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

Fort William World Cup 2016

Fort William 2016.  Photo: Ian Lean

Fort William 2016. Photo: Ian Lean

So, I am just back from an amazing 4 days in sunny (honestly!!) Fort William where I was working at the UCI Downhill World Cup.  I was really excited about the weekend as it was my first World Cup that I would be attending as a coach, rather than as a spectator.  On a personal and professional level this was a really big deal and marks a milestone for MTB Strength Factory.

My main focus for the weekend was Charlie Hatton riding for team Wideopenmag in the Junior category.  Charlie was coming into the race on a solid run of form, having just won the BDS at Bala and with a podium at Fort William BDS just a few weeks earlier.  We all know that Charlie is capable of winning a Junior World Cup and the team worked hard to put everything in place to help him do so.

Over the weekend I would also be working with Veronique Sandler (Vero), riding in the Women’s field, Duncan Ferriss racing 4X for DMR Bikes and randomly ended up helping out long term MTB Strength Factory rider Monet Adams as she also got roped into some last minute 4X action!

Saturday saw massive crowds, brutally hot weather and a dusty, wild mammoth of a track for qualification.  Both my DH riders put down storming runs with Charlie coming down in 2nd, less than a second behind Finn Illes and with plenty left in the tank.  Vero also put down a solid run to secure 15th in qualification, securing her place in the finals for Sunday.

After the DH had finished on Saturday, the 4X Pro Tour kicked off. The track was a true MTB track, rough and loose with some great features.  Dunc put in a smooth first moto, finishing second and progressing on to the quarter finals with being pushed too hard.  Unfortunately and despite a good gate he was then knocked out in the quarters, getting over taken on the inside of the last corner.  I know that Dunc was gutted, but that is racing!  He still rode well all week and was feeling strong despite a niggling shoulder injury sustained in a crash earlier this year.

Women’s 4X seems to be struggling a bit and with only 3 entrants it was going to be cancelled unless a few more ladies stepped to race.  Thankfully, 3 brave women ‘volunteered’ including Monet and the race was on!  There would only be 2 semis and then the final due to the small size of the field.  Monet easily won her semi, leading from the gate on a borrowed bike, wearing jeans and a borrowed lid too.  In the final she would be up against the world champ and a seriously good 4X rider from Germany called Steffi Marth.  Monet was stoked to take a comfortable second place overall and a big fat cheque that will help her go to Crankworx this summer.

Sunday saw even bigger crowds and an amazing atmosphere.  After warming up and doing some mental focussing drills together I took Charlie to the start hut for his finals run.  Dropping in, he was flying.  Fully committed and looking confident on his bike I though that this would be his day.  Sadly a puncture ruined it just as he entered the woods and he limped down the track to the roars of the crowd chanting his name and with sparks flying off his knackered rim!  The team are gutted, but still full of confidence for the next round in Leogang.

Finally, Vero would drop in for her run.  She looked committed and stylish in the top section until she made a mistake and ran off the track, costing her vital seconds.  In the end she finished in a very respectable 19th, her best result for some time and she is also on the road to Leogang feeling hungry for a better result.

Overall it was an amazing experience and I can’t wait to travel to more world cups with my athletes in the future.  We all learnt a lot, grew closer as a team and are walking away from the Fort with our heads held high.

Stay Strong

Ben

BDS #1 Ae Forest with Team Wideopenmag.

Morgan Tyrrell

Photos: Ian Lean Photography

It is that time of the year where the hard work over the winter starts to pay off, both for the riders, and for me as a coach.  I have been working with the lads on the Wideopenmag team since November when they all came in for the first time to undergo pre-season testing.  Since then I have been programming their strength and conditioning as well as on-bike training and generally providing the support that a good coach should.

The team consists of:  Elite – Rich Thomas (sadly Rich T did not race this weekend due to a concussion the weekend before). Expert (after winning Masters last year) – Kye Forte.  Junior – Charlie Hatton.  Youth – Morgan Tyrrell.

This weekend would be the first time going to a BDS with the team, and my role was simple.  Make sure that every rider was fully prepared for their practice, seeding and race runs, both physically and mentally.  As I won’t be attending all of the BDS rounds I was keen to get the season off to a positive start by getting the lads into good habits, eating and drinking at the right times, warming up and cooling down properly and creating a professional and fun atmosphere that would let them thrive. Ideally we would do this at a lower profile event earlier in the season, however this was not possible this spring and we had to crack on anyway.

