The 80-20 Principles tells us that with anything in the world, it is the small causes that have big results. Also known as the Pareto Principle where it was first observed in the world of finance (named after the guy who first found that 80% of a nation’s wealth is held by 20% of the people), it has been shown to hold true in practically every facet of life.

Some things that take very little time and effort deliver big results on the trail.

Those who recognize this fact and take advantage of it have a huge leg up on everybody else. Perhaps the most popular example is The 4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferris where he showed that if you can find and focus on those small things that cause the big results you can slash you work and effort while greatly increasing your results.

Of course, this all has a lot of direct transfer to training as well (Tim even wrote a book called The 4-Hour Body based on applying the 80-20 Principle to training). The truth is that most of your potential results only come from a small handful of things you can do and that when you focus on them you can see better results in less time.

80-20 2While this isn’t groundbreaking information for a lot of people, I recently read something about the 80-20 Principle that really changed my perspective on it. Namely, the 80-20 Principle is subject to the 80-20 Principle.

In other words, once you figure out what the top 20% is that causes 80% of the results you can then turn the 80-20 Principle on that top 20% and it still holds true.

The top 20 % of the top 20 % counts for 80% of 80% of your results.

If you are a bit confused you are not alone, it took this example for me to get it…

Let’s say that 20% of the roads in your town carry 80% of the traffic. If you then looked at the top 20% of those roads – or 4% of the total roads in your town – you would find that they carry 80% of the 80%, or 64% of all traffic.

That’s right, only 4% of the roads in your town carry 64% of all the traffic. Now, the numbers may not work out to exactly 80-20 every time – sometimes it is 70-30 or even 95-5 – but the principle of small things causing big results holds true.

The more you dig down into the top 20% of the top 20% the better you can leverage your time into results.

What this means for us as mountain bikers is that if you don’t have a ton of time to train then you better be focusing on that top 20% of things you can do with your time…or better yet the top 20% of the top 20%.

But this is where a lot of riders get lost. Because they don’t understand the power of the 80-20 Principle they don’t understand that not every hour of training is created equal.

Some things you can do are much more productive than others.

And some things that take very little time and effort deliver big results on the trail (think stretching and mobility training for example).

After reading about this I realized why so many riders who follow my programs use words like “it feels like cheating” and “I can’t believe this is all I have to do to see these kind of results”. After 10+ years of focusing on the needs of mountain bikers I’ve been able to help riders tap into that top 20% of the top 20%, delivering results in much less time and with much less effort.

Things like mobility training, strength training with an eye on the movement patterns you need on the bike and cardio training that focuses on the real energy systems demands of trail riding deliver far more bang-for-the-buck than another mindless hour spent on a trainer, the road, researching the next “must have” bike part or beating the hell out of yourself in a Cross fit class.

When you tap into that top 20% of the top 20% you can have your life and your body back while riding better than ever on the trail.

And this principle becomes even more important as riding season sets in.

It gets tricky right now because you should be transitioning from working hard during your training in order to try and improve your strength and fitness to riding hard while maintaining that strength and fitness.

It also starts to become more of a juggling act as training time competes with riding time and other social/ family plans. Making sure you are doing the best with the time you have is crucial to making sure you stay riding strong all season long.

As we get more into the riding season I’ll be sharing some tips and strategies I use with the riders I coach to help them stay on top of their game. Nothing sucks worse than not being able to enjoy the riding season or to compete at the level you want to and when you tap into the true power of the 80-20 Principle you never have to worry about that again.

That’s it for now, I’ll be in touch on Wednesday with some video I shot from this weekend’s ride. My buddy Jeff (a.k.a. Uncle Steeze), Aka the Trail Mutt and I had some good rips down PBR and MoJo’s and I finally remembered my GoPro so I could catch Aka in action.

If you have any questions or thoughts about the 80-20 Principle and how it applies to training, riding or even life please leave a comment below this post, I’d love to hear them.

And if you liked this article please click one of the Like or Share buttons to help spread the word.

Until next time…

Ride Strong,

James Wilson

MTB Strength Training Systems

p.s. The best way to do this is to have a coach who knows what that top 20% of the top 20% is so they can help you focus on it. And that is why I am opening up a few more roster spots for my exclusive Distance Coaching Program.

After I opened up some roster spots a few months ago they sold out in a day so if you want the chance to work personally with me to get your training dialed in and keep it dialed in this riding season then visit to learn more about this limited time opportunity to get world class coaching from mountain biking’s premier strength and conditioning coach.

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