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The Podcast for the MTB Strength Training System, the world’s original and best strength and conditioning system designed exclusively for mountain bikers.


In this podcast I answer a rider question about e-bikes and another question on how to maintain muscle mass and strength while riding. You can stream or download it from the link below or you can find it on Itunes, Podbean, Spotify and all other major podcasting platforms.

Here are the notes from the podcast...

Q: “Are e-bikes good or bad for mountain biking?”

This isn’t about whether you should get an ebike or not, simply what my opinion of them is. I get a lot of riders who assume I must dislike them since they make things “easier” but that isn’t the case.

Like almost everything else in life, when you start talking about ebikes you need to first give your opinion some context.

While some people see ebikes as the next best thing to the invention of the “safety cycle” itself, others see it as a sign of the coming apocalypse. It seems to me that the problem is that two people can be talking about the same word and yet be talking about two totally different contexts.

On one hand you have the people who see the ebike as a great way for riders to ride further and longer than they would have, either due to age, injury or just their own preferences.

On the other hand you have the people who are talking about the weekend warrior type who are using an ebike because they are “easier” and seem like they want to be able to ruin as many people’s experience on the trail as possible with their ignorance of trail rules and etiquette.

Both of these types of riders exist and they both use ebikes. I completely support the first group but not the second.

Call me an elitist but I think that there is more to being a mountain biker than owning a mountain bike. The industry wants to “grow” the sport simply to sell more bikes and equipment, not because it is what is best for the sport.

I think that the weekend warriors who bounce from one outdoorsy sport to another and never take the time to learn how to help preserve the things they are doing are bad for our sport and will eventually lead to negative consequences for everyone else.

But that is an industry focus problem, not an ebike problem. Ebikes are simply tools and how you use them will ultimately determine if they are “good” or “bad”.

Q: I'm a 40 yo male who does a full body style workout 4 days a week doing all the big compounds and have made some great gains. My question is I want to be more proficient on my rides but do not want to lose the muscle that I’ve achieved. Is this possible? Thanks!

The ultimate question - how do I be good at riding without looking like a cyclist.

This is a great goal, especially as you get older. At a certain point your body starts to lose muscle mass and working on having and maintaining a healthy level of muscle mass is an important part of Riding For A Lifetime.

Another reason to want to maintain your muscle mass is that it is the best armor you can put on your body. The more muscle mass you have the more stress your body can take before something goes snap.

But to get better at riding your bike you need to ride your bike...a lot.

So how do you balance the two? Here are some ideas…

  • You may have trouble lifting 4 days a week while also focusing on riding 3+ days a week (which is what I would recommend you do to get better at riding). I’d recommend cutting back to 2 days in the gym and doing 2 days of Isometrics (Atomic Strength Training Program).
  • When you ride, focus most rides on shorter rides of 45-90 minutes. On these rides focus on your skills and efficiency instead of trying to “go fast” or “work hard”.
  • Once every 5th ride or so you can go fast/ hard or go for a really long ride.

If you have any questions you’d like to send my way I’m always happy to help, just send an email to james@bikejames.com. Until next time…

Ride Strong,

James Wilson

“It is essential for a student on the path of the warrior never to close their mind to the possibility of other possibilities.” Miyamoto Musashi

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In this podcast I talk about medical training for mountain bikers and why you need to know how to help yourself or a fellow rider. The truth is that what we do is a dangerous sport that usually takes place away from civilization and knowing how to stabilize someone who has suffered a traumatic injury until the real help can arrive is an important skill in the MTB Warrior’s toolbox.

You can stream or download it from the link below or you can find it on Itunes, Podbean, Spotify and all other major podcasting platforms.

Here are the notes from the podcast...

If you ride long enough you are going to crash. If you crash enough eventually you or someone you are riding with is going to get hurt.

What we do is dangerous and a lot of the time we are doing it away from civilization where help can take some time to get there. I’ve personally been around a few bad injuries, including a broken neck and kid who fell off a cliff, and I’ve known some riders who had bad puncture wounds, including the femoral artery with their handlebars.

The point isn’t to scare people, simply to point out something that the industry as a whole tends to ignore, which is probably resulting in worse outcomes for some riders who could have benefitted from someone who was ready to help.

