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.