Three Reasons that KB Swings are better than Olympic Lifts for Mountain Bike Training

Increased leg and hip power should be one of the main goals for a mountain bike program. For years the Olympic Lifts (the Clean and the Snatch) have been the king of power building exercises, however I don’t use the Olympic Lifts in my programs. I’ve found that when I spend a lot of time working on them my ability to apply my power to the bike actually decreased.

However, when I spend a lot of time with RKC style swings I find I move better on the bike and feel that I have much more hip power and leg drive. This got me thinking about why the swing seems to transfer to the bike better than the Olympic Lifts and here are the three reasons I came up with…
1. The horizontal projection of energy is what we want on the bike, not the vertical projection you get from the OLs. When you train yourself to project your force up you teach yourself a movement pattern that will throw you off balance if used on the bike.

2. The explosive hip hinge movement on the bike is used for manualing, bunny hopping and jumping in which you want to straighten the arms as you explode and push your bike in front of you, not bend them and pull up as the OLs teach you. Bending the elbows will again result in an unbalanced body position.

3. You can safely train power-endurance using a mountain bike specific movement where high rep OLs can get ugly and dangerous. The swing also builds the hips endurance you need for extended standing efforts, such as standing up to sprint up a climb or hammer a downhill section of trail.

Another thing to keep in mind is that the swing is pretty easy to learn while the Olympic Lifts take a good coach and a lot of practice to get good at. I’m not saying that they have no place in a program, but when I take all of the things I mentioned here into account I feel that swings are a much better option for mountain bikers who are looking to improve their power on the trail.

-James Wilson-

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  1. electric says:

    I was thinking about this today as winter is coming… trying to figure out that sweet spot where you time it all together with a bunny hop or manual I once spent some time sitting down trying to figure out how to improve my strength in those area… the best i came up with was a wide-bar seated row( was not thinking big picture). However, you say there isn’t a vertical component for those tricks, but am thinking that isn’t 100% right. I may be wrong but…

    drop down get low to compress the suspension, don’t pause at the bottom here.

    explode back and upwards – this include straightening the elbows out and pushing the bicycle down into the ground.

    torso comes upwards and then once you reach the end of your rope or near to it, lock your shoulders(this is where i erroneously thought a seated row) and begin something like the KB swing motion by pushing out legs with your butt and throwing your hips forward. Though out this motion somewhere the elbows have come back to the chest with handlebar.

    Once your “squat” or swing is completed you then push the bars straight out and lift your legs upwards, thus rotating the rear-wheel off the ground.

    It seems to me there is one movement there that isn’t covered by only a KB swing, though the most power is put out through that movement.

    Reply • October 7 at 4:57 pm
  2. Jukka says:

    Truly good stuff! I have worked on O-lifts for a while now and all I can say is that they are challenging exercices. Glad to hear that I don´t have to be able to clean my body weight to have some power on a bike. Glad to hear that there are more simple and effective exercises for increasing power on a bike.

    When doing swings for power development do you increase the weight as well or just concentrate executing the movement as explosively as possible? With good form of course.

    Keep it strong!

    Reply • October 7 at 10:15 pm

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