Last Chance To Be Ready For The Early Season

Apr 1, 2014 at 10:53
by James Wilson  
A lot of riders waste time trying to “ride themselves into shape” after an off-season of either doing nothing or spending too much time on a road bike. They find themselves struggling to find their groove and have to spend a few weeks or even months getting their riding legs back under them.

For me, this is a giant waste of precious riding time. Who has trail rides to waste feeling like crap on the trail when you can hit the trails much better prepared to deal with the physical demands of trail riding?

If you find yourself among the thousands of riders every year who fall victim to this problem then there is something you can do to see results in just a few weeks. And it is pretty simple to do.

Getting stronger is the fastest way to see an immediate impact on your riding.

The first question I ask riders who come to me with questions about how to improve their performance is how much can they deadlift. It doesn’t matter if they race DH, Enduro, XC, 24 Hour, Marathon or simply want to ride the trail with more fitness and confidence – the answer to that question tells me what we need to work on.

If they look at me without blinking and tell me that they deadlift somewhere in the 1.5-2 X BW area I know that while they may still need some work in specific areas, their overall body strength is pretty good and I need to look at what they are doing on the cardio side of things that isn’t working. Here’s a hint – most of the time they don’t use their trail rides properly and just ride as hard as they can for as long as they can with no real plan. The real secret to improving your cardio is learning how to use your trail time better.

On the other hand, if they look at me with a blank stare or tell me that they don’t really deadlift I know that they need to get stronger before the cardio stuff will start to work. I’ll still want them to use their trail rides in a smarter way but the focus isn’t on adding more cardio yet.

The reason is that strength levels give us a good idea of how stress-proof a movement pattern is. A rider might have a good looking hip-hinge a.k.a. deadlift with just bodyweight or a light weight but terrible looking technique when trying to pull 2X bodyweight. In this case the movement pattern is there but isn’t stress-proof enough to handle that weight.

On the bike this rider may look good at low fatigue levels but starts to break down easily after a few High Tension Cardio efforts. They end up wasting a lot of energy through bad breathing and posture on the bike because they weren’t able to maintain it as the movement patterns were stressed with the realities of trail riding.

A stronger rider will be able to sustain their breathing and posture better because they have it mastered at such a high level that what they do on the trail seems easy by comparison. When you’ve pulled a double bodyweight deadlift trying to turn over a hard gear to crest a steep climb or pedal out of a blown corner suddenly doesn’t seem as “hard”.

Once this physical and psychological strength has been built you can get more out of cardio training in the off-season to improve the ability to sustain those efforts longer.

So if you want to quickly improve your trail riding and skip the whole “ride yourself into shape” thing this year then get stronger. I’ve posted a lot of great articles over the years on methods I like to get stronger but Rep Ladders continue to be one of my favorites.

Rep Ladders have you stick with the same weight each set but step up the number of reps each set. Once you reach the highest number of reps you drop back down to the first rung on the Rep Ladder and repeat.

For example, if I wanted to use a 2/3/5 Rep Ladder sequence and go through it two times it would look like this…

Set 1 – 2 reps
Set 2 – 3 reps
Set 3 – 5 reps
Set 4 – 2 reps
Set 5 – 3 reps
Set 6 – 5 reps

You want to rest as long as you need to in order to give a high quality effort on the next set. Don’t make the mistake so many riders do and try to turn everything into a form of cardio training.

With this workout you are able to get in 20 high quality reps with only a couple of sets feeling “hard”. You're increasing your strength from the volume of work done but you're doing it in a way that doesn’t take your body to the edge every set.

This means you won’t feel nearly as beat up as if you had maxed out every set and tried to do something like 4 sets of 5 reps, which would give you the same 20 reps but would leave you far more sore and tired the next day.

Here is a workout using Rep ladders that you can do to quickly increase your strength and performance on the trail:

Workout 1
Deadlift – 2-3 rounds of 2/3/5 Rep Ladders
Floor Press – 2-3 rounds of 2/3/5 Rep Ladders
Chin Ups – 2-3 rounds of 2/3/5 Rep Ladders

Workout 2
DB Clean & Press – 2-3 rounds of 2/3/5 Rep Ladders
Single Leg Squat – 2-3 rounds of 2/3/5 Rep Ladders
Renegade Rows – 2-3 rounds of 2/3/5 Rep Ladders

You want to rest for 5-10 breathes/ 30-60 seconds between exercises and rounds. You can do these workouts as a circuit or you can finish all of your sets before moving on to the next exercise. Either way you only want the last set to feel “hard”, and even then your form should still look as solid as on your first set.