Most people will say that they are ready to help if needed but it takes more than just the desire to help. You need the knowledge, skills and tools to help as well or your desire to help can’t be put to use.

The goal of this podcast is to cover some general topics, including the MARCH Algorithm for dealing with traumatic injuries, and hopefully spark some interest in learning more. I’ll also make some recommendations on equipment to carry to help you as well.

Remember too that the goal is not to become a trauma medicine expert, simply to be able to help stabilize someone long enough for the real help to arrive.

The first thing you need to do is assess the situation and make sure that it is safe for you to help. You don’t want to make the situation worse by adding another person who needs help to the situation.

You also want to make sure that someone has contacted help or is going to contact help. If possible, make sure someone is going to meet the help somewhere that they know so they can be led directly to the person needing help.

Once you have done that it is time to apply the MARCH Algorithm…

  • Massive Bleeding. If someone is bleeding heavily then you need to stop it before they bleed out, which may be only a few minutes if they have severed an artery. Tools to use include a tourniquet, gauze, compression bandage, quick clot or an “Israeli Bandage”.
  • Airway. You need to make sure that they can breath as comfortably as possible so check for airway obstructions or have them get into the recovery position on their side (assuming no head trauma so do this after completing the algorithm).
  • Respiration. Check to see if they have any sucking chest wounds that need to be addressed. Chest seals work best but you can also use a plastic bag and duct tape, taping only three sides to leave some ventilation.
  • Circulation. Re-check to see if you missed anything or any tourniquets you placed need to be tightened again. This is also the place to start CPR if needed.
  • Head Trauma/ Hypothermia. Head Trauma means making note of the presence of head trauma because you don’t want to move someone who has a brain or spinal injury. Hypothermia refers to how the body can have trouble staying warm after massive bleeding and you need to cover the person up to keep them warm, even in a hot environment. Solar Blankets work well for this purpose.

After you have assessed the situation and taken the needed actions at each step you are now ready to decide on the next course of action - stay put or try to move them to help.

These skills are also valuable in your everyday life where you could come across a car accident or have a bad accident at home that requires more than a band-aid to fix.

Being the MTB Warrior means having the skills to “bring the others back” (which includes being able to bring yourself back if needed too) and the medical side of things is an important part of that skill set.

And we’ll end with a quote from Miyamoto Musashi’s The Book of Five Rings

“Force yourself to develop the skills needed to become the warrior you define yourself to be.”

Be sure to visit www.bikejames.com to sign up for a great free isometric workout program and, if you like it, get the Atomic Strength Training Program.

And also visit www.pedalinginnovations.com to learn more about the Catalyst Pedal, the world’s only double-pressure point pedal that allows maximum stability and performance from your feet.

Until next time…

Ride Strong,

James Wilson

MTB Strength Training Systems

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In this podcast I explain what makes for good coaching cues when trying to teach and learn skills on your mountain bike (or anywhere else for that matter). There is some fascinating research behind the language you use when thinking about or talking about a movement skill and I hope that you’ll learn something that can make your journey towards improving your skills faster and easier.


You can stream or download it from the link below or you can find it on Itunes, Podbean, Spotify and all other major podcasting platforms.


While I go into these things in a lot more detail in the podcast, here are the notes from it:


One of the most important things you can do as a rider is to invest in your technical skills. The better your skills are the safer you will be, the faster you can ride and the less energy you will use.


However, not all methods of coaching are created equal and some methods are demonstrably better than others. There is some fascinating science around the subject of cueing and teaching movement and sports skills and it has changed the way I coach based on it.


I was first exposed to some of these concepts at a presentation I heard from a coach named Nick Winkelman at a Perform Better Summit. He talked about how he was taking a deep dive into the science behind language and cueing movement and that there were some interesting things he had found about how certain types of language and cueing were much more effective than others.


I started to apply some of the things he talked about and found them to be helpful and more effective. Last year I came across the book he wrote called The Language of Coaching and in it he spelled out everything he had found in the last few years of researching and applying the science behind coaching movement skills.


At the end of the day, learning and coaching MTB skills are no different than learning how to lift properly, throw a fastball, swing a bat or kick a soccer ball or any other movement skill and so the findings are as applicable to our sport as any other. And it is important for you to know this stuff in case you need to help another rider learn a skill and so you know how to best approach your own learning.


