9 Tips for MTB Riders in the Gym

This video is a culmination of 9 of our well received Instagram bangers. We have put them together in an easy to digest video – 9 Tips for MTB Riders in the Gym. To accompany the vid we have also added the supporting text to each video below. It is definitely worth reading it as there is content there which isn’t in the video. We hope you enjoy this article.

Put your time to good use. Doorframe stretch.

Mobility should be a continual consideration. With small, purposeful inputs, you can really make change without taking too much time. Enter the doorframe stretch – one of the best pec openers.

Tight pecs are responsible for poor shoulder positions in soooo many people. If your shoulder does become rounded forward because of it, you’re much more likely to injure yourself on the bike or in the gym. Not only that but your ability to get into good positions is limited and it may lead to lower back issues.

How does the shoulder cause lower back issues?

If your mobility sucks in your shoulder, reaching or pressing overhead may be impossible without your lower back over extending to compensate for the lack of mobility. Next time you press consider what your back is doing.

Not sure on safe overhead pressing?

We have some tips for you coming in vids over then next couple of days. Follow to see them first.

Burpees. Why?


We love burpees for multiple reasons, one of which, the one mentioned in the video is the dynamic eccentric loading which replicates, and trains much of the upper body stress you feel riding.

It is important to note that there are many types of burpees, the two we show here are our go-to. There are strict, which involves much more of the press-up potion of the movement, this is great for muscular endurance and quality movement however, it can be difficult for many to perform and may slow down high pace workouts. The more hip initiated burpee is more efficient, manning you can do more in less time, because you are not at the mercy of your muscular endurance, these are great for people who struggle with the press-up but also a key part of many high pace conditioning workouts.

There are few bodyweight movements you can perform on-the-spot that have the metabolic impact of burpees. As a tool for conditioning, you can raise heart rate quickly but also have side benefits of the functional nature of the movement, such as the hinge which is crucial to be proficient at for better riding.

Safety note. What to look out for. Multiple burpees may put excessive load on the upper traps – the muscles at the top of your shoulders attaching to your neck – which in turn can cause imbalance and tension. This is mostly down to the quality of your movement. To avoid this try to engage your lats when you descend, which will stabilise your shoulder and put more load onto the pecs, which is where we want it.

Ankles and Squats – improve your position

To perform a squat well your ankles must be flexible, they affect the mechanics of everything above them and small changes make big differences.

If you have less than optimal dorsiflexion, you can still improve your position with olympic lifting shoes – they raise your heel and in turn allows your knee to come forward of your toe more, this then allows your hip to be lower and torso to be more vertical. You can use small plates or books under your heels to achieve the extra range but this is obviously not as safe or practical as lifting shoes.

You can purchase lifting shoes waaaay more easily than 10 years ago, probably thanks to CrossFit and the popularity of Olympic lifts in mainstream workout facilities. Most are good so stick to a brand you have other footwear with based on comfort.

DO NOT USE LIFTERS IF you are planning on doing workouts/multi modal domain training in them. It can be counter productive to rely on lifters for all of your training so definitely take 2 pairs of trainers to the gym.

This advice is of course for an “olympic” squat vs a powerlifting squat. If you don’t already know the difference, check out our Youtube page where we have tons of videos, this being one of them.

Rest Pause Training – Ultra strength in less time.

There are many ways to rest pause train, the way we are showing here is our tried and tested preferred way. But before you start, make sure you are fully warm and safe with a spotter or safety precautions if you’re on your own.

How to do it:
Perform as many reps as possible on a movement such as bench press, go to failure but keep your form. Once you have reached a maximum number in that first set, take 3 breaths and start set 2. Perform a maximum number of reps again followed by 3 breaths and repeat for a third and final round. So in simple terms, this is 3 sets of maximum reps with only 3 breaths between sets.

Aim for 25-30 reps total.

You can continue with the same movement over a few weeks as long as you continue to either add reps each week or weight. It’ll work like this…
On your first week aim for 25-30 reps, if you get more than 30 increase the weight the second week. Follow this structure by adding weight or reps each week until you can’t exceed your previous weeks effort. Once you peak, take a week off and start the cycle again but on a different movement.

This is a very powerful strength builder but one that you might find hard on your joints over a prolonged time, so keep a sharp eye on your recovery and form. Consider applying this over 12 weeks at the beginning of the winter/offseason.

Fix your shoulder – fire your lats.

Mobility is often misunderstood. Forget trying to pull your limbs as far as they can go, instead try to engage the supporting muscles while you are at the end of your range.