As you add a little weight each week you’ll find that you are getting stronger but the workouts still don’t feel any “harder” than they did when you started. After 4-6 weeks you’ll be significantly stronger and feeling much closer to mid-season form on your bike.

The take home point in that if you’ve never spent any time getting stronger then it is the fastest and simplest way to see improvement on the trail. If you want to hit the trails feeling like you never took any time off of your bike then get stronger using the routine I posted above along with your usual trail riding instead of trying to add more cardio to the mix.

And remember that strength training is more about the journey than the destination. It may take you a couple years to achieve a double bodyweight deadlift and even then that isn’t the real point. Focus on getting a little stronger every day and you’ll see benefits, if you force the issue you’ll just get injured.

If you have any questions about this workout or why getting stronger should be your first priority please leave a comment below, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

And if you liked this article please click one of the Like or Share buttons below to help spread the word to fellow riders who could benefit from the info.

Until next time…

Ride Strong,
James Wilson

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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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86 Comments

  • 32 0
 Great read but can you put something together on diet also? Some people (myself included) like to focus on that also.

Cheers dude Smile
  • 62 4
 Diet: cut back on the beers, brownies and donuts; add more water, leafy green veggies, lean proteins (chicken, turkey, etc) and complex carbs (quinoa, steel cut oats).

Get enough sleep, try some yoga, eat better.
  • 171 6
 Cut back on beer? You do realize this is biking right? It doesn't work that way.
  • 57 1
 You don't have to stop drinking beer, just when you drink a beer and someone else is watching, you have to say "Rest Day." Pretty much works for the brownies and donuts too.
  • 14 6
 The pre and after ride McDs are essential fats to aid recovery Wink
  • 29 6
 His training program talks about nutrition as well. He also runs many articles on that subject on his blog. One warning though, if you are a carboholic, you are not going to like them.
  • 4 3
 Cheers Waki! I'm not heavy on carbs so that should be cool
  • 14 5
 Can waki please be allowed to write a comment without getting neg props, I'm getting sick of having to reveal his comments every day
  • 2 0
 The gym is a small but important part for me. I think you can benefit more from a riding coach. Without proper technique on the bike you waste time in a gym not targeting the things that actually help proper technique while on the bike.
  • 3 1
 I think WAKI is awesome, he is one of the only people on here who can logically argue his point, plus he literally built his own bike, and it looks awesome. I would save up for one if it went to market for sure! props to him in my opinion.
  • 5 0
 I didn't say cut the beer out, I just said cut back -- alcohol is converted to sugar and dehydrates the body at a certain level.

However: multiple studies show that moderate alcohol consumption is actually healthier than complete abstinence. So crack one open! Smile
  • 5 0
 Even pros observe beer:30 BUT are able to convert to horsepower. I use beer to deal with the pain of hitting my head on my genetic ceiling when trying to progress my riding as my body ages. So...i use it in that capacity as a nutritional supplement. A lot.
  • 1 0
 When u click his link it just goes right the pb home page
  • 1 0
 Peaty never suffered from having a few cans! At one point he could have been sponsored by Stella artois!
  • 1 0
 @Clarkeh - "Rest Day". Haha. Maybe throw in a "tomorrow I'm doing legs." That should get you another brownie.
  • 17 2
 I hate gym and lifting so I do bouldering and indoor climbing to improve my upper core strenght and endurance. I can work out my legs on a bike. I just want to have fun and see my friends on trails.
  • 2 0
 Cenim! Taky chodim lozit. A plavat
  • 1 0
 Ja zacal s lezenim letos v ramci telaku na skole a super. Uz sem chtel zacit nekolik let a mrzi me, ze jsem to tak odkladal Smile
  • 10 1
 Good advice. Although, for those of us who spent all our extra cash on bikes and gear and don't have any $$ left for weights or a gym pass this article is inspiring but impractical. It would be great to see some other useful exercises you can do at home with limited equipment.
Glad to see this kind of article either way.
  • 8 0
 I appreciate James' advice and enthusiasm for the community . The ladder looks OK for in season training as a means to minimize fatigue, but if you want to get strongest fastest you need to follow a simple linear progression. Something like 'Starting Strength' by Mark Rippetoe. For most, building the deadlift isnt about volume (number of reps.) My PR is 502lbs.