The idea behind coaching any movement skill is to give your brain the input it needs to figure out how that skill should feel. The skills aren’t “Step 1, Step 2, Step 3…”, they are the principles you are applying and proper application will feel different than bad application.


The goal is to move beyond Step 1, ect. and and not think about them when you ride. The best in the world aren’t thinking through the X Steps of Cornering when they are riding, they are going based on feel.


Like I tell people in BJJ class, the steps are not the technique. They are simply the window into the principles behind the technique and it is your job to use that window to learn them.


So this is why cueing is so important - they are the bridge between “knowing” and “feeling”. Good ones make that journey easier, bad ones can make it impossible for you to ever make it in the first place.


Based on Nick’s research here is what makes for good cueing:


  • Less is more. Most coaches tend to over cue a skill and give people too much to think about. While not science, my experience tells me that 3-5 cues per movement is the most someone can remember.
  • The body learns best through analogies that “stick” in the person's head and that these analogies will be different for different people. People don’t think in exacting detail and analogies can help you pack a lot of cues into one.
  • Internal vs. External Cueing. The science clearly shows that External Cues that focus on something outside of the body are more effective than Internal Cues that focus on a body part or muscles.
  • Use Internal and External language for describing but focus on External for cueing.
  • Direction of the cue can also have an impact (moving away from vs. moving towards something)
  • Using tape can help you turn an Internal Cue into an External Cue


The best cues tend to find analogies that connect with the learner to describe the movement in an external way that allows quality movement with minimal thought. And remember that you need the Position before the Pattern - the best cue in the world won’t work if you can’t get into the positions you need to execute it.


Based on this, let’s look at some cues for Body Position on the bike.


  • Common Internal Cues include “bend at the hips”, “tuck your shoulders down and back” and the infamous “elbows out”.
  • Alternative cues could include “push your butt back like there is a button on the wall behind you and you need to push the button”, “tuck your shoulder blades into your back pockets” or “get even pressure across your palms into the bar”.
  • You could also use tape on the shoulders and back of the hands to help people understand how to lower their shoulders while the hips slide back while keeping their shoulders over the bar.


As you can see, it is easy to get caught up in Internal Cues because External Analogy based cues can take some more thought and they don’t all work the same so you have to be able to adjust based on the student. Take a look at how you have learned and apply your MTB skills and see how much Internal Technical based cues you use and see if you can find some External-Analogy based cues to replace them and see how it works.


I’ll be posting some videos in the coming months sharing new ways of learning MTB skills based on the science behind cueing. In the meantime, check out the www.bikejames.com, get the Atomic Strength Program and buy some Catalyst Pedals.


Until next time…


James Wilson


“All men are the same except for their belief in their own selves, regardless of what others may think of them.” - Miyamoto Musashi

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In this episode of the podcast I explain what makes for better breathing and how it applies on and off the bike. Breathing is something that we take for granted but it can make or break our health and performance. The good news is that while improving your breathing is transformational, it isn’t rocket science once you understand a few basic things. 

You can stream or download it from the link below or you can find it on Itunes, Podbean, Spotify and all other major podcasting platforms.

In case you can’t listen to the podcast here are some of the things most important things you should know (these are some notes from the podcast):

Top 3 Benefits of Better Breathing

  • Better Performance: Increased muscle oxygenation, Improved movement efficiency, Decreased breathlessness during training and performing
  • Better Recovery: Better sleep, decreased inflammation, improved blood pH
  • Better Mindset: Better control of stress, Better focus and concentration, Less performance related anxiety

Importance of CO2 for Better Breathing

  • Body monitors CO2 levels to tell it when it “needs” to breathe
  • CO2 is needed to offload oxygen from red blood cells (Bohr Effect)
  • Chronically lowered levels of CO2 from overbreathing leads to reduced CO2 tolerance, which is responsible for the panicky “I NEED TO BREATHE” feelings you get during hard efforts

Better Breathing consists of 3 things:

  1. Nasal Breathing
  2. Breathing with the diaphragm
  3. Matching your breathing to your effort level

I share some common breathing dysfunctions and the assessments I use to help riders see if they have any of them, as well as sharing some strategies and workouts to help improve your breathing. 

