In this episode of the BikeJames Podcast I recap the insights and lessons I took from the recent Perform Better Functional Training Summit. It was a 3 day event in Long Beach that brought in some of the best coaches in the industry to share their knowledge.

It was also a great excuse to catch up with some old friends in the coaching industry and get an idea of where the Functional Training movement is headed. I learned a lot but I also left feeling a little disappointed with some things that I saw. Calling a Steel Mace a Leverbell strictly for marketing purposes, for example.

You can stream or download this episode by clicking the link below. You can also find the BikeJames Podcast on Itunes and Podbean.

Download the MP3 file for this episode (right click and save)

My Big 5 Take Aways from the Perform Better Functional Training Summit:

1 – Leverage and Torque based tension are different than Compression based tension. This is why the Mace and Indian Clubs are more effective for “real world/ farm boy” strength.

2 – The Glute Bridge/ Hip Thrust deserves a spot with Squat and Hinge as lower body movement patterns that need to be trained. Ramping Iso Bridge achieves the goal of the loaded hip thrust.

3 – The hips are made to create and absorb force along multiple planes and they need to be trained that way.

4 – Keto is overrated and misunderstood.

5 – Functional Training needs to evolve past the current “Correctives + Kettlebells” formula.

Until next time…

Ride Strong,

James Wilson

MTB Ultimate Program

I wanted to wrap up this week by explaining in more detail exactly why Ramping Isometrics are a key part of getting stronger. Since releasing my Ramping Isometrics for MTB Training Program earlier this week I’ve had a lot of people asking why they need to use it and it all comes down to helping you get stronger in the fastest and safest way possible.

To understand the real value of this training technique you need to first define the word “strength”. The goal of strength training is, after all, to get stronger so it only makes sense to know what we’re really after.

Strength is usually defined as the ability to exert and/ or resist force. Something else to keep in mind is that implied in this definition is the fact that strength is contextual.

Being strong with running doesn’t equal being strong on a mountain bike – the movements are different and so you need to be able to exert and resist force in different movements for each of these sports.

What this means is that we want to improve our ability to create and resist force within the movements specific to our sport.

To do this we have to look at strength as having two parts.

The first is your ability to generate tension in a muscle. The more tension you can create the more force you can produce and resist with that muscle, which is the building block for strength.

The second is your ability to apply that tension to a movement. The more efficiently you can create movement with that tension the more force you can generate within that movement and the less energy you will use.

So what we need is the ability to create high levels of tension within a muscle and the ability to apply that tension to specific movements.

The mistake we’ve been making is seeing these as the same thing. But in fact they are two different things that can and should be trained separately.

When we try to use movement to generate higher levels of tension we run into problems. Injury risks and the physical toll start to become more of a reality as the risk-to-benefit ratio starts to get higher.

For example, if you wanted to get stronger with you Hip Hinge pattern you would usually use a variety of deadlifting movements. In order to advance the Tension side of things you would start to lift more weight and do more reps, increasing your load and volume in an attempt to get the muscles to produce more tension.

But this also exposes the body to more injury risk as the weak links in the system start to take on more stress. The joints also take on more load over time, leading to more wear and tear.

You also start to hamper the skills and efficiency gains from training. When you are using heavy loads and lots of volume you aren’t “learning” as much as “surviving”. Trying to survive heavy loads in the name of Strength is where a lot of bad movement habits are formed that come back to haunt us down the road.

With Ramping Isometrics you are able to separate Tension Training from Movement Training, which allows you to optimally work on both.

Now you can get into a position – usually the weakest part of a movement pattern – and then safely apply and ramp up the tension in the muscles used in that movement pattern. The intention to move against an immovable object fires the same muscles used to create that pattern…but without the movement itself.

You can also focus on perfect posture and breathing as you take your muscle tension levels higher and higher. I’ve found that the body will sacrifice breathing and posture to get through a movement so when you take the movement part out you have nothing left to focus on than.

This means you can safely ramp up the muscle tension as high as you can go and take it to failure. This allows you to work on the skill of creating tension in a much more effective way than trying to work on it using movement based exercises.

This takes care of the Tension side of the equation but you still have to work on the Movement side as well. And this is where your traditional movement based training and playing your sport come into play.

