Combined Strength

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As I have said before, my goal is to coach a rider who wins a World Cup or the World Champs.  To do that, I need to be the best coach I can be. I need to continually learn and develop.  I need to ask questions of myself, my riders and my techniques.

That is why I have joined Combined Strength.

Combined Strength is a group of coaches from across the UK, led my Andy ‘Iron Mac’ McKenzie.  Its goal is to improve the UK fitness industry and to develop world-class coaches capable of working with a variety of clients from desk worker to elite athlete.  As a member I can benefit from the knowledge and experience of the group.  We all give to the group and we all gain knowledge and support from the group whether it is training or business related. The group is not just open to any trainer though, and you have to earn your place. Not all who apply are accepted.

Andy Mckenzie. Combined Strength

Andy Mckenzie. Combined Strength.

This weekend I spent my first training weekend with Combined Strength, enjoying a variety of sessions including gymnastics strength training, animal flows and a fascinating talk about the mindset needed to initiate real and lasting change in yourself or a client.  Over the two days there were many take-away pieces of information that I will be able to apply to my coaching immediately, giving my riders a better service and hopefully contributing to better results at the races.  It was all rounded off with a brutal conditioning session of sled push, press ups, ball slams, sprints and farmers walks, but that was just for fun!

The group are diverse in their backgrounds, specialities and approaches but all share a passion for fitness and helping their clients reach their goals.  I know that as I continue my journey to the top of mountain bike sports coaching I have the support of some of the best coaches in the country.

When you choose to train with me at MTB Strength Factory you are getting a professional coach who invests in my education and personal development so that I can give you the best possible experience.

Stay Strong

Ben

Free Nutrition Guide with any Strength Programme

I want to make sure you start 2017 heading in the right direction……. heading into the Spring feeling fit, strong and healthy.  That is why I am offering you a free copy (worth £9) of my newly updated Nutrition Guide with any strength programme purchased before the end of January!

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It could not be simpler:  Just head over to either the Bodyweight Strength Programme page or the Kettlebell Strength Programme page.  You simply place your order for your new strength programme and the Nutrition Guide will automatically be sent to you as well!

The Nutrition Guide has just been updated for 2017 to include loads of extra info, all laid out in plain English, free of jargon and developed for you – a mountain bike rider or racer.  Have a read below to see what is included:

Meal planners to help you figure out what to eat and when.

Learn which foods work for you as an individual by following the ‘3-Week Experiment.’

What to eat before, during and after training.

A guide to supplements and how to use them.

Remember that all MTB Strength factory Products are covered by my guarantee:

“Ride faster or your money back.”

Not only are you getting a free Nutrition Guide with your Strength Programme but it is all totally risk free as well.  When you look at it, it represents great value too.

For only £16 you get a copy of the Bodyweight Strength Programme with the free Nutrition Guide.  That is less than a pair of grips these days!  I know which one is going to help you ride further and faster over the coming weeks and months.

Or, for only £24 you can get the Kettlebell Strength Programme with the free Nutrition Guide.  This is a really powerful programme for developing your strength and power on the bike.  If you are paying a gym membership already then this one off payment for the programme represents a great way to get even better value out of your gym.

Whichever programme you choose, I hope that you enjoy it.  Literally hundreds of riders just like you, across the UK and beyond have already used these programmes to help them ride further and faster.  Bring on 2017!

Stay Strong

Ben

 

 

Coaching with MTB Strength Factory for 2017

MTB Strength Factory trained racer, Charlie Hatton on the top spot of the podium.

MTB Strength Factory trained racer, Charlie Hatton on the top spot of the podium.

It is fair to say that 2016 was a breakthrough year for MTB Strength Factory and my riders with podiums and victories at home and across the world.  Working with and getting to know such talented riders has been amazing. It gives me a massive buzz to see them grow stronger in the gym and on their bikes, and when they turn the hard work into podiums and medals it makes it all worth while.

Here are just a few highlights from 2016: (If I listed all the good results we would be here all day!)

Charlie Hatton, Junior DH, Wideopenmag:  6th at World Champs, 1st overall in BDS, 6th in Vallnord World Cup.

Chris Hutchens, Elite Enduro, Wideopenmag: 1st overall Scottish Enduro Series, 3rd overall British Enduro Series, 37th at Irish EWS.

Veronique Sandler, Elite DH, Loose Riders: Leogang DH World Cup 16th and 2 other top 20 WC.

Joe Finney, Elite Enduro, NS Bikes: 14th overall British Enduro Series.

Oliver Parton, Youth Enduro, Pedalabikeaway: 1st overall British Enduro Series.

