They say that the road to hell is paved with good intentions and the longer I’m alive the more I realize that it is true. We are often sent on the road of frustration and dead ends based on someone trying to help us with what ultimately proved to be bad advice.

In the fitness world I see it all the time with training and nutrition advice. Well meaning people gave someone some advice about how to train or eat but that advice ultimately made things worse.

Some good examples of this are “you don’t need strength training for cycling sports”, “eating fat makes you fat”, “spend a lot of time on the road bike building your base” and “the key to performance is knowing how to refuel while you ride”.

All of these are pieces of advice that may be good for some riders in some situations but in the wrong hands they can create problems. This is why I tell new clients that it is usually easier to work with someone who hasn’t had any training before because I don’t have to undo as many bad habits before we can start building new ones.

And this problem doesn’t stop in the gym. Every day new riders are given advice about how to ride their bikes that ultimately holds them back from realizing their potential on the trail.

One of the biggest examples of this is the advice to “sit and spin” as much as possible and only to stand up when absolutely necessary. This is the worst advice possible for a mountain biker because it doesn’t teach riders how to use the standing pedaling position to their greatest advantage and instead to rely on momentum and hope.

In this video I show you how the “sit and spin” advice makes it harder to ride through technical trail sections and how standing up makes things much easier. Getting off your seat makes it easier on you and the trail.

As you can see in the video, the key to getting through sections like that is skill and technique. Anytime you need to display skill and technique you have to get your butt off the seat – it is impossible to execute any skills while sitting down.

BTW, I know that some of you may think that you need to keep your butt on the seat for traction, especially on climbs. The problem is that when you really look at how this works you see that your butt being on the seat doesn’t help anything.

I’ve made a blog post with a video explaining this in more detail but the short version is this – you don’t want weight on the back tire, you want pressure, and you can create that pressure between your hands and feet instead of your crotch and feet.

The “sit and spin” advice may work for road riding but mountain biking isn’t the same thing. It is a much more dynamic sport that requires you to use skill instead of only relying on pedaling fitness.

The first step to getting out of your own personal “technical rock garden hell” is to stop following the sit and spin advice. Learn how to use standing pedaling as a strength and you’ll see sections like that being something you look forward to instead of avoiding.

Until next time…

Ride Strong,

James Wilson

MTB Ultimate Program

Hope you had a great holiday weekend. I had a good one myself, getting some riding in with Aka the Trail Mutt.

Aka is getting a little older – just like his master – but he just refuses to slow down. I joke that he gets me out as much as I get him out but it’s true…without his enthusiasm for getting out on the trail as much as possible I probably would have skipped more than a few rides over the last 7+ years.

But I’m always glad when I do get out. The combination of being in nature, getting the “runners high” from a long, grinding climb and the adrenaline rush of some sweet momentum fueled fun is something that never gets old.

Nothing else provides this combination of soul-recharging elements, which is what makes mountain biking so unique. The struggle it provides and the environment it provides it in are the things that keep me coming back to the trail after almost 2 decades of riding.

That’s also why I love sharing my passion for riding and training with everyone. I know that mountain biking isn’t easy but with a little knowledge you can fast-track you progress and avoid unnecessary frustrations.

Which brings us to this week’s podcast. In this new BikeJames Podcast I cover some topics that I think will help you ride faster, longer and with more confidence on the trail.

This Week’s Podcast Topics

Rider Q & A: Why does my female training partner who can’t deadlift as much as me (load or strength-to-weight ratio) outclimb me? Doesn’t my higher deadlift strength mean I’ll have more power and can outclimb her?

Bro Science: Three studies that tell us the characteristics of a good mountain biker.

Training: Why Crossfit or “Mixed Cardio” isn’t as good as “regular cardio” for MTB specific training.

Skills: Cockpit Control workshop overview and insights.

Equipment Review: Neat Ice Bag

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

Click Here to Download the MP3 File For This Episode

Until next time…

Ride Strong,

James Wilson
MTB Strength Training Systems

Pedaling Innovations

This past month has been pretty busy with the opening of my new training facility in Fruita CO. I call it The Catalyst Training Center and I’m excited about this next evolution of MTB Strength Training Systems.

It’s the perfect spot to help more riders who not only live in this area but are visiting as well. With some of the best trails in the world just a short drive from it, Fruita has become one of the most popular riding destinations in the US.

The Catalyst Training Center will offer riders a unique chance to work on their skills and fitness in one location. With space to work on skills drills right outside the gym it is the perfect way to help riders move better off their bikes and then apply that better movement to their bike skills.