The best way to transfer your new tension skills to the specific demands of your sport are to play and practice your sport. In fact, Ramping Isometrics plus a heavy dose of practicing and playing your sport is a formula that would work surprisingly well for most people.

This is also where your movement based exercises would also come in. You can still do all your favorite exercises, the difference is that now you treat them as Movement Skill Training and don’t try to train Tension with them.

Research and experience show that you learn best when you are in the Goldilocks Zone, where you are being challenged but not overwhelmed. For most people this is in the 75-85% effort range, which is far below where most people spend their time in the gym.

To go back to the Deadlift example, here is how this would play out in the gym.

You would use Ramping Isometric Deadlifts and other Hip Hinge positions to train the Tension Creation side of things. You would pick 1-2 positions each workout and do 1 set to failure.

Then you would get in the gym once a week and do Deadlifts. However, since you are treating them as working on the skill of picking something up off the ground (which is how you should be looking at it) then you will build up to a few sets in the 80% effort range and go nowhere near failure.

This accomplishes two things. First, as your Ramping Isometric “strength” improves you’ll be able to generate more force in the Deadlift movement pattern.

Second, you’ll be improving the actual movement skills behind the Deadlift in a safe way because you aren’t pushing the limits, only focusing on the improving your technique.

The result is that you are lifting more weight – i.e. getting stronger – with less effort and risk for injury.

And if you’re an athlete, that’s the Holy Grail of sports specific training.

So once you see that Strength consists of two elements – Tension Creation and Movement Skill Efficiency – you can see how there might be a better way to go about developing it. Train each element separately and then bring them together when it counts, which is during your sport.

This is also why I developed the B.P.T.M. System for improving performance. It represents the hierarchy of skills you need to improve:

1 – Breathing (the ability to maintain efficient breathing patterns under stress)

2 – Position/ Posture (think Mobility and the ability to get into positions)

3 – Tension (the ability to create tension in those positions/ postures)

4 – Movement (the ability to create movement within this positions/ postures)

Without the previous elements supporting it then your Movements will be sub-optimal. For a lot of people the Tension level is lacking and that is the gap that Ramping Isometrics fill.

So now that you understand what strength really is you can see how Ramping Isometrics play such an important role in your overall development and results. By addressing Tension and Movement as two different skills you get the best of both worlds while avoiding common problems that plague a lot of us on the path to getting and staying strong.

And remember that you can take advantage of Ramping Isometrics with my new 12-week Ramping Isometrics for MTB Program. It is only $15 and will change how you view getting stronger for mountain biking. Click here to learn more and get your copy today.

Until next time…

Ride Strong,

James Wilson – MTB Strength Training Systems

Pedaling Innovations

Getting better at mountain biking is never easy. It’s a tough sport that requires a different breed of person to excel at.

But while there is no getting around a certain amount of pain and effort, there’s no reason to make things harder on ourselves either.

I mean, we may be crazy but we’re not stupid (at least, most of the time).

This is especially true about your training program. Yes, it is going to require some time and effort but no one wants to spend more time than needed and no one want to get hurt.

Teaching riders how to walk that fine line has been an important part of my mission with MTB Strength Training Systems and I’m always looking for ways to help you get better results in less time and with less risk of injury.

Which is why I am so pumped on Ramping Isometrics. While I thought I had seen it all when it came to safely getting stronger for mountain biking, they opened up a whole new world for me to explore and share with you.

Ramping Isometrics have several benefits that make them a must for mountain bikers. To help explain what they are I shot this video going over what Ramping Isometrics are, how to do them and covering the 3 reasons they should be a part of your program:

In short, Ramping Isometrics have these 3 benefits for mountain bikers…

1 – Safest Way to Build Strength.

Because you are not moving you don’t run the same injury risk as you do with movement based exercises. With Ramping Isometrics you can generate extremely high levels of tension within a movement pattern and it is almost impossible to strain a muscle or joint.

You also are not placing as much compressive force on the joints themselves. This leads to less wear and tear on them, keeping them healthier and feeling better than traditional weight training.

2 – Builds the Top Level of High Tension Cardio.

On the trail you some efforts force you to produce high levels of tension. Grinding up a technical climb, bombing through a rock garden or sprinting for the finish all require this high level of tension and your body has to fuel it.

