It doesn’t take long on the trail to realize that mountain biking is a total body sport. Unlike a lot of endurance sports like road riding, you can’t hide a weak upper body and core from the trail. The trail forces you into situations that require you to use both your legs and your upper body in a strong, dynamic fashion…and do it repeatedly over the course of a ride.

This requires a unique blend of total body strength endurance that you simply don’t find in a lot of other endurance sports. And for this reason you don’t see this aspect emphasized in programs that simply copy and paste the training programs from these sports and call them “mountain bike specific”.

If you need your body to use the lower body and the upper body to create strength and power while also absorbing impacts and keeping you balanced then you need to train it to do just that. This means being strong enough to do some basic things like a 1.5 X BW deadlift and 5 pull ups.

But you also need to train your ability to sustain that strength and this requires some specialized Strength Endurance cardio training in your program. And one of my favorite mountain bike specific ways to train this for the trail are Swing – Push Up Countdowns.

By combining the lower body emphasized Swing with the upper body emphasized Push Up you have a cardio workout that works on the strength endurance of both areas. You are also teaching the body how to use one movement pattern as “rest” for the other, which also has a lot of transfer to the trail.

The standard version of this workout looks like this:

10 Swings + 10 Push Ups (rest if needed)

10 Swings + 9 Push Ups (rest if needed)

10 Swings + 8 Push Ups (rest if needed)

10 Swings + 7 Push Ups (rest if needed)

10 Swings + 6 Push Ups (rest if needed)

10 Swings + 5 Push Ups (rest if needed)

10 Swings + 4 Push Ups (rest if needed)

10 Swings + 3 Push Ups (rest if needed)

10 Swings + 2 Push Ups (rest if needed)

10 Swings + 1 Push Ups

All told you have 100 swings and 55 push ups. For someone who can do 20 swings and 20 legit push ups (no half-ass push ups allowed) without a huge struggle this workout should be doable. You can progress the workout by taking fewer of the “rest if needed” breaks between rounds. If you can do this workout with no breaks and perfect form the whole time then grab a heavier KB.

However, for a lot of riders this workout is pretty daunting. That is a lot of push ups and swings if you haven’t been doing a lot of push ups and swings. This makes it pretty much impossible to complete for some riders.

To help some some of my clients ease their way into this workout I came up with a couple of variations/ progressions. If you struggle to complete the basic version try one of these:

Countdown by 2

Instead of counting down 1 push up each round count down 2 push ups, like this…

10 Swings + 10 Push Ups (rest if needed)

10 Swings + 8 Push Ups (rest if needed)

10 Swings + 6 Push Ups (rest if needed)…

…continue down to 10 Swings + 2 Push Ups

This will cut the rounds in half and keep the total number of push ups down as well. You can progress this workout by adding in 1 round at a time, starting with the very last round of 10 Swings + 1 Push Up. Next would be the 10 Swings + 3 Push Ups until you had added in all the rounds to complete the total workout.

Count Up by 2

This is the same concept as the previous version but instead of starting with 10 Swings + 10 Push Ups you start with 10 Swings + 2 Push Ups and count up. Next would be 10 Swings + 4 Push Ups and so on until you worked up to the 10 Swings + 10 Push Ups. The progression would be the same with adding in 1 round as you can, starting with the 10 Swings + 1 Push Up.

This version works well for those who are still working on building their overall strength levels up. If you try the previous version and find that the first round of 10 Swings + 10 Push Ups leaves you to tired to do much more then try this version instead.

Bulgarian Goat Bag Swing + Push Up Countdowns

I use this version for riders who are still working on mastering the kettlebell swing. The Bulgarian Goat Bag Swing is the best exercise I’ve seen for teaching the proper hip hinge pattern you want to use both on the bike and when doing a swing. If you struggle to do 20 swings with relative ease then use the BGBS in place of the swings in any of workout variations I’ve talked about so far.

You can check out this video where I show you how this routine looks in action and also go over the variations I wrote about in this blog post as well.

I like to throw in this routine at the end of a strength training session as a quick cardio workout. I’ll also use it as a stand-alone workout if I am really pressed for time or when I just want to get something in but I don’t have the energy for a whole workout.

Mountain biking is a unique sport in the endurance world and so it requires a different approach to training. The strength endurance of your lower body and upper body play a huge role and this routine is one of the best ways for you to train it in the gym so you can use it more effectively on the trail.

If you have any questions about how to use this routine in your program or thoughts in general about the role of workout like this for building strength endurance please leave a comment below this post. And if you liked this training tip please pass it along to a fellow rider who could benefit from the info.

Until next time…

Ride Strong,

James Wilson

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