In this new episode of the BikeJames Podcast I cover…

  • Grip strength training for mountain biking – What to do, when to do it and why some common grip strength exercises aren’t very MTB specific.

  • Avoid the “Attack Position” – Why spending too much time in this position makes it harder to steer and maneuver your bike.

  • Effect of isometric strength training on mechanical, electrical, and metabolic aspects of muscle function – A look at the study that convinced me that Isometrics are some of the best cardio training you can do.

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

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Show Notes:

Grip strength training for mountain biking.

  • I get most of my grip strength training from riding and my “normal” strength training.
  • If I am riding less than 2 times a week I will add in some other specific grip strength work.
  • I’ll also prescribe some grip specific work to help quickly improve that area if someone is deficient in the specific grip strength skills needed on the bike.
  • The context for grip strength on the bike is needing to change tension levels quickly while stabilizing the wrists in all 4 directions.
  • This is why things that work on “grip strength” by challenging the grip with static loads and no wrist stability have limited carry over for MTB…and yes, this even means Farmers Walks, which I do more for the High Tension Cardio than grip strength.
  • The best ways to train MTB specific grip strength is through Swings and Mace 360’s/ 10-2’s.
  • Swings can be either KB or DB.
  • Mace 360’s/ 10-2’s are the best, most specific grip strength training you can since it does a better job challenging the wrist stability.

Avoid the “Attack Position”

  • The Attack Position has a few names but it is essentially the Low position on your bike with your butt back and your chest down, kind of like the bottom of the Deadlift/ Hip Hinge position.
  • While it has its uses, the trend to find a single position to move from on the bike has people spending too much time in it.
  • As you get low on the bike your weight will naturally start to shift back as your hips slide back. This takes weight off the front end and biases your weight to the back of the bike.
  • This is a good position if you need weight off the front end but your ability to steer relies on your weight/ pressure on the front tire and a lot of skills require a weight shift from front to back.
  • If your weight is biased to the back then it makes it harder to maintain traction in a corner and to initiate skills like manuals, bunny hops, drops and jumps.
  • The Attack/ Low Position is good for keeping you from going over the handlebars but unless you are in imminent danger of going over the bars then it isn’t needed and actually makes it harder to move and steer on the bike.
  • You want to have a taller, more forward “neutral” position on the bike and drop down into the Attack Position as needed, not use it as your neutral position. Don’t be afraid to put some purposeful pressure on the front end and you’ll find that you can steer and move much more effectively.

Effect of isometric strength training on mechanical, electrical, and metabolic aspects of muscle function.

  • 6 sets of twins were used with one twin doing isometric knee extension training on the right leg.
  • Results showed several really interesting things:
    • Iso group showed a 20% strength increase in the right leg AND an 11% increase in the left leg.
    • Increased EMG activity in the Rectus Femoris.
    • Decrease in the IEMG/ tension ratio at sub max levels, indicating a more economical/ efficient use of the RF
    • Muscle biopsies showed an increase in the enzymes responsible for aerobic metabolism. 
    • Conclusion – increased recruitment of available motor unit recruitment pool, improved efficiency at sub-max loads and enhancement of oxidative metabolism in the muscle.
  • If this were a “cardio training” technique results like that would make it a must-use method but because it is a “strength training” technique it is dismissed.
  • Isometric training improves strength and your cardio in ways that nothing else can, which is why I use them and recommend them to every rider.

If you have any questions about this episode or anything else related to training or riding let me know, I’m always happy to help. Until next time…

Ride Strong,

James Wilson

MTB Strength Training System

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