Ramping Isometrics have you training your cardio system to fuel high levels of tension for 60+ seconds. This requires you to maintain good posture and breathing habits as well, both of which are essential to good cardio on the trail.

Since nothing – not even interval training – can put your body under the same levels of sustained tension Ramping Isometrics let you work on this highest level of High Tension Cardio, giving you better cardio for the hardest efforts on your bike.

3 – Efficient and Convenient Workouts.

While it sounds like something from a late night infomercial, Ramping Isometrics can produce results in just 2 workouts a week, each taking less than 20 minutes to complete. That’s less than 40 minutes of training time needed to see noticeable results in the trail.

And since all you need is a jiu-jitsu belt, a rope or even a large beach towel they don’t require any special, expensive equipment. They also travel well, letting you stay consistent with your training while on the road.

That makes them the most efficient and convenient training method I have come across. And since the #1 reason riders give for not strength training is lack of time and/ or equipment, Ramping Isometrics can make strength training accessible to far more people.

They have been a game-changer for myself and the people I work with. Over the last year I’ve been using them as the cornerstone of my own training and I’ve learned a lot of lessons about the best ways to use them for mountain biking.

Based on these lessons I have put together a new 12-week program that you can get for just $15. Click the link below to learn more and get your copy.

Ramping Isometrics for MTB

Until next time…

Ride Strong,

James Wilson

MTB Skills and Fitness Program

Ramping Isometrics are the most effective training technique I’ve found for the unique demands of mountain biking. Able to increase your MTB specific strength and cardio with workouts that take less than 20 minutes, they have completely changed how I train myself and the small handful of riders I work with.

I’ve been using a Ramping Isometric training program for almost a year now, giving me a lot of insight into how to best use them for improving your performance on the trail. And now I’m ready to share those insights and the power of this unique training method with you.

I just finished the Ramping Isometrics Training Program for Mountain Biking manual and you can download it now for just $15. I’m also throwing in two bonuses – my MTB Mobility Training Manual and my MTB Skills Training Plan.

Click here to get your copy for just $15.

If you have some questions you can learn more about the program and the benefits of Ramping Isometrics by clicking the link below. I also have an FAQ section at the bottom that covers a lot of the common questions I get about the workouts.

Click here to learn more about the Ramping Isometrics for MTB Training Program

Ramping Isometrics have a lot to offer us as mountain bikers and I hope that this new program will help you as much as it has me. I’ll be in touch later this week highlighting some of the unique benefits of this type of training but in the meantime get your copy and so you can get started with them today.

Until next time…

Ride Strong,

James Wilson

p.s. Seriously, I can’t emphasize enough how much Ramping Isometrics have helped me and the people I work with. They are a complete game-changer and I think they will be a major part of functional training in the future. Get you copy of the manual today and let me help you get the same results I’ve come to expect from this type of training.

Click here to learn more about the Ramping Isometrics for MTB Training Program

MTB Fitness Membership Program

For a lot of cyclists, low back pain is just a part of riding their bike. Whether it hurts before, during or after riding (or all 3 for a lot of people) they know that throwing their leg over their bike will most likely result in their low back getting angry with them.

And while there are exceptions, in my experience a lot of this pain is avoidable. Brought on by mobility and movement dysfunctions, once you address the root of the problem then your low back isn’t under as much stress.

If you are experiencing or just want to avoid low back pain then here are 3 tips that will help you have more fun and less pain from riding…


1 – Improve Your Hip and Thoracic Mobility.

Your low back is caught between two areas that are notoriously tight for most riders – the hips and the upper back between the shoulder blades. When one or both of these areas is tight and can’t move like they should then the low back comes into play more to make up for it.

The problem is that the low back isn’t meant to create a lot of high stress movement. Just like using your lower back for squats or deadlifts in the gym, you can get away with it for a little while but eventually this overuse will catch up to you.

This is one of the reasons that mobility training is one of – if not the most – important thing for you to focus on when you are off of the bike. The nature of riding a bike creates a lot of tightness and tension in the hips and upper back and this leads to movement dysfunctions that impact the low back.

Spending 10-15 minutes a day focusing on these areas will make a big impact on your mobility and help take a lot of stress of the low back as a result.

