4 Bodyweight Exercises You May Not Be Using...But Should!

Mar 13, 2012 at 0:05
Mar 13, 2012
by James Wilson  
 
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So you can do a push up, but can you do a handstand push up? You can do a squat, but can you do a pistol squat? Bodyweight training is one of the most productive uses of your training time, but most riders have only scratched the surface of what you can really do with just your body as a barbell.

Bodyweight training is great for mountain bikers for two reasons. First, you obviously don't need any equipment which means that you have no excuse not to do some strength training. As the saying goes, wherever you go there you are and so you always have access to some form of training, even when traveling.

Second, bodyweight exercises build body control and awareness which is essential for trail riding. Your body looks at controlling itself through bodyweight exercises differently than it does controlling an external object through weighted exercises which makes using both an essential part of your training program. However, a lot of riders who get into strength training quickly dismiss bodyweight exercises in favor of "harder" weighted exercises, which limits their overall development.

In this video I go over 4 bodyweight exercises that you may not have heard about before but you should be using in your program:

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Here is a sample workout program you can use with these exercises -

1) Single Leg Squat X 3-15 reps
2) Handstand Press X 1-10 reps
3) Lying Leg Raise X 5-20 reps
4) Bridge X 3-15 reps

Do these exercises in a circuit, meaning that you start with the first exercise and do as many perfect reps as possible, rest 15 seconds and then move to the second exercise. Keep going through the 4 exercises until you have finished 1 set of each, rest for 1 minute and then start the process over again.

I recommend going through the circuit 2 times to begin with and adding 1 circuit when you can do the max number of reps on all of the exercises. Work up to 4 times through the circuit.

For a lot of you some of these exercises will feel impossible to perform, which should send up a red flag in the back of your brain as to your true level of strength and function. In the video I go over some ways to work up to the exercises listed in the routine and if you find yourself unable to do the exercises listed above then substitute the "easier" variation. Once you can to the highest number of reps with the easier variation then move up to the harder one.

Something to keep in mind with this routine - I have listed a range of reps for you to do and the goal is obviously to build up to he highest number of reps listed. However, do not compromise form and focus for more reps. I make everyone in my facility start out at the lowest number of reps and learn how to make them as hard as possible through purposefully creating more muscular tension than is needed and then adding reps while maintaining that level of tension and intensity.

Pounding out sloppy reps may cut it for Crossfit style workouts that value quantity or "work capacity" over quality but remember than when you are tired on the trail you will revert to how you train. You don't want your body to even know what a crappy rep feels like so that when it is tired it keeps on moving how you taught it, which should be with optimal form and maximum efficiency. As an athlete who's sport is not "the gym" or "fitness" how you move matters far more than how much you do.

So there you go, 4 bodyweight exercises that are sure to challenge almost everyone reading this. The better you can move off the bike the better you will move on the bike and these exercises and the routine I outlined should keep you busy for a few months working on becoming a better overall athlete, which will help you ride faster, longer ands with more confidence on the trail.



MTB Strength Training Systems is the world leader in integrated performance training programs for the unique demands of mountain biking. As the strength and conditioning coach for World Cup Teams and 3 National Championships, his programs have been proven at the highest levels. James has helped thousands of riders just like you improve their speed, endurance and skills on the trail. Visit www.bikejames.com to sign up for the free Trail Rider Fundamentals Video Mini-Course.

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43 Comments

  • + 7
 Really good video, if you want to do BB weight exercises you will get stronger really fast, but you should forget to get big like you would look like when you train with weights, i really recommend to do it with Paul Coach Wade - Convict Conditioning book becouse not every one is capable to do this from the start and i guess your body need to get know what are you doing with it, so first you should start with an easier exercise. The book also have other 2 exercises which is also very important to do.