This will help you have more ability or “function” while you are in more extreme positions. In turn helping you get full use of what your body gave you.

To do this you need to be able to identify the primary supporting muscles and turn them on at will. Your lats (muscles on you back) are one of the more difficult muscles to do this and more often than not your traps (back of your neck) take the strain. This isn’t ideal for many reasons – tension headaches etc but mostly disfunction of movement.

How to fix it….

Take a look in a mirror with your top off, hold your arm straight out with your elbow at 90 degrees and hand pointing at the ceiling. Use your other hand to feel your lat under your armpit. Try to flex it whilst keeping your trap soft. It’s difficult to master but without being able to do this you are most likely not able to use your muscles optimally during movement, especially on the bike.

Practice this as a primer for any upper body movements you do in the gym like pressing, rows and pull-ups. By adding this to your routine your body will be more prepared for heavy load in the correct place rather than compounding poor movement patterns/mechanics.

Meal prep time: 1 minute 30 seconds. Winner!

I’m a massive fan of the slow cooker because it is so easy and so fast… hold on, it isn’t fast at all but what I mean is it takes no time to prepare. Like in the video, it took a mere 1 minute 30 of my time to prepare food for 4 meals.

Yes it also took 2 hours to cook but that time can be used to do anything you like, including going for a ride or in my case indoor steady state cardio… which works impressively well to refuel after fasting. Fasted cardio is a whole other story so we will revisit that on another post (enter generic request for the reader to subscribe to your channel)

This recipe is as follows:
2 x 400g pre chopped chicken breast.
1 x large bag (250g) chopped veg soup mix
1 x large bag (150g) leafy greens
4 x 2 minute rice
Cajun spice to taste.

I won’t be “that guy” who ignores the amount of packaging that this all requires. But I will say, eating convenience food can be worse for the environment, your wallet and your health and if the speed of this recipe helps with those things than great, if you can spare more time to prepare food and use less plastics then even better.

I hope you like this recipe, it’s nothing mind blowing but if you create a habit of this type of cooking your health and fitness could drastically improve. Obviously that is subjective and you might already be doing a great job, but for those of us who have little time and might struggle to eat well, I hope this helps.

Steady state cardio explained.


Steady state cardio is used as a tool to increase your aerobic fitness without compromising other elements of your training/riding/racing. We are not suggesting this is the only way to train, on the contrary, only integrate this type of training if you are already engaging in 2-3 multi-modal higher intensity strength and conditioning sessions per week.

I recommend using a heart rate monitor and working out your “zone 2” range. Often when riding we are in zone 3 for much of it, this is probably the most inefficient place to sit as it will fatigue you over time but won’t produce the fitness benefits of zone 2 or 4-5.

Our next video will show exactly how to work out zone 2, tune in tomorrow or if this is after tomorrow take a look at our next posted video.

Simply add steady state cardio sessions into your schedule as much or as little as you like and that you feel contributes to your energy levels. I suggest trying 2 mornings for 45 minutes to start. You can up that to 5 days 60-90 minutes but these are large chunks of time that might not fit with your lifestyle.

You can obviously do this on the bike but failing that, you can use any piece of cardio equipment and in fact, multiple types in the same session. Don’t get bored, use a rower, ski erg, bike, running machine, elliptical for 10 minutes each with fast transitions and it’ll stop you becoming bored as sh*t.

How to work out Heart Rate ZONES

Here is an explanation to help you work out your zones:

1. Subtract your age from 220. This will give you your HR max (40 year old = 180)
2. Calculate your resting HR (eg 60 beats per minute)
3. Subtract your resting HR from your Max HR this will give you a base number to work from (in this example the number would be 120)
4. Choose the Zone you want to work at:
Zone 1 = 50-60%
Zone 2 = 60-70%
Zone 3 = 70-80%
Zone 4 = 80-90%
Zone 5 = 90-100%
5. take the percentage (60-70% in the case of zone 2) of your base (120 = 72-84) then add it to your resting HR (60) to give you a range of 132-144.

Note* This is our preferred way of calculating zones but there are others and you may find that using an app will give you different guidance. It could save you some mathematic gymnastics though, so if you’d prefer to plug-and-play I’d recommend the Polar HR monitors and Polar beats app.

Whoop and Apple watch – be cautious. If you have either of these they tend to have some lag and/or varying degrees of accuracy for real time heart rate. If you have nothing else don’t stress, something is better than noting and it is easy to go too hard when looking for the zone 2 sweet spot.

Future content will include zone 4 protocols, zone 5 for maximum benefit in minimal time and how to know use multiple zones to interval train successfully. Subscribe and see them first.

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