Charlie Hatton

For a race run at the BDS, the warm up is effectively split into two halves.  At the bottom of the hill in the pits a rider needs to perform a more general warm up and possibly some mobility and activation work before heading over the the uplift to get to the top of the hill.  After sitting on the uplift bus for 20 minutes the second part of the warm up begins at the top of the hill, and this is more specific to the race run and to the needs of that rider.  For instance, this weekend all 3 riders did  different warm ups with me at the top of the hill.  The variation in specific warm up drills comes from my knowledge of each of them as individual riders, personalities and athletes.

Despite the crappy Scottish weather, the weekend was a massive success for the team and for me as their coach.  All of the riders went into their race runs well prepared and  this showed with some great results with all three of them on the podium at the end of the day!

Morgan – 3rd Youth

Ky – 5th Expert

Charlie – 1st Junior

The key now is to take away lessons from this weekend.  What could be done better?  Did the riders feel limited in any sense this weekend?  Has racing exposed any weaknesses in the riders or in my programming?  Can we further refine our race routine for each individual rider?

Massive thanks to the whole crew at Wideopenmag for helping to create a fun, friendly and winning atmosphere: Jamie and Dave running the team.  Drew and Ryan on the spanners.  Ian, Luke and Ryan on media duties.

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

Prioritising Your Races For Improved Results

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For those of you looking forward to a busy 2015 MTB race season, now is the time to start planning which races you will be doing and which ones are most important to you.  Some of you may have already done this, but as not all the race series have announced their firm 2015 dates yet, it is not always possible to do so early.  As a general rule though, you should have it all sorted by the new year as your training plan from January will be built around the summer’s racing and your priorities and goals.

The first thing to consider is how many races or events you can actually do over the season.  You should think about cost, travel, time off work and also your physical ability to perform week in and week out for a prolonged period of time.  You may find that you will get better results by entering less races, allowing you more time train.  Bear in mind that after a hard weekend of racing you may take a few days to totally recover and if you are racing consecutive weekends then this basically leaves you no time to train.  Also, do not underestimate the mental strain of racing, especially if you are a competitive person.  Racing too much over the summer can burn you out and leave you lacklustre and less focussed on training and racing.

Assuming that you have decided which races to do, you now need to have a think about which ones are most important to you and which ones less so.  The reason you should do this is that you will want to properly peak for the most important races to give you the best chance of a good result, however you can’t peak for lots of races as you will lose fitness over the season.  Generally races are divided into “A” “B” and “C” priority races with “A” being the most important and “C” being your least important races.

You should start by selecting 1 to 4 “A Priority” races that will be your biggest focus next season.  Picking these races can be tricky and it is important to think it through properly.  For instance you may immediately think the National Champs in your discipline will be an “A” race, however you know that this race will bring out all of the strongest and most competitive riders.  Can you actually compete against them?  If not then maybe you should prioritise another race that may have a slightly weaker field, for instance a national series race on the same weekend as a world cup.  It will still be a hard race with a strong field, but your chances of a good result will be greatly improved if the top riders are away on WC duties, meaning that if you peak properly and put in a good performance you could get a solid result!

Next you need to add the “B Priority” races to your calendar.  These will be fairly important races that often make up the bulk of the race season, especially as they tend to be made up of rounds from a race series.  Consistent attendance and performance ensures a good overall result with these races so they are worth being fresh for and whilst you won’t properly taper your training in the run up to the event you may reduce your training somewhat in the week before so that you are fresh.

Finally, the “C Priority” races are added to the race calendar.  These races are nice extras that you basically train straight through.  They basically become part of your training programme.  The results are not important and you may not even put in 100% effort for these races.  They can still be valuable in their own right though, for things like developing race craft and tactics and for trying out pre-race routines.  For instance you should not ever try a new warm up or pre-race energy drink before an important race.  You should experiment in training and then test it out on a “C” race to see if it works.  Keep a diary and use these races to make sure that you are best prepared for the bigger races throughout the season.  If you are feeling fatigued mid-season then you should look at skipping any “C” races that you may have planned.  Think of them as a nice-to-do part of the main season and a great way to get race sharp in the early season.

