I know that this isn’t popular to say but the truth is that mountain biking isn’t for everyone.

At least, according to one fitness coaching legend, if you can’t perform a good bodyweight squat then you shouldn’t be doing any sports until you can.

A few weekends ago I had the chance to go to a Steve Maxwell seminar, who is the “heretic” who made this statement more than once during his 6+ hours of presenting on how to improve your sport-specific mobility and strength.

Steve owned the first kettlebell gym on the East Coast…the legendary Maxercise in Philadelphia…and has worked with clients at all levels for over 50 years.

The reason I mention this is that when Steve says stuff like that it isn’t to be controversial. If comes from decades of being able to test and see what works and what doesn’t over the long run.

So, back to what he had to say, if you can’t so this…

…then you need to fix it or your mountain biking will suffer from it.

Just to be clear, a good squat has:

  1. The feet flat with weight evenly distributed (no coming up on your toes!)
  2. The knees track over the feet (no toes out, knees in stances)
  3. The butt gets below the knees with a relatively straight back.

You should be able to drop down and hang out in this position for extended periods of time. Steve mentioned how you’ll see people all over the world sitting in the deep squat and how it is only the hard-core Western World that uses chairs all of the time.

The result of all that sitting is a loss of mobility and core strength that limits your ability to move, including on the trail. Which is why Steve was such a believer in making sure that people can perform some basic movement skills before asking them to perform the specific skills of mountain biking (which is something I’ve always said as well).

In our case, the squat is the fundamental movement pattern behind standing up to pedal on your bike and riders who struggle with it find themselves relying a lot on the sit-and-spin approach to hide their weak squat. This not only makes it harder to use your most powerful pedaling position but it also puts more stress on the low back and knees, leading to overuse injuries with them over time.

The good news is that it doesn’t take a long time to “fix” your squat. In fact, there were a couple people at the seminar who went from “no sports for you” squats to decent squats that passed.

The point was that with the right approach you can quickly impact your usable mobility, which will help your mountain biking and decrease the risk of injury.

While we learned a lot of great stuff, here is a video with a few of the movements that I got a lot from – the Sphinx, Frog Stretch and Bear Squat:

Try doing a few rounds of these movements and re-check your squat to see if it helped. Like I said, there were a lot of great things we learned and your specific sticking points may be different but I’ll be willing to bet that it still helped it.

If you want to learn more I highly recommend checking out one of Steve’s seminars or investing in one of his videos. You can find him and sign up for his newsletter at www.maxwellsc.com.

Hopefully you take the Steve’s challenge to heart and make sure that you improve and maintain your squat, especially as you get older. Mountain biking is something that you can do for a lifetime but only if you do the things now that will keep you in the game.

Until next time…

Ride Strong,

James Wilson

MTB Strength Training

p.s. Need some help with your squat? My MTB Mobility Follow-Along Routines includes 10 follow along videos, including one specifically for your squat.

Mobility is the #1 thing you need to focus on in order to ride hard and remain injury free. For just $19 you can get the only mountain bike specific mobility routine available, which can keep you on the trail and off the couch nursing an injury.

MTB Ultimate Program

I’m kind of a home-body.

I mean, I’ve got everything I need at home.

My family, my dog, my bike and my gym.

But sometimes I have to travel and get out of that comfort zone.

Like today…I’m waking up in Bend Oregon.

I’m here to present at the Venture Outdoor Worx conference, where my pedal company Pedaling Innovations is up for a prize for what we’ve done with the Catalyst pedal so far.

And while Bend is a beautiful place and I’m stoked to be here, I also have to find ways to keep up with my daily strength and mobility practice.

Investing an hour a day in taking care of your meat sack should be a priority for everyone, especially since you only get one of them to get you through your whole life.

I also have to account for a new twist, which is that I am now addicted to using Air B-n-B when I travel and I’ve yet to find one with even a basic gym.

In the past I could at least get a few dumbbells and have a dedicated space to workout but that isn’t the case when you’re renting a room.

Which means that even though I am relatively limited on space and equipment I still have access to two of the most valuable things – bodyweight and breath work.

Using just these two things you can actually put together a super effective workout.

In fact, here is what I have planned for this today…

Marching Breathing Ladders

Bear and Crab Marches

– Jog to the park and see what I can find to play on

– While at the park I’ll throw in some Push Ups, Pull Ups, Bridges and Squats along with trying to find some things that make me jump, hop and duck. Maybe throw some rocks if I can pull it off without looking too crazy…

This workout will take me about an hour and will cover a lot of the movement and fitness bases I need to cover.

Plus, it should be a lot of fun, which is something we should remember to take into account every now and then as well.