I dont think asking 1.5bw is a tall order and should be achievable by most. 2x does take some extended dedication. But being strong doesn't just improve biking, it improves life.
  • 2 0
 ^^This guy knows.
  • 38 32
 This is written in a stupidly arrogant way basically saying "Do you even lift brah!!"

The advice is sound and I've done it, it makes a sizable difference. But don't stop riding your bike and just be in the gym becoming that guy!
  • 8 8
 Totally agree bro! Makes me think of this... m.youtube.com/watch?v=OloLS5kTrVs
  • 36 5
 Really? I didn't get that at all. It just sounded like straight up helpful advice to me. He's not saying we shouldn't ride our bikes, he's just saying that there are better ways to gain bike fitness than just smashing out a bazillion miles on the bike each week.
  • 11 1
 I didn't get arrogance either. He was trying to use real world experiences to demonstrate an area of training that might really help that otherwise may have been overlooked. I reckon the assumption that we all train is a small price to pay for the advice
  • 3 2
 Oh don't get me wrong the advice is bang on! I made that comment after if been dead lifting in the gym myself. You've just got to make sure you don't lose riding time to gym time.
  • 13 0
 I've never been in a gym in my life Smile
And it shows!!!
  • 4 10
flag floww (Apr 6, 2014 at 2:39) (Below Threshold)
 @Spudlord You just wrote down exactly what I was thinking.. Sure it's all sound advice, but pretty arrogant.. You cannot generalise everyone and everyones needs as far as this suggests..
  • 5 7
 some people actually like riding their bikes, and every ride is an experience listening to the sound of your wheels hitting the dirt. There is nothing wrong with riding yourself into shape. I disagree. And riding a road bike to get your cardio in shape is now waste of time? I am not a roadie, but I can find a few muscle heads that have not cardio ability (and they don't ride bikes unless they are getting ready for a bodybuilding competition and need to drop the bodyfat). This article should be written for secondary activities that a rider should take on in addition to riding his bike to get in shape.

"A lot of riders waste time trying to “ride themselves into shape” after an off-season of either doing nothing or spending too much time on a road bike"
  • 9 0
 I love reading comments about lifting and and how it and other stuff can improve riding written by people who have no clue what they're talking about.
"some people actually like riding their bikes" yeah, we all do bro. It doesn't say to stop riding but if you want to take your riding up a notch then it's definitely worth looking into weight training rather than just cycling. The thing with "riding yourself into shape" is that hours of cardio aren't exactly gonna take you from a 90kg to a 180kg deadlift.
It is mentioned, not sure if any of you missed it, that it is advised to start cardio training once you can deadlift 1.5-2x your body weight.
I've been weight training for just over a year now and being able to deadlift even just 2x your body weight really will help you big time on the trail. You will also feel more confident as you will be able to control your bike better and take harder lines.
Also, I'm not sure where you're getting "arrogant" from. It's pretty no BS and straight to the point. Like it should be.
  • 3 2
 there will be millions of potential lost MTB customers (newbies and existing) if we started to preach: "it is advised to start cardio training once you can deadlift 1.5-2x your body weight."

Also, there are plenty of folks that may never be able to deadlift 1.5 - 2x their bodyweight..factors such as age, injuries that never go away....limits some from doing this..should I start giving up on getting in shape..prob not...cardio, light weight training, good morning lifts, situps, etc..to strengthen core and lower back exercises with light weights work too...