2 – Stand Up More To Pedal.

Look, there is no getting around how dysfunctional sitting in the Adult Fetal Position is on your bike. There is an entire industry that revolves around finding the right “fit” to put the best polish on that turd but at the end of the day seated pedaling has a lot of drawbacks for your low back compared to standing pedaling.

A few things to consider about this spinal nightmare…

  • Sitting down on your seat disengages your core to some extent. Not entirely, but as soon as your core has the stability provided by the seat it disengages to save energy. This is one of the reasons that seated pedaling “feels easier”…your core isn’t as active which isn’t good news for your spine.
  • Sitting down makes it harder to engage your glutes. Your glutes have to engage simply to hold you up and keep you balanced on your seat. If they are engaged doing that then they can’t create as much power. This makes it harder to use your hips to drive the pedals stroke and some of that load goes to the low back, which again isn’t made for that.
  • Sitting down has you working the weakest and tightest range of motion in your hip hinge. It is like doing the bottom half of your deadlift over and over again. This is where you are weakest and most likely to need to compromise spine position to make up for tight hips. When you stand up you are working the top of your range of motion, which is much stronger and easier to maintain a better spine position.

To be honest this list could go on and on. Your body simply never expected for you to sit down and try to apply movement and energy with your legs and isn’t really built for it.

The answer is to use Standing Pedaling more. The key word here is more. I’m not saying to stand up all of the time, simply to work on standing up more.

Like anything else on your bike there is a specific skill and fitness behind it that will get better as you use it more. This will make it easier and let you do it more, eventually leading to a riding style that lets you use Standing Pedaling for your hard efforts and Seated Pedaling for easier and recovery efforts.

3 – Stabilize Your Foot Properly.

Anyone who has had any contact with the Barefoot Running/ Training movement over the last few years knows that everything starts with the foot. If it isn’t functioning properly then everything else in the body will be off trying to make up for it.

This applies to the bike just as much as it does anywhere else. However, it is one of the most overlooked aspects of cycling related low back pain.

At its heart your foot is an arch. The arch is one of the strongest forms in all of nature and provides a dynamic base to work from as you can shift weight from one end to the other as needed for balance.

But these things only work if you have both ends of the arch stabilized. Destabilize one end and the whole thing falls apart.

Now when you press down into it you have one end collapsing, which requires energy from the foot to hold up and loses some of the power going into the pedal.

You also lose the ability to apply pressure through both ends as needed. For example, your foot requires pressure through the heel to be able to recruit the hips – if you don’t have anything under the heel for it to apply pressure into then the hips can’t fire and the low back winds up taking the slack.

With a platform that stabilizes both ends of the arch you can get better hip recruitment, plus it makes it easier to stand up and pedal since your feet and calves aren’t working as hard to hold up the back of the arch themselves.

Of course, you will always have those that claim you don’t need heel pressure and that you instead want to be on the ball of your foot when riding. I won’t get into debunking their rather silly claims here – I did so in detail in The Mid-Foot Manifesto Podcast – but I will say that if you are on the ball of your foot and suffer from a tight, painful low back then it may be worth at least considering another option.


Once you do these 3 things then you body can move better and rely less on dysfunction to get your through your rides. This means that the stress is being placed on the right areas and spread out over the body instead of being focused on the low back.

To help you with these things I have two pieces of advice…

First, if you haven’t done it already then be sure to sign up for the free Standing Pedaling Solution Program. It is a 4 week workout program that addresses a lot of the mobility and strength issues I refer to in this article as well as direct skills training advice on how to apply your better movement to the trail.

Second, get a pair of Catalyst Pedals. As the only pedal on the market that is long enough to support and connect both ends of the arch, I designed it to be your best option for achieving a strong, functional pedal stroke. It also makes standing pedaling much easier since you aren’t balanced on your toes, helping you to stop relying so much on the Adult Fetal Position on the trail.

Riding mountain bikes hurts enough already so why make it harder than necessary by suffering through low back pain? Apply this advice and you’ll be able to stop the cycle of pain and dysfunction, letting you enjoy riding even more.

So give this advice a shot and let me know how it works for you.

Until next time…

Ride Strong,

James Wilson

MTB Kettlebell Workout

Warning: Do not listen to this podcast if your identity as a rider is tied up in your clipless pedals because you won’t like what you hear and I’d hate to ruin your day.