It’s also going to be the only place to learn about my new training system based on the different types of tension your body has to face on the trail. If you’ve been following my stuff over the last year or so you’re probably aware of how much I like isometric training because it trains our body in a way that movement based training can’t but there’s more to the story.

One of my biggest insights over the last few years is how the leverage based tension plays such a huge role on the trail but most of the training tools we use – including the kettlebell – don’t work on this specific type of tension. Focusing too much on the compression based tension you get from barbells, dumbbells and kettlebells leaves a gap in our functional strength and explains why “gym strength” doesn’t always translate to the trail.

I’m also offering free monthly skills clinics and weekly workouts, I just want to get riders in here so I can help them have more fun on their bikes. If you’d like to learn more about what the Catalyst Training Center has to offer visit www.catalysttrainingfruita.com or email me and I’ll send you more info.

But even if you can’t make it here to train with me in person you can still take advantage of the work I’m doing here by using the Workout of the Month. Based on the new training system I’m creating and using here, it’s a great way to improve your MTB specific strength and fitness.

You can download the workout by signing up below below. Just enter your email and you’ll get the link to download the PDF to your computer. Each exercise has a link to a video demo so you have everything you need to get going.

Remember to start and end your workout with some sort of mobility routine. It’s important to be moving well before you start training, otherwise you’re just laying fitness on top of dysfunction. You can check out this blog post for a follow-along demo of a good routine to use if you need one.

BTW, you’ll see I incorporate some unique training tools and methods like Ramping Isometrics and the Steel Mace into these workouts. I do provide some alternatives if you don’t have some of the training tools I do but it’s a good way to see how to use these things in a workout.

Moving how we train for our sport forward has been the mission of MTB Strength Training Systems since I started back in 2005 and the Catalyst Training Center marks another step on that journey. Sharing what I’m doing here through the Workout of the Month is something that I hope will help you on your journey as well.

Until next time…

Ride Strong,

James Wilson
MTB Strength Training Systems

MTB Skills and Fitness Program

Nothing kills the momentum of your riding season like getting hurt.

And while some injuries are unavoidable, a lot of injuries that mountain bikers suffer from can be avoided. This is especially true if the injury is an ache or pain that gets worse until you have to take time off.

The low back is a great example of this. The vast majority of low back pain out there didn’t come from a hard wreck. It came from a general low back discomfort progressing to pain.

And while the low back is the most common example of this, the same holds true for shoulders, knees and hips. If you’ve been popping Advil to get you through a ride because of pain in these areas odds are you don’t have to be suffering.

A lot of what causes aches and pains like this are tight muscles causing movement dysfunctions which lead to overuse injuries. In other words, if you have an area that is tight and isn’t able to move freely, it puts a lot of stress on other areas, which leads to the problems.

This is why I put so much emphasis on mobility and movement quality in my training programs. If you don’t move well it is only a matter of time until you get hurt so it has to be a priority.

Helping riders apply this to their own training is why I created programs like the Low Back Pain Solution and the MTB Follow-Along Mobility Videos. They help you move better, which helps you feel and perform better as well.

Since this is the time of year that a lack of mobility starts to rear its ugly head and threaten to bite you in the butt I wanted to help out by putting together an Early Season Tune Up Bundle, which includes 3 of the best programs for getting and keeping things headed in the right direction:

1 – The 30 Day Low Back Pain Solution. This is a 30 day plan to help you move better AND apply that better movement to your bike. By connecting your off-bike training with specific on-bike skills and strategies you can see a huge improvement in your low back pain in just a few weeks.

2 – The MTB Follow-Along Mobility Videos. This is a collection of follow-along mobility videos created for mountain bikers. With routines that focus on different problem areas like the shoulders, hips or knees AND routines that focus on specific skills for your riding (a Cornering Focused Mobility Routine anyone?) this is a resource you’ll use for a long time.

3 – Ramping Isometrics for MTB. OK, so this isn’t exactly a “mobility and movement” focused program but your isometric strength plays a big role on your ability to maintain good movement as you push harder. Being able to maintain good posture and breathing as you ramp up the tension with this program teaches you to maintain those things better on the trail, which helps you stay strong and efficient with your riding. Plus, it’s a great in-season program and makes a good follow up to the Low Back Pain Solution.

And right now you can get all 3 programs for only $19. That’s 60% off the price of this bundle if you bought these programs separately, but it’s only available through this weekend.