And remember that part of being an MTB Warrior is having the ability to perform when needed while controlling your emotions and better breathing is your direct link to this skill. Because of this I’ll be sharing more workouts and strategies in the future that you can use to help you improve this vital but often overlooked aspect of your health and performance. 

Until next time…

Train Strong,

James Wilson

MTB Strength Training Systems

“The warrior attitude is very simple. Focus your mind on your goal, constantly strive to attain perfection, and do not allow yourself to be sidetracked.” Miyamoto Musashi

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April 12, 2021

Becoming The MTB Warrior

In this podcast I talk about becoming an MTB Warrior, or someone who is able to “bring the others back”. Being the kind of person who can help yourself and others both on and off the trail is something that the world needs more of and something I think we should talk about more as a sport.

You can stream or download it from the link below or you can find it on Itunes, Podbean, Spotify and all other major podcasting platforms.

The truth is that mountain biking is a hard, dangerous activity. And while the cycling industry keeps working harder and harder to soften the edges and make it as appealing to as many people as possible in an effort to sell as many bikes and accessories as possible, you can’t get rid of all of these elements.

Wrecks on the bike and mechanical failures can put you in a position where you will need to know more than the geometry and specs of your bike.

You also have to look beyond just the trail and make sure you are prepared to deal with potential issues like vehicles getting stuck in the middle of nowhere and hostile animals/ fellow humans.

Because of this I think that it is important to look beyond the bike and become an MTB Warrior, or someone that can help themselves and others if needed. The point isn’t to become paranoid but simply to be prepared.

Look at it like this - You can pretend that nothing will happen to you or you can pretend that something might and take appropriate steps. Either way you don’t know until the end how it turns out so you're just deciding on which “pretend” you want to play.

In my experience there are 7 skill sets that you need to truly be prepared:

Health/ Fitness - It all starts here. Being healthy and fit for the tasks needed is the foundation that all your other skills are built on.

MTB Skills - Being able to ride with efficiency and flow is important not only for your performance but your safety as well. Riding at the ragged edge of your skills all the time because you have none is a sure way to end up hurt and the one needing help.

Maintenance and Mechanical Skills - You need to know how to work on your own bike. While you don’t need to be able to build a wheel, knowing how to keep your bike running and safe is not something you want to outsource to someone else. You also don’t want to be the guy standing on the side of the trail hoping that someone will come along who knows how to fix whatever is wrong with your bike.

Medical - We participate in a dangerous activity that can take place far away from where medical personnel can easily get in to help. This means you should know how to stabilize someone who has suffered a traumatic injury until help arrives.

Combatives/ Self Defense - Violence can happen anywhere and to anyone. Pretending that it isn’t going to happen to you won’t help if it comes your way so you need to know how to spot it and handle it if it does.

Bushcraft Skills - Since we can get pretty deep into nature it is only smart to know how to co-exist with it. Being knowledgeable about what you might encounter and how to survive overnight if needed can be the difference between a cool story and a tragic tale.

EDC (Daily/ Vehicle/ Bike) - EveryDay Carry is simply what you have on you so you can be helpful if needed. From carrying a small knife and flashlight on a daily basis to having a tourniquet in your hydration pack, there are a lot of simple things you can carry that can keep you prepared for whatever gets thrown your way.

My goal with MTB Strength Training Systems is to expose and educate my fellow riders on these other elements that I feel should be part of their training program.

In the meantime you can join a BJJ gym, watch the free video series on Mountain Man Medical and make sure you have the basic things you need to fix minor mechanical problems on the trail.

To close, here is a quote from one of my favorite warriors from the past...

“The warrior attitude is very simple. Focus your mind on your goal, constantly strive to attain perfection, and do not allow yourself to be sidetracked.” Miyamoto Musashi

Until next time…

Ride Strong,

James Wilson

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In this episode of the BikeJames Podcast I tell you why trying to use your ankles to absorb shock on your bike is a bad idea and actually makes it harder for your lower body to absorb shock properly. The notes for it also turned into an article, which you can read below if that works better for you...