The point is that where ever you go, there you are and you can always find a way to do something.

Keep things simple, focus on what you can do and have fun.

Words to live by when traveling and at home.

Until next time…

Ride Strong,

James Wilson

Pedaling Innovations

Well, it’s official – Ryan Leech is one of my favorite people on planet Earth.

Rarely does someone live up to their internet persona but Ryan really is one of the nicest, most giving guys out there.

I’ve had the chance to talk with Ryan via Skype several times (a lot of them are published as podcasts) but I hadn’t had the chance to meet him until last week when he rolled through town and invited me and Aka the Trail Mutt for a ride.

After a ride, some pizza and coffee we were buzzing from all the great energy we had going and so we decided to sit down and do a Facebook Live shoot for his coaching group.

Not wanting to have you guys miss out on the goodness I also set up my mic and recorded what went down.

And what went down was an hour plus long conversation where we covered a lot of ground, including what he learned while creating his jump course, how the foot works and how it really applies to your pedals, the biggest mistake riders make with their cardio training and why a lot of the skills training advice you get is simply wrong.

It was another great talk and we left off with a lot left to discuss. I hope you enjoy this new podcast and get some insights and inspiration to help you enjoy riding even more.

Click Here to Download This Episode of the BikeJames Podcast (right click and save)

And remember to check out Ryan’s coaching group, which offers the best online skills training programs available. Not all skills training advice is created equal and Ryan is one of the few coaches who values movement as much as skill and it shows in how he approaches things.

Until next time…

Ride Strong,

James Wilson

MTB Strength Training Systems

MTB Skills and Fitness Program

When I first started MTB Strength Training Systems in 2005 my main goal was to help other mountain bikers discover the power of a 21st century strength and conditioning program.

In the last 12 years I’ve had the good fortune to help thousands of riders through my online training and coaching programs, but I’ve always felt that I could do more.

Which is why, starting this month, I am going to start sharing a new workout with you each month.

These workouts will follow the demands of a regular riding season, starting this month with the start of your transition from the end of the riding season into off-season training.

They will also be pretty basic – they won’t use any hardcore, complicated exercises or a lot of training equipment.

All you’ll need is bodyweight and a few dumbbells or kettlebells.

My goal is for them to be something that anyone can do with minimal equipment and experience.

To make it as easy as possible I include a warm up, workout and decompression flow with video demos of everything.

You’ll also get a weekly training plan to show you how to best use the workouts.

Now, you might wonder why I might give away a full workout for free each month.

And I’ll admit it, I do have a couple of selfish reasons.

The first one is that I feel good knowing that riders are using and benefiting from all of the hard work I have put in over the years to learn how to create the best programs possible.

And the best way to get more riders to use and benefit from my work is to give some of it away for free.

Which leads me to my second reason, which is that I do hope that if you do decide to invest in a more advanced training program you’ll consider the programs I offer first.

So I see it all as a win-win…more riders get to benefit from my work, I get that fuzzy feeling from knowing I’ve helped and hopefully I sell a few programs along the way.

So, with all of that out of the way, let’s get started with your first Workout of the Month…

The first part of any off-season training program can be tricky.

The goal of this part of your training program is to transition your body into the rigors of off season training while still respecting the current demands you are placing on it.

Trying to balance the accumulated fatigue of the riding season, the fact that you are still riding hard and that you need to do some strength and mobility training isn’t easy.

That’s why I like to focus on bodyweight training during this time of the year.

It is easy to do, portable and relatively easy on the body and joints.

It also builds strength, body awareness and helps condition the body for harder training later on.

Which is why you’ll find that this month’s Group Coaching Workout is taken from my No Gym, No Problem Bodyweight Training Program. By combining the best bodyweight training exercises in the most MTB specific ways, it is the perfect way to start our off-season training.

And you can download it for FREE. Just click on the link below to download the PDF file with everything you need – Warm Up, Workout and Decompression Flow…all with videos included.

Click Here to Download This Month’s Group Coaching Program Workout

I hope you enjoy this month’s workouts and let me know if you have any questions or suggestions regarding the Group Coaching Program.

Until next time…

Ride Strong,

James Wilson

MTB Strength Training Systems

MTB Fitness Membership Program

This month marks a big milestone for me – it’s the 2-year anniversary of the Catalyst Pedals!

That’s right, it’s been 2 years since I sent out that first email letting people know about them and seeing if anyone would be interested in pre-ordering a pair.

And while I was hoping to sell 100 pairs, we ended up getting over 550 pre-orders. That was a great start and in the last 2 years we’ve gone on to sell over 5000 pairs of pedals and help a lot of riders in the process.

