MTB Training Plan – How to Structure Your Week

As a rider there’s nothing better than… erm… riding.

Following a rigid MTB training plan might not be appealing. But what’s the correct balance between being on your bike and being in the gym? By the end of this article we hope you will understand more about how to plan your week to get the best from your training.

Let’s take a quick look at some of the rider profiles you might fit into. There is more detail further on about each one.

Rider A:

Rides at weekends where possible but has busy schedule so very seldom gets to ride though the week. This is the office worker, 9-5 type who has no other choice but to do non-riding training through the week.

Weekday 3-5 gym, Weekend 1 if they are lucky.  Routine is your friend.

Rider B:

Rides every weekend and tries to ride at least once through the week. They see the benefit in training and having a good balance between on and off-bike training. They want to enjoy their rides more but also enjoys time in the gym.

Weekday 2-3 gym 1 bike, Weekend 1-2 rides. Training volume is key. 

Rider C:

Has few commitments to restrict riding and training time so rides multiple times per week and trains simply to increase their ability, not to replace rides. Doesn’t want to train more than twice a week because although they see the benefits to training they would rather ride as much as possible.

Weekday 2 gym 2-3 bike, Weekend 2 bike. Training quality and timing is key.

Rider D:

improving times is their priority and they have time and financial resources to do exactly what they need to become the fastest rider possible. They understand training might be better for them than simply riding and are willing to commit to becoming the best, and fastest rider possible. 

Before we delve into each of these rider profiles and what they should be doing, let’s talk over some principals of how to plan your week.

We will presume everyone will be prioritising their weekend riding, if this is a different day simply use the protocol in the same format but adjust the days to suit you.

With that in mind, consider the impact of your training on your riding, especially on the weekend priority rides. I suggest you do the most physically demanding and impactful work early in the week – things like heavy squats and deadlifts and capacity based work towards the latter half. This will give you more time to recover from any soreness and allow for better riding.

Principles of training volume.

It’s important that any MTB training plan is structured with possible variation within it. It’s no good grinding yourself down every day and never having chance to recover. Training volume is a term we use for the amount of work you are doing in a given week, if the volume is higher than you can manage there are some symptoms to look out for. People cope with volume differently to one another so here are some thing to consider…

DOMS

In the early stages of your MTB training plan, or if you are coming back to it, you will be sore. This is a natural indicator of how well you are coping with the volume of training. It is likely you will be more sore 2 days after any heavy or high volume work in the gym. Known as DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) this is often something that hinders and worries people. Our advice is to persist and work through it, but reduce the number of reps and/or the weight on movements. It does get better and you will, one day, crave that feeling again, we promise. 

Training or riding with DOMS is ok within reason. The way the programs are written encourages different muscle groups to be worked during different training sessions. This is not a “split routine” as you might see in a basic bodybuilding program though. 

It is important to note that range of motion and soreness may inhibit some movements, so take it easy and work into your training/riding before pushing to a maximum limit. Instead, expect to be slightly less physically capable on the days when soreness is at its highest.

General Fatigue

If you increase the amount of riding and/or training rapidly you will notice a change in your general energy levels. This might be something that is obvious to you but something you might be ignorant to. It is easy to fall into the trap of training more often or for longer because you are desperate to make improvements, this is often counter productive. Training smartly means high quality training, not necessarily high volume. 

If you are feeling fatigue consistently you should consider:

  1. Your diet (including vitamins and minerals)
  2. Sleep
  3. Hydration
  4. Mental stress (from work/family etc)
  5. Training volume

Which Rider Are You?

Now let’s delve a little deeper into each of the rider personas. Don’t worry if you don’t fit with one perfectly, you should be able to find a balance by understanding the principals of each.

Rider A. Office worker/9-5 weekend rider

You should aim to train between 3-5 times per week during the week. Routine is your friend so make a habit of training on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday to start. This give time to recover from a Sunday ride. If however, you are already in the swing of training and handle volume well, you can train all of the 5 days through the week, tapering towards the weekend with less impactful work on Thursday and Friday. 

Consider something like squat focus Monday, Upper body focus Tuesday, deadlift focus Wednesday, conditioning/capacity/recovery Thursday and Friday. When I say “focus” I don’t mean these are split routines like a bodybuilding program, the specifics of how you should train are in other videos we have produced, check them out.

The main point for the 9-5 worker is to get into a routine and be training to support the precious time you have to ride at weekends. Keep an eye on how well you are recovering and use your time purposefully. 

Rider B: The rider who likes the gym and time on the bike, sees the benefits in both but needs to find a balance. 

As a main principal, you should separate training days by riding days and consider a full rest day or as a minimum an active recovery low intensity day once a week. There are times when training in the morning and riding in the afternoon is fine, but keep an eye on how much you are doing and if the volume is effecting your overall quality of what you’re doing. 

As with the office worker it is still a good idea to do the more impactful gym work earlier in the week, trying to avoid any leg heavy sessions before weekend riding.

For rider B, finding a purpose for on-bike training would benefit massively by reducing overall volume, which could potentially have a negative impact. Instead, interval training on the bike, skills sessions and shorter more intense rides with rest between would change the stimulus and encourage more benefits. 

Train Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday. Ride Thursday and weekends. Monday is a good day for full rest or active recovery. This can shift if your weekend ride hasn’t been tough, Monday, Tuesday, Thursday gym and Wednesday riding, Friday full rest/recovery.

Rider C: All about the ride… Ride or Die

If you ride and that’s all you care about, but you see training is something that can help with that, allocate 2 days per week to some purposeful training in areas you are likely to have a deficit in i.e. strength and short energy system training. 

You’re more than likely already out riding for fun multiple times a week, therefore won’t need to integrate more “cardio” based training into your schedule. I often see people in gyms simply pounding miles on static cardio equipment because that’s what they feel will help them ride better/further/longer. On the contrary, spending an hour twice a week on strength and conditioning, is likely to improve your riding a massive amount.

Rider D: Pro rider (or the rider who does everything in their power to improve and has few limitations)

What do you need from riding? Purposeful improvement. 

What do you need from everything else you do? Purposeful improvement. 

Contrary to popular belief, pro riders don’t smash the gym as much as you might think. That’s a broad statement and yes, some do train until their ears bleed. But those who know how to train well use that time to improve their physical (and mental) game without detracting elsewhere.

Training for trainings sake is monotonous and often pointless, if you are simply increasing the volume of what you are doing there’s a chance you’ll actually go backwards.

Balance is key for Rider D, but every choice should be around how this can improve their riding.

As with anything you feel you “must” do, it can become a chore if you even slightly dislike it. Training should be varied, fun and not take hours of “grind”. 

Rider D should plan their week around 3 days strength and conditioning and riding where possible with variance in what those rides entail. Training should be varied, fun and work areas specific to improving riding that they less easily get on the bike – strength, high intensity conditioning.

If you are a seasonal athlete, consider more time in the gym when you are entering the offseason. Following and MTB training plan would be a great idea in the offseason. This will help you get the balance right for volume and recovery.

What Next?

Sing up and follow a MTB training plan of course…

Jokes aside, we like to educate riders to make good choices around training and riding. That said, if you want our professional help and know exactly what you’re doing in the gym without giving it any thought, signing up today is a very good idea.

See you on the other side…

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