just keep it in perspective....one rider does not speak for the rest of the world, and also one training philosophy does not work for all....James Wilson did not write the "Bible" on anything, what works for Gwin may not work for Minaar...
  • 3 2
 i can deadlift 1.9 times body weight, i am offically the next steve smith. Sponsors please form Aline (pun intended)
  • 1 1
 nice kid, nice!!!
  • 3 0
 Whaaaaaaa !!! So hire a personal trainer and shut your hole then. He's giving advice , if you don't want it , don't take it.
  • 2 0
 @jaybird951, Nice little very obvious ignoring of a point. As I have mentioned, nowhere is it said to give up riding bikes which in itself is a cardiovascular activity. It in no way means "Don't take up bikes until you can deadlift twice what you weigh.". The reason for the cardio thing is that ideally to build up strength and muscle quickest is you want to work out frequently but not at full intensity, and if you try incorporate low/high intensity cardio along side of your strength stuff, the low-intensity long-duration stuff will work against your strength training in the recovery period, basically leaving you to take forever to make gainz or gain strength. Mountain biking like most sports you want your training to consist of the 3 things that are you max strength, how long you can last at your max strength, and how long you can last at low intensity stuff. If you need to improve on your strength, which is what this article is about, then you want to cut back on your low intensity long duration stuff which could counteract with the strength training in the recovery period. Once you're happy with where you're at with strength then you can move onto focusing on a different one of the 3. You could work all 3 simultaneously on a weekly workout but you really have to consider the recovery times and stuff for each type of activity. But cutting extra cardio will allow you to focus on strength allowing you to progress quicker in that area.
  • 2 0
 Also, yes. Each person is different. If you are into mountian biking then these would still most likely be the principles you would apply. But, the above is most likely aimed at the generally fit person. And the workouts won't vary from fit person to fit person too much in the same discipline, unless there is specific areas they have to improve on. Human anatomy is pretty much the same from person to person. The workout up top is actually very well balanced and if you are a generally fit person like most of us on here are, then there is no reason you can't/shouldn't do them. I hope this is understood, I tried to write is as plainly as I could without really getting technical on names and such.
  • 1 0
 agreed. thanks and ride on. the videos linked to the exercises are nice.
  • 6 1
 get your diet in check first, which I don't see mentioned.. IT'S THE MOST IMPORTANT THING!!! you can do the greatest training program in the world but if your diet isn't on, then you are wasting your time! That means No more beer, cookies, ice cream, sugars, junk food, and more proteins, sweet potatoes, Flax, whole grains, leafy greens, healthy fats. ect..
  • 2 0
 He definitely mentions this in other articles on his website and advocates pretty equally a good diet and strength and conditioning.
  • 5 1
 Good article and I will be using these ladders. x2 BW is a really, really big ask and I'd bet there are very few riders out there who could pull this kind of weight even in the pro arena. This would be nearly 200 KG for me!!
  • 1 0
 not as hard as you think. I am getting close at about 1.9 times body weight, only been training in the gym hard since january, prior to that just 1-2 sessions in the gym to loose the fat. I reckon all top pros could do 2 times as they have very low body fat %'s
  • 1 0
 I agree, if you're training properly that's not that big of a number. Only took me a few months of training at 175lbs to pull 350lbs. Now weighing in at 185lbs pulling 465lbs. But I train with national and world record wpf lifters, they really help!
  • 1 0
 Ha ha! OK... I need to go and buy some more plates and then engage 'beast mode' !!
  • 1 0
 not overly hard, I'm 10kg off a 3x bodyweight lift. does wonders for your riding, especially cornering and hip drive when pedaling standing.
  • 13 6
 I also know one cool exercise. I ride my bike in the woods Smile
  • 1 1
 Word to that. I feel lucky because even though I'm in Colorado, I'm sitting here thinking about how I get in at least 5-8 good rides in a month over the worst months of winter, and when Spring comes I'm ready to rock!
  • 3 0
 From personal experience, I have to agree with the riding yourself into shape comment, and general theme. Not only has it not been helpful to me, but has in the past actually hurt my riding by developing bad riding habits and bad posture, especially on a road bike with an aggressive forward riding position. As James says, performance and enjoyment is really about being able to hold good breathing posture under/after stress. A winter at the gym strengthening my back, core, and hips has made my first few rides of this season so much more fun.
  • 5 2
 All cool, but from personal experience, i think a "standard" gym workout adding some cardio exercises are way better than every "specific training" or "functional workout" coachees ever gave.
  • 5 2
 Can confirm. 2 years ago I got to a 315lbs Deadlift, 265lbs squat and 200lbs bench @ 145lbs bodyweight (I really love strength training) during the winter and I was really curious to see how it would impact my riding. I did some cardio but indoor cardio on machines bore me to death so I spent limited time on them. The training made a stellar difference when it came do riding DH, I knew it would help but I was not expecting it to make that much of a difference.

