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  1. #1
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    Strength Training Specific to MTB

    I am 4 years in to mountain biking and approaching 40 years of age. I work out regularly about 2 (sometimes 3) times a week. I don't feel I am progressing at the rate I could. I'd like to incorporate some specific exercises to build strength in my legs so I can improve my climbing capabilities. Any suggestions, advice, links to other sources?

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    Not quite training specific to MTB, but you mention you work out 2-3 times a week - I'm assuming you're referring to gym workouts?
    In my experience, I've found that doing multiple 'pushing' leg exercises (eg. squats, leg press etc.) has immensely improved my climbing strength. I also work out 3 times a week, and I dedicate one of those days on legs with the aim of a weekly increase in weight. I've also found doing intervals exercises has really helped my climbing ability as well - I do this on the X-trainer. Sufficient protein in your diet is also important.
    Hope this helps!

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    Single Speed. Get one. Ride it.

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    Welcome to the site.

    Sounds like you've simply hit a plateau. The longer you've exercised, the more stubborn a plateau can be, both mentally and physically. For the very stubborn take 2 weeks off any and all exercise. For not too stubborn take a week. Sometime a change of routine or even the time of day you train can shake it.
    There's many exercise routines that may work great for you, but they all loose their effectiveness over time. Giving your body and mind the same challenges is the root cause for plateaus, so change it up with slower longer, less strenuous, and shorter, harder all or nothing go for the gusto stuff. Change it up every few days, weeks or months but change it up.
    Some things I like to do and cycle in and out of my training.
    -swimming, running, hiking, soccer, basketball, and of coarse mtbing and cycling
    -free weights, body weight, and machine exercise, used as whole body and sometimes split routines.
    -I also find cycling size, time, amount of meals per day, content and quality of diet helps keep progress going too.

    The general rule is to change things up every 6-8 weeks to avoid plateaus and over training issues. For me I change it up plenty and take a week or two off every 2-3 months. I hit it real hard before a break and feel i come back stronger.

    Oh, nothing will stimulate your whole/entire body to adapt to whatever, than working your bigger muscle groups.
    Last edited by theMeat; 05-04-2013 at 08:52 AM.
    Round and round we go

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    I'm 20 years ahead of you, so I can empathize. I'm just trying not to lose ground. Cross train...a bit of running wont hurt, and the comment about hitting a plateau is probably spot on. Leg specific exercises at the gym may or may not help with your biking, but they will at least prevent you from developing leg strength asymmetrically. Quads are called that for a reason, and mountain biking doesn't develop all 4 of the muscles equally.

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    I think it is a bad idea to train for specific activities like biking. It is much better to train for overall fitness so your body is in balance and will be much less prone to injury. I have found that training with free weights and sticking to the basics keeps me in great shape and even prevents injuries in the rare event that I crash. Stay away from all the silly machines and stick to the barbells and dumbbells. The most important exercises to do are the squat and the deadlift - just make sure your form is correct or you can hurt yourself.

  7. #7
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    I am almost 38 FWIW. My knees and back don't hold up to the same punishment as 20 years ago, but overall I am stronger all around and a much better rider. My advice: improve EVERYTHING about your riding, don't just focus on climbing. Part of being good on the climbs is recovering (relaxing) as much as possible while not climbing. That doesn't mean just going slow or coasting-it means using different muscles to pump terrain and keeping speed up over obstacles and through corners. The climb sucks no matter what for me-never gets "easier", I just grunt it out further. Will power is a big part of it, too.

    Here are a few threads I have contributed through that are related, I hope you may find a variety of info, not just from me...

    Training to climb: best methods?

    How do you train for Strength/Endurance?

    Is brute strength solution to every technique problem?

    Off season training

    As for your workouts, many people "workout", but fail to "train". If you aren't meeting your goals, you need to ask yourself what you should be doing differently in the gym to be ready for your rides (and whatever else life throws at you). Get ready to drop the biceps curls and lat raises (no matter what men's fitness says) and amp up the intensity. It isn't always pretty or glamorous to do squats, pull-ups, power cleans, push-ups, a variety of intervals, etc... but we aren't getting any younger, are we?
    You better just go ahead and drop that seatpost down to the reflector... the trail gets pretty rough down there.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MTBFUN View Post
    I am 4 years in to mountain biking and approaching 40 years of age. I work out regularly about 2 (sometimes 3) times a week. I don't feel I am progressing at the rate I could. I'd like to incorporate some specific exercises to build strength in my legs so I can improve my climbing capabilities. Any suggestions, advice, links to other sources?
    Don't forget your core. A strong lower back goes a long way to supporting you through sustained climbing. I spend a lot of time on the Roman Chair, working the lower back, glutes, and hamstrings. It feels great having power on both sides of your pedal stroke.

    D

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    Strength Training Specific to MTB

    Core is awesome, I'm 45 and I stopped gym stuff 3 years ago and instead work core, and flexibility stuff.
    Huge difference in everyday life. All that weight stuff is fine, but core strength and flexibility is very important as you get older.
    Bill

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    Core for sure. That's ^ one way of looking at it. There's also if you're gonna be lifting weights you should especially do core to avoid problems. Most that do core work do front, fewer do sides, and hardly anyone does back, meaning your core's back, i.e. spinal erectors. I don't get that, i mean you wanna talk about functional strength, not to mention bike strength.
    Round and round we go

  11. #11
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    Strength Training Specific to MTB

    My riding is always strongest when I have been concentrating on core work.