One of my biggest surprises with bringing the Catalyst Pedal and the mid-foot position it allowed to the MTB world was the push back I got from the skills training industry. It turns out that the vast majority of skills coaches and organizations have bought into the false logic of needing the be on the ball of the foot to move properly on the bike.

The logic goes that you need your ankles to help absorb shock and that if you use the mid-foot position then it is like landing a vertical jump with flat feet, which is very jarring and obviously not the way to land a jump. The idea is that the range of motion of the ankle that is giving you the extra shock absorption that is making the difference in the two landings, which means that you need your ankles to absorb shock.

The problem is that, once again, people are pointing to analogies from other sports/ activities that don’t reflect the context of being athletic on the bike, i.e. the feet don’t come off the pedals.

When your feet come off the ground then you do need to use the ankles to help you land but even then they aren’t being used to absorb shock.

In fact, MTB is the only sport where coaches are actively looking to put extra stress on the ankle joint. It is known as one of the most sensitive and easily injured joints in the body and the goal is usually to minimize stress in order to avoid injuries.

The ankle joint is a small joint with a long lever arm, which magnifies stress being placed away from the ankle joint itself. It is not designed to absorb shock, it is designed to move itself (and the foot) into a neutral position to let the real shock absorbers do their work.

The hips are surrounded by the largest muscles in the body and have amazing leverage for both producing and absorbing shock. They are the shock absorbers of the lower body. Most lower body movement problems stem from not being able to use the hips properly, which makes using them efficiently a top priority.

But your foot has to be in a certain position and stabilized correctly to let the hips do their work in the most efficient way possible. If it isn’t then the hips can’t absorb as much shock, which places that stress on the knees and ankles.

This means that being on the ball of the foot screws you in two ways…

First, having the pressure point being so far away from the ankle joint increases the leverage and hence the force being placed on the ankle joint. This is why you’ll see people’s ankles buckle sometimes and in extreme cases Achilles tendon tears (ala Rachel Atherton a couple years back). This is why most DH riders actually run a more mid-foot position than you are led to believe.

Second, by having nothing under your heel you leave that end of the arch unstable, which makes it much harder to recruit and use your hips. The back of the arch has to be able to create pressure into something so that the hope can work efficiently. This is why you are told to not come up on your toes when doing deadlifts or squats and to drive through the whole foot, including the heel. 

Even OL coaches tell people to “stomp” their heels back down to the ground to get their whole foot stable before the weight starts to come back down and they have to absorb it. If you really needed your ankles to absorb shock then they would cue their athletes to wait until the weight started to come back down and then use the ankles to help catch the weight.

And what about the vertical jump, which is the Holy Grail of analogies for this story? What you see during a vertical jump is the ankle moving to get the foot flat so that the hips can absorb the impact. Once again, it is not being used to absorb shock.

Another thing that a lot of coaches don’t want to talk about is that vertical jumping is only one example of jumping, with the broad jump being another. However, it doesn’t conform to their logic as you see the heels hit first on a broad jump as this is the best way to get the foot flat while going along with the momentum. If you needed land on the ball of the foot for the ankle to absorb shock in all instances then this wouldn’t be the case.

There are also a lot of examples where athletes absorb shock without using their ankles, including surfing, skiing, snowboarding and skateboarding. In the gym you see this with Swings, where you keep the foot flat on the ground because that is the best way to absorb shock in that context.

When you look at analogies from sports and activities that have the same context as MTB you see a clear picture, which is that you need to have both ends of the arch supported so the foot spreads out the forces going into the ankles and it is easier to recruit the hips. Even the broad jump is closer to what you want to do on your bike, as the explosive movements we make are wanting to project energy forward, not straight up. 

On a personal level for you, the rider reading this, this is why your ankles are stiff and you have plantar fasciitis, knee pain or low back pain - being on the ball of the foot creates a crappy situation for your lower body where it has to adapt by getting stiff in the ankles and spreading force meant for the hips over the other joints that aren’t meant for it.

This is also why you have so much trouble moving properly when you stand up on your bike - your hips are locked up because of how unstable your feet are. It doesn’t matter how mobile you are off the bike, your ability to use it on the bike will always be compromised without the right foot position and support.

