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:
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
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