I got asked yesterday to contribute to an article a guy is writing on strength training for mountain biking. His main question, as with most riders, is why should he? Why should you strength train for mountain biking?
So, I sat down and outlined why strength training is a MUST for anyone who is serious about becoming a better rider. So, in no particular order, here are my Top 3 Reasons to Strength Train for Mountain Biking:
1. Improved Technical Skills: Strength training, when done right, will greatly enhance your ability to move. These foundational movements can enhance and strengthen with strength training and are essential to good technical skills and flow on your bike. If you have bad movement off the bike then there is no way you can fix it on the bike – you have to get in the gym and do something to reset and strengthen your movement.
2. Improved “High Tension” Cardio: High Tension Cardio is the new term I’m introducing to the mountain biking world to describe the other side of cardio for mountain biking. Low RPM climbs where you are really bearing down to create a strong stable platform, bracing for and floating through a rock garden, sprinting and a laundry list of activities on the trail get you breathing heavy without a lot of pedaling. The increased tension produced by your body to help stabilize the spine and help your heart pump more efficiently is best learned and developed through strength training. If you can’t easily and efficiently produce tension on the trail then you will always feel that these “hard” efforts wear you out no matter how much pedaling you do.
3. Increased Performance/ Decreased Injuries: I list these together because in reality they are inseparable. The same movement problems and strength deficits that decrease performance also increase risk of injury. Like all sports, mountain biking has you using certain muscles and movement more than others and the ONLY way to keep your body in balance is to use strength training. Remember that at the end of the day you are not a mountain biker, you are a human being that mountain bikes and if you focus only on “mountain bike specific” training then you will actually make it harder to fully develop as a rider.
In my humble opinion I feel that strength training is not optional. You can’t tell me you want to be a better mountain biker and not strength train – your actions don’t match your words. Take a look at the list above and tell me anything else available to you that has the potential to impact your performance like strength training does.
Improved skills, improved cardio, increased performance and fewer injuries are pretty good reasons to get off your ass, stop talking about becoming a better rider and actually do something about it.