1. The most important thing about buying a new bike is to make sure it fits. The only way you'll know if the bike is right for you is to size up the bike and make sure that the bike's geometry matches your body's geometry. Ask questions and do some research.
mtn. biking 101
2. If possible, try to find a shop that will let you demo the bike on real dirt. Five minutes in a parking lot won't cut it. You wouldn't buy a car without a real world test drive, and a bike should be no different.
3. Don't belive the hype. Just because your favorite rider or best friend rides a certain bike, that doesn't mean that's the best one for you. Have an open mind and be realistic about your needs and ability.
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  1. #1
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    Top 3 Exercises for Explosive Gate Starts

    One of the most frequent questions that I get from riders around the country is “what are the best exercises for gate starts?” Apparently a lot of people are looking for the “magic exercises” that will make a big difference in their perceived weakness out of the gate and/ or the few strokes immediately afterwards. First off, if you are looking for just one exercise to cover most biking ills I would have to recommend the deadlift, as a properly performed deadlift will target most of the areas aggressive MTB racers are lacking in and most are very weak in this lift.

    However, this exercise is a must for every MTB rider and not necessarily specific to gate starts. I recently wrote for my e-mail newsletter about the top 3 exercises that you must be utilizing in the off-season if you really want to maximize your gate start potential. I decided to post it here as well because I think a lot of people are looking into off-season training and that they might find these exercises useful in their programs.

    You’ll quickly notice that there is not a leg press to be seen on the list. With few exceptions (injury being the only one I can think of right now) the leg press should never be used in an MTB strength training program. Sitting down and bracing your back against the seat back of the leg press will artificially strengthen the core. You are only as strong as your weakest link, which is usually the core’s ability to act as a platform to create strength from. By taking your core out of the equation as the weak link (as the leg press does) you create false strength, or strength that you can not use on the bike. Since you can not brace your back against something on your bike, the leg press should be avoided if you are serious about your strength program maximizing your riding potential.


    1. Banded Deadlifts – Now I know that I would expand my suggestions a bit and reveal something besides just deadlifting, but this exercise is indispensable in your quest to build an explosive gate start. A more advanced form of the regular deadlift, this requires the use of strength bands. I covered these in my last newsletter and if you missed it you can catch up on them via my blog available on www.mtbstrengthcoach.com.

    By attaching the strength bands to the bar and doing deadlifts this way you maximally overload the full range of motion, especially the top half, and really force yourself to accelerate and explode as well. If you watch a great gate start you will notice that the rider basically performs a ¼ deadlift action, throwing his hips out in an explosive manner. This action requires extremely explosive hips and few exercises can match the specific nature of this movement and its requirements like the banded deadlift.

    2. Bulgarian Split Squats – This movement is an indispensable tool in your quest to build a great gate start. Basically a 1 legged squat with your trail leg propped up on a bench behind you, my clients have come to build a love/ hate relationship with this movement. They love it because of the results it brings and hate it because few lower body exercises are as challenging to perform, especially as you advance the move by adding weight via DBs and barbells and even move to an overhead squat version.

    By propping the trail leg behind you it not able to assist to the same degree that it is in other one-legged movements, such as lunges. The reason that this exercise is so valuable is because we never use both legs to push at the same time on the pedals, making MTB riding a true unilateral (one sided) lower body endeavor. While we need bi-lateral (two sided) lower body movements like the banded deadlift to build high levels of strength and power we also need movements like the Bulgarian Split Squat in order to convert that strength and power into a more usable MTB specific kind.

    3. Push Up Variations – This one is actually dependant a bit on the upper body strength levels of the athlete, but most MTB racers that I have come across lack the functional strength to do at least 6 clean reps of several push up variations. These more advanced versions include feet elevated, fisted and swiss ball varieties’. Push ups challenge not only the chest, triceps and deltoids, they also demand a lot of core and upper back strength in order to create the platform needed to push from. It is this platform that is holding most riders back, especially those that have used a lot of traditional bench pressing.

    Having a big bench means nothing more than that you are very efficient at lying down, bracing your back against a bench and pressing weight directly away from you. On your bike you are not lying down, and as previously mentioned you must create your own platform with your core and upper back. While bench pressing is certainly needed, until you have mastered your own bodyweight then you have no business as an MTB athlete in seeking bigger bench weights.

    If you are serious about getting a stellar jump out of the gate then I feel that you must incorporate these exercises into your routine. They will give you a great return on your time investment and really work on the movement patterns and physical qualities needed to dominate this part of racing. I’ll be around to answer any questions that anyone might have about these exercises or other training related questions you guys might have.
    Ride Strong,

    James Wilson
    BikeJames.com

  2. #2
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    can you explain in more detail what a banded deadlift is please?

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jarl
    can you explain in more detail what a banded deadlift is please?
    You can see what strength bands are here : www.mtbstrengthcoach.com/bands.html.

    A banded deadlift is where you attatch a band to either end of the bar. Usually you use the pins in a Power Rack to secure the bands on the other end. Once you have the bands set you simply to a regular deadlift, only get ready to really accelerate the bar. Hope this helps...
    Ride Strong,

    James Wilson
    BikeJames.com

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jarl
    can you explain in more detail what a banded deadlift is please?

