One of the biggest challenges I face during the riding season is balancing my training and riding. I know that my strength and movement is the base for my mountain bike specific fitness and so I need to do something to keep them high. But I also don’t want to be sore and tired when I ride so I can’t push myself as hard in my training as I do in the off season.
That’s why I use some very specific training methods during the riding season. Some might call it “In-Season Training” but I just call it training smart so I can play hard.
One of my favorite training methods to keep me strong and moving well while also leaving me fresh enough to ride as much as I want is adapted from the Easy Strength Program. This is a workout method written about by kettlebell pioneer Pavel Tsatsouline and strength coach extraordinaire Dan John.
The idea is to help athletes get strong as easily possible. Instead of finding out what you can survive, you find out how little you can do and still see the best results. This way you put as little energy as possible into strength training while still putting in enough to maintain, or even increase, your strength.
The basic premise of the program is pretty simple…
– Use the same exercises every time you train but switch up the sets and reps each time. This helps develop neurological efficiency in the exercises since you are getting a lot of practice with them. The more neurologically efficient you are with an exercise the less sore you’ll get from it and the stronger you’ll get at it.
– Don’t go to failure or even come close to it when training. You want to stay at the edge of your comfort zone and avoid placing max effort stress on the body. Again, this helps avoid excessive soreness while allowing you the best quality reps to help you practice the exercises.
Dan John suggests focusing on 6 movements:
1 – Hip Hinge: This is the movement pattern behind your deadlift and kettlebell swing in the gym and your seated pedaling power and basic body position when descending on the bike.
2 – Squat: This is the movement pattern behind your squats and lunges off of the bike and standing pedaling on the bike.
3 – Push: This is the movement pattern behind push ups and shoulder presses off of the bike and the ability to move in a strong, stable manner through your full range of motion with your arms on the bike.
4 – Pull: This is the movement pattern behind rows and pulls ups/ chin ups off of the bike and keeping your front end planted when climbing on the bike.
5 – Loaded Carry: This is the movement pattern behind farmer’s walks and sled pushes off of the bike and pressurized breathing and maintain posture under stress on the bike.
6 – “Everything Else”: This is where you would put stuff like the Turkish Get Up, specific core work or other exercises that might not fall into one of these other categories. Personally, I like to focus on the Turkish Get Up with this one.
This is a great list to work from and if you are looking for a true minimalist routine then you’d be hard pressed to find something better. However, I like to add two more movements to my workouts to help me focus on some things I’ve found are extremely beneficial for us as mountain bikers.
7 – Crawling: Getting down on the ground and crawling around is one of the best things you can do to help restore your core functions, improve shoulder position and off-set the affects of the rounded spine we find ourselves in so much in our lives and on the bike.
8 – The Windmill: This exercise works on the lateral hip hinge we need to corner our bikes properly. By having some variation of it in every workout I make sure I am always working on and refining this all-important movement.
By picking one exercise from each category and then practicing it for the next 4 weeks you’ll get to know it pretty well, which is really one of the best things you can do. I tell my clients that it is only after you start to get a little bored with an exercise can you really start to learn it and improve the subtle things that make the big differences in the long run.
The trick to making this approach work is to cycle your sets and reps each time you train. This is the stimulus for your body to improve and adapt since you never do the same sets and reps twice in a row.
As far as specific sets and reps, a lot depends on some of your overall goals so there isn’t one that works the “best”. In general I like to use sets and rep ranges that keep my total reps for each exercise in the 20-30 range (4 sets of 6 reps, 3 sets of 8 reps and 2 sets of 12 reps for example).
This approach is pretty simple, but that doesn’t mean it is easy. You still have to have the discipline needed to stay consistent with your training and put in some focused effort. But the reward is being able to ride faster, longer and with more confidence on your bike which is more than worth it.
And while you can take the info from this article and put together a workout for yourself, if you want someone to take the guesswork out of the process I have a new workout program I just finished based on this approach.
This is actually the same program I used last month after realizing that I needed to improve my strength levels. I’d had to take some time off from a tweaked knee and I could feel it on the trail. I wanted a program I could use that would let me improve my strength in the basic lifts while also keeping me fresh enough to hit the local trails and the new DH tracks that were built 45 minutes from my house.
After 4 weeks on this program I could feel a real difference in my strength levels and how it translated to the trail. Everything just feels easier when you’re stronger and I liked the results so much I wanted to share the program with you.
The workouts do require access to a set of kettlebells or dumbbells but they are pretty simple with no crazy, complex exercises. I just wanted to keep it simple and focus on moving more weight in some basic lifts.
The 4 week program includes everything you need to get started right away, including a Program Manual with Training Logs and Video Demos of the program. Each workout has a Warm Up to get you moving better and ready to train, a Workout to improve your strength levels and a Decompression Flow to help keep your joints healthy and help speed recovery.
And you can get it for just $8. That’s right, just $2 a week gets you a blueprint that you can follow to help you improve your mountain bike specific fitness, helping you enjoy riding even more and avoid any potential late season slumps. Oh, and it comes with a 30 day money back guarantee so you really have nothing to lose.
Balancing the need to stay strong with the need to ride our bikes is one of the trickiest parts of being a mountain biker. The Easy Strength method is one of the best ways to get stronger while minimizing soreness and allowing for plenty of energy to ride your bike, making it a great In-Season workout to keep you riding strong while helping to avoid a late season slump.
I hope you got some good info from this post to help guide your training and that you check out my latest workout using the Easy Strength method. It has helped me a lot over the last 4 weeks and I know it can help you too.
Until next time…
MTB Strength Training Systems