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  1. #1
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    Mountain Bike James Users discussion?

    So I searched and didn't find a specific thread regarding the MTB James plan here so I figured I would start one. I hope that starting one is not violating any written or understood terms of this particular sub forum- so if it is, let me know and I will get it deleted.

    That said- I am coming back to racing (boy I sure hope I am!) after not racing and only riding for fun since 2005. My fitness level is pretty low, but I mask it with a willingness to suffer. I have picked up the MTB James plan after researching it and finding myself not really interested in doing the Friel plan again. The Friel plan worked great for me before, but I want to switch it up and like a lot of the concepts and excercises in the James plan. Especially the mobility steps since I am in my forties now.

    I wanted to open up a discussion with current and past users of the program so I can ask them questions, learn thier experiences with it and maybe even keep myself motivated as I do.

    If we could- I would really desire to keep this thread about the James plan. I am not asking if anyone disliked it, (it is fine that you do, but this is not the thread for it)but rather want to learn from those who do like it, are trying it and what is working for you within the plan. All plans are as different as we are, so lets keep it positive and keep rolling.

    First question- I got rid of my road bike since it bored me to death. I live in Phoenix, so rollers/trainer are a ridiculous option for me when I have plenty of beautiful days and places to ride outside. Did anyone try the slicks on MTB method? Is it worth it or should I just prep up a seperate set of wheels with my old knobbies to finish them off? FWIW I am 29SS riding. GO!
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  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by cstem View Post


    First question- I got rid of my road bike since it bored me to death. I live in Phoenix, so rollers/trainer are a ridiculous option for me when I have plenty of beautiful days and places to ride outside. Did anyone try the slicks on MTB method? Is it worth it or should I just prep up a seperate set of wheels with my old knobbies to finish them off? FWIW I am 29SS riding. GO!

    If you're going to be riding your mtb on the road a lot then yeah, it's worth it IMO but I would have just kept the road bike if that's the case.

    What the heck is the mtb James plan? I read a little of that guys stuff and he seems to believe that anything he thinks is gospel and if you disagree you are a heathen. Is it a cult?

    Also, why post this in XC racing........ hmmmmm, I wonder?

  3. #3
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    Well, it does say "XC Racing and Training" as the forum title, so seemed like the right place. Still wondering?

    And of all the plans I have used or seen, they all think they are the best, kind of like selling cars, bikes or porn. It sucks, but thats why I did my research and chose his plan over say this>>Total GymŪ Official Store | Home Gyms, Exercise Machines and Equipment from Total Gym
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  4. #4
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    I have never purchased his any of Bike James' plans but I have pieced together a little total conditioning plan based primarily on knowledge from his site, newletter and podcasts. Yes, he is sometime dogmatic, but who cares as long as he inspires people to change what they are doing. For example, I always thought I had "core" strength because, well, I can clearly see my abs. I started attending a 10 minute abs class a few times a week only to discover that not only was my core strength sub par but my hips were a week link. After working on core and hip strength for about a year, I was able to eliminate even the slightest possibility that my lower back would hurt on the bike.

    Right there, 15 minutes spent reading his stuff has paid off more than anything else I have ever read regarding cycling.

    I'm also a proponent of his foot position dogma, but I save that for another day.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by GlazedHam View Post
    I have never purchased his any of Bike James' plans but I have pieced together a little total conditioning plan based primarily on knowledge from his site, newletter and podcasts. Yes, he is sometime dogmatic, but who cares as long as he inspires people to change what they are doing. For example, I always thought I had "core" strength because, well, I can clearly see my abs. I started attending a 10 minute abs class a few times a week only to discover that not only was my core strength sub par but my hips were a week link. After working on core and hip strength for about a year, I was able to eliminate even the slightest possibility that my lower back would hurt on the bike.

    Right there, 15 minutes spent reading his stuff has paid off more than anything else I have ever read regarding cycling.

