It Is All About Percentages


No, I am not a maths geek, although I do like Sudoku, however I just want to explain a concept to you today that involves some basic maths.

Still here?       Good!

Let’s take a relaxed trail ride with your mates as an example.  You are all spinning along a fire road climb to get to the top of the sweet singletrack descent.  You are probably chatting and catching up since your last ride out.

For the purpose of illustrating this point, let us assume that you all do similar amounts of riding and have similar levels of cardiovascular fitness.  If you all get to the top at the same time and at the same speed, and in the same gear, who will be freshest, and who will be the tiredest?

In my opinion the person with the freshest legs will be the strongest person, and the most tired person will be the weakest person (putting aside things like nutrition and age etc).  The reason why is all about percentages.

The strongest rider in the group has been in the gym, hitting the squat rack hard and he can put some serious power through the cranks due to his increased strength.  The weakest person, never does any strength work, and only rides his bike for training and fitness.  As a result there is a big difference in the maximum strength of these riders and therefore the maximum power they can put into the cranks to get up the hill.

If both these riders are ‘spinning’ at the same speed then we can see that the stronger rider is working at a lower percentage of his maximum compared to the weaker rider who is working at a higher level.  It is working at a higher percentage of your maximum effort for longer periods of time that ultimately tires you out over the course of a ride.  This is why sprinting on your bike and steep, out of saddle climbs can really take it out of you when you go out riding.

Imagine a long, winding climb for 40 minutes plus.  Now imagine you could be spinning and working at only 40% of your maximum for this amount of time because you are strong, and compare that to the weaker rider who has to work at 50% or more to get up the same hill.  I know who I would rather be and I know who will be in better shape to dominate the downhill that they worked so hard for.

Repeated long climbs, like those found on a gravity enduro event will emphasise this even more and that is why you will find most top enduro riders working hard in the gym through the winter and into the race season.

I realise that I have simplified things somewhat here to get my point across, and I am not saying you don’t need endurance training and time on the bike.  I just want you to think about the benefits of being stronger and how it can speed you up on the bike.

The message then, is that increased strength  usually means increased endurance, and if you want to ride faster, one of the things you should look to improve is your whole body strength.

Stay Strong


UKGE Sponsor for 2014!

The MTB Strength Factory is proud to announce that we are a spot prize sponsor for UK Gravity Enduro in 2014. The UKGE series has emerged as the top gravity enduro series in the UK, and has been getting bigger and better year on year thanks to awesome venues, organisation and support from riders.

We will be sponsoring 21st place across all categories of racers, so even if you donʼt get a podium, you could be in line for a cool prize. If you come 21st then we will send you a free copy of the Bodyweight Strength Programme worth £18. With this programme you can train anytime and anywhere to improve your whole body strength. It is designed specifically for mountain bikers and it will make you ride faster, guaranteed! If you do the programme and work hard, you may even break into the top 20 next time out.

See you at the races.
Stay Strong


Can Strength Training Transfer To The Bike?

images10 years ago, this was a common question, and there were plenty of people who would argue that gains in strength in the gym would not actually transfer to gains in power and speed on the bike. They said that weights made you bulky and slow, and that you should just ride your bike in a bigger gear or up a hill to get stronger and more powerful.

Thankfully, these people have largely been silenced, and you wonʼt find many pro riders, road or mountain, who are not in the gym through the off season at least, with many incorporating gym training through the whole year. This is especially true of the more ʻgravityʼoriented riders like downhillers who need serious upper body strength as well as pedalling power in order to compete at the top level. Just check out this article about Gee Atherton to see him pumping iron in the gym. We all know that Gee gets results too!

To show you how strength training benefits the endurance athlete as well though, I am actually going to use a runner as an example. You may have heard of Mo Farah, one of the Team GB heroes of the London 2012 Olympics? I thought so. Would you describe him as slow or bulky? Did you know that weight training was a crucial part of his Olympic prep, and has continued to be part of his new marathon training plan?

Check out this extract from an article in The Guardian newspaper:

He was always lean but now he is sculpted. He has upped his mileage since joining Salazar – during an average week he will run 120 miles – but it is the weight room where there has been the most radical shifting of plates and mindset. His strength and conditioning coach David McHenry has introduced him to powerlifting: traditionally the preserve of strong men and bodybuilders wanting their muscles to pop out like melons. He can squat 200lb, 1.5 times his bodyweight, for 4-6 reps. He also flings and swings a kettlebell, a device that looks like a cannonball with a handle, to order.