Click Here to Buy The Early Season Tune Up Bundle for only $19

Don’t wait until you have to take time off to address any nagging problems. Taking a proactive approach with the programs in this bundle will help you avoid unnecessary injuries while also helping you ride faster, longer and with more confidence on the trail.

Until next time…

Ride Strong,

James Wilson

MTB Fitness Membership Program

This week I’ve got a new BikeJames Podcast for you. A lot has happened since the last one and I had a few interesting topics to share, including…

  • The opening of my new Catalyst Training Facility in Fruita CO
  • Rider Q&A: Is speed determined by power?
  • Why your handlebars are too wide
  • Resistance Bands: Why I like them and some experiments with them
  • Bro Science: The role of emotions on Pacing Strategy

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

Click Here to Download the MP3 File For This Episode

Until next time…

Ride Strong,

James Wilson
MTB Strength Training Systems

MTB Kettlebell Workout

One of the most disheartening things I’ve seen over the last few years is the popularity of wide handlebars. Almost every rider I see is on bars in the 800 mm range, with few if any using bars in the 700-725 mm range.

This is a result of the infamous “elbows out” advice that was born in the days of super narrow handlebars and elbows collapsing into the rib cage as a result. Wider bars made it easier to keep the elbows out and, in typical human fashion, the industry thought if a little wider is good then really wide must be better.

The skills coaching industry jumped on the “elbows out” bandwagon as well, encouraging people to go from simply getting their elbows off their ribs to sticking their elbows out as far as possible. And since you could get your elbows out wider when you got the hands out wider, growing bar sizes helped push this trend along.

Fast forward to today and you see an epidemic of what I call the “scarecrow posture”, where riders have their elbows sticking straight out, looking like a scarecrow on a bike. We’ve been told that this makes you look “pro” and is the key to unlocking your stability and skills on the bike.

The problem is that this is not true. The wide elbows/ scarecrow posture on the bike actually robs you of range of motion and stability on the bike, especially as you get lower into your Attack Position.

I’ve posted a few articles about this and the other problems the wide hands/ elbows out posture cause, but, in the end, talk is cheap. Everyone has their theory but the real test is how does it affect your movement and stability on the bike.

So this time I had the chance to perform a case study for you. My wife Kiele just got a new bike and, of course, it came with 800 mm wide bars.

These were way too wide and in this video I got the chance to show you how this posture affected her range of motion and stability on the bike, as well as how I suggest finding the right handlebar width for you.

Like I point out in the video, the wide hands/ elbows out posture is a common compensation for having weak upper back and core muscles specific to that position. Just look at how a lot of kids perform their push ups with the same posture – they lack the strength needed and create a compensation by “suspending” their upper body between their arms.

I know it isn’t popular in today’s atmosphere of “don’t tread on my self esteem by pointing out how I can improve”, but the reason that a lot of riders prefer the feel of wider bars is that it lets them tap into this same compensation. If it isn’t a compensation we would allow off of the bike then it isn’t something we should be relying on the bike as well.

In my experience almost no one needs bars wider than 800 mm and the vast majority of riders should be in the 700-725 mm range. Much wider than this and you are probably trying to tap into this same compensation since it is compromising your movement and stability.

For example, I’m 5’11” and run a 710 mm bar. I built up with everyone else to an 800 mm bar and gradually cut back to a 750 mm bar before taking the plunge to 710 mm. Doing this made standing pedaling easier, improved my cornering and helped relieve some elbow pain I had been having after years of wide bars and having my elbows too far out.

But, again, talk is cheap.

You can do the same test I show in the video and if you can’t go through a full range of motion – getting your chin all the way down to within a few inches of the stem – or you can’t do it without losing your shoulder position then your hand position is compromising your movement and stability.

Don’t let your handlebars width interfere with your riding. Develop good, strong movement off of the bike and apply it to the bike through bars that allow for a more powerful, stable hand position and you’ll find it easier to move on your bike.

Until next time…

Ride Strong,

James Wilson

p.s. I would like to proactively point out that yes, I know that riding a bike isn’t like doing a bunch of push ups. I don’t know why when I use an exercise to demonstrate a wider movement principle people like to latch onto it and say that is all I think riding a bike is, which simply isn’t true.

In this case, I started to make the real connection with how my wide handlebars were really affecting me when I got into Steel Mace Training. You learn real quick with exercises like the row that having your hands too wide reduced the range of motion and stability for that leverage based tool.

There are a lot of movement and exercise examples that show that we have a sweet spot for our arms/ elbows and having them too narrow or too wide causes problems off the bike. By applying these lessons to the bike we can improve our position and movement on the bike.

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James Wilson