    Mostly, you'll only see bands in gyms where the hardcore powerlifters train. It's preached by Louie Simmons and the Westside Barbell guys. The bands can also be secured with heavy dumbells if a cage isn't available. Search google for Louie or Westside and it should turn up some good articles on training with bands, boards, and chains. Also check out testosterone (dot) net (t-nation (dot) com is the more politically correct web address now, but either will get you there) for helpful info... I believe the orginal poster has written an article over there before.

    But to answer your question, a banded deadlift is just like a regular deadlift, except with bands... The bands will provide progressive resistance throughout the motion. You put your plates on the bar, then the bands, secure the bands and away you go. The bands can be used for any lifts really, but I've mostly seen them used for competition lifts... bench, squats, deads.
    Last edited by tha1000; 10-13-2006 at 02:44 PM.

  5. #5
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    Power "Cleans" - probably the finest lift for developing power for explosive starts - road, track or mountain bike.
    Mike The Bike's home wheelbuilding info - dedicated to providing Newby wheelbuilder information and motivation.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mike T.
    Power "Cleans" - probably the finest lift for developing power for explosive starts - road, track or mountain bike.
    I agree they are a great lift, however two things keep them from my top 3. First, they are a complicated lift that must be systematically taught to get the most out of. Realistically, most riders would be better off doing various power shrugs/ high pulls or even jump shrugs since they require much less technical mastery and deliver much of the same results power cleans will.

    Second, power cleans require a coordinated pulling effort from the upper body to complete, which is the exact opposite of what we want to do in a gate start. You want to be creating the strongest platform you can with your core and resisting the movement of the handlebars with the upper body. This specific function needed to dominate gate starts is better trained with the banded deadlift (I kow that it is not an exact replication of a gate start but it is much closer than a power clean).
    Ride Strong,

    James Wilson
    BikeJames.com

  7. #7
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    I totally disagree, im a really good xc starter like always the first person to get
    way out in front. i believe only one exerxise works for this you don't need Deadlifts.
    All you need is a road bike. A road thats straight but has about a 1% gradinent.

    My coach told me this put your road bike in it's biggest gear, set your stopwatch for 1min. EXPLODE pull out of the block as hard as you can go eyeballs out for the 60seconds. Remember this exercise is about the hardest thing you can do on a bike
    when your finished you should feel like your lounges are going to explode.

    All track sprinters do this to get strength to get out of the gate quickly.
    Also alot of top xc riders do this to get out of the start quickly.

    But be worn if your going to do this only do it when you have got a solid 4-5months of training in because this rips your muscle and lungs to shreds.
    So when you hope on your mtb for an xc race the start is easy and you can just take of like a rocket, trust me you feel like your mtb has no chain

    I generally do this 2-3weeks out from when my season starts. Start of doing it 4 times than add 1 more over each traing session. Remember to have about 10min spinning between each interval. Once the trainings over eat lots of protein the repair the muscle.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by MTB Strength Coach
    I agree they are a great lift, however two things keep them from my top 3. First, they are a complicated lift that must be systematically taught to get the most out of. Realistically, most riders would be better off doing various power shrugs/ high pulls or even jump shrugs since they require much less technical mastery and deliver much of the same results power cleans will.

    Second, power cleans require a coordinated pulling effort from the upper body to complete, which is the exact opposite of what we want to do in a gate start. You want to be creating the strongest platform you can with your core and resisting the movement of the handlebars with the upper body. This specific function needed to dominate gate starts is better trained with the banded deadlift (I kow that it is not an exact replication of a gate start but it is much closer than a power clean).
    You seem to know your stuff but i dare to disagree, i have been weightlifting(powerlifting and olympic style) for about six years so no i am no expert, but i can teach a freshman in highschool the correct way to powerclean in less than 30 mins......A powerclean IS A DEADLIFT, followed by a high pull, snatch,"power shrug" w/e you want to call it.....I would say a powerclean is a better exercise than all three of yours put together coach because it exercises the whole body and builds core balance, strength, and coordination IN ONE EXERCISE......a powershrug would only give you half the workout a real powerclean does......from my understanding of muscles there are two types, red and white, one is for endurance and the other is fast twitch i.e. explosive......a deadlift is a slow exercise that would logically work slower fibers, while the clean is a quick movement that would work the fast twitch fibers, which are what is used for an explosive start.......and at a start gate you pull the handle bar towards your upperbody therefore pushing your legs down ans you pedal, replicating the movement of the top half of the clean.......i rest my case

    P.S......i totally don't understand how a push up would be beneficiary to the pulling movement your arms experince while riding a bike

  9. #9
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    they help you hold the bar when you have too much weight, i.e. bands are used to help weaken your grip

  10. #10
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    I'm resurrecting an old thread here, but I wonder what happened to the MTB Strength Coach? Was this an official position on the boards or a self-proclaimed title?

    Any relevant threads for a mtb newbie regarding fitness, leg balance, stretching, etc?

    I'm new to mtb, but not to exercise or fitness. Biking, to a certain degree, creates repetitive isolated movements that could create significant imbalances. Primarily performing push movements with the legs and pull movements with the upper body and creating significant stress on the back and core.

    Any direction to relevant existing information would be appreciated. I would like to do some reading in these areas. The search button did not surface much. Thanks!

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