XC was another story though, I could always muster some power to do some quick sprints but my overall riding was terrible due to poor cardio. I was getting passed really badly by 95lbs girls on crappy bikes that didn't do much during the off season. It had me thinking... Yeah, being in a good/great overall shape helps, but when someone that couldn't fight their way out of a wet paperbag outrides you effortlessly, it makes you reconsider how much you thought strength actually helps.

So yeah, from my personal experience, strength is great but strength alone doesn't cut it at all when it comes to trail rides that last over 1 hour. This winter I cut back on the lifting and went on the other side of the spectrum with a lot of cardio. I'm really curious to see what effects it will have on my riding this year.

I would really like to know how James balances str vs. cardio for his athletes who are already in a decent shape.
  • 4 0
 Oh and I feel James is right with the "too much road biking comment". To my experience, unless you do a lot of crazy climbing, the usual steady state cardio road bike rides don't really transfer well to mountain biking either.
  • 3 0
 He used to train Gwinn when he was on yeti as well as a few other top20 dh riders and as someone who has used his methods in my own training programs the difference was awesome, but moderation is key no point being stronger than a gorilla if you move like a sloth Smile
  • 1 1
 Oh I know, I just really like strength training and was wondering how far I could get within a few months. This wasn't a bike specific training or anything, I was just killing time during winter.
  • 1 2
 They're some really great numbers for that body weight. I've never 1RM'd so I have no idea what I can do, at some point I will, I've been more interested in what number of reps can I repeatedly do set after set at a given weight.

What I did last spring and am again doing to bump my cardio levels up is for one month change from dedicated squat, deadlift, bench, press days to doing all of the compound moves each time I go and doing a 5 x 5 workout. The first five being deadlift, squat, bench, press, bent over rows. The second five being 5 sets with 30 second rest between sets; this is from putting the bar down to starting to set up again as setup requires exertion. I then do 6 reps of lift (reps of 6 so I can mix between pronated and supinated bent over rows on the Olympic bar). I use about 70/80% of the weight I use on my dedicated day for the same number of reps. Really focus on technique and treat every rep like a single with a breath drawn at the start of each rep and refreshed at end before the next rep.

I then do this workout four times a week in blocks of two days. With warm up and stretching its about an hour. Even if your heart and cardio levels are feeling beaten up between the sets as you move to using different muscle sets you can keep pushing it