Based around the prioritised races you have in your diary now as well as your personal and work life you can construct your training plan to build up to an peak for the “A” races whilst training through the “C” races and something in the middle for the “B” races.  The exact way you will do this and how you programme it will depend on you, your discipline, experience and level of racing which is why I have not gone into it here.

Remember that if you have any questions about this article you can post them on my Facebook Page and I will do my best to answer them.

Have a Strong Christmas

Ben

MTB Strength Factory are Proud to Announce Sponsorship of Monet Adams for the 2015 Season

Monet 2Photo Credit:  Chris Davidson

I am really stoked to announce that MTB Strength Factory are going to be supporting Monet Adams for all of her training for the 2015 British Downhill Series and Downhill  World Cups.

Monet is a super talented rider who is not afraid to go big.  She has a great list of results to her name and loads of potential to make it onto podiums at the highest level.  She is fully committed to her training and racing and is going to be one to watch for 2015, both at home and abroad on the WC circuit where she will be attending all races.

We started work in the gym this week with initial testing and assessment of her abilities, and are working together to build a programme that will help her to realise her full potential next season.

Watch this space…….

Stay Strong

Ben

 

Downhill World Cup Rd 2, Cairns: Some Thoughts

DH MTB Sideways

I am not really a fan of Red Bull as a drink, however I am a massive fan of the DH World Cup and Red Bull’s amazing free coverage.  I am so glad we get to see all the runs with Warner and Cunny’s hilarious commentary and plenty of camera angles and course coverage. As well as just chilling and enjoying the racing, I was thinking about training and just how strong those top riders need to be in order to stay competitive now.  To ride at this level you need to be a proper athlete.

Here are a few thoughts that I scribbled down at the time.  Have a look, and let me know your thoughts over on Facebook.

Staying Loose:  To ride this sort of mud and slop well, you need to stay loose on your bike, and let it do its own thing to a certain extent.  At first you may not think that this style of riding needs you to be super strong, but in fact it is the rider’s strength and mobility that allows it to happen along with a large dose of skill and big Kahunas!  Can you relax and let the bike flow if you are in a death grip at the extremes of your upper body strength?  Can your knees stay soft when your thighs are pumped, burning and ready to give out?  The answer is, ‘No’ and the only way to improve these factors is to be stronger and better conditioned.

Hitting Your Lines:  Letting the bike step out of line, means that at some point you need to pull it back and put it on your line. By using your feet, hands and body to regain a line, this puts a considerable  strain on the muscles and joints, especially with a 35 lb DH sled underneath you and all that momentum.  Seeing the way the riders manhandled their bikes into some of the tight and tech corners and in particular into the left hander at the top of the rock garden was amazing.  They made it look easy and smooth, and it was so impressive to see.  Obviously this comes from moving their body weight around, but guess what?  You can’t move around on your bike like that if you are weak and/or inflexible!

3 Days of Riding:  With practice, qualifying, more practice and then racing, the riders are putting in a serious amount of riding over a few days.  Add to that the demanding nature of the course, the peanut butter mud, and the tropical heat and humidity and you have a tough race overall.  This is where the winter conditioning and all the road miles really come in.  Quite simply the fitter a rider is, the more quickly and easily they can recover from a hard effort like a practice run.  If a rider has done the winter miles, then their cardiovascular system will be super efficient, both during and after riding, and this means that they will be better prepared to complete multiple high effort runs during practice and still pull out a top performance on race day.

The Finish Straight:  Like it or loathe it, the end of the race was dominated by a long, mostly flat sprint to the line.  It was controversial, but who cares?  It was there and all the riders had to dig deep if they wanted to do well, and it was the same for everyone.  The simple fact is that the most powerful and best conditioned riders would have the most to gain on this crucial part of the track.  That time in the gym, time doing hill sprints and anaerobic endurance training paid off for the top riders whilst it was clear to see who had not put in as much work in the winter months.

I am just getting excited finishing this off now and thinking about Fort William in about a month.  It is going to be amazing, and it will show again that these amazing men and women are true athletes and if you want to get to the top and compete with them, then bike skills alone won’t be enough.

Stay Strong

Ben