way to apply functional movement to the bike. By supporting both ends of the arch you allow for better hip recruitment and balance, basically applying the same movement principles you work on in the gym to your bike.

The take home message is that how you move off the bike is how you want to move on the bike to maximize your performance and reduce your risk of overuse injuries. That means that if heel pressure is important off the bike then it is important on the bike as well.

But here is the problem…the cycling industry is ignoring these facts. Because they don’t line up with the usual narrative of needing to be perched on the ball of your foot these movement principles and their application are brushed aside when brought up.

And while this is frustrating, the biggest problem is how this mindset affects how pedals are made. Designs that are too small to connect both ends of the arch are the standard, leaving riders with sub-optimal choices for applying the best foot position.

In fact, if it wasn’t for the pedal that I designed and brought to the market you would have no options for a true mid-foot optimized pedal. The Catalyst Pedal is literally the only pedal in the world that will let you apply pressure on both ends of the arch, giving your foot the freedom it needs to thrive.

One day we’ll look back on the foot position advice we are getting today and wonder what took us so long to get this figured out. Once you experience the difference that being able to apply pressure through the entire foot makes to your riding you’ll know that the future of riding belongs to the mid-foot position and the pedals designed to support it.

Until next time…

Ride Strong,

James Wilson
MTB Strength Training Systems

MTB Kettlebell Workout
May
1

Foot pain is something that almost every rider deals with at some point. 

And while the cycling industry has given us some solutions, the problems still don’t seem to get better on a permanent basis for a lot of riders. Sure, getting a bike fit or moving their cleats around can help the pain for a while but it always seems to come back in some form or another.

And, like most riders out there, I used to think that this was a normal part of riding a bike. Experiencing some foot discomfort or pain was just part of the price we paid for the sport we loved…

…or does it?

What if this wasn’t a natural part of the riding experience but instead brought on your own equipment?

What if you could ride pain free and maintain your performance with a few simple tools?

Well, it turns out that this is exactly the case. When your pedals and shoes aren’t giving your foot the right blend of stability and mobility it causes problems for your feet that don’t have to be there.

One of the leading experts on foot pain and cycling are Drs. Marty and Robyn Hughes with NaturalFootGear.com. They have dedicated themselves to promoting the benefits of natural foot movement both on and off the bike and have helped thousands of people overcome foot pain through their work.

They recently put together their list of the Top 5 Tools to Combat Foot Pain When Cycling and I wanted to share it with you as well. It is a great way to get started on the road to foot healthy cycling and enjoying the benefits both on and off the bike.

Click Here to See the Top 5 Tools to Combat Foot Pain When Cycling

Riding a bike doesn’t have to be a pain in the foot (yes, that was a bad joke). With the right tools you can enjoy pain free performance, which can only make riding more fun.

So check out the link above and enjoy more riding with less pain…unless you like having to limp around after a long ride until your feet stop hurting. I’m not going to judge you if you do, just saying that there might be better options.

Until next time…

Ride Strong,

James Wilson

Pedaling Innovations & MTB Strength Training Systems

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Mountain Bike Coach
James Wilson