Its a great workout and you don't end up sore the next day so can go again. I wouldn't do tis workout long term, but for me I find its a great way to get up to strength and fitness levels up in s short time period. It also feeds back into your dedicated lift gym days as you've focused on technique and feeling every muscle engage in the right way in a lift
  • 12 7
 Hornyone- keep your advices on deadlifting loads of lbs and not listening to functional movement coaches to yourself. It is analogical to telling someone to learn jumping by hitting a 12ft double. It's no rocket science, pronciples of clearing a 4ft table are same with 12ft double - You know open youtube for instructional videos and read some books on jumping techniqe and do it! Sooner you know you'll be sending 20ft gaps! I take an hour per month with top Swedish FM coaches working with top Swedish athletes and they never allow they clients to lift anything than bar alone until they do it properly, both because of the risk of injury and to clean it in an effective manner with proper movement pattern. Not every coach is a crossfit idiot. You know, you have to spend time searching for a good coach, like to find a good mechanic. I mean do whatever you want, it's your conscience and if someone is foolish enough to listen to advices like yours, then it is only good news for smarter people. Natural selection is a good thing.
  • 2 0
 This is a great article and makes a lot of since, again he is not saying to stop riding he is saying not to over do the ride from a cardio stand point. Everyone who trains year round to ride being it for racing or just getting the best ride you can will tell you that over training on the bike is one of the worst things you can do. Taking his workout plan and adding in 5 minutes of jump roping 3 times a week will surprise you in multiple ways on the bike. I know not everyones knees are going to let them Jump rope so if not then try using the elliptical machine 3 times a week (keep it at a higher level) try to maintain your average speed through out the 30 minute workout (I currently use level 16 and maintain 8.5mph or more). This pace for me gives me a good cardio workout and keeps my legs stretched well from leg exercises but does not make them feel like they are mush the next day. This has improved not only my speed but has increased my handling on the bike as well.
  • 2 0
 Spot on about the uber-importance of deadlifting but "rep-laddering" it is a little...off. You want progressive weight increases and fewer reps the heavier you go, in a pyramid arrangement, with deadlifing, followed by a descent back down the pyramid accordingly until your final set is the same weight/rep scheme as your first warm up set. Doing the same weight for numerous sets where only rep numbers are changed ins't going to build the same power-endurance (etc.) as pyramiding, but every trainer has their plan. Just my 2 cents.
  • 1 0
 Just press-ups, sit-ups and tri-cep dips for me while I watch TV in the evening, bit of leg strengthening with knee's locked out 90deg back against the wall for 5 minutes and I'm done in 20 minutes. To be honest the warm up / cool down stretching of all the major muscle groups before and after are more important to me for maintaining flexibility, and at 40 I need all the flexibility I can get! Smile
  • 1 0
 I'm all over the stretching since I developed severe back problems in 2011 and, to a remakable degree, it has worked. I'm back on the bike multiple times per week. I've always hated lifting weights, but at my age (54) I think I could benefit. However, dead lifts, clean and jerk, and some other lifts seem like they would be hard on my back. Is there a site that is extremely explicit on how to perform these lifts without back stress? Also, I have a bow flex gathering dust in the basement. Can it be configured to deadlift (safely)?
  • 1 0
 stupid advice.. rep ladders should be tapered the other way with weight increasing each set and most bodybuilders don't even aim for as low as 2 reps.. to get any benefit out of low reps you should be pushing maximum weight possible.. which is not what a cyclist should be doing because you'll end up with bad joints. anyone intending on starting the gym and getting stronger and leaner should start with 3 sets of 10-12 until you find your feet.
  • 1 0
 What about for someone with a PCL deficient knee. I've been doing the Starting Strength routine for a few years now, but have found my knee with it's missing PCL is starting to cause some grief. What are some other exercises I can do that aren't going to put a great deal of strain through the knee? At the moment I was going to look at some wall squat holds to build up stability again and then progress back to lunges once I've got some stability.
  • 1 0
 I don't understand why so many people are trying to argue that this type of workout is not worth it. In the past year I have been working out much more and recently started at a Cross Fit type gym. I have not been riding regularly in years and since I got back on my bike I feel much more confident in my riding, same goes for skiing. In turn I have much more fun skiing and riding. Exercise goes much further than skill building in overall riding ability imo.
  • 1 1
 thanks for the advice. beside the riding you should do some training to support it, i agree. i tend to be lazy on the home workout in winter and that fires back on me now. and i must say, with added at-home-excercises the riding you can do is much more fun. and i agree, i wouldn't train at home instead of riding. but i would add it to that. riding pumptracks is a really good excercise, too.
  • 1 1
 Great article as always James, has inspired me to get looking into it to ride better this summer. I do have a couple of questions though:

1) When you say double body weight when deadlifting, do you mean double of your body weight on the bar and weights, or your own body weight and then the same on the bar and weights? And if so, how do you recomend starting? I have never ever done one, and I'm always fearful of injurying my back (same with squats, but I do those). I'm relatively fit (1,77m, around 73kg and I play hockey at a relatively high level throughout the year, training about 3-5 times a week), but genetically not big or with a lot of muscle, so even when I am going to the gym it takes me a while to see any kind of gains, so when doing squats or attempting deadlifting, which I would like to, I never know where to begin.

2) My gym has no kettlebells, only dumbells, is there a big difference or can I just get on with it with the dumbells?

3) Regarding chin-ups and pull-ups, we don't have rubber bands either, but we have one of those machines with counterweights to do them. Do you find them also helpful or do you also stay away from those?

Thanks for the great articles and videos (really well done and described)! Looking forward to your answer!
  • 1 0
 Glad you liked the article and great questions, here are some answers for you...

1) I'm talking about the weight on the bar. So if you weigh 175 pounds you would like to have a deadlift in the 262-350 pound range. Check out the video I linked to for instructions on the deadlift and start with just the bar if you need to. A rep ladder approach like I outlined in this article would work well. When done right deadlifting is literally lifting with your legs and not your lower back and will teach you how to protect your lower back.

2) KBs have some advantages for some exercises like swings but overall DBs are just fine if that is all you have.

3) The counter-weight machines are alright to use if you don't have bands for assisted chin ups. You could also focus on eccentric chin ups where you lower yourself down and add in some pauses.

