Now is when champions are made!

It was bound to happen sooner or later…it finally snowed here in Fruita. Even though the cold weather and shorter days are stark reminders that winter was on its way, the snow on the ground signals a real change in the riding season.

Now that the local trails are snowed in we have to start looking elsewhere to lay tracks down. Lucky for us Moab is a little over an hour away and tends to stay warmer and see less snow than we do. Since it also tends to be a scorching sweat fest in the summer we’ll be making the pilgrimage to Utah several times over the next few months. We also have a secret little spot a little less than an hour away that is like a mini- Red Bull Rampage venue. Think ridge line rides that you need to push/ hike up (go cardio!), rip down and then have a choice of 15+ foot drops or a cool step down hip jump.

Both of these places are great winter riding spots and offer something totally different then what we usually ride when we aren’t snowed in. But they also take planning and time to go ride so I won’t get nearly the saddle time in I usually do when I can hit the Lunch Loop trails about 15 minutes from my facility in Grand Junction. This means it’s time to step up the training so I can be ready when the snow melts!

Champions are made in the off season. Whether you are looking to stand on top of a podium or be the first one in your riding group to the top of that grueling climb that always kills you, this is when you make or break that dream. Just to show you what I mean, here is part of an e-mail I received at the beginning of the off-season last year:

“James,  

The training is going well. I have started your new Ultimate MTB Workout Program and I’m just blown away by it. I can see that you have probably spent a long time getting it together as it is quite comprehensive. You were right when you said to start with Phase 1… it schooled me the first week.  

The strength training is going great. I feel stronger than I have ever been. The new workouts are going great; I especially like the anaerobic intervals at the end. I am also now able to do full range of motion dips again after destroying one of my shoulders in a catastrophic front wheel failure 2 years ago.  

All and all everything is going great and the program is terrific. I’m glad you laid it all out there for those of us that have been on a quest for anything to make us faster and stronger over the past few years.  

Racing starts in May, I’ll keep you up to date, hopefully with some great podium news.  

Thanks…”  

Sean Tarricone

And here is a follow up e-mail I received a few weeks back –

“James,

I just finished my season with the “Last Chance for Glory” race at Plattekill last weekend. It was double points and I managed to land 2nd place for enough points to win the series and become the Expert 30-39 New York State Champion. I have been working at this for 3 seasons now and I finally got it done. I’m super motivated to get started training and come back dominate next season.

Thanks for everything.”
Sean Tarricone

Way to go Sean! It is great to see hard work and dedication paying off. The moral of the story is simple – if you want to dominate on the trail next season then now is when you make that happen. Set a goal, get a program and get going on it!

Of course I highly recommend the Ultimate MTB Workout Program (www.ultimatemtbworkout.com) or the DB Combos Program (www.dbcombos.com) but then I might be a little biased.

You can also keep checking out this blog for tons of free articles, podcasts and video demos on mountain bike training. In the last few weeks I have posted a lot of new content, including new videos I’ve never made available before and some great Q & A from riders around the world.

Hopefully your inspired to take your training up a notch, I know that I sure am. Until next time…

Ride Strong,

James Wilson

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Q & A: Arnold Press vs. Regular DB Shoulder

Q: When your workouts call for a standing dumbbell military presses can I do them like an arnold press. Basically just starting at the clean position and going up and down from there, or would it be more beneficial to do them as a normal press?

A: I do not really like the Arnold press for overhead pressing. The problem with it is that it does not require much from the upper back in order to stabilize the shoulder joint. The shoulder joint is prone to injuries as is so promoting imbalances that are usually already present is not the best idea.

By doing them the way I explain on the videos you force your shoulder joint to work in a more balanced manner. However, you have to make sure that you have the upper back mobility to get yourself into the exact position I demonstrate and be able to maintain that position for the entire rep before you want to add a lot of load.

If you lean back or can not keep your elbows pushed forward so that they are directly under the wrists then you need to work more on your mobility than you strength for that area. Check out the video in my previous blog post for the video demo I am refering to.

-James Wilson

Exercise of the Week: The Shoulder Press

Here is how to properly execute a shoulder press. Along with being a great shoulder exercise, this is also a great torso strenghening exercise, making it a must in our programs.
-James Wilson-

Banish Low Back Pain

Here is a video demo I did on some ways to loosen up your hips. Tight hips are one of the main causes of low back pain and decreased leg drive, both of which all mountain bikers want to avoid…

-James Wilson-

Q & A: What caused my injuries?

Q: I bought my program at perhaps the wrong time for me, since I am down with a partial tear in my Achilles tendon and a case of tendonitis in my shoulder so have been advised by the doc not to train or ride until healed. Not sure about what caused either but they are on the same side.

Two things that might have aggravated the tendon are a new pair of shoes and perhaps the clips were a bit too far forward in the shoe. Another possibility is that my seat was set a bit higher by a few centimeters for a 2 hour climb.

seatheight

Injuries are not fun and can undo months of training in what seems like just a few weeks.

This is new territory for me so appreciate any suggestions.

A: I think that there is probably a lot more to your situation than new shoes and saddle height. They may have contributed but i think that it is more like the proverbial “straw that broke the camel’s back”.

Here is my take – bad movement causes pain and injuries and also robs us of performance. Bad movement is caused by imbalances in the body, particularly in the area of mobility. If your mobility is poor then you body learns to create movement around that poor mobility and that is what causes pain and injuries.

