MTB Front­lines

Build­ing Strength Off the Bike

Pedal Magazine - - Out in Front - BY CATHARINE PEN­DREL

Strength train­ing has been a part of my train­ing pro­gram since I first started work­ing with a coach in 2003. It is an im­por­tant com­po­nent for in­jury pre­ven­tion, in­creas­ing over­all ath­leti­cism, all-round strength and bone den­sity, while also en­abling more train­ing va­ri­ety and load over the win­ter.

I was cu­ri­ous if strength and con­di­tion­ing (S and C) was where I could find more gains on the bike in 2017, so I de­cided to reach out to Todd Schum­lick (Per­formX), ar­guably the go-to guy when it comes to strength train­ing for MTB. Schum­lick works with many of the world’s best in grav­ity rac­ing, such as Aaron Gwin and Richie Rude, but he had never worked with a cross-coun­try racer. It was go­ing to be a learn­ing curve for both me and Schum­lick and my coach, Dan Proulx, who cre­ates and over­sees my sea­sonal and day-to­day train­ing pro­gram.

Our strength train­ing started with a four-week pro­gram iden­ti­fy­ing and ad­dress­ing im­bal­ances and weak­nesses and then moved onto three-week build stages, hit­ting the gym more fre­quently and with much rou­tine vari­a­tion. As op­posed to pre­vi­ous years, there’s now a much greater em­pha­sis on up­per-body strength and shoul­der sta­bil­ity, some­thing I think is par­tic­u­larly im­por­tant for fe­male rac­ers, and I will be cu­ri­ous to see how this trans­lates when I get out­side on the bike. There is also now a wider range of move­ments in­cluded to im­prove my over­all ath­leti­cism, movement pat­terns and sta­bil­ity for in­jury pre­ven­tion – ex­er­cises such as ad­duc­tion and ab­duc­tion to maintain pelvic sta­bil­ity, some­thing often over­looked by us cy­clists, who tend to think only in lin­ear terms. I’m ex­cited to see how the pro­gram evolves through­out the spring and sum­mer, with non-gym work­outs be­ing used on the road while rac­ing.

To fur­ther dis­cus­sion on this topic, I spoke with some of Canada’s top ex­perts in En­durance sports and/or strength train­ing to dis­cover their thoughts on strength train­ing for En­durance ath­letes in­clud­ing Schum­lick, Proulx and Trent Stelling­w­erff (lead phys­i­ol­o­gist at CSIP).

When it came down to what ex­er­cises they thought were the most im­por­tant for cy­clists, they all agreed that squats and dead­lifts are key – the caveat be­ing that they must be done prop­erly to be ben­e­fi­cial. When asked what role they saw S and C play­ing, they had this to say:

Schum­lick: “I see a proper strength and con­di­tion­ing pro­gram play­ing a role in de­vel­op­ing an ath­lete’s bio-me­chan­ics, or, more specif­i­cally, ‘weak­est links.’ This in­cludes giv­ing ath­letes vari­a­tion in their rou­tines.” His ad­vice: “En­durance ath­letes . . . do not need to be con­sumed by weight-to-power ra­tios alone! In­stead, fo­cus on what’s hold­ing you back from in­creas­ing your per­for­mance. If you are un­sure, seek pro­fes­sional help [from a strength spe­cial­ist].”

Stelling­w­erff, phys­i­ol­o­gist and hus­band of Olympic 1,800-me­tre run­ner Hil­lary Stelling­w­erff: “I’m a huge be­liever in S and C, as there are lots of stud­ies to show in­creased peak strength/power/ speed, as well as im­prov­ing econ­omy (at least in run­ning), and for min­i­miz­ing in­jury risks. How­ever, for En­durance ath­letes, who are al­ready train­ing many, many hours per week, the phi­los­o­phy in the weight room needs to be ‘less is more’ – or . . . what is the min­i­mal ef­fec­tive dose?” He finds 90-120 min­utes/week suf­fi­cient for pure En­durance ath­letes in the off-sea­son, and by race sea­son, he says, “I’m a fan of con­tin­u­ing S and C, but min­i­mal ef­fec­tive dose – lit­er­ally might be three to five ex­er­cises, and less than 20 to­tal lifts across three to five mus­cle groups, or even less!”

Proulx: “There is no doubt that a well-planned strength-train­ing pro­gram im­proves per­for­mance in MTB. The strength train­ing has to be well se­quenced and in­te­grated into the ath­lete’s over­all train­ing plan. Even though it’s im­por­tant, strength train­ing should be viewed as sup­ple­men­tal to an ath­lete’s on-bike pro­gram. The pri­mary goal is ath­leti­cism, in­jury pre­ven­tion, speed of re­cruit­ment, co­or­di­na­tion and, lastly, strength gains.” He also be­lieves, “It’s also crit­i­cal that strength gains are achieved with­out adding ex­cess mus­cle mass. We’re af­ter func­tional strength . . . . We’re not body­builders. Strength rel­a­tive to body weight is key.”

As al­ways, there are many vari­ables that de­ter­mine the suc­cess of a train­ing plan, but I am ex­cited to see how an in­creased strength and con­di­tion­ing fo­cus trans­lates to re­sults on the bike.

There are many ex­er­cises you can do at home to strengthen and sta­bi­lize your legs, arms, shoul­ders core and back.

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