Duncan Ferris, Elite 4X, DMR Bikes: 1st overall British 4X series.

Kev Baines, Grand Vets Enduro, Hope Factory Racing: 2nd overall British Enduro Series.

Monet Adams, Elite Enduro, Wideopenmag: 17th Ireland EWS, Crankworx Les Gets DH 10th, 4X Pro Tour Fort William 2nd.

Maddy Brown, Women Enduro/DH, Pedalabikeaway: 3rd DH National Champs, 1st Eastridge BES.

I also coached riders who completed the Trans Provence, Trans Savoie, Ard Rock Enduro, MTB Marathons, and many more!

Now is the time to start getting your winter training going to prepare yourself for the 2017 race season and I am currently looking for riders and teams to work with.  I have already signed up a number of well known riders and a new team for this winter and all will be announced soon, so I only have limited spaces available for coaching, but if you want to work with MTB Strength Factory, then get in touch.  For an outline of what I offer, please check out my Coaching Page which explains what is available.  Other options are also available, including consulting services for teams and clubs as well as one off coaching days to suit your needs.  If you are serious about your racing or just love riding, and are willing to put in the work then drop me a line…. ben@mtbstrengthfactory.com.  I would love to hear from you.

Stay Strong

Ben

Enduro Training Camp – French Pyrenees

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The first ever Enduro Training Camp run jointly by MTB Strength Factory and Altitude Adventure took place over the course of a warm and sunny week in April in the French Pyrenees.  Whilst we called it a training camp, it was not about early morning suffer-fests, interval training and early nights, and instead it was more of a riding holiday with an enduro training twist…..

Altitude Adventure, run by Ian and Ange Pendry, is a well established company providing fully guided riding holidays and trips throughout the summer and snow sports holidays in the winter.  The sheer size and quality of their trail network is amazing, with rocky wild mountainside single track, forest paths, and switchbacks galore as the group would find out on their first day of riding.  Each day had a different theme in order to give everybody a really diverse riding experience.  The first day was all about big mountain riding like you might find at an alpine enduro race, with the second day using one of the French national enduro series race tracks to test our skills against.  Some of the time we rode in a ‘train’ with smaller gaps between riders as you tend to on a normal riding holiday, but on other runs we were riding with 30 second gaps, encouraging us to look ahead, read the trail and to flow like you would in a race situation.  Riding like this really exposed areas for some of us to work on and when combined with some excellent coaching from Ian, meant that we all made improvements to our riding over the course of the week.

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The week was not just about amazing trails though.

Each day I would take the group of riders through a morning warm up before they rode and each evening we ran through some stretching and mobility drills back at the chalet.  After dinner each night I went through an informal talk about different subjects related to training for enduro racing.  I talked about general approaches and then more specifically about sprint training, nutrition and recovery as well as spending a lot of time chatting with the guys and answering their questions.

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The amazing setting and trails, combined with warm sunny weather and a great group of people meant that we had a really fun week of riding together.  Everybody got on well and encouraged each other to ride hard and we shared plenty of laughs over the week.  Most days finished with a cool beer (sometimes in the hot tub) and a chat about bikes and tyres and other rubbish that we can’t help talking about.  Plans are already afoot for a similar week or two next spring and I can’t wait!

Stay Strong

Ben

P.S. If you missed the camp but still want some help preparing for enduro, a riding holiday, or other race disciplines then drop me a line: ben@mtbstrengthfactory.com

Wrist strength and training for MTB.

A really common problem with riders I train is pain or discomfort in the wrists when they are doing press ups and other floor based movements.  We have all fallen off and jarred a wrist and maybe even broken a wrist or two over the years and it often leaves the wrist with a limited range of motion and uncomfortable in certain positions.

In the video below I outline some simple tips that will help you to train with wrist issues as well as generally strengthening the wrists so that they are more robust for riding and training.

Good luck with your training and don’t forget to check out my new kettlebell programme for building full body strength!

Stay Strong

Ben

N1NO – Hittin’ The Gym.

You might have seen this video doing the rounds on social media recently.  It is from the web series about the training and life of XC whippet and all round MTB demon, Nino Schurter.  If you have not seen it, then take 5 and watch it now….

Having just watched the video myself I had a few thoughts I wanted to pass on about the way I train people and what I can learn from this.  I was also imagining people (like you!) going home and trying some of this crazy stuff in your garages and falling off your kid’s skateboard!

1.  I strongly believe in training balance and coordination and regularly integrate these things into my warm ups for my riders at the gym.  Sometimes I also use balance and stability drills in rest periods between sets as well.  Improving balance and your ability to correct yourself from an off-balance position plays an important role in injury prevention, especially when you are falling off your bike on uneven and loose terrain.