    I'm also a proponent of his foot position dogma, but I save that for another day.
    Thanks Ham! Thats very encouraging. I am finding too that after 8 years of JRA and not really training, eating right or exercise besides infrequent seat time has taken its toll on my core. I rode pretty hard considering this weekend and was getting a shooting pain just above my hip bones in back that nearly made my leg give out while walking a few times. Some stretches helped and identified muscle weakness and imbalance-thats why I went on the hunt for a program. I need some structure in my training or I tend to ease off!
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  6. #6
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    I used to ride, and hang out with James. He does know his stuff, he eats, sleeps and lives stength and fitness training. He comes across a bit arrogant, but he's a really good guy, who honestly want to help people get stronger on their bikes.

    Bottom line the guy is a solid mountainbiker, who has spent a large part of his life researching strength training, and nutrition. Then appling it to mountainbiking.

  7. #7
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    I have James' Kettlebell program and I really like it. I got tired of trying a little of this and a little of that and hoping I'd get lucky and find something great. I think we all have been there. There is no magic pill unless your Lance! LOL Seriously though, James has put together a good plan for all levels and "if" you work hard and do what the plan says, you will make definite advancements in your fitness. I think I paid around 30 bucks for the kettlebell program. Best investment I'd made in a longtime. Just for the record, I'm not a spokesperson for James Wilson. I'm just a happy customer who can honestly say, "Hills don't scare me anymore!!"

  8. #8
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    Cstem, I ride my mtb alot on the road with heavy nevagals on it. The rolling resistance is pretty high. I sound like a jeep coming down the road! You know its loud when the dogs that normally chase me , start barking before you even see them. LOL The biggest jump in my fitness has occured since I started to ride knobbies on the road. Go out and try it for a couple weeks... I almost guarantee you that your average speed will go up.

  9. #9
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    Mountain Bike James Users discussion?

    Cal- I like it! I have a spare set of wheels and some old knobs to mount up just need some discs and another cog


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  10. #10
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    I have been following along with some of the videos on the blog and finally bought the KB Training. Its very reasonable at $37. I have been making significant gains but its still frozen stupid around these parts so its probably going to be another month or so before I can try out my new muscles on the dirt.

  11. #11
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    I seen a lot of training stuff and his programs are good. No BS and Mtb specific. I'm on the KB program and have made significant core and overall strength gains in just 4 weeks so far.
    Looking forward to the season. I've got two more months to get strong.
    R U living to ride or riding to live?

  12. #12
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    I don't think you can compare Friel with James. It's apples and oranges.

    James is about strength training for the most part. He has some great plans for bike specific strength and flexibiilty with a focus on using your hips for power. He has a good blog with good videos with demonstrations on technique for the various stretches and exersizes. I'm doing his time crunched series where he spoon feeds workouts and tips on stretches, warm ups and nutrition. I like it and find the kettlebell workouts to be good stuff for the off season.

    James focus is on strength, flexibilty and technique - all good stuff and important to develop off season and then maintain in season.

    Friel is more focused on aerobic training and periodization - an annual plan to maximize results for racing.

    Everyone is different and you need to work on your personal weaknesses. If you're out of breath getting from the couch to the fridge, aerobic fitness would do you more good than strength training.

    For me, I'm doing a mix of Morris strenght, James strength/flexibility, Foundation for some lower back /core stuff and a Friel/Time Crunched Cyclist (Carmichael) for aerobic/ae training.

    I spent the past 18 months rehabbing a torn triceps tendon and torn acl/meniscus (got really out of shape) so the Carmichael training has had the most impact so far.

  13. #13
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    Cstem,

    Good to see BikeJames mentioned. If I hear you right, I think that combining James and Friel can be great, as I do it myself. Truth be told, the two of them do overlap on the issue of strenth training, in that they both advocate building very resilient and functional strength that SUPPORTS bike power and endurance.

    Personally, I take Friel's advice and spend most of my time on the (stationary) bike in the winter, in HR zones 3-4, doing weights (via his body weight percentages) twice a week. Then, as I move into Build 1 & 2, I move to James' weight programs about twice a week while riding 4 days. During that time, I do a bunch of dumbell combo drills and kettlebell workouts mixed with 1-leg squats and split squats; I also do box jumps and sprint drills on the stationary bike. Those workouts are very crossfit-oriented, high-intensity intervals, and they truly accellerate lactate threshold gains for me.