And yes, there are a lot of good riders who use a ball of the foot position. That is a testament to their mental focus and the human body’s ability to adapt to just about anything, at least in the short term. What you don’t hear about is how much pain those same riders are in or how hard they have to work to keep it under control (massage, chiro, cryo, etc.) and how it adds up over the years. There is a difference between adapting for the now and creating sustainable movement habits.

Just like the clipless pedal industry is still clinging to the “pull up on the backstroke” story to help the need to attach yourself to the pedals, we see a lot of well meaning skills coaches sticking with the “you need to use the ankle to absorb shock” story to sell the ball of the foot position. 

And no, it isn’t a matter of “personal preference” or “what works for you might now work for everyone”. This is a nonsense argument that is used by people who can’t support their point of view. You should be able to give some sort of reason based in science, movement principles or context appropriate analogies or else you are just being what I call a “reality rager”, where you are mad at reality and refuse to deal with it.

Basic human psychology tells us that once you’ve created a story and you have sold other people on that story it gets tough to go back and admit that you were wrong, even if a better idea is presented (it is called the Semmelweis Effect after the guy who figured out that washing hands could save lives but got thrown in an asylum for his “crazy” ideas). But at some point the MTB industry needs this to happen so we can move forward with finding the best ways to perform on our bikes. 

Lastly, if you’re a skills coach then you owe it to yourself and the industry to do more in the areas of how to apply basic movement principles to the bike. At the end of the day you are a movement coach as you are trying to help people move better on their bike, so you first have to understand how to help someone move better in the first place. This will also help you spot the countless false analogies and faulty logic used in our sport to sell people on outdated concepts.

Being on the ball of the foot to create or absorb energy is an old, outdated concept that we have to move past. Our sport isn’t very old and cycling as we know it is only around 150 years old so we have not had the time to work through the bad ideas like some other sports have. It is ok for us to have made a collective bad decision based on the best info we had at the time but it starts to become sad the longer we hang onto these ideas once they have been disproven and actually shown to work against us. 

Until next time…

Ride Strong,

James Wilson

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In this episode of the BikeJames Podcast I answer some rider questions that I’ve gotten over the last few weeks. They include:

Q: Is it alright to turn your feet out on the pedals?

Q: What are your new strength standards for MTB?

Q: How can I use intervals to train myself to keep pushing past the top of a climb?

You can download or stream this episode, as well as see the show notes, by clicking the link below.

If you have a question for me send it to james@bikejames.com and I’ll be happy to help. Nothing is more frustrating than not knowing what to do to help you with your problem and I try to help as many riders as I can avoid that frustration. 

Until next time…

Ride Strong,

James Wilson

MTB Strength Training Systems

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In this episode of the BikeJames Podcast I interview Chuck McGee III, a breathwork specialist from Northern California. Chuck is featured in the book Breath as the man who introduced the author James Nestor to the WIm Hof Method and someone has helped me a lot on my own breathwork journey.

In this interview I share some of my own breathwork journey and what got me started down this path and Chuck tells us what most people don’t realize about better breathing, why nasal breathing is the way we were meant to power our efforts, how you can assess your own breathing and the transformational power of taping your mouth at bedtime.

We also talk a lot about the Wim Hof Method, which has had a profound effect for both of us and something I now do on a daily basis. You can learn more about Chuck and sign up for his free Monday evening breathwork session at www.icedvikingbreathworks.com. You can learn more about the Wim Hof Method at www.wimhofmethod.com

Like I say in the beginning of the podcast, in many ways this is the most important podcast interview I have done because of the power that better breathing has. Coupled with how many people have some sort of breathing dysfunction, the info he shares in this podcast has the potential to help a lot of riders in a more profound way than just about anything else I’ve ever talked about on the podcast.

Until next time…

Ride Strong,

James Wilson

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August 21, 2020

Dan John Interview

In this episode of the BikeJames Podcast I interview strength coach Dan John. Dan is one of the most sought after strength coaches for his unique insights and ability to produce results with a wide variety of clients and goals.

Dan has also been one of the most influential coaches on how I look at training, including his focus on Fitness vs. Health and how those two goals can sometimes be at odds with each other. His concepts have helped shape my training programs and philosophy and over the years I have had the chance to meet, train and even share a couple of beers with the man that many people affectionately call Coach.

