As a strength coach I get asked a lot of questions about how “strong” someone needs to be. They usually have an exercise in mind and the thought process is that once you are “this strong” with the exercise you’ll be able to kick ass on your bike.

Hell, I’ve even contributed to this mindset in the past by posting some of the strength goals I’ve used for riders over the years. One of the better known strength goals I’ve mentioned is the 1.5–2 X bodyweight deadlift.

If you don’t know, this means being able to deadlift 1.5 to 2 times your bodyweight loaded on a bar. If you weigh 175 pounds that translates to a 262-350 pound deadlift.

And while I still think that having some strength goals is a good idea, I think that we tend to get off track with the point of them pretty quickly.

deadlift-bar-crowd-1024x537For example, most riders will immediately look at the higher number and focus on it. But the reason I give people a range is because not everyone needs hit the 2 X BW number to ride their best, some do just fine at the lower number.

I also put the 2 X BW number out there as a ceiling of sorts, not an end goal. Once you hit the 2 X BW deadlift then odds are the amount of time and energy you would put in to taking it higher would be better spent somewhere else. This isn’t to say that getting stronger is bad, just that you don’t need to focus as much energy on it anymore.

So the real number to focus on is the 1.5 X BW deadlift, or what I call the minimum standard. Having your deadlift be closer to the 2 X BW number is fine but it is more important to make sure that you get to and maintain the 1.5 X BW number.

Another problem I have with strength goals is that there is an impression that the numbers in the gym are the real goal. But what we really want is to feel good is when we’re on the bike and in our daily lives. If we’re strong in the gym but feel like crap everywhere else then we’ve again missed the point.

This is why I like to use the term “I feel good when” goals. These are minimum standards that you maintain in key exercises where the goal isn’t to be pushing the ragged edge as much as improving your comfort zone.

For example, I know I feel good when…

I can deadlift 1.5 X my bodyweight for 3 reps.

I can do a 32 kg TGU for 1 rep on each side.

I can do 5 chin ups with a 3 second hold at the top.

I can do a double KB shoulder press with 24 kg for 5 reps.

These are not strength goals in the traditional sense because it isn’t enough to just hit the numbers, my efforts have to be inside my comfort zone. Strength goals tend to live outside of your comfort zone and as a result they focus more on surviving than thriving.

So keep this in mind as you go through your workouts. Strength goals are great and necessary for giving as an idea about areas we need to improve. But remember that your ultimate goal is to feel good and perform better on the bike and so you may need to temper your enthusiasm for chasing those numbers with a reality check on what you are really training for. Keep strength goals in perspective and focus on expanding your comfort zone instead of pushing the ragged edge and you might be surprised just how strong you end up being.

Until next time…

Ride Strong,

James Wilson

MTB Strength Training Systems

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