Lucky for you my programs work on mobility and restoring balance so you will hopefully be able to address the real causes of your injury. I’d try to do the mobility routine while you wait for your injuries to heal as they will probably not aggrevate them and may speed the healing process. of course, do not do anything that hurts.

-James Wilson-

Q&A: Replacing regular deadlifts with Sumo deadlifts?

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Q: I have a question about the sumo deadlift:What do you think about replacing regular deadlifts with sumo deads? I find it much easier to keep form with sumos, and even at the peak of my stretching and strength last summer my form with regular deadlifts left much to be desired.

If it boils down to another weakness/muscle imbalance that I don’t know I have, and if you think the regular deadlift addresses these things better than a sumo, I’ll keep doing the regular ones.

My sumo lift was always significantly heavier than my regular deadlift last year (numbers are in locker somewhere else).
A: You have to remember that you are ultimately practicing movements when you exercise. While you don’t want to go overboard, considering how you create movements on the bike is important when assessing the value of an exercise.

While sumo deadlifts are a good exercise, they are not as “specific” as regular deadlifts to riding. They also do not require the same degree of hip mobility which is why some people naturally prefer them. You can certainly use them but I would still base most of my deadlifting on the regular stance version.

Do not confuse arbitrary strength numbers with better performance on the bike. Getting strong in a less specific movement pattern is not as valuable as forcing your self to master and get strong in a more specific movement pattern.

-James Wilson-

Injury Rehab Strategies

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If you participate in mountain biking long enough then odds are you will end up with an injury at some point. The injury scale varies, ranging from surgery and intense physical therapy to simply needing time off with some ice. However, what almost all injuries have in common is that there is usually a gap between where rehabbing the injury leaves off and the level of strength and coordination needed to safely and effectively return to your sport.

In order to best bridge that gap you need to undertake a well thought out strength and conditioning plan. Both scientific studies and real world results show us that without this added approach the odds of re-injury are much higher and the level of performance upon return is lower. Simply going into the weight room and randomly doing some exercises is not the best way, though, and may in fact make the situation worse without the right approach. In order to maximize your strength training program for injury rehab you must follow these four components when planning out your workouts:

-Train Unilaterally: It is extremely important that when you start your post rehab training that you train each limb separately. When you do bilateral exercises such as bench press or squats the stronger side will take over the movement and try to protect the weaker side. This just reinforces the strength imbalance that usually accompanies an injury.

If you do not force the weaker limb to work just as hard as the stronger limb then you will never fully address the strength imbalance, making it practically impossible to return to pre-injury performance levels. For the lower body this means doing exercises such as split squats, step ups and lunges (just to name a few) and for the upper body this means doing single arm dumbbell bench press, pullovers, rows and shoulder press. Incorporating this strategy right off the bat will ensure that balance is restored as quickly as possible.

-Follow the Weak Side Rule: This one ties in with training unilaterally. Since the injured side is usually weaker, it is important that you do not unknowingly continue to reinforce the strength imbalance. To make sure that you do not fall into this trap do your weaker side first in order to let it dictate the load and reps for the stronger side. Once you have completed your first set on the weaker side do that same load and number of reps for the stronger side, no matter how easy it may feel. In fact, if it is a major imbalance then you will want to add in one extra set for the weaker side until it starts to catch up. Only by using this approach can you guarantee the success of your post-rehab program.

-Emphasize the Eccentric: Studies have shown that the eccentric, or lowering, portion of an exercise not only yields some of the biggest strength gains, it is also extremely helpful in strengthening tendons and ligaments. Since these structural portions of a joint are usually part of the original injury, they are in a weakened state upon return. That is one of the major reasons that the odds of re-injury are so high upon return. This makes doing everything that we can to strengthen them as quickly and safely as possible a major priority during the post-rehab period.

There are numerous ways to emphasize the eccentric, some more practical than others. So, for most the two easiest ways are to slow down the eccentric portion and by using the 2:1 technique. Slowing down the eccentric means exactly that – lower the weight down to a count of 3-5, really making sure that you keep tension in the muscle on the way down instead of simply turning the muscle off and letting gravity pull the weight down. The 2:1 technique consists of raising a weight with 2 limbs and then lowering the weight down using 1 limb. For example, a great lower body variation of this is the 2:1 bodyweight squat. Set up a bench behind you, lower yourself down using one leg and then use both legs to stand back up. Emphasizing the eccentric portion of your exercises, especially on the injured side, will help you return structural integrity in a safe and effective manner.

-Emphasize Compound Bodyweight and Free Weight Movements: Since one of the major goals with a post rehab program is to restore full function as quickly as possible, it is very important to use exercises that work a lot of muscles in a coordinated effort. Using isolation movements and machines may help return strength to a specific area but unless your body can properly coordinate that area with the rest of the surrounding musculature you will not have the function needed to safely and effectively return to your sport. Remember that your body coordinates itself to create movement patterns, so using bodyweight and free weight exercises to train these movement patterns instead of individual muscles will return full function in the fastest manner possible.

As you can see, there are several potential benefits to incorporating a well structured strength training program into your post rehab strategy. Besides the physical strength and control you will also gain the mental confidence from knowing that you are doing everything that you can to ensure your success. Seeing your injured side performing well in a controlled environment like the gym will do wonders for your confidence in the chaotic environment of the trail, letting you simply perform instead of constantly wondering if you are going to re-injure yourself. Fitter, more confident athletes also tend to have more fun upon their return, which is still what it is all about.

 -James Wilson-