He is the author of several books, including the classic Never Let Go and his most recent work, Attempts. His website www.danjohnuniversity.com is also a great resource for great info and training programs and you can try it free for 14 days (as of this podcast you can use the coupon code CORONA to get a special deal on a membership).

In this interview I ask Coach about his views on training for performance versus health, how his religious studies background has impacted his training philosophies and why Connect 4 can help you learn better strategy. And as always, Coach was full of great insights and stories that help you understand complex concepts.

Until next time...

Ride Strong,

James Wilson


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In this new episode of the BikeJames Podcast I cover...


Grip strength training for mountain biking: What to do, when to do it and why some common grip strength exercises aren’t very MTB specific.


Avoid the “Attack Position” - Why spending too much time in this position makes it harder to steer and maneuver your bike.

Bro Science

Effect of isometric strength training on mechanical, electrical, and metabolic aspects of muscle function - A look at the study that convinced me that Isometrics are some of the best cardio training you can do.

You can stream or download this episode by clicking the link below. You can also find  the BikeJames Podcast on Itunes and Podbean.

If you have any questions about this episode or anything else related to training or riding let me know, I’m always happy to help. Until next time…

Ride Strong,

James Wilson

MTB Strength Training System

Show Notes:


Grip strength training for mountain biking.

  • I get most of my grip strength training from riding and my “normal” strength training.
  • If I am riding less than 2 times a week I will add in some other specific grip strength work.
  • I’ll also prescribe some grip specific work to help quickly improve that area if someone is deficient in the specific grip strength skills needed on the bike.
  • The context for grip strength on the bike is needing to change tension levels quickly while stabilizing the wrists in all 4 directions.
  • This is why things that work on “grip strength” by challenging the grip with static loads and no wrist stability have limited carry over for MTB...and yes, this even means Farmers Walks, which I do more for the High Tension Cardio than grip strength.
  • The best ways to train MTB specific grip strength is through Swings and Mace 360’s/ 10-2’s.
  • Swings can be either KB or DB.
  • Mace 360’s/ 10-2’s are the best, most specific grip strength training you can since it does a better job challenging the wrist stability.


Avoid the “Attack Position”

  • The Attack Position has a few names but it is essentially the Low position on your bike with your butt back and your chest down, kind of like the bottom of the Deadlift/ Hip Hinge position.
  • While it has its uses, the trend to find a single position to move from on the bike has people spending too much time in it.
  • As you get low on the bike your weight will naturally start to shift back as your hips slide back. This takes weight off the front end and biases your weight to the back of the bike.
  • This is a good position if you need weight off the front end but your ability to steer relies on your weight/ pressure on the front tire and a lot of skills require a weight shift from front to back.
  • If your weight is biased to the back then it makes it harder to maintain traction in a corner and to initiate skills like manuals, bunny hops, drops and jumps.
  • The Attack/ Low Position is good for keeping you from going over the handlebars but unless you are in imminent danger of going over the bars then it isn’t needed and actually makes it harder to move and steer on the bike.
  • You want to have a taller, more forward “neutral” position on the bike and drop down into the Attack Position as needed, not use it as your neutral position. Don’t be afraid to put some purposeful pressure on the front end and you’ll find that you can steer and move much more effectively.

Bro Science

Effect of isometric strength training on mechanical, electrical, and metabolic aspects of muscle function.


  • 6 sets of twins were used with one twin doing isometric knee extension training on the right leg.
  • Results showed several really interesting things:
    • Iso group showed a 20% strength increase in the right leg AND an 11% increase in the left leg.
    • Increased EMG activity in the Rectus Femoris.
    • Decrease in the IEMG/ tension ratio at sub max levels, indicating a more economical/ efficient use of the RF
    • Muscle biopsies showed an increase in the enzymes responsible for aerobic metabolism. 
    • Conclusion - increased recruitment of available motor unit recruitment pool, improved efficiency at sub-max loads and enhancement of oxidative metabolism in the muscle.
  • If this were a “cardio training” technique results like that would make it a must-use method but because it is a “strength training” technique it is dismissed.
  • Isometric training improves strength and your cardio in ways that nothing else can, which is why I use them and recommend them to every rider.


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