Hope this helps.
  • 1 1
 thanks man, like the training videos, especially the instructions about how you want to perceive the movements "pushing yourself underground" with the shoulder press. it really helps with form and activating the right muscles. still working on deadlifts, my shins have taken a beating!
  • 1 1
 I've always found barbell squats will push the deadlift without having to do multiple sets like he mentions in his stuff. Multiple deadlift sets are great but they wear out my posterior chain to the point where it's hard to ride, especially if you're lifting decently heavy weights.
  • 1 1
 "The first question I ask riders who come to me with questions about how to improve their performance is how much can they deadlift. It doesn’t matter if they race DH, Enduro, XC, 24 Hour, Marathon or simply want to ride the trail with more fitness and confidence – the answer to that question tells me what we need to work on."

Jame's articles frustrate the heck out of me by being far, far to generalised. I imagine that "tons of wasted road miles" refers to nothing but Z2 rides all winter which of course anyone with half a brain will tell you is not a recipe for riding fast. Yet this is not clarified. Just one example, but a bit more explanation would help readers understand what different aspects of riding and training aim to help and how they may be balanced together to get the individual where they want to be.
  • 1 1
 The theory and thinking behind the article is sound but it ignores for too many additional factors to being fast on the bike. James seems to be coming at MTB coaching from one very specific angle which is one of strength. Fine if DH or gravity based riding is the aim but James refers to XC, 24 Hour and Marathon too and it is naive to think that getting good at deadlifts or other gym based strength exercises will help you ride fast for 24 hours. But THE most important factor. WOW! Wink The extra bulk won't be much fun to carry around for starters. Deadlift strength is useless when the muscles fibres associated with the lift are tired after the first lap. These riders will be looking to get "bike strong" where the principle of "raise the left and fill the right" will be the main thing in the mind during training (of course with progressive and specific aims during training throughout the season). They would then be supplementing riding time with more rehab style exercise to keep everything nicely balanced without adding bulk. Same kind of principle James is aiming for by ironing out the kinks but to suggest "Getting stronger is the fastest way to see an immediate impact on your riding" referring to gym based free weight exercises is incredibly misleading.
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 i'm 6'3 and about 190 lbs. soooo, that's like SIX 45lb plates. dude. all due respect, I like what you're trying to do, but I'm not 25 and my joints are not interested in your version of a work out.
  • 3 0
 ill stick to beer and parmas
  • 5 2
 What happened to riding for the fun of it.
  • 15 1
 Riding is considerably more fun when you're stronger and faster.
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 I do a lot of intervals on an elliptical machine, leg presses, jumps etc.... Also helps my skiing. I do this even during nicer weather.
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 seems like a legitimate workout, although i would use a bar bell clean and presses/jerks. Using the barbell allows much more weight to be added hence the stabilizers (abdominals, adductors and abductors) will get a better exercise. Remember also to include all major body parts. For example chest isn't getting worked enough imo if.... if you do this routine for a very long period of time. Muscle imbalance is very critical, even if you work muscle groups that aren't required for you to preform better, still do them.
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 Very much agree workouts should be all round. The cardio aspect can be dealt with by moving between movements to keep the heart rate going. The big compound movements are such an important way to get all round strength. I can only guess that James has focused on deadlift as its the most important compound movement for MTBing.

If you squat (properly) not only are a different set of leg muscles receiving the main focus as part of the lift and therefore being strengthened, but great back strength is built, again in slightly different places to the deadlift. Also I've found that these two movements have given me more ab strength, particularly the hard to train lower abs, than any other form of ab training I've done before.

Bench, learn how to do it right (its not a chest press its a bench press) and as well as chest strength you build upper back strength, shoulder strength, tricep strength, all areas that really help with the attack position.

And before you do any of this in the gym, at least 5 mins of good stretching,
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 I think the best way to train for a maxium of a 3-4 minute of riding is probably just riding a lot...... obvious training
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 Months to get your legs back in shape?? Yeah maybe if you just spent the last 3 years in a coma!
  • 2 1
 Southern California does not have an off season.
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 Just go dyking thats a proper work out and you get paid
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 Crossfit has also proved to be a great method for a lot of riders . . .
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 just do pullups and push ups and riding my damn bike seems to work Wink
  • 1 3
 HaHa- Ha
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