Off Season Training Workout

Nov 1, 2011 at 0:06
Nov 1, 2011
by James Wilson  
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A couple of things transpired to give us this month's training post. First, my wireless mic was used to announce some slalom racing at The Ranch - I got smoked by Geoff Gulevich, the eventual winner - and I couldn't get it back in time to shoot a video like I usually do. This left me trying to find something that I could do that did not need a video.

Second, I had Mikey Sylvestri come to town so that I could help him develop an off season training program to help him take it up a notch next season. This reminded me that a lot of riders are probably looking for something to do this off season and so I decided to put together an example of what I would do with a rider at this point in the off season.

The first thing that we need to be worrying about this time of year is gaining overall core strength. We're going to start the workout off with the Turkish Get Up, which is one of the best exercises around for building the type of core strength you need on the trail. You're going to do 3 reps on each side but do all 3 reps on one side and then 3 on the other - make sure that you switch sides after each rep.

After some TGUs to get the body linked up and ready to go we're going to move to the Focus Circuit. This is where we are going to put the exercises that we want to make sure get the most energy and attention, which will lead to them getting the best results. Bodyweight exercises have been effectively used for centuries to build strong, capable bodies and I like to emphasize them in an early off season program. Bodyweight exercises are great for building the body awareness, tendon and ligament strength you need to safely handle heavy weights in later workouts.

The four bodyweight exercises that we are going to focus on are the squat, push up, lying leg raise and chin up. Since they are in a circuit you will do a set of the first exercise, rest 30-60 second and then move to the next exercise in the series. Once you have finished a set of all the exercises then start over, going through the series again until you have done all the sets for each exercise.

After our Focus Circuit we'll move to the Secondary Circuit, which is where we place the exercise we want to work on but know they won't see the best results since we get to them when we are tired. For this workout, even though we want to emphasize bodyweight exercises we still need to use some more traditional strength training exercises where we are moving an external implement, like a barbell, dumbbell, kettlebell or other tool.

The ability to control your bodyweight is one aspect of performance, your ability to apply force into an external object is the other. While bodyweight mastery is vital, nothing can replace good old fashioned strength. I love the deadlift and cheat-curl-to-press for building strength in the areas we need on the trail - the hips, lats and shoulders.

Lastly, we want to work on building come cardio capacity, specifically the energy systems that are critical to trail riding. While the aerobic energy system is important, on the trail it comes down to how well it can support the anaerobic energy system that really counts. The ability to push hard repeatedly with incomplete rest is the hallmark of a great rider and to do that you need to work on the Aerobic and Lactic Energy Systems in that way.

I like to use Cardiac Power Intervals to work on cardio endurance at this time of the year. This protocol has you power hard for a relatively long time, digging into your anaerobic Lactic Energy System before backing off and letting your heart rate drop back down to 120 beats per minute (bpm) before repeating. I recommend using an AirDyne Bike (the one with the fan for resistance) or your mountain bike on a trainer. You can do these outside but the more factors you can control the easier it is to progressively improve.

So, in a nutshell we want to emphasize core strength and bodyweight mastery, work on some basic strength and build some general Aerobic and Lactic Energy System endurance. This approach will help transition the body from the rigors of the riding season to demands of grueling off season workouts.

So, here is a routine that puts this all together for you. Click on the links to see video demos of the exercises.

Start with a warm up drill like this one - Dynamic Mobility Warm Up

Core Training
TGU X 3 reps(switch sides each rep until you have done 3 on each side)
* If you struggle with the full TGU then just work up to the point that gives you trouble. Getting strong in the earlier parts of this exercise will make the later moves much easier.

Focus Circuit
BW Squat 2 sets X 10-30 reps
Push Ups 2 sets X 5 - 20 reps
Lying Leg Raise 2 sets X 5 - 20 reps
Chin Up 2 sets X 1 - 10 reps
* Make sure that you come down to a count of 2, pause for a count of 1 and come back up to a count of 2 on all reps in this circuit. Stop with 1 or 2 reps left and don't train to failure - form breaks down so bad when you do that you get nothing out of those crappy reps.

Secondary Circuit
Deadlift 3 sets X 8 reps
Cheat Curl to Press 3 sets X 8 reps
* Start out with a relatively light weight for the first set and try to add a little weight each set, working up to a strong effort on the 3rd set. However, don't train to failure - it is even more important with weighted exercises that you don't let your form break down to get a few more reps.