2.  Nino’s training schedule as a full time athlete allows him to do a dedicated and very intense session of balance, stability and core training.  He has time to ride lots (way more than you!).  He also has time to do conventional strength training in the gym and in order to do all of this, he must also have time to rest, eat and recover in order to grow as an athlete and avoid burn out.  Pretty much all of the people I train have full time jobs.  Training time is very limited and so choosing what will get the biggest return on your investment is crucial.  Would dedicating a whole session to this type of training each week be an effective use of your time?  Quite possibly, however you would be missing out on an opportunity to develop real strength.  This is where copying the pro’s is not always the best approach and assessing your individual needs as a rider is critical.

3.  I have never personally been a fan of ‘circus tricks’ in the gym, like standing on swiss balls and doing a shoulder press and other things like that.  I have never felt like they gave much of a reward and that they were always compromised and focussed too much on looking cool.  Take my shoulder press example:  Doing it on a swiss ball means you can’t press as much weight, so you won’t get as strong. It really is that simple.  However, Nino’s coach has programmed these movements specifically as part of a broader programme of balance and stability, so it does seem more justified.  For you, who probably has limited gym time, you could use an exercise like this as a great warm up tool for stabilising and preparing the shoulders for a series of hard sets of a standing press.  Again, with limited time, simply copying the pro’s is not always the best way to train.

4.  I found his ‘cognitive’ recovery periods really fascinating.  Rather than just chilling out between sets, he did something that challenged his brain and coordination (juggling) whilst he was basically ruined!  I already apply similar principles in some of my coaching, but will be doing some more in depth research and experimentation on this with myself and my riders over the coming months.  For instance I frequently programme a bike session that I call ‘Fatigued Technical Skills,’ where I get my rider to sprint for 10-30 seconds into the top of a DH trail so that they are riding the technical sections whilst breathing heavily and with a high HR.  This simulates racing and also teaches them to ride relaxed and to keep a clear head even when they are hitting 185 bpm!  In the gym I also coach a deaf mountain biker and we do a lot of work on her balance.  Now we have made some progress with her balance we are challenging her more by doing some tough conditioning work and then balancing in the rest periods.  This is something that I shall look at implementing with some of my riders as well.

5.  In their gym they have lots of cool toys to play with.  My old gym had an Indo-Board surf trainer which was awesome and I think I am going to invest in one myself!  I already use wobble mats and Bosu balls, but I think that some more varied challenges would be good for my riders so I might crack out the credit card!

6.  Remember that the things you saw in this video are all out of context.  Whilst he is showing you some pretty unique and interesting training, does he do this all year or just for a pre-season tune up?  Does he do it weekly or even more often?  How does it fit into his broader programme?  Don’t get too hung up on the detail of what Nino does here as I think the take away message is that for most riders there are a few things to be learnt from this video:  The first is to use instability in your warm ups and/or training to build robustness and to protect yourself.  The second is that you need a really strong core to ride at the top level.  The third thing to take away is that his training is fun and varied, and yours should be too.  Finally, he is working hard, completing quality reps (not quantity) and it is all part of an over arching programme.

What are your thoughts on the video?  What about my thoughts?  Do you agree with me or disagree? I would love to hear what you think!

Stay Strong

Ben

Learning The Kettlebell Swing

The kettlebell swing is the defining kettlebell exercise.  When you learn to do it correctly, it will help you to develop a strong and powerful back, core and legs as well as offering a great conditioning session if you do higher reps.  There are loads of different videos out there in the internet showing you how to swing the kettlebell, some are very good, and sadly a lot are very poor.

Below here you can find my kettlebell instructional videos (Part 1 and Part 2) taken directly from my Kettlebell Strength Programme.  In the videos you will learn that the swing is all about generating power from your hips.  It is not a squatting motion and you should not be lifting the kettlebell with your arms!  Hip power is the key to becoming a better athlete in pretty much any sport and it directly relates to mountain biking by helping to create a strong ‘Attack Position’ on the bike as well as helping to develop your leg power for out of the saddle efforts out on the trail.

In Part 1 you will learn the basics and develop a rhythm with the swing:

In Part 2 you will take the basics and build on them to create a full swing up to shoulder height.  You also get to see me looking ridiculous doing my ‘spaghetti arms’ coaching drill!

Remember that the swing is all about technique.  You must invest some time and effort into learning the swing with good form!