    The stuff I described above makes sense as a workout to me because the motions are similar to certain power- and speed-skills that I need on the mtb. In real life, I've improved on super-tight trails where deceleration and acceleration are a priority. Though, I have to say that Friel offers real wisdom to me when he advocates building a big base with massive quantities of base time in HR zones 3-4. I have to use a spin bike to get it because of weather (or my lack of gumption to ride in 20 degree mud), but it's the only thing that allows me to be competitive. Bike time. ...Jeez I can't wait for a 40 degree day.

    I should also note that this will be my first season racing XC. I raced DH until about 5 years ago, then did the crazy crossfit thing. Then, last year, I got the bike bug again and got rid of most of my upper body bulk; I did a bastardized version of Friel, starting late, mixing in the James workouts; I kept doing them once a week throughout the season. And, I was fortunate to train with a friend who's fast and sponsored, and hung with him pretty well. My few rides out this year I'm a good bit faster than I was at last year's peak, so I hope to continue improving.

    Happy training!

  14. #14
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    His stuff is okay.

    I like the dumbbell program but though the bodyweight only one was boring and somewhat ineffective.

    I woudn't discount Friel's ideas, they are grounded in a few decades of proven physiology.

  15. #15
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    My analogy:

    Training is like a diet.

    Traditional aerobic training is like food in a cyclist's training "diet", specifically macronutrients (fat, carbohydrate, protein). You need a lot of "food" to survive. It's the backbone of your diet.

    Strength (mobility, stability, etc.) training is like vitamin supplements. Ideally, you'd get all the "vitamins" you need from your "food". Not gonna happen for a cyclist as our on the bike training neglects core strength and flexibility. So it's important to "supplement" with these things off the bike.

    That said, just like vitamins, taking more than necessary to correct the shortcomings of your regular "diet" doesn't provide any extra benefit. Do enough to address the need, but the vast bulk of your time has to go to aerobic training or you will not come close to your potential.

    I think James' stuff is very useful , BTW. You just can't pop handfuls of vitamins in place of eating meals all the time

  16. #16
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    Mountain Bike James Users discussion?

    I appreciate all the answers. So here is my situation: I am a skinny kid (41 y.o. kid!) and have never really struggled aerobic wise. Strength has always been an issue.

    When I did the Friel plan I spent time in the gym, time and money I don't have or want to spend now. And of course with age my flexibility and mobility have declined some. So the James strength plan will be what I try this year and see how it goes. I will continue to use my Friel/me plan for on bike stuff. Nice thing is in Arizona we can ride year round.


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    Cool--let's hear about your progress as the season goes on...though you AZ folks are always in season. Jealous here in Pittsburgh.

    I thought I'd send this your way too. It's an older post, but totally relevant, and fitting with where Friel and James kinda overlap. And it's free. Power and plyometrics--
    [I can't post links yet, so try searching with this:]
    trainingbible.com/joesblog/2007/02/plyometrics-research

    BTW--I've basically cherrypicked sets of exercises from James' site and pieces of programs posted on forums, so haven't paid for them at all... I should donate to his site or something.

  18. #18
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    Just remember that the (admittedly minimal) strength required to race an MTB (especially as a lightweight guy) doesn't require you to lift like a Crossfitter. Do enough to build core strength, address imbalances and prevent injury, and spend the rest of your time on building the aerobic engine.

    I've never finished a race thinking, "man, if I had only spent more time lifting..."

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    Tommy74 anaology was is the best post in this thread so far. No Strength and Conditioning program is going to make you faster on the bike like a well structured riding schedule. The Friel plan is focused 90% on time on the bike dedicated a single chapter to strength work.