Here are some videos what you can do with BB weight training if you keep to do it long:
www.youtube.com/watch?v=C7kDF97cEjw&feature=results_video&playnext=1&list=PLEB959EA49515B129
www.youtube.com/watch?v=qvYNE5cgBkA
www.youtube.com/watch?v=1egn6D4T82E&feature=related
www.youtube.com/watch?v=z3QUYsdz-S8&feature=related
www.youtube.com/watch?v=kf30GCx5FMo
www.youtube.com/watch?list=PLEB959EA49515B129&feature=endscreen&NR=1&v=G0sCwXB-sLI

Watch these if you want, and train like a Gymnastic or Bar-Barian Smile . Also recommend you to read: Coach Cristopher Sommer - Building The Gymnastic Body book, but it is super hardcore even the number one exercises - it needs a lot of time to get better and better, but i guess it worth it Smile .
  • + 2
 Huge thanks for sharing HellslayeR!
  • + 2
 Huge fan of the Convict Conditioning book, these exercises were taken directly from it.
[Reply]
  • + 3
 Wow, single leg squatting like that should be attempted with caution. While many people can safely do that exact exercise, a fairly large percentage of people could do serious damage to their knees. No really, as you age attempting to go that low is dangerous. It is especially dangerous because while squatting on one leg, the other isn't there to take over in case of disaster. I recently spent almost a year recuperating from an injury that would have reoccurred immediately if this squat exercise was attempted. Even when perfectly healed, I have been advised by two doctors and 2 PTs that I should never attempt squatting on one leg or that low. This is not unusual advice after experiencing knee injury.
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  • + 2
 Meh, Im a he-man enthusiast, I'll stick with his workouts. NCAA D1 athlete? Thats pussy level, must try harder Bowen 1911, not impressed at all, come back when you got something to boast about from behind your keyboard.
[Reply]
  • + 1
 Thank you, James and please don't get me wrong, I was watching these videos for a long time already and although I find some useful tips (and even wanted to make subtitles in other languages), but there is one thing I still don't get. What is wrong with classical squats, deadlifts and bench press to build some muscles? A split system for legs, back and chest makes wonders. Add some stretching and here you are. What personally I would be really interested to know is how to improve your balance (one leg squat looks great fot this), reaction and learn how to fall down. So far the best advice I've heard - go for some matrial arts like judo.
  • + 3
 I think many people don't realize how challenging can body weight training be, at the same time it is disturbing how many find it unrelated to "rider" oriented training. For most BW is push-ups, abs and chin ups. James has lots of split stance, uni-press/pull exercises in his program along with dead lifting bench press etc. One should to build a good base before hitting weights to avoid injuries. Develop basic core with body weight exercises first. I would like to see those 200lbs+ lifting bench pressed dead lifters doing with ease 10reps of properly performed YTWLs. Trying 20 appropriate squats might be enough for many postpone dead lifting Smile . Ask those tough body builders on your gym to do a pistol squat - prepare yourself for a fun time. And most of BW is about balance, just learn how to perform these exercises properly Smile
  • + 0
 I'm doing 200 lbs bench press, but my weight is about 100 kg and I'm not a body builder at all (a fromer swimmer). I'd say that a fit person should be able to do bench press with his own weight 10 times. I also do various workouts with dumbbells like YTWLs you've mentioned. Overall I always start with low weights and right technique while doing new exercies. Balance - I accept your arguments =) Any ideas about reaction?
  • + 4
 Like I mentioned in the video your nervous system sees controlling your bodyweight differently than it does controlling an external load and you need to be adept at both. Being able to do 5+ handstand presses and being able to press a 70 pound kettlebell overhead are two sides of the same coin - you must have both to be truly strong and functional. The bodyweight master who can't deadlift a decent amount of weight is no better than the guy who can squat 200 pounds but can't execute a pistol squat. Everyone wants an "either/ or" answer but it isn't that simple, you need both in your program.

And some interesting research by the guys at Functional Movement Systems has found a correlation between a high score on the Functional Movement Screen and reaction time - apparently when you move efficiently you can react faster. And I am a big advocate for tumbling drills for mountain bikers, I have a couple of them posted on my site.

BTW, bench press has to be the most worthless indicator of athletic prowess in the world. If you are lying on your back pressing something off of you then you already f'd up. How much can you deadlift, single arm shoulder press, do a chin up with or a Turkish Get Up with? All of those exercises are much better indicators of fitness and overall strength. Bench press has a place but it is a bodybuilding tool to build big pecs or a lift in the sport of powerlifting - if you are not a bodybuilder or powerlifter then it should not be a focus of your program.
  • + 2
 James, I'm glad you chime in on the comment section and keep things clear. I'll be adding this to my routines at the gym starting today. Happy to report I can already do 3 handstand presses (had to try one as soon as I saw it)

