By now almost every rider I talk to has seen or heard of kettlebell training. Even if they don't know the name everyone recognizes the funny looking weight that looks like a bowling ball with a handle welded to it from shows like The Biggest Loser. Heck, even Lance Armstrong has been pictured doing swings with a kettlebell and you can find them for sale in Wal-Mart.However, while they get more popular I have also noticed some trends that show the potential dark side of kettlebell training as well.
First, I love training with kettlebells. It doesn't take long poking around on my site to figure that out and anyone who has been to my facility knows that I have more kettlebells than dumbbells. The unique benefits you get from them and the training methods used with them has really helped my riding and, through my MTB Kettlebell Conditioning Program
, hundreds of other riders as well.
Problems arise, though, when you have mountain bikers following programs that are created by trainers who don't understand the movements behind the exercises and instead simply use kettlebell training to burn calories or build "work capacity". When you have someone who is just trying to lose fat or get in shape it doesn't matter as much how they move, they just need to move a lot. You end up becoming "fitter" in the gym (i.e. better at the workouts) but not much faster on the trail, which isn't the point of training.As a mountain biker you need to make sure that you are doing each exercise in a way that will maximally transfer over to the movement patterns you need on your bike.
Knowing what movements you are trying to train and how they are going to help you is the real key to lasting improvements. You need a program that addresses these movement needs in a systematic manner so that you can ride faster, longer and with more confidence on the trail.
In my experience, nothing exemplifies this more than using a "squatty" swing. The swing, when used correctly, is one of the most valuable exercises you can do as a rider…but only if you understand and practice how it applies to the bike.
On the bike proper body position hinges on your ability to minimize how much the knees bend and maximize the bend at the hips. In other words, instead of moving your center of gravity (a.k.a. your butt) up and down you need to learn how to move it forwards and backwards
. This forward-backward movement and projection of energy keeps you balanced on the bike and sets you up better to bunny hop and manual your bike.
This is important to know because the swing should train this forward-backward movement, not an up-down movement commonly being passed off as a swing. If you "squat" your swings then you are simply reinforcing that movement habit and it is what you will apply to your bike as well. How you ride is simply an extension of how you train and how you want to move on the bike needs to be the focus of your training, not "work capacity"
…whatever the hell that means anyways.
In this video I show you some of the common mistakes I see riders make, including the infamous "Crossfit Swing", and explain why doing your kettlebell swings that way will ultimately hold you back on the trail. I'll then show you a couple of swing fixes you can use to dial your swing in so it will give you maximum transfer to 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.