Improving More Than Your Pedaling Cardio

Dec 29, 2012 at 8:48
by James Wilson  
Like it or not, this time of year makes it tough to get out on the trail and ride. Try as you might, shorter days and snow on the ground make it next to impossible to ride nearly as much as you would like. This means that your cardio conditioning will start to suffer if you don't do more than sit on the couch watching old riding videos and dreaming of spring.

This means that the smart rider is looking for ways to maintain or even improve their cardio conditioning when they can't hit the trail. While spin classes and following along to a video workout on the trainer are popular options, I recommend riders also supplement their cardio training with workouts that challenge something other than their pedaling muscles. There is a lot that goes into being a great trail rider besides pedaling, and that means you need something to train those other movement skills and types of cardio.

When you use Strength Endurance workouts like my Punisher Conditioning Circuits you are able to work on your ability to maintain your strength and power in the face of fatigue, and let's face it – if you can't ride with a certain amount of strength and power it just stops being fun. So what if you can sit and keep the pedals turning over for hours on end if you're too tired to stand up and give 'er on the downhills and short sprint climbs.

For you downhill guys, this type of cardio conditioning becomes even more important because less than 1/3 of a downhill race actually involves pedaling. That means that 2/3 of your race run you are doing something other than pedaling, and if you don't address the cardio demands of those types of strength and movement demands you are leaving a big hole in your program.

This Punisher Conditioning Circuit originally appeared earlier this year on my Personal Coaching Members website and it is still one of my favorites. It combines the kettlebell, TRX and sandbags into a kick ass workout that will improve the ability of your legs, core and upper body stay strong and powerful as they get tired. Here is a rundown of the workout:


Circuit 1 - 30 seconds work/ 30 seconds rest X 4 round

1. Rotational Deadlift
2. Get Up Sit Up
3. TRX Single Leg Squat
4. Single Leg-Single Arm Shoulder Press

Circuit 2 - 20 seconds work/ 40 seconds rest X 4 rounds

1. KB Snatch or KB Single Arm Swing
2. Around the Worlds
3. TRX Jump Squats
4. 3 Point Rows

Finisher - 20 seconds work/ 10 seconds rest X 4 rounds

Rotational Lunges


If you don't have access to a TRX or sandbag you can do substitute these exercises instead:

TRX Single Leg Squat = Bodyweight Squat
TRX Jump Squats = Jump Squats (just don't hold a TRX)
Sandbag Rotational Deadlifts = KB Rotational Deadlifts (just hold a KB in each hand)
Sandbag Around the World = KB Halo
Sandbag Rotational Lunges = Burpees

You can watch this video to see how to perform these exercises while avoiding common mistakes:

Views: 10,123    Faves: 117    Comments: 2

If riding faster and longer is one of your goals this off season then this Punisher Conditioning Circuit will come in handy. Do this workout 1-2 times a week when you can't hit the trail and you'll find you won't be huffing and puffing nearly as hard during your early season rides when the trails thaw. What's more, by recognizing the need to train more than just your pedaling cardio you may just find that you are able to push harder longer into your rides.


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.

The MTB Strength Training Systems Logo


  • 54 2
 just go road biking on a full on downhill bike with maxxis high roller super tacky tyres ahaha
  • 4 0
 Did any one else hear "Bitch" when he said "bench"? And I think soft compound schwalbe ditry dans would work a bit better.
  • 3 1
 make that 2.7s
  • 8 1 5psi
  • 2 0
 I've tried that before, its one hell of an effort
  • 4 0
 on a kona stab.
  • 4 1
 with a Monster T
  • 2 1
 with like steel bars and seat post. and a super heavy backpack on.
  • 2 0
 and keep a minimum steady pace of 15mph.
  • 4 1
 with super soft shocks with 80% sag
  • 4 3
 in 9th gear...
  • 2 0
 with the saddle slammed to the frame so when your pedalling your knee'ing yourself in the chops.....
  • 8 0
 Uphill, in the mud.
  • 2 2
 with a 44tooth chainring.....
  • 1 0
 in the middle of winter
  • 2 0
 haha. epic!
  • 2 1
 And that's why road bikes don't make sense!
  • 8 0
 naked, in a cornfield.
  • 7 0
 bare foot with straitline dh pedals
  • 1 2
 without a bash guard or chain device :0 !!!
  • 14 1
  • 7 0
 I used to live in Finland and it really sucked to pedal in snow or mud half a year. So I moved in Spain Smile
  • 7 0
 And now you don't have work like the rest of us lol
  • 1 0
 Haha what a bitch that turned out to be Wink
  • 1 0
  • 2 0
 Infact TODAY starts my unemployment "LOLOLOLOLOL"....
  • 1 0
 Mate that makes 6.000.000 of us now...
  • 1 1
 You don't have to pedal in snow though so surely everything is fine?!?
  • 1 0
 Or just give it the ol' 1-2 punch with HIIT jump rope and stair sprints for 45 minutes a day... Or hiking (with full avy/day pack) at 10k feet. Or sprint circuit training with 35 lb weights across the board.... Lots of options for those without a gym or TRX.
  • 6 2
 Just ride SS
  • 2 0
 starting next month im hitting up the pool a few times a week to work on cardio/strength
  • 9 0
 do it now... there is no break
  • 1 0
 thats what we all say!
  • 3 0
 starting next month i am going to do loads of cardio...ask me next month!!!
  • 2 0
 I'm gonna start next year
  • 1 0
 Or you could just run... I'm running indoor track at school and Im pretty sure I wont be huffing and puffing in the spring when I hit the trails! Smile
  • 10 0
 You shouldn't do drugs at anytime of the year. Not just spring
  • 1 0
 on a but of a serious note (if I may)... does anybody know or have a recommendation of what weight kettle bell to buy or use?
  • 1 0
 haha ya i have High roller super tacky and its a bitch on the road even though its on my 37 pound bike haha
  • 3 1
 Great ideas here.
  • 3 1
 Yeah this is by far and away my favorite sadomasochist web site, keep up the good work James!!!!
  • 1 0
 so this should take 34 minutes total?
  • 2 0
 ^^^ AH HAHAHA this guy
  • 1 0
 Span dex is also recommend
  • 1 0
 Grr product placement.
  • 2 1
 This dude is silly
Below threshold threads are hidden

Post a Comment

You must login to Pinkbike.
Don't have an account? Sign up

Join Pinkbike  Login
Copyright © 2000 - 2019. All rights reserved.
dv56 0.025422
Mobile Version of Website