If you haven’t done it already then this is the year that you need to start making strength training a priority for improving your MTB specific fitness. Improving your strength can help your fitness, your skills and your ability to walk away from a wreck.
But not just any type of strength training program will do if you want to see results from your off season training and have them stick around until the end of the riding season. While a lot of riders assume that since we use a lot of cardio and endurance that we need to emphasize high reps and low weight, this approach isn’t what works best.
Science is starting to reveal what the best approach for mountain bike strength training is and it seems to favor a more aggressive approach in the gym.
This study that I came across looked at the effects of a traditional strength training approach to cycling – using a more endurance based protocol and stopping strength training during the riding season – with a less traditional approach which used maximal strength training in the off season and continued with it during the riding season.
I shot a video going into this subject in depth that you’ll want to check out. Click the link below to see the video replay or to download the MP3 file. You can also find it on Itunes, Podbean, Spotify and all other major podcasting platforms.
Participants had at least 5 years of consistent cycling experience and not done lower body resistance training for at least 6 months. They were all competitive riders on the regional and national level.
In the off season both groups followed the same program with two days of strength training.
The Endurance-Strength (ES) Group did 8 weeks of high rep strength training (3 sets of 20-14 reps with the reps decreasing each week).
The Maximal Strength (MS) Group started with 3 X 20 and then shifted to 3X8, dropping 1 rep each week to get to 3 X 4.
During the riding season the ES group stopped strength training and the MS group did one day a week of 2 X 5 at 85% of 1RM and 1 X 6 RM.
They used a Half-Squat, Leg Curl and Single Leg Leg Press. They also used the Wingate Test (30 seconds all out) as a way to measure power endurance.
At the end of the study they found that there were no significant differences in endurance measurements between the groups.
They did find that the MS group increased peak power from pre- to mid-season and they were able to maintain most of it through the season.
They also showed an increase in the most power they could produce over 5 seconds from pre- to post-season as well as an increase in 1RM strength from pre- to post-season.
The ES group showed a decrease in their power over the last 5 seconds of the Wingate Test, a decrease in their 1RM strength and an increase in the Fatigue Index from the Wingate Test from pre- to post-season.
In a nutshell, both approaches helped to improve their endurance while only the Maximal Strength Group improved their anaerobic capacity and maintained it over the whole season.
The conclusion was that adding non-traditional strength training to a XC racers program could help them maintain and even improve their anaerobic fitness and power. Mountain biking requires more anaerobic power and endurance than road cycling, which is why real strength training helps to improve performance.
So remember that next time someone tells you that strength training doesn’t help you mountain biking performance that context matters – the studies that say that are done on road cyclists and that using maximal strength training delivers better results than endurance based strength training.
Both the science and the real world evidence tells us that if you want to maximize your MTB fitness – and fun – then you have to do strength training as part of your routine.
Until next time…
MTB Strength Training Systems
p.s. Are you still looking for the right program to get your off season training started? You only have a few more months left so you don’t want to waste any more time.
To help you get going with a plan that will help you feel better on and off the bike I’ve put together a New Year’s Training Bundle with 4 programs covering a different aspect of training.
1. 40+ MTB Rider Training Program
As the only training program made for the 40+ year old mountain biker, this program combines unique elements into a one-of-a-kind strength and cardio workout that will improve your fitness without leaving you feeling sore and tired. It comes with two workout programs – one that uses DBs/ KBs and one that uses only bodyweight – so you can use it no matter what equipment you have access to.
2. Better Breathing for MTB Program
My newest training program shows you how to assess your breathing and how to use different breathing workouts and strategies to improve your cardio and endurance in a way that intervals and regular cardio training can’t.
3. 15 Minute Trail Rider Tune Ups
This is a collection of twenty weight 15-minute workouts that are great for when you are short on time and/ or energy. They make great travel workouts and are also perfect for in-season training as well.
4. MTB Mobility Routines
This series of follow-along videos takes you through different mobility routines. You have general routines as well as routines that target specific problem areas like the low back.
Together this is almost $200 in programs but as part of the New Years Training Bundle you can get it for only $29. You’ll have everything you need to start the New Year off with a bundle of some of the best MTB specific training programs you can find.
But this special deal will only last for 1 week and will end on the 10th. Click the link below to get your New Year’s Training Bundle for only $29 before this deal ends.