Also really like that most of your routines aren't equipment focused and require only a few basic things to execute. Makes a home gym and portable fitness so much simpler for us travelers.
  • + 1
 Thank you for the response. In my mind I do respect static exercises as my father who was doing some serious yoga (non-adopted for westren fitness) in 80s still can do things that I can't but I just get bored when I see no results and with certain will power I make myself do boring but usefull things, but everything has its limits =) Btw, I include a lot from your Core Training Video in my training (like a static press laying on the side, again I don't know the correct terms, sorry about that). I don't have TRX in the gym, but sometimes a pilates ball does fine as well. As for the deadlift I'm around 150 kg but I try not to go fast, doing like 6x10 reps. Never tried Turkish Get Up but it looks interesting. Overall I don't train in the gym all the year round, soon the snow will be gone and I'm looking for the way to modify my training process to ride more.

Also Functional Movements Systems sound interesting, will read more on that, thanks once again.
  • + 2
 @ gorgut

slack lining is a great way to build balance, core muscles, and leg muscles.

dont buy a slack line kit though, too expensive
you can build one with 5 carabiners, 50' webbing(1" or 2"), and 2 slings to wrap around trees,
youtube is a great source for how to make and set up slack lines!!
  • + 1
 Slack lining is excellent fun. Good way to hang out with friends in the park and get good training in too. It`s so fun you forget it`s a workout and balance thing too.
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  • + 1
 a variation of the lying leg lift could be done hanging from a bar with legs being pulled to horizontal? or would that in some way not be as effective as laying down to do it
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  • + 1
 Thanks for the tips James. Between exercises like these and TRX workouts I'm feeling ultra solid! Oh, and why don't you tell us how you really feel about crossfit? Big Grin
[Reply]
  • + 2
 Just add Dips, Pull ups, Reverse Pull ups, and Push Up variations, and you'll have a pretty complete work out!
  • + 1
 Word man! I did variations of pull-ups all winter long and I feel way better endurance wise on the bike already this season....
[Reply]
  • + 2
 no excusue or equipment and it helps you ride better! that does it for me, good stuff.
[Reply]
  • + 1
 Where's the mobilization? If your range of motion is limited you will have a tough time doing these exercises. www.mobilitywod.com
  • + 2
 James talks about it a lot on his sight, and mobility is one of the first things to work on in his program.
  • + 1
 Space and time keep me from covering everything I would in a full program. On my site I have several mobility drills, here is one of the more popular ones:

www.bikejames.com/mobility-training/warm-up-drill-for-a-workout-or-mountain-biking
  • + 1
 james- would you consider doing a strength series here on PB that correlates to the world cup tracks this season? Maybe a feature on a section @ each track and how and what it translates to in terms of specific areas on strength-training for a rider? I think it would be very insightful and helpful.
[Reply]
  • + 2
 Definitely going to incorporate this into my workout regime!
[Reply]
  • + 1
 This was great stuff but he forgot to touch on shovel exercises. Movin' dirt into jump shaped mounds will get you ripped!
[Reply]
  • + 1
 Try Zumba instead lol....
  • + 2
 Does Zumba on the Wii count?
[Reply]
  • + 1
 Bowen you're a co@k jockey
[Reply]
  • - 1
 I find these videos usefull but often too wordy and show-offy "when I show people at my facility"
Just give the simple goods in a step by step format.
  • + 1
 You're nuts if you think this is "show-offy"....you should you tube the p90x series. The guy that mc's them makes fun of everyone else on the video and then talks about how badass he is....it's almost hilarious!
  • + 1
 No, i'm not nuts, i'm well aware of these fitness buffs who by nature of their employment are jacked and looking to take advantage of online marketing. It's just that in this case, i'm well enough versed in body weight excercises and realize that most people are too. So a step by step tutorial and weakening the sauce a bit might help people through the entire length of these segments.
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  • + 1
 bodyrock.tv is all about that: check the early videos with suzanna Wink
  • + 2
 fapfapfapfapfap. Big Grin

Sorry we are talking about actual work outs here!
  • + 1
 well, if you do try it, it is actually quite intense!
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  • - 1
 Bowen that is, not mtbstrengthcoach. Thanks for the useful advice James.
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  • - 1
 I was a Samurai... I'll teach you some workouts.
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