A Simple Approach to Peaking for an Event

This coming Saturday will be my first Brazilian Jiu Jitsu tournament and I have to admit that I am a bit nervous about it. While I ran track in high school and college and have competed in a handful of mountain bike races it has been a long time since I signed up for something that I knew was going to challenge me physically like this will. Because of this I planned a small Peaking Cycle into my training program that can give you some good insight into how to peak for a big race or ride that you may have coming up this season.

Peaking for an event like an important mountain bike race/ ride or a BJJ tournament doesn’t have to be overly complicated. My first step was to plan 2 workouts that would let me focus on maximizing my strength and power. 8 weeks out from the tournament I started using the following workouts as the backbone of my program:


Workout A – Strength FocusKB Floor Press

Deadlifts 1 X 5/3/2 Reps – adding weight each set building up to a heavy double

Double Kettlebell Floor Press 1 X 2/3/5 Reps – using a rep ladder with 32 kg Kbs

Double Kettlebell Farmers Walk 3 X Max Steps

Workout B – Power Focus

Banded Swings 3 X 10-15 Reps

Push Press 3 X 4-6 Reps


For these workouts I would build up the intensity over the course of 3 weeks and then back off for a week to recover. This gave me 2 cycles through this plan and would give a a recovery week before the tournament.

These short but intense workouts also gave me the time and energy I needed to log a lot of time on the mats. Nothing can prepare you for your sport like doing your sport and for me that meant 6-10+ hours a week doing BJJ drills, attending class and rolling. Like my strength training program I would build up to a big week (10+ hours on the mats) and then back off a bit the 4th week, although not as much as I would with my strength training.

All of this time practicing BJJ also acted as my cardio and I didn’t do as much, especially during the weeks that I was rolling a lot. When I did do cardio I was careful that the workouts didn’t drain me too much so that I would be able to train BJJ later – when you are peaking for an event you have, your workouts can’t interfere too much with your specific preparation for your sport.

While the specific things I did to prepare for a BJJ tournament are different than what you’d do to prepare for an important mountain bike race/ ride the principles are the same.

1 – Spend 80-90% of your time practicing your sport. This means trail rides, skills drills and on bike cardio training. You can’t become a better rider in the gym, you have to put in the saddle time.

2 – Focus on maximizing your strength and power in the weeks leading up to the event. I suggest having a workout that focuses on strength and one that focuses on power like the example I gave above or the new Conjugate Training Phase I created last month for my Personal Coaching Members site.

3 – Build up to a planned over-reaching week and then back way off 7 days out from the event. I would suggest cutting back to 2 days on the trail and even then keeping the ride distances pretty low, about 40% of what you did the previous week. You want to strength train twice that week as well but you want to cut the volume back there as well. The idea is to back off enough to let your body recover without backing off so much you lose some MTB specific fitness and strength.

RollingWhether it is an important race or a big riding weekend you have been planning all year, for most riders this simple approach will work extremely well in helping you peak for a specific date on the calendar. Even though I’m feeling the effects of finishing my last hard week of training I know that in 6 days I’ll be feeling strong, fit and ready to rock. Hopefully I don’t get armbarred in the first 30 seconds so I can put that fitness to good use but either way I’m sure I’ll have some great stories and insights to share with you from my experience.

-James Wilson-

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  1. Toni Watson says:

    Hi James,

    Thanks for sharing your advice on peak practice. One other thing you could mention, which I’m currently implementing (I’m returning from a long period out due to non-sport-related injury), is to pencil into a planning schedule towards a main event, smaller allied events spread out at regular intervals, for example duathlons – on and off road, aquathlons and other similar endurance events, but events/activities that mix up the upper body, core, strength and endurance alongside the everyday practice of skills on the bike. This time of year (at least here in Britain) the weather can be pretty off-putting for enjoyable days out on the bike, so these smaller types of events can help to keep both the motivation levels up and to give an incentive to venture out from the gym more frequently.

    Cheers, keep up the good work and good luck with your competition.

    Reply • March 25 at 2:32 pm
    • bikejames bikejames says:

      I’m a big believer in doing something other than riding to help get you ready to ride, thanks for sharing your approach. Glad you like the info on the site so far and thanks for the encouragement, I’m sure I’ll have a lot of fun at the tournament.

      Reply • March 26 at 9:57 am
  2. Tony says:

    Coach…I will be in your corner Saturday. The best to you. Tear em up.

    Reply • March 26 at 6:00 am
    • bikejames bikejames says:

      Thanks, appreciate it. Like my BJJ coach told me – You either win or you learn. I’m sure I’ll have fun and learn a lot.

      Reply • March 26 at 9:59 am
  3. Al says:

    Good luck on the mat!

    Reply • March 27 at 9:31 am
  4. guthrie says:


    This is great info! I am currently doing your DB combo workout trying to get ready for some enduro races.

    How can I incorporate 1-2 days of shorter rides, this stuff, and your DB combo workout? I have a little over a month for my first race and the gym is going to be my main source of butt kicking since most of the trails are either muddy or snow covered..

    I did the DB combo workout the beginning of winter and I am a few weeks into my second round. I really like it, it is my go to work out now

    Reply • March 27 at 10:08 am
    • bikejames bikejames says:

      Just keep following the DB Combos Program, it has some of the elements from this peaking program in it. Glad you like the workout and results so far, keep me posted on how things go in your race.

      Reply • March 28 at 9:38 am

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James Wilson