To mark the occasion I put together a couple of things.

The first is a podcast where I share the story of how the Catalyst Pedal went from an idea to an actual product that anyone can buy and put on their bike. It was an interesting journey into the manufacturing side of the bike industry and I learned a lot about how things really work behind the scenes.

You can download or stream this podcast below.

Download this episode (right click and save)

I also wanted to get a special limited-edition Catalyst Pedal made, one that captured the humble beginnings of the Catalyst Pedal as a simple prototype with a dream.

To accomplish that we used an anodized Polished Silver…and it came out pretty sweet if I do say so myself.

With the look of a raw aluminum prototype, it perfectly captures the feel of those first Catalyst Pedals I hand assembled in my garage.

But, like all the limited-edition colors we create, there is a very limited supply and once they are gone they are gone for good.

So, if you’d like to get a pair of our special 2-year anniversary pedals then just click on the link below and order yours today:

Click here to order your Polished Silver Catalyst Pedals before they are gone.

And while you’re there you can check out our new website. We had it updated to make it easier to use and learn about the benefits of the Catalyst Pedals. Be sure to let us know what you think!

Thanks for all the support, until next time…

Ride Strong,

James Wilson

MTB Strength Training Systems/ Pedaling Innovations

MTB Kettlebell Workout

In this episode of the BikeJames Podcast I go over the 4 basic physical qualities that make up your physical potential as a mountain biker as well. I also explain what the Specificity Spectrum is and how it applies to these 4 physical qualities as they relate to mountain biking. By understanding where you need to get specific with your training and where you want to stay more general with it you can save a lot of time and energy with your training program.

Until next time…

Ride Strong,

James Wilson

MTB Strength Training Systems and Pedaling Innovations

Download this episode (right click and save)

Mentioned in this episode:

Why You Should Be Doing 5 Reps or Less

Running for Mountain Biking

Pacing Development Strategy

GPP vs. SPP: Why Riding a Road Bike is Different for Roadies

Show Notes:

– Training for a sport like mountain biking requires a balance of 4 things.

– Flexibility: Your ability to move your joints freely through a full range of motion.

– Strength: Your ability to produce tension in the muscles through a range of motion.

– Power: Your ability to apply force quickly through a range of motion.

– Cardio/ Endurance: Your ability to sustain your strength and power.

– It is the combination of these 4 things that make up your physical potential as a rider.

– As a mountain biker, your goal is to use a program that helps you improve these 4 things as they relate to your needs as a rider.

– However, these 4 things are not equal in the need to apply “sport specific” training to them.

– Trying to apply too much or mis-applying sport specific training can actually hold you back so it is important to understand the best way to apply this concept to these 4 things.

– Flexibility is the most general of all the qualities and almost any type of stretching will help your riding This is one reason that “yoga” can be helpful for mountain bikers.

– Strength is a little more specific and starts to require that we think about some things like postures and stances when picking exercises, although you still see a lot of transfer from just “getting stronger”. This is why the deadlift is popular in almost every sport since the strength gains can transfer to a lot of applications.

– Power requires more specific movements and stances to have a lot of transfer to the bike. This is also where you want to get into true “sport specific training” and use your bike for at least some of your power training.

– Cardio/ Endurance is the most specific of all the qualities, which is why the best cardio training you can do for any sport is to practice your sport. While you can and should use some other forms of cardio training in your program, you can’t build real MTB-specific cardio in the gym or on a trainer.

– As a side note, this is why I don’t like to use things that resemble riding our bikes for cardio training. Using a road bike or something that tries to simulate pumping your bike will actually create competing movement patterns since they aren’t exactly the same as riding your bike. Being “close” is actually worse than not resembling it at all, which is why I recommend running or some other form of movement for your non-specific cardio and using your mountain bike for any and all MTB-specific cardio training on the trainer or road.

– So what does this look like in practice?

– Flexibility: 15 minutes a day with 2 longer sessions during the week.

– Strength Training: 2-3 days a week focusing on building strength in the major movement patterns with a slight emphasis on the Hip Hinge and Single Leg/ Lunge patterns.

– Power Training: 1-2 days a week using sprints (both running and on your bike/ trainer) as well as some exercises in the gym for Upper Body and Single Leg power.

– Cardio/ Endurance Training: Ride your bike with an emphasis on the times and efforts you race at (Pacing Development Strategy) while using some long, slow distance runs to round things out.

– Understanding how to apply the specificity concept to each of these 4 physical qualities can help you from wasting time on things that are either too specific or not specific enough to fit your needs as a mountain biker.

MTB DB Conditioning Program
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Mountain Bike Coach
James Wilson