Cardiac Power Intervals
Work: 60 seconds - Your goal is to get your HR as high as possible on each round
Rest: HR returns to 120-130 bpm - don't stop, keep pedaling slowly.
Start with 8 rounds and add 1 round each week.

Do this routine 2-3 times a week. Know that you won't be able to improve every time you train, but as long as the weekly trend is for you to be doing a few more reps or adding a few more pounds then you're heading in the right direction. In fact, I'd encourage you to make every 3rd workout a "back off" workout where you purposefully do a few less reps and pounds than you know you can. Progress is never a linear path and so don't fight this fact of life by trying to push too hard and too often.

A couple of closing thoughts. First, this is not intended to be the "best" mountain bike workout for all riders and all situations. Exercise is like a drug and you need to take the right kinds in the right dosages to see the results you need. For example, if you are World Cup Pro then this workout may not be enough for you - but then again, a rider shouldn't be looking for free advice on the internet if their paycheck depends on their performance.

Also, I did not include several things that I would in a more comprehensive program, such as corrective exercises and single leg exercises. This workout encompasses all the major factors that should be addressed this time of year but does not represent a complete use of every tool in my toolbox.

However, the 80-20 Rule tells us that 80% of your results come from 20% of your efforts and I believe that a routine like this represents a good chunk of the strength and conditioning 20%. When applied with 100% focus and intensity a simple program like this can deliver some pretty amazing result for the vast majority of riders.

So there you have it, something to get the off season training ball rolling. Races are won and epic rides are prepared for now and the longer you wait or the less organized your efforts the less progress you'll make next year.

By the way, I'd be interested to hear if you guys like this type of article and would like to see more routines like this in the future.

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 to sign up for the free Trail Rider Fundamentals Video Mini-Course.

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  • + 53
 Here's my routine:
Wake up, take dump, down a beer, browse pinkbike, stumble across workout routine article, imagine myself with bulging biceps and a twelve-pack, eat a bowl noodle, nap (for a long time).

And for another 8 or 10 hours I am a mazzafrekainfigng HULK with a giant. nevermind.
  • - 8
flag WAKIdesigns (Nov 1, 2011 at 2:40) (Below Threshold)
 eee... are you sure you haven't stumbled across the workout routine article on some other site like: "off-season crosstraining for obsessive wankers"?
  • + 9
 Dude I'm on the same work out, and I've def seen results.
  • + 1
 Didnt mean to neg prop you....
  • + 0
 Great workouts. but I live in SoCal, so there is no off season, the dry dusty dirt we have here just gets better! Cool
  • + 24
 what's an OFF SEASON? could someone explain please?
are they talking about people who are scared of snow and mud?
  • + 2
 Off season is not doing only gym, is when there are no races and you want to prepare your self for the next season.
  • + 5
 Can't be flat out race fitness all year, your body won't take it! Winter is for doing rad drifts in the mud...
  • + 7
 Off season is trailbuilding season!! Its when the poison ivey wont kill ya and everything is dead!! The rocks reappear out of the trees and the features seem to just align themselves into a gnar trail!! The mattock and chainsaw come out of hiding and get the cobbwebs wiped off and a ribbon of single track is broken into the ground connecting these cosmic features. So that come next summer you have a new trail to rip after everything else gets re-covered in poison ivey!!!
  • + 2
 I hear you flowzone, Im from Australia living in Vancouver, Im still trying to get to grips with this whole off-season thing.... "you mean you can't ride your bike all year round???"
  • + 7
 when it's -30°C outside, you don't want to ride
  • + 3
 thats when you know its time to shred the pow!
  • + 1
 for sure, just go skiing. you ski for a full day in powder it is better than doing box jumps and squats. if thats not enough then do tele skiing instead
  • + 11
 just in time! now how many donuts should i be eating hourly?
  • + 3
 at least one from timmies (while your getting a coffee) and then a few more throughout the day.
  • - 3
 you're doing it wrong way around: stuff a donut up your arse and let the hungry rottweiler chase you
  • + 7
 your donuts per hour ratio should be pretty close to your beer per minuite ratio but no higher than your mars a day ratio. Im pretty sure thats how it works.
  • + 7
 I prefer the format without the video - maybe add in some diagrams to explain the exercises, but after that it's sweet, much easier to use. Going to give this a shot over the winter, rather than the more conventional weight programme I was thinking about.
  • + 1
 click the link! you get a separate video for each workout!
  • + 8
 VIDEO PLEASE! bikers can't read, especially not this much lol
  • + 1
 click the links!
  • + 3
 Great article as usual James! Good to see it wrapped up... I missed such thing in his training program, a simplified thing for total lazy arses Big Grin but I think he didn't included it for a reason.

