IMG_7071Yesterday I got out with some of my buddies for a mid-morning ride. It was the kind of morning that you ride mountain bikes for – perfect weather, great company and fun trails. And even though I was pretty tired from 3 straight days of training BJJ and a ride on Friday, I was still able to have a lot of fun.

Despite the fatigue I was able to power through most of the climbs and rip it up on the descents. It left me thinking about how glad I am that I’ve put in the time training needed to get my riding to that point.

Trust me, I’m not a “natural rider” and I spent a lot of time flying over my handlebars and learning how to take a fall before I started to figure a few things out. And one of the big things that I’ve learned is that seeing massive improvements with your riding doesn’t just happen by accident.

Excuses don’t make you better, some thought about how you need to improve and hard work are what make you better. You have to have some sort of plan and be willing to execute that plan.

Another thing that I’ve found is that your plan needs to work on all of the elements of riding a mountain bike on singletrack. While focusing on 1 or 2 things might yield some short term results, if you want to see consistent results year after year you need a plan that covers all 5 elements of riding your bike.

The elements that you must have in your training program are…

– Flexibility. This is your ability to passively move a joint through its range of motion. It is the foundation for your movement and it also gives a good indication of your injury potential as well.

– Strength. This is your ability to create movement and put some tension behind that movement. This lets us increase the number of muscle fibers we can access within a movement and lets us see how “stress proof” your movements are.

– Power/ Speed. This is your ability to quickly recruit the muscle fibers in a given movement. The faster you can do this the faster you can apply force, which results in an increase in power and speed.

– Endurance. This is your ability to sustain the needed movement, strength and power over the course of a ride. Endurance is very specific to our sport and needs to be tailored for the unique demands of the trail.

– Skills. This is your ability to execute the proper skills at the right time in order to ride safely and efficiently. Your skills are also built on your movement, strength and power and most of the time a gap in one of these areas is what is stopping proper skill progression.

These are what I call the 5 Essential Elements of MTB Training and they cover all possible things you could put in a training program. But I often see “MTB specific training programs” that only cover 1 or 2 elements and leave other important elements unaddressed.

Another thing to keep in mind is the need to prioritize the right things during the training year. While some of the 5 Essential Elements of MTB Training are more “specific” than others, you can’t just focus on those more specific elements.

You need time during the years when things like flexibility and strength training are the priority. In fact, failure to do this is one of the main reasons a lot of riders stall out and stop seeing progress. Without the athletic base provided by improved flexibility and strength they can’t take their sport-specific conditioning any further.

When you take a holistic approach to your training you’ll also find that you can achieve better results with less time and effort. You can spend less time “training” and more quality time riding your mountain bike, all while seeing results where they count the most – on the trail.

Since this is the time of year that you need to be getting you off-season plan put together I wanted to help you do this by covering each of these 5 Essential Elements of MTB Training and explaining how I use them to help build a better rider over the off-season.

Over the next couple weeks I’m going to break down each of the elements so that you can see how each of them works towards helping your ride faster, longer and with more confidence on the trail. By the end of the series my hope is that you’ll know why you need each of the 5 Essential Elements of MTB Training and how you can make it a part of your off-season training plan.

And I’m going to kick things off on Wednesday with one of the most misunderstood of the elements of training – Flexibility Training. Long thought of as something you do if you have time or as something that might actually decrease your performance, I’ll explain why it is one of the most important elements for you to have in your training plan.Screen Shot 2014-10-27 at 10.37.09 AM

Until then…

Ride Strong,

James Wilson

MTB Strength Training Systems

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