No Weights MTB Training

No Gym, No Problem Mountain Bike Strength Training
Real Bodyweight Training for Mountain Bikers - Day 1
James Wilson, for About.com
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Bodyweight training is a very effective and efficient way for mountain bikers to add strength training into their programs. It is convenient since it can be done anywhere and with minimal equipment and offers several benefits beyond simply making you stronger. Unfortunately, though, most riders only think of push ups, pull ups and some crunches when the words “bodyweight exercises” are mentioned. While these exercises are fine, they are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to this type of training.
When challenging exercises and variations are used, bodyweight training is very effective for building real strength. Remember that anything done for more than 6-8 reps in a set is not truly building strength. At that point you are instead starting to build up muscle and short term strength endurance. As mountain bikers it is not usually the endurance that we need to work on with strength training since we get that on the bike, instead it is raw strength that needs to be increased.
Bodyweight training also offers the added benefit of increasing our body awareness and control. As mountain bikers, these attributes are extremely important for us as we try to increase our skill level. As my friend and popular skills coach Gene Hamilton has pointed out, it is amazing how many people in his camps simply do not know where they are in space in relation to their bike. This makes learning the new skills he is trying to teach them difficult to pick up since they do not know how to control their body and bike as they need to. This also increases the likelihood of crashing since they do not know how to “stay loose” and flow when things get a little hairy, which is an inevitable thing if you ride actual trails instead of just spinning on fire roads.
So, considering the extra strength, body control and increased skill and safety aspects, every mountain biker should be incorporating a good strength training program with an emphasis on bodyweight type movements. Although there are a lot of other great tools that can vastly expand the exercise choices (such as a Swiss ball or pull up bar) I am going to keep this routine simple by using exercises that require no other equipment besides a chair. That way everyone who reads this can start incorporating this routine today instead of having to wait until they can get out and pick up something extra. This also makes it a great routine to use on the road when you do not have access to extra equipment.
Before I get into the workout itself I need to explain how to read it. This 2 day workout will consist of 8 exercises each day, and each exercise will be paired with another exercise resulting in 4 pairings, also known as supersets. Grouping the exercises in this way allows for more work to get done in less time and also helps bring about a good anaerobic conditioning effect, increasing your strength endurance as well as your raw strength.
You can tell which exercises are paired together by the letter and number listed with them. The letter tells you which exercises are paired together and the number tells you the order of the pairing. For example, when you see an A1 with an exercise and an A2 listed with the next exercise, you know that those two exercises are paired together. You would do one set of the A1 exercise, rest for the prescribed time and then do a set of the A2 exercise. You would repeat this sequence until all the prescribed sets for each exercise is done and then you would move on to the next exercise pairing.
The next thing that you need to be aware of as you read the workout is the tempo for each exercise. Tempo allows me to assign a rep speed which will greatly enhance the effectiveness of the workout. Tempo is communicated via a three number sequence such as 3-1-3. The first number tells you what speed to lower yourself down in the exercise, the second number tells you how long to pause at the bottom and the third number tells you what speed to raise yourself back up.
Using the 3-1-3 example with a push up you would lower yourself down to a count of 3, pause for a count of 1 at the bottom position and then push yourself back up to a count of 3. While it may take a little while to get used to, tempo is a great way to increase the difficulty of the workout while also ensuring that you are using the same rep speed throughout your entire set. Most of the time as we fatigue we start to move faster and let our form break down which robs us of results and opens us up to increased injury potential.
Now, on to the workout (Please check out the video link below for detailed explanations of each exercise):
Day 1
Format:Exercise > Pairing > Sets and Reps > Tempo > Rest
Jumping Box Squat > A1 > 3 X 5 > 1-0-* > 30 sec.Feet Elevated Push Ups > A2 > 3 X 6-8 > 3-3-3 > 30 sec.(* means to explode quickly)
Bulgarian Split Squat > B1 > 2 X 6-8 > 3-3-3 > 30 sec.Inch Worm > B2 > 2 X 6-8 > N/A > 30 sec.
Uni Stiff Leg Deadlift > C1 > 2 X 6-8 > 3-3-3 > 30 sec.Door Frame Rows > C2 > 2 X 6-8 > 3-3-3 > 30 sec.
Step Ups > D1 > 2 X 6-8 > 3-3-3 > 30 sec.Ab Sequence > D2 > 2 rounds > N/A > 10 sec.

Day 2
Format:Exercise > Sets and Reps > Tempo > Rest
Clapping Push Ups > A1 > 3 X 5 > 1-0-* > 30 sec.Uni Hip Lift > A2 > 3 X 6-8 > 3-3-3 > 30 sec.(* means to explode quickly)
Uni Box Squat > B1 > 2 X 6-8 > 3-1-3 > 30 sec.Pike Push Ups > B2 > 2 X 6-8 > N/A > 30 sec.
360 Degree Lunges > C1 > 2 X 6-8 > 3-3-3 > 30 sec.Door Frame Rows > C2 > 2 X 6-8 > 3-3-3 > 30 sec.
Renegade Rows > D1 > 2 X 6-8 > 3-3-3 > 30 sec.T Push Ups > D2 > 2 X 6-8 > 3-3-3 > 30 sec.

If you find any of these exercises to be easy (making sure that you follow the prescribed tempo) then you can use this trick to take it up another notch. It is called the one and a quarter rep technique and simply has you do an additional quarter rep at the bottom of the exercise. For example, on the push up you would lower yourself down and pause using the prescribed tempo, only this time instead of coming straight back up you would only come up 1/4 of the way and then go back down, pause again and then come back up all the way. That counts as one rep and allows you to overload the weakest range of motion by doing twice as many reps there.
This workout is intended to be a 2 day per week workout and serve as a starting point for mountain bikers who either do not currently strenght train or are looking to get into a more "mountain bike specific" workout. It also does away with the common mountain biker excuses of not having a gym membership or equipment at home. For those that have good strength and body control already, they can turn it into a 3 day per week routine using this pattern:
Week 1 - Day 1/ Day 2/ Day 1Week 2 - Day 2/ Day 1/ Day 2Week 3 - start pattern over again
As you can see your body can provide ample resistance for you to start incorporating strength training into your program. Given the fact that this routine will help you sprint faster, handle rough and technical trails better, climb quicker and give you increased body awareness leading to faster skill progression you owe it to yourself to give it a shot for at least 4 weeks. Investing some time tuning up the engine that drives your bike will simply make riding more fun, and having fun is still what mountain biking is all about.
James Wilson is the creator of the MTB Strength Training System, an innovative strength and conditioning program designed exclusively for mountain bike riders. Those interested in learning more about his unique program can visit www.MTBStrengthCoach.com. where he offers a free e-mail newsletter, and more detailed Mountain bike training programs.


nickel said...

Did you start off-season training already?

I love body weight exercises. I think an ab wheel is a great investment.

Heath said...

Thanks for posting Nickel.

Body weight exercises seem natual so I'm investigating.

I admit some of what's posted in this blog are things I'd like to do or interested in. Honestly I've only worked out a few times this year. The PUG and SS plus varied riding does it for me.

For 2009 perhaps with varied focus(wts inclusive) I can justify the license upgrade (be the slowest in fastest category).

Although thinking about my Winter plans now I'm just biking for fun and taking breaks. Never tried the ab thing. cheers

nickel said...

Upgrading is awesome. I hope you post a recap for the year as it seems like it was very successful.

I think I burned out a little early in the season so I'm hoping that if I do more outdoor activities during the winter, I won't get tired of being on the trainer.