“I was a lot weaker before,” Farah says. “All the core stuff, all the weights? I couldn’t lift anything. I just used to run and do a bit of core but I never did specific stuff. That’s been the difference for sure.”

Now I know that he is not a mountain biker, but I think it helps to prove a point that being stronger will make you a better athlete, and that strength in the gym translates to the real world of sport. If you train smart you will not bulk up and get too heavy to climb, instead you will INCREASE your power to weight ratio that is so important for climbing on a mountain bike.

As for weights making you slow, it is all about how you lift:

Perform classic movements like squats and deadlifts with a focus on driving upwards in a powerful manner and you will become MORE powerful and therefore faster. This is especially true if you can integrate Olympic Lifting into your programme. For instance a rider who can clean and jerk their bodyweight is going to be seriously powerful, as well as having a strong mid-section and back that will let them put that power through the cranks
effectively and efficiently.

The final thing I will say about strength training is about how it can help to fix your body, correct imbalances and prevent injury.

By coming into a controlled environment like a gym with a quality trainer, you can work on physical factors that have been limiting your progress and success on the bike. Out on the trail they will be hard to see, and often even harder to fix, but in the gym you can effectively work to strengthen a weaker side, or to improve your hip mobility for instance. Too many people who have pain when they ride (roadies in particular) throw money at the
problem with £200 bike fit sessions that shorten their stem by 2mm and other bollocks like that when they should be fixing their bodies instead. You can spend £5000 on a bike custom made for you and still have back pain, because the underlying issue is that you are weak and stiff in the back, neck and hips. Next time, spend £4000 on the bike and give me a grand to fix you and I guarantee you will ride faster and without pain!

On the subject of injury, letʼs think of 2 riders. They are identical twins and one day in a freak accident they both fall off of their bikes in some rocky singletrack and instinctively throw their arms out to break their fall. One of the twins never does any strength training, and the other has been doing the ʻStrength Factory Bodyweight Programmeʼfor 2 months including work on press ups and handstands so his shoulders are getting pretty strong and a lot more stable. Which twin do you think is more likely to walk away with just some bruises and no serious shoulder damage?
I hope that I have shown you that time spent doing bodyweight and gym training is time well spent and it will have huge benefits for your riding, no matter what discipline you do. Just remember that there is no substitute for time on the bike, so make sure you make time for both.

Shout Outs

fonzie_lA massive thanks to all the people who helped me to launch the MTB Strength Factory and actually make it a reality. You are all awesome!

Jasper for the logo and web design.
Tom for the build.
Paul and Ben for being my guinea pigs.
Steve at UK Gravity Enduro for letting me be a sponsor of his amazing series in 2014.
Leanne for all the support

About Ben

c7DMUVywlqX1rmq_qvA9_rI_tjOXfnV0EpqT0ncM0psI have been a mountain biker since 1994, when I got my first ʻproperʼbike, a Kona Fire Mountain, complete with Project 2 forks and cantilever  brakes. I loved that bike, and loved the way it could make me feel whenever I rode it. 20 years later, and nothing has changed, (except the bike) as riding my bike is my biggest passion along with my van and my wife!

I spent 8 years in the British Army, retiring as a Captain in 2010, when I qualified as a personal trainer. Since becoming a trainer I have developed a real interest in strength and conditioning, and have attended a number of courses, including Olympic weight lifting. In my time as a coach, I have developed my own tried and tested approach to getting results for people, and it is this approach that I will bring to all MTB Strength Factory clients, both online and in person.

By combining my 2 passions for riding mountain bikes and physical training I believe that The Mountain Bike Strength Factory can offer you, the rider, something special and something different to what is out there in the UK at the moment. I want to offer you a complete package for improving your physical abilities on a mountain bike. Throughout 2014 I will be adding online programmes for all different types of rider, whilst starting work
one to one with riders and racers to get them riding as fast as possible for as long as possible. I will also be attending and racing all rounds of the UK Gravity Enduro series where I am also sponsoring 21st place across all categories. If you see me there, then come and say hello.

I am really excited about the MTB Strength Factory and I look forward to meeting you all in the gym, or on the trails some time in the near future.

Stay Strong