If you want to use kettlebells to get faster on your mountain bike, then the MTB Strength Factory Kettlebell Strength Programme is for you.  It is a comprehensive training programme that will offer many months of training gains.  All of the exercises have professionally produced video tutorials so you can be reassured that you are doing the right exercises in the right way.  To download your copy today, just hit the link…  Kettlebell Strength

Stay Strong

Ben

Enduro Training Camp: 9th-16th April, French Pyrenees

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I am really excited to announce the first ever MTB Strength Factory and Altitude Adventure, Enduro Training Camp this spring.

Set in the stunning Pyrenees Orientales about 40 minutes East of Andorra, Altitude Adventure have been serving up amazing riding to mountain bikers from the UK for many years.  They have been featured in numerous articles in Singletrack, MBR and MBUK amongst others and people keep on coming back for the epic, natural riding on offer.

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The week is designed for anybody who wants to improve their fitness and skills for enduro racing this season.  It will be a mixture of uplift and pedalling to get you to the best trails in the area, with each day’s activity carefully chosen to offer you different challenges and to develop you as a rider.  This area is a hotbed of French MTB talent with riders like Damien Oton hailing from the region and training on the same tracks that you will be riding.

To compliment the riding you will be doing, I will be doing daily flexibility and mobility work with you all, helping you to recover and educating you on how you can improve this often neglected aspect of MTB training.  Without turning it into a school trip, there will be talks and presentations from me and Ian and Ange (Altitude Adventure and both ex WC level riders!) in the evenings to inform and educate you so that you can race at your best this summer and beyond.  We will cover topics such as nutrition, training, race prep and tactics, as well as offering you almost unlimited opportunity to pick my brains on all things training related!

Whilst we are calling this a training camp, it is not a fitness based camp with endless interval training and sprints!  Whilst you should come back feeling fitter and stronger on the bike after so much riding, including time at altitude, it is just as much about sharpening your skills and getting lots of demanding technical trail riding done, and even riding under race conditions using our timing kit.

If you are planning on racing enduro this summer and you want to go into the season better prepared than ever, then this is the trip for you.  The cost is £695 including:

7 nights ensuite accommodation with jacuzzi on site!

6 evening meals, all breakfasts and packed lunch on all riding days.

All your drinks – although you probably won’t be hitting the beers too hard on training camp!

Guiding, coaching, and uplifts.

Education and practical sessions with Ben from MTB Strength Factory.

You will have to arrange and pay for return flights to Barcelona as well as paying for transfer.  You will also need to pay for one evening meal out during your stay.

If you have any questions relating to the MTB Strength Factory side of the trip, including training, content and so on then please feel free to email me direct on ben@mtbstrengthfactory.com.  If you have questions about the area, accommodation, what bike to bring, flights etc, then it is best to visit the Altitude Adventure website or drop them a line on info@altitudeadventure.com being sure to mention MTB Strength Factory when you email them!

This trip is going to be so much fun as well as taking your riding and racing to the next level!

 

Distance Coaching – How it works.

At this time of year plenty of people are thinking about their winter training plans, and how they will go about hitting next summer fitter and faster than ever.  Some of you may even be thinking about training with me at MTB Strength Factory, but are put off by the fact that I am in Bristol and you live elsewhere.   Below, I want to outline how I go about coaching riders all over the UK, so you understand the process and how the Programming Package works.

The first thing that will happen after your initial enquiry is I will send you a copy of my New Rider Questionnaire – NRQ.  This is an in depth look at your current ability, health and training regime (if you have one).  It also give me a valuable insight into your lifestyle, when you work, when you can train and so on which will help me to write you a programme that will be realistic and achievable for you in the long term.  It is really easy to write a programme for a full time athlete, but it is very hard to write a useful programme for a full time employee with 2 kids and all the commitments that come with them!  Your MTBSF programme will be written for you as an individual and should fit in with your lifestyle.

Once I have gathered the info from your NRQ I usually follow up with a phone chat to run through a few things and to ask you any questions that may have arisen from your NRQ.  The next step is for me to create an online training programme and diary for you.  I use a simple and intuitive system to provide you with your training programme online, meaning that you can access it anywhere as long as you have an internet connection.  This programme also doubles up as your training diary, an essential tool for me as your coach, to monitor your training and progress.  By filling out the diary regularly and in detail, you enable me to continually improve and evolve your programme as I learn which types of training work for you as an individual.

Online training programme and diary.

Online training programme and diary.

I usually write programmes in 4-week blocks of training encompassing 3 weeks of training followed by a recovery week.  Each week your training sessions will be clearly defined so you will know exactly what you have to achieve.  Having said that, I do not tend to specify which day to do each session on, as this is unrealistic when real life takes over.  I give you a list of sessions and you fit them into your week as you see fit, and with my guidance.

