Last week I was looking around online and came across an interesting study published in the Journal of Science and Cycling. In it they looked at the effects of two types of strength training approaches for off-road cyclists (a.k.a. mountain bikers).
The study had two groups of cyclists, with one using Endurance Strength Training (higher sets and reps) for 8 weeks during the off-season and no strengh training during the season and with another group performing Maximal Strength work during the off-season and continuing for 8 weeks during the riding season as well.
Both groups added the strength training to their usual endurance training programs for mountain biking. Riders were then tested for a whole range of performance indicators at the end of the beginning of the pre-season, at the end of the pre-season and again at the end of the study.
What they found was that while both groups saw some gains from strength training, only the Maximal Strength group saw gains in some areas throughout the whole study while the Endurance Strength group saw decreases in some areas at the end.
Most significant to me was the 1 Rep Max test, were the Maximal Strength group saw an increase of 15.8% from the beginning to the end of the study and the Endurance Strength group saw a decrease of 16.1% from the end of the post-season to the end of the 8 weeks of riding. This also showed up in some of the power tests and in the Fatigue Index used in the test as well.
Now, before I start to read too much into these results I do want to say that I have not seen the full study and so I do not know the specifics behind the type of strength training programs they used or what they did during the riding season. I also don’t know the experience level of the riders and they didn’t do any “on trail” testing.
But, even with that said, I still think there are some things we can take from this study…
1 – Strength training during the riding season is a must for mountain bikers. I’ve preached this for years…if your strength levels drop significantly during the riding season then your performance will suffer.
2 – It doesn’t take a lot of time see results with In-Season Strength Training. These guys worked out 1 time a week and saw results from it. You don’t have to devote hours and hours to strength training to reap the benefits, you just have to take action and be consistent.
3 – Mountain bikers need to lift heavy weights. Again, without seeing the exact programs used I can’t say for sure but with a name like the Maximal Strength Group I don’t think they were lifting pink dumbbells for 20+ reps. I would guess they were using a 3-6 rep range and focused on moving some weight. And, as you can see from the study, getting stronger improved their results.
So, put it all together and taking one day a week to lift some heavy weights can make you faster on your bike. You can keep it pretty simple as well with a routine like this…
Deadlift – 3 sets of 5 reps
Shoulder Press – 3 sets of 5 reps
Goblet Squat – 3 sets of 5 reps
Chin Up – 3 sets of 5 reps
KB Windmill – 3 sets of 5 reps
Doing this routine once a week will help keep you riding strong all season long. Or, at last that’s what the science and my experience would suggest.
Until next time…
MTB Strength Training Systems