MTB: How to Ride Faster and Ride Further

When mountain bikers come to EndurElite, they want to know the answer to this question:

  • How can I ride further, faster?

Unsurprisingly, the answer is in the question.

If You Want To Be A Stronger Mountain Biker, Ride More and Ride Harder

New riders will see solid gains in their cycling performance simply by riding within a well-designed training program.

A good training program is periodized and gradually increases duration and intensity. The gradual part is critical--you don’t want to cause injury or chronic muscle fatigue by going too fast and too hard right out the gate.

strength training for cyclists

For access to our training plans...look here.

But, what about the riders who already have a training program or have been riding for years?

Number One Training Mistake of Seasoned Riders

Too often, dedicated riders stick with the routine that worked for them in the beginning: increase performance through duration and intensity. Their only training program is “more cycling.”

Eventually, they hit a plateau. At that point, more time on the bike isn’t necessarily going to step them up to the next level.

Furthermore, more hours on the bike means more sacrifice. It means less time with friends and family and it means less time for other worthwhile pursuits.

No one wants to make huge sacrifices only to see marginal gains.

Why MTB Riders Should Strength Train

deadlift is best exercise for cyclists

Strength training has loads of benefits for cyclists. Research shows that riders who strength train experience

  • Increased strength
  • Increased power output
  • Improved cycling economy
  • Injury prevention

As an endurance cyclist, you are generally in a fixed position, only using certain muscle groups for long durations, which over time can become detrimental to your body.

In order to complement these negative adaptations and reduce the chance of injury, a properly designed strength training program could make all the difference.

It’s important to remember that strength training in the offseason differs from training in season. Most endurance athletes have many false impressions about strength training and are too apprehensive about increased muscle mass, or a decrease in aerobic efficiency.

While this is all possible, it’s important to note that these adaptations will only occur if cycling, or endurance training discontinues for long periods of time, along with not following a proper strength training regimen geared for endurance athletes.

Generally, most endurance athletes associate strength training with performing high repetitions with light weights. While this is acceptable at certain times of the year, this type of training alone will not improve your cycling performance.

What Type Of Strength Training Program Should Cyclists And Mountain Bikers Use?

Most riders think they want high repetitions with light weights. A lot of riders, especially endurance athletes, worry that they’ll bulk up too much and have unnecessary weight to pedal around.

While high rep, light weight training is acceptable, it isn’t always going to be enough to improve your performance.

weight lifting for mountain bikers

That’s because what you really want is to improve your strength to weight ratio. Don’t worry, it takes a heck of a lot to put on significant muscle mass unless you're eating a ton of calories and protein.

When you start training, it’s essential to determine how much weight you will need to use for each exercise. In order to determine your loads, you will use RPE (rate of perceived exertion).

RPE is based off a scale of 1 to 10 to verify how difficult something is; therefore an RPE of 10 is what you could ultimately complete one time in an all-out effort.

Using RPE will eliminate the need to find a one rep maximum to determine your weights based off of percentages. Not only is RPE more efficient, it also decreases the chance of injury for anyone who is not familiar with lifting heavy loads.

RPE is very easy to use. If you are required to do 10 repetitions at a RPE of 10, then you need to use a weight that only allows you to complete 10 repetitions.

If it’s easier to think in percentages, think of an RPE of 6 as 60%. Choose a weight that is 60% of what you could actually perform for the given amount of repetitions.

30 Minute Strength Training Exercise For Mountain Bikers

As a mountain biker, you receive the following benefits from strength training.

  • Increased muscular power
  • Increased strength
  • Increased endurance (lower body)
  • Less fatigue (upper body)

Yes, mountain bikers, you do have to train your upper body.

Below are my favorite exercises for riders.

  • Deadlift
  • Squat
  • Bench press
  • Lat pulldown
  • Dumbell shoulder presses
  • Planks or crunches

I like this type of workout because it’s quick and easy. All of these exercises hit multiple muscle groups, as well.

These exercises are perfect for riders who want to get into the gym and get right back out. Try these exercises for 30 minutes, 2-3 times a week.

Personally, I go to the gym two times a week. On the first day, I do anywhere from 3 to 4 sets of 8 to 12 reps at about 75% of my repetition max (this is closer to a hypertrophy type program).

On the second day, I do a strength program where I perform from 3 to 4 sets of 6 or less reps, from 85% to 94% of one repetition max, with long rest periods.

For more focused advice, check out our 12 Week Training Program.

As always, stay fueled, stay fast, and stay informed my friends!