I trained a bit according to James program - it was the best bike related investment I've done during last few years, even though I haven't followed it fully, I took the easiest 2-day a week workout and I was amazed with how long ad how fast could I ride comparing to previous years.
  • + 5
 WTF IS A TGU?!?!?
I understand what it is short for, but what does it actually mean?
Get up and eat a kebab?
  • + 10
 Google motherf*cker. Do you use it?
  • + 1
 No mate you'll have to explain.
  • + 1
 TGU means Turkish Get Ups.Click and watch the video.
  • + 3
 Turkish Get Up's? Can I get Chilli sauce on that?
  • + 1
 Yes....and Nacho's.Enjoy!
  • + 1
 Good info James, I like this kind of overview article. I'd also like to hear your thoughts on fighting burnout over the long winter season. I got pretty sick of the gym by the time the snow melted last year and definitely let myself slack off in April and May just when I needed it most.
  • + 1
 I dont know about this seems a bit pointless, heavy cardio and weights? i dont get it, surely your supposed just deadlift, squat and press as much weight as possible without injuring yourself to tear muscle fibers and then recover by eating. And im pretty sure that while you do intense cardio this will release chemicals that break down muscle therefore weakening you. I thought you were just supposed to seperate your strength and cardio training to progress at all. Or am i just missing something?
  • + 1
 You might want to check your source for that. Cardio and weights go together just fine. Cardio doesn't break down muscles and weaken you. If you're trying to get all beefed up and massive then yes you want to avoid cardio so your caloric intake can go into building muscle. I've done workout routines like this that combine cardio and resistance and they are awesome for overall fitness and get you ripped pretty quickly if you train hard enough.
  • + 1
 Cool wasnt really sure, i think in a couple of months i will change to a routine like this then, wasnt really sure its so easy to get bs information when it comes to fitness. Hopefully ill be a dh machine next summer Big Grin
  • + 1
 I hate to point out the obvious, but there's isn't anything you'd describe as "cardio" training in there.
  • + 1
 Cardiac Power Intervals?
  • + 1
 This is a great workout routine. I prefer a more non linear approach with less lifting. Ive been doing boxing routines ie speed bag, heavy bag, knee lifts, shadowboxing, spin bike. in 3, 10 min super sets. This is good for intensity and it will help against the stiff lower back many cyclists get over months of riding, as there is more torsional activation of the core. The hand speed you gain also helps bike handling (not as good as pumptracking, but it still helps) I also swim twice a week for cardio and to keep resting heart rate down while keeping the impact off my joints. Just an alternate way of thinking. Great article, James.
  • + 1
 I love this, I`ve been looking for a mtb specific workout for a long time now... I would love to have a new one every month because I know to see progress, you can do the same workout for more than 4-6 weeks.... SO PLEASE!!! bring a new one out in december!!!

  • + 2
 Been thinking of changing my workout routine to really help me on the bike.This couldn't have come along at a better time. As Mattwragg said, diagrams would help a little also. Thanks!
  • + 1
 i need a caloric beer chart to offset or add to these excersises to fight off the dreaded muffin top! 40 oz curls are an important part of every mtbkrs overall fitness (definitely in the "off-season). that and burritos.
  • + 1
 This is awesome. I got my butt kicked recently in a local DH race because I run out of gas way to soon. I'm going to give this a shot and see where it takes me!
  • + 1
 Thanks James! I've been letting myself slip a bit this season, so I need to do a lot more this off season. I will definitely add some of your stuff to my routine.
  • + 1
 The article is very good, but a video would help a lot for the people that are not from an english speaking country, beacause we dont really know the names of the exercises.
  • + 1
 click the name of the exercise, it will bring you to a link that shows and explains it
  • + 1
 Thanks man!
  • + 2
 When I go to sleep I cover myself in Vaseline and go under my covers and pretend I am a slug
  • + 2
 off season? try -30 weather. thats pow season , son
  • + 1
 Exactly lol. 4 days of pow and 3 days of training
  • + 2
 I just call it ski season.
  • + 1
 Thanks for the tips man. Much appreciated
  • + 1
 Again great ideas and tips.
  • + 1
 Great Tips, keep up the good work!
  • + 1
 There is no off season...
  • + 1
 yes more like this please.

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