Coach's Column with Lynda Wallenfels: Weight Training for the MTB Racer
Question: Are you
a strong proponent of strength training in the off season and if so how would
you structure a program to maximize benefits going into the race season? What are your favorite/most beneficial
Answer: I am a
strong proponent of year-round strength training for mountain bike racers.
Cycling does not strengthen the core or upper body, but paradoxically requires
a very strong core and reasonable upper body stability. During the race season,
MTB racers should perform dedicated core training sessions three times per week
for 30 mins on non-race weeks, and less on race weeks.
During the off-season athletes have the opportunity to
allocate more of their weekly energy balance to strength training. Strength
training priorities for MTB racers in the off season are: rehab, prehab,
establishing resilience, correcting movement patterns and alignment. Building
muscular hip and leg strength for performance benefits on the bike should be
the last strength training priority. I
estimate this last strength training priority is appropriate for roughly only
10% of my racers.
Riding a bike is horrible for posture. A season of training
and racing creates an unbalanced physique. Strength training increases speed on
the bike by creating injury-resilience and subsequently avoiding injury-induced
interruptions. Training interruptions due to injury always have a detrimental
effect on fitness development and timing of peak performance at key races. Knee
tendonitis three weeks before a peak race undermines everything. Strength
training in the off-season is like buying insurance.
Rehab: Fix any
lingering injuries, nags and aches with physical therapy.
muscle imbalances, strengthen weaknesses, release tight areas and establish
correct movement patterns.
core strength with a large variety of exercises.
Upper Body:Increase upper body stability strength with planks, push-ups, pull-ups and
other body weight exercises.
Only when the above four priorities are truly taken care of
is it appropriate to progress to #5.
Full Body:Increase full body strength and power.
The most beneficial exercises to add in the off-season are
athlete–specific, depending on rehab and prehab needs. In general, most
cyclists have weak glutes and tight hamstrings and should include exercises to
address those areas.
Lynda Wallenfels is a
Category 1 certified USA Cycling coach. She coaches mountain bike, cross
country and endurance athletes to personal bests and national championships.
Lynda has been coaching off-road athletes for 16 years and racing for 18 years.
Contact her through her website for information on mountain bike training plans,
coaching and consulting at LWCoaching.com