MTB Specific vs. the Crossfit Swing…

By now almost every rider I talk to has seen or heard of kettlebell training. Even if they don’t know the name everyone recognizes the funny looking weight that looks like a bowling ball with a handle welded to it from shows like The Biggest Loser. Heck, even Lance Armstrong has been pictured doing swings with a kettlebell and you can find them for sale in Wal-Mart.

In this video I show you some of the common mistakes I see riders make, including the infamous “Crossfit Swing”, and explain why doing your kettlebell swings that way will ultimately hold you back on the trail.

However, while they get more popular I have also noticed some trends that show the potential dark side of kettlebell training as well.

First, I love training with kettlebells. It doesn’t take long poking around on my site to figure that out and anyone who has been to my facility knows that I have more kettlebells than dumbbells. The unique benefits you get from them and the training methods used with them has really helped my riding and, through my MTB Kettlebell Conditioning Program, hundreds of other riders as well.

Problems arise, though, when you have mountain bikers following programs that are created by trainers who don’t understand the movements behind the exercises and instead simply use kettlebell training to burn calories. When you have someone who is just trying to lose fat it doesn’t matter as much how they move, they just need to move a lot. You end up becoming “fitter” in the gym (i.e. better at the workouts) but not much faster on the trail, which isn’t the point of training.

As a mountain biker you need to make sure that you are doing each exercise in a way that will maximally transfer over to the movement patterns you need on your bike. Knowing what movements you are trying to train and how they are going to help you is the real key to lasting improvements. You need a program that addresses these movement needs in a systematic manner so that you can ride faster, longer and with more confidence on the trail.

In my experience, nothing exemplifies this more than using a “squatty” swing. The swing, when used correctly, is one of the most valuable exercises you can do as a rider…but only if you understand and practice how it applies to the bike.

On the bike proper body position hinges on your ability to minimize how much the knees bend and maximize the bend at the hips. In other words, instead of moving your center of gravity (a.k.a. your butt) up and down you need to learn how to move it forwards and backwards. This forward-backward movement and projection of energy keeps you balanced on the bike and sets you up better to bunny hop and manual your bike.

This is important to know because the swing should train this forward-backward movement, not an up-down movement commonly being passed off as a swing. If you “squat” your swings then you are simply reinforcing that movement habit and it is what you will apply to your bike as well. How you ride is simply an extension of how you train and how you want to move on the bike needs to be the focus of your training, not “work capacity”…whatever the hell that means anyways.

In this video I show you some of the common mistakes I see riders make, including the infamous “Crossfit Swing”, and explain why doing your kettlebell swings that way will ultimately hold you back on the trail. I’ll then show you a couple of swing fixes you can use to dial your swing in so it will give you maximum transfer to the trail.

If you want to learn more about kettlebell training for the unique demands of mountain biking then be sure to get on the pre-sale list for my newly updated MTB Kettlebell Conditioning Program. It will be released next Monday the 12th but you can get in on the pre-sale list today for only $27.

You’ll not only save over 30% but you’ll also get some great bonuses as well. Click on the link below to learn more about the MTB Kettlebell Conditioning Program v2 and the exclusive bonuses I’m including but don’t wait, when this program is released next Monday this pre-sale special will be gone.

-James Wilson-

The Ultimate MTB Workout Program

The Ultimate MTB Workout ProgramThis workout program is designed with one simple purpose – to be the best mountain bike training program on the planet. When you are ready to take your training program to the highest level possible then you can’t do better than this workout program. Based on my years of working with some of the best riders on the planet, this truly is the Ultimate MTB Workout Program.
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  1. Dave Pike says:

    SUCH an awesome vid. It’s all the about the little things and this really illustrates the need for quality over quantity. In dong my own swings (thankfully I was doing them the MTB way!) I’ve noticed a major difference in muscle groups when being more squatty (crossfit) vs. the MTB specific ones. It makes perfect sense and seeing the “attack position” in this video really reinforces the benefit the swings have. Awesome vid and thanks for sharing!

    Reply • November 7 at 5:49 am
  2. TR says:

    Can you do good swings with a dumbbell? Any changes to form or technique with a DB?

    Reply • November 7 at 7:55 am
  3. WAKi says:

    Im still not totaly sure that I do it right. Towel works out fine for me, but If I make the movement gently enough I think I can make the kettlebell moving just right even if I drive with the knees a bit. I think the only way for me is to record myself and compare with how you do it James.

    But thanks for posting and reminding to polish those swings! This year will really try to improve my technique when training with UMTBW, two years ago it was just figuring out how my first training program in life works. Last year I took a bit “quantitive” aggressive approach with 3-4 workouts/week, sometimes + riding. It ended up with overtraining + bad lower back pain, in effect almost 1 month off the bike and really not feeling well to exercise. Deadlift in the program 150lbs with back feeling like it almost fell apart mnemeheh… it’s all good now but it wasn’t as effective as it could be. So methodical and qualitative a this year, please keep those in-detail instructions coming! I am actualy thinking of hiring an FM specialist to check my posture during exercise.

    All the best!!!

    Reply • November 7 at 9:32 am
  4. HundredDollar says:

    Good explanation of the dorsiflex thing.

    Would you recommend not only bilateral sumo deadlifts with toes on the board, but also unilateral, stagger stance or single leg deadlifts on the board as well? This may not be very stable so maybe it would be a good idea to do it with bodyweight or small weights to keep from getting hurt. Thoughts?

    Reply • November 7 at 10:09 am
    • bikejames bikejames says:

      The board is a good training tool but you just want to use it enough to learn the right way to do it, not to act as a crutch. Using BW and light weights would be the way to go until you have learned to move from the hips.

      Reply • November 8 at 11:36 am
  5. Jakub says:

    Good piece of advice. I want to incorporate the Swing into my gym training, but I’m not sure if should I do it at the beginning of my workout or can it be done in the middle? Before or after the deadlift? And is 24kg kettlebell OK to start with?

    Reply • November 8 at 11:42 am
    • bikejames bikejames says:

      If you are learning it and want to focus on it then it should be done first. I’d start with a 16 kg since it will be easier to change your movement habits if you aren’t right on the edge of your abilities.

      Reply • November 9 at 9:09 am
  6. Jared Savik says:

    Good vid, James. Your swing instruction is solid and I do know a thing or two about them… I have certs from IKFF, WKC, and RKC as well as two Girevoy Sport national championships.

    Reply • September 22 at 8:58 pm

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