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  12. #12
    Bro
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    Quote Originally Posted by MTBFUN View Post
    improve my climbing capabilities. Any suggestions, advice, links to other sources?
    Ride more and climb more.
    I've made some bad decisions like taking the gears off my bike. So here's the warning: Do not as I say, nor as I do.

  13. #13
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    Strength Training Specific to MTB

    Quote Originally Posted by Bro View Post
    Ride more and climb more.
    Yep. And mix up the way you climb when training. Do some low cadence standing climbs. Do some ~60-70 rpm seated climbs. Do some higher cadence seated climbs (~90-100 rpm).

    Once you do that, then do what I am trying to do--lose weight.

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    Check out the bikejames dot com web site. There is a wealth of free information, videos and blogs/posts.
    Yes, he also sells training programs and distance coaching, but what is available on his Web site really gets you thinking about how fitness, cardio, strength, alignment and other elements all work together.

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    This guy has a bunch of different programs:

    http://www.bikejames.com/

    I bought the DB Combo program. It's really well laid out and he has videos of all the exercises. He explains what each exercise has to do with MTBing and how it will help.

    I've been a bit lazy doing it, so I can't say I've seen much improvements, but that's my fault, not the program's.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by mbco1975 View Post
    This guy has a bunch of different programs:

    http://www.bikejames.com/

    I bought the DB Combo program. It's really well laid out and he has videos of all the exercises. He explains what each exercise has to do with MTBing and how it will help.

    I've been a bit lazy doing it, so I can't say I've seen much improvements, but that's my fault, not the program's.

    I did the 12 week Dumb Bell program this winter and it made a huge improvement for me. I'm on a heavier full sus bike instead of a hardtail, and I'm running a 36 tooth front ring instead of 32 and am so far having no issues. This program helped me a lot. I did it four days a week for the full 12 weeks during the winter. I did no riding to speak of during the winter but I feel stronger than I did at the end of last season.

  17. #17
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    I don't do specific strength training for mtb, but squats, barbell lunges and good mornings have given me much more power on climbs. I agree with the previous post, both about sticking to the free weights and checking your form, especially avoiding using your back. Maybe start with loads on the conservative side.
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    I drop doing any quad or calf work outs during rdiing season, hamstrings can still use a workout not a widely used muscle for cycling I don't know how many days a week you ride but for me if I ride at least 3 days a week I see huge gains that far exceed anything I do in the gym for cycling. I am crowding 50 myself.
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  19. #19
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    In the off season try and go to a class once a week that does some kinda of core boot camp idea. I just did one and after an hour i could barely move. Three days later i feel fine but god it was amazing and the only weight involved was a 12 lbs medicine ball.

    I also suggest working on your climbing in different manners. Your body adapts quickly to a given course and knows how to be efficent riding it. But efficent isnt what you want when you are training. You want to shock your muscles and make them stronger. So changing out how you climb, doing things differently will help you out alot.

    Bill

  20. #20
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    I am 37 and have been lifting since high school. I do feel that when my legs are recovered, I have good power reserve for climbing but if there is fatigue from leg training, my riding really suffers. I love lifting as much as biking so it is a constant conflict.

  21. #21
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    Zercher Squats:



    Work your shoulders, back, core, arms, glutes, quads, toes, and everything in between.

    Also make sure you are still doing pull ups.

  22. #22
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    I've found road riding has really increased my mtb capabilities.
    It works your body in a much different way and really forced you to shut up and pedal.

    In short, pedal farther. Pedal more. Pedal harder. Pedal new routes with new people on new bikes.


    The sheer increase/variety in biking is the only thing that has had a direct correlation with an increase for me.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by fahza29er View Post
    I drop doing any quad or calf work outs during rdiing season, hamstrings can still use a workout not a widely used muscle for cycling I don't know how many days a week you ride but for me if I ride at least 3 days a week I see huge gains that far exceed anything I do in the gym for cycling. I am crowding 50 myself.
    I greatly disagree with this.

    Heavy squats are the single best thing you can do for improving power and strength while climbling or coasting.

    I'd say a heavy squat session to the point where you cant walk the next day is good once every 2 weeks during season. Plan it out so youre not riding the next day and make sure you have an increase calorie intake and lots of magnesium in your diet.

  24. #24
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    I agree heavy squats are a great workout but they take there tool. I was doing 300 lbs squats and that weight pinched a nerved in my back, lost all the strength in my left tricep, was in agony for 2 weeks, 4 months of physiotherapy and just about 8 months out of the gym. I will never do squats again.
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  25. #25
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    Strength Training Specific to MTB

    Squats are good, but most riders' VO2 max is surpassed before leg strength is exceeded. Increased cardio respiratory fitness will make a bigger difference than tree trunk legs.

    If you have access to stairs in a tall office building, simply do stair runs up. This will work your cardio fitness while building leg strength. No gym required.

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