When you first start working with MTB Strength Factory on the Programming Package you will have the opportunity to chat and email as much as you need to answer any questions you may have.  Once you are up and running with your programme, you will have the opportunity for email contact every 2 weeks to discuss your training and ask questions, and at the end of every 4-week training cycle you can have a phone or Skype consultation to discuss your progress and future programming.  This is all included in the £52 per calendar month (pcm) Programming Package, however for the most committed athletes with higher training loads you can have unlimited email and phone contact with me for £72 pcm.  This allows your programme to constantly change and adapt to your situation.  Both packages are subject to a £30 initial consultation fee for me to set up your programme and do all of the preparation work required to programme effectively for you.

To help you reach your goals you will also receive a copy of the Bodyweight Strength Programme (BSP) and a copy of the Nutrition Guide.  Both of these have been written specifically for mountain bikers and are normally for sale through the website as downloads.  As part of your programme I will likely ask you to do strength training sessions to improve your full body strength as well as conditioning.  By giving you the BSP I am ensuring that you have a proper programme with proper instructions on how to complete it, making sure that you are not wasting your time with bodybuilding style sessions in the gym!

The Programming Package from MTB Strength Factory is all about providing you with a personalised service, not just a one-size fits all approach like I have seen from some other coaching providers on the internet.  It is not built on fads or crazy gimmicky workouts.  Instead it is about long-term, consistent progress towards your racing or riding goals written in plain English and always taking into account your lifestyle and needs.

To see all of the coaching options available from MTBSF, click here.

Stay Strong

Ben

 

The Power Files: Getting Started

Over the coming months I am going to be writing regular articles about my experiences of training with power.  As you may be aware, power based training is the best way to train for bike sports, as it offers you so much data for analysis, as well as real time information about your training so that you can train at correct intensities to illicit the training effect you require for your chosen event or discipline.

The guys over at Saddleback have been kind enough to lend me a Stages Power meter for my road bike, and I will be using it with my own Garmin 520 cycle computer.  The power meter is a left crank arm that has a stain gauge attached to it, and you simply replace the existing crank.  Amusingly the power meter is actually worth more than my actual bike!  It doesn’t actually matter to me though as the road bike is just a tool for training in order to improve my MTB performance, so I just need it to work.  The other piece of kit I will be using is a heart rate strap that works with the Garmin computer.  Finally, all of this data and information is fed into a training website, called Training Peaks (TP).  The TP online training app is a bit like Strava on steroids, without the competition element and corner-cutting.  It gathers all of your info from a training ride or race and presents it in a variety of ways, enabling you to analyse your strengths, weaknesses, progress and fitness.  The possibilities are pretty staggering and also somewhat intimidating at first!

Set Up

Initial setup of the Garmin and the Stages PM were really simple……  Remove the old crank, fit the new one, fit the computer on the bars, pair them together and off you go.  Although I have a lot of experience training with power with my Wattbike, I felt that the best way to get started was with some baseline settings and head off for a spin.  On my return I could upload the data to my TP account and start to look into my ride in more detail.

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The screenshot above is the actual data from my first ride out with the Stages PM fitted.  At first it seems crazy, but with some reading, some patience and lots of experimentation, it soon starts to become more clear.  The main graph shows the whole ride with the different lines showing different metrics; cadence in yellow, elevation shown by the grey shading, heart rate in red, power in pink, speed in green and temperature in blue.  You can also see some summary info about the ride in the right hand column, and if you scroll down it gives you further insight into your ride and how hard it was.  To get to the info that you actually want, you can clean up the graph, removing things like temperature and speed which are unimportant to me.  I can also zoom-in to various sections of the ride to analyse my efforts more closely:

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As you can see, this screenshot is of the main climb from the original ride, including the flat sections immediately before and after.  From this I can see how long this part of the ride took, my power, heart rate and so on.  Although this was just a spin to figure out the new equipment, if it was a training ride with a specific goal related to climbing, I would be able to determine whether this aspect of my ride was successful or not.  Had I ridden within the correct training zone for the climb?

Hopefully you can see appreciate how this sort of information can benefit you in your training.  It is especially valuable for the time-pressed rider who wants to make the best use of their limited training hours, as well as for top level athletes looking for an edge.  Training with power is not cheap, with a Stages crank costing from about £500 and the cost of a GPS being a couple of hundred pounds, but when you weigh up the performance benefits that is can bring, it is actually pretty good value.  That £500 may get you some lighter wheels that may speed you up a bit, but if your fitness sucks then even the lightest carbon hoops won’t save you!

In the next instalment of The Power Files, I will go into the terminology of power based training.  Normalised power, average power, training zones and so on and what they mean to you as a mountain biker.

Stay Strong

Ben