In this podcast I dig into the claims used to sell clipless pedals and expose why they are nothing but gimmicks.

Which makes clipless pedals a gimmick, sold to unsuspecting riders who trust that those they rely on for information have actually looked into it for themselves.

But enough of that right now, check out the podcast and let me know what you think…

Download this episode (right click and save)

Until next time…

Ride Strong,

James Wilson

Show Notes:

  • The definition of the word Gimmick: A trick or device used to attract business or attention.
  • This includes things that are untrue and have no basis in science or facts.
  • Clipless pedals are sold based on two things that based on this definition are, in fact, gimmicks.
  • The first is the Round Pedal Stroke and the Need to Pull Up on the Backstroke.
  • There are countless graphics illustrating a “perfect” pedal stroke that have never been seen or re-created using an actual EMG.
  • Real EMG readings look nothing like those charts.
  • That makes these charts untrue and, by definition, a gimmick since they only exist to help attract attention and business for clipless pedals.
  • The second gimmick is being on the ball of the foot and the need for a repeatable foot position.
  • Again, there is no science to back up either claim.
  • What studies do exist are either unclear or actually point towards a more mid-foot position.
  • The body is also not designed to be locked into the same movement over and over again, which leads to overuse injuries from not enough “noise” in the movement pattern.
  • This is why machine training is bad for your joints compared to free weights… now imagine doing thousands of reps locked into a machine.
  • Both of these things have no basis in science or functional movement principles, making them “a trick used to attract business or attention”. In other words, a gimmick.
  • In my mind this makes clipless pedals the biggest gimmick in mountain biking since they are sold to most people based on these untruths.
  • They also have some very real drawbacks that no one wants to discuss.
  • First, they force a very unnatural movement onto the legs.
  • Your legs are not designed to apply force in a straight line but instead uses a spiral or screwing motion as it applies force into the ground.
  • If you do this motion on a clipless pedal you either move within the free motion known as float – which is like applying force into ice and wastes energy – or you end up unclipping.
  • This forces you to either let your knees bow in to create some of that spiral – which is bad for your knees – and/ or you end up learning how to minimize that spiral and move in a straight line up and down.
  • Second, when cornering you need to be able to apply pressure in a spiral motion into the pedals to “set the edge” and drive the movement. If you do this on clipless pedals you float/ and or unclip which, again, forces an unnatural movement on the bike.
  • Last, your foot wants to apply pressure into “the ground”, or something that is supporting it from the bottom. A stiff soled shoe is not supporting your foot, only making it stiff. You need something underneath that it can apply pressure into for it to be supported.
  • If you have the foot supported by the pedal then you can’t twist your foot, which is good for the foot because it allows the spiraling motion since your foot can’t twist but it is bad for getting unclipped since you can’t turn your foot.
  • This means that a properly supported foot literally can’t turn like you would need it to in order to unclip, making it very hard if not impossible to clip in and allow natural foot movement through a proper platform.
  • They are also more dangerous, especially for beginners, and the consequences of not getting unclipped are much worse than slipping a flat pedal (head, shoulder or arm injuries vs. cut up shins).
  • These very real drawbacks are never brought up or discussed in the cycling world and we only hear about the gimmicks used to prop up their “superiority”.
  • I’ve also had conversations with people in the cycling industry who admit that they are overhyped and sold to people who don’t need them but because they companies that sell them pay for advertising and sponsorships it isn’t worth saying anything, giving me insights behind the curtain that most riders simply don’t have.
  • So what would you call a product that is sold based on a gimmick and has very real drawbacks that are never discussed or simply downplayed? I call it a problem for our sport but we’ll be nice and just call it a wonderfully successful gimmick.
  • If you think I’m wrong then I challenge you to simply look into for yourself. I’m willing to bet that less than 1 in 1000 riders out there who ride clipless pedals have ever done this and that if more did then we’d be having a very different conversation as a sport.
  • I’ve put together the Flat Pedal Revolution Manifesto to help riders learn the truth and break free of the gimmicks that we’ve been sold in the past and it’s a great place to start if you are really curious about the truth about foot position and pedal stroke.
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James Wilson