Target Your Weaknesses To Ride Faster
Every rider has physical strengths and weaknesses. In fact every mountain biker has strengths and weaknesses whether they realise it or not.
For riders who train, it is common to focus on training your strengths as it is more fun and is better for the ego. The flip side of that coin is that you neglect your weaknesses and are a poorer rider as a result.
You know that rider who can spin all day but does not have the leg power to clean that short, steep climb? I guarantee you he spends loads of time spinning small gears (reinforcing his existing strengths) and spends very little or no time working on improving his leg strength and power, therefore neglecting his weaknesses. As a result he is a less well rounded rider than if he did a weekly hill-sprint session or some gym work.
How many of you are reading this, thinking,
‘My flexibility is terrible!’
How many of you actually stretch though or take time to do mobility work and foam rolling? We both know that if you did work on it consistently then it would improve and so would your performance.
To become a better rider you need to work on your weaknesses.
First of all you need to take stock of where you are at the moment. You could write a list of physical qualities and then rate them out of 10. The rider who we talked about earlier may score highly for endurance with an 8 or 9 as he is happy spinning all day. However when it comes to sprinting or fast race starts he may only score a 5 or 6. It can be hard to quantify your efforts like this so it is helpful to compare yourself to other riders in your race category or to your bunch of mates you ride with.
Another way to identify your weaknesses is to use a lap of a trail centre. As you ride around it think about where you could be better? Legs burning on the long DH back to the cafe? Arms pumped? Back aching? Get dropped by your buddies on the fire road climb? Feel tired and struggling after 25km? All of these weaknesses are common and easily addressed if you make them a focus of your training. By addressing them you can either ride faster, further or just do the same rides more comfortably.
It is human nature to want to do the things we are good at.
You see it all the time in the gym with the guy who can bench 140kg but has legs like Twiglets. He spends loads of time doing bench press and no time squatting because when he squats he realises he is actually weak and it makes him feel bad... and so he continues to bench and not squat and it continues. The same goes on the bike. You may not realise but you probably tend to ride the places and tracks that suit you best as this applies to skills as well. Do you suck at rooty off camber trails? You could just continue to avoid them as you, ‘Don’t like them.’ Or you could go and ride them on the wettest, slippiest days, sessioning the same section a dozen times, working on lines and technique. You could even get some coaching from a decent company like Pedal Progression in Bristol. Then you can really work on your riding weaknesses.
To help develop your physical weaknesses on the bike you need to do specific training sessions with that physical quality as the goal. They need to be programmed in regularly and can be in the gym, at home, on the turbo, roadie, or out on the trails. As long as you are working on your weaknesses you will become a better rider. You don’t need to over-complicate things with jargon and fancy programmes. Just get out and do the things you are crap at.
Rubbish at standing climbing? Get in the gym and front squat or do some pistols.
Back aching? Do some planks and core work along with some flexibility work for the hip area.
Arm pump? Do some pull ups and farmers walks.
Struggle to spin up long climbs? Practice spin technique on the turbo, look at your bike setup and riding position and then get out and spin some climbs.
Lacking power for short bursts? Deadlifts and kettlebell swings in the gym along with some sprint power sessions on the bike.
Poor cornering? Get a skills coach and work on your hip and back mobility.
Can’t pump the trail? Do some bodyweight press ups and rows for the upper body and do some squatting for leg strength.
Swallow your pride, train your weakest points and you will grow as a rider.
Ultimately the best way to improve your MTB physicality is to hire a coach like MTB Strength Factory who should first analyse your current abilities through testing and an initial consultation and then build you a programme that is bespoke for you and your needs.
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