    Take home point. Everyone benifits from a general strength and conditing plan. MTB racer, or stay at home mom. Everyone will benifit from more core strength and performing Basic total body strength moves. Push up, Pull up, squat, dead lift, Overhead press etc. On top the that cyclists can benifit from developing strength and power in the cycling specifc movements and muscles. They also benifit from some training to prevent low flexability and muscle imbalances that cycling alot can cause. You should address both of those things. 1. General Fitness that everyone should do. 2 Develop cycling specific strength and power (Friel plan for weights) and 3 Pedal Pedal Pedal.

    I have not looked at what MTB James is suggesting in several years but my opinion of the program was it did a great job or addressing point 1. Touched on point 2, and minimized the importance of point 3.
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  20. #20
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    Yep.

    As far as replying to the OP's request, I suppose I should emphasize that those exercises I mentioned were merely an effective adjunct to my riding, especially insofar as anaerobic (HIIT) stuff can further improve upon aerobic gains. Though--the aerobic gains were the main point.

    Cstem--you seem to be doing what we all try to do: design a plan that fits with our own bodies, abilities (and limiters), goals, and wallet. [I know that I typically underestimate my need to build more of an aerobic base, so I try to almost overcompensate for that, because I do want to race competitively.]

    If you don't want to do the Friel volume, or you simply feel that aerobic capacity isn't a limiter, then don't sweat it. Races will tell you what you need to improve upon, and you can go from there, choosing what you will.

    As for James' main points, in virtually every post and video I've seen, he's very much focused on "cycling specific strength."

  21. #21
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    As to limiters, it's important to remember that:

    1) Once strength is at a certain minimal level, it's no longer a limiter (as long as it's maintained). You can continue getting stronger past that level, but it's unnecessary and can be counterproductive (if you are limited in time and could be doing aerobic work instead).

    2) There is no one for whom aerobic capacity is not a limiter (no matter whether they feel it is or not), unless they are sandbagging down a category or two. Aerobic capacity is the primary determinant of speed on the bike.

    More strength = more speed - up to a (very early) point. More aerobic capacity always = more speed.

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    I often read about solutions for lower back pain- does he (or someone else) also offers solutions for dh-typically forearm/hand problems. Methods to gain strength there?

  23. #23
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    Mountain Bike James Users discussion?

    Quote Originally Posted by aenduro View Post
    I often read about solutions for lower back pain- does he (or someone else) also offers solutions for dh-typically forearm/hand problems. Methods to gain strength there?
    Here are some home exercises to try:

    Home weight training equipment ?

  24. #24
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    thank you!

    At the beginning of the year I started with Starting Strength (Rippetoe's 3x5), after years of halfhearted weigth/Strength training. Because I have also problems in the lower back I couldn't load the necessary weights for squats/deadlifts that I need to continue the program.

    So after a few weeks I invested in some hours personal training- less strength, more mobility/flexibility.
    Now, after around 10h of that I have huge amount of different exercises (also some yoga, pilates stuff) and have the exercises from starting strength plan, but I dunno how to combine that or rather take the most effective exercises, including warmup, blackroll, stretching and so on.

    I'am tempted to cut this dinosaur down to a short, but effective training, for example:
    5min roll (blackroll), 10 min warmup/stretch and then the KB training from james. Or is the KB training "all I need"?
    My problem is that I can't see the wood for the trees because I have so much exercises and I dunno, which I shall combine to get a good result. My personal trainer is good, but he's not a cyclist and he also (like most trainers) lives in his own world...

    Any suggestions?

  25. #25
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    Mountain Bike James Users discussion?

    Is your emphasis on cycling or weight training / exercises for your back?

    If you have too many exercises to fit in it's probably worth cutting them down a bit. One option is to choose the key bodyweight exercises and stretches and turn them into a 15-20 minute morning routine that you do each morning on waking up (sit ups, back extensions, maybe some press ups etc).

    You could then do a couple of weights sessions per week in the gym. Each session focusing on a few compound exercises working multiple muscle groups, so that you don't end up with an overly long routine.

    See Point 9
    http://www.aworkoutroutine.com/bodyb...workouts-suck/

    http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/wotw46.htm

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