Top 5 MTB Exercises to Maximize Results on the Trail


Getting better at mountain biking is one of the harder things to do in the sports world. Unlike most sports that only require one or two skills or fitness qualities, riding a bike on dirt requires a lot more.

Riding faster, longer and with more confidence on the trail requires you to juggle not only cardio training but also mobility, strength and skills training. None of these things are optional and only by having them all in your plan can you really hope to see dramatic results.

This is why having a system to help you make sure that you are focusing on the right things at the right time is important. There are a lot of different ways to improve but without knowing the right questions to ask and how to answer them you can easily make a bad decision.

Yesterday I held my latest webinar where I shared my FPI System of Program design. FPI stands for Focus, Progression and Integration and it shows you how I filter new information into the right “buckets” and how I choose which bucket works best for me at that time.

In it I shared…

- Why it is important to have a system to filter new information in today’s Information Age

- How to make sure that your plan is focused on your needs

- Two ro three reasons why riding a road bike is a bad idea for mountain biking and the simple solution that will give you much better results

- Why your brain is the most important thing to consider when looking at a training plan

- Why pedaling based fitness gets overrated and why you need other ways to work on your cardio

…plus much more.

After the presentation I answered some great questions about assessing your skills level, what a training block looks like and why the something as simple as kettlebell training can give you better results this off season than another winter spending countless hours on a trainer.

You can download the slides from this webinar by clicking the link below:

FPI System of Prorgam Design Webinar Slides

Ride Strong,

James Wilson

MTB Strength Training Systems


I have a confession to make.

This may surprise you to hear but the truth is that I am kind of lazy. I mean, I’m not wanting to just sit on the couch watching television and eating Oreos…at least not all day…but I really don’t like to work hard for no reason.

But this also motivates me. Yes, I know that being “motivated by my laziness” is an oxymoron but somehow it works out.

I think that this is because even though I am kind of lazy I still don’t want to get my ass kicked. I like to be good at the things I spend time doing – like mountain biking - and to make up for my unwillingness to work like a dog all day long I try to think my way to making the most out of the time I do spend working and training.

Enter the “hack”. Hacking is a popular term these days and it basically represents a way of approaching things by working smarter instead of harder. You do this by finding the right things to focus your time and effort on so that you can get most of the results in much less time.

At its core my entire coaching career has been motivated by finding these hacks and applying them to my own training and then to the training of my clients and customers.

I certainly don’t have a ton of time to train – not when you factor in family, work, riding and some other hobbies on the side. And from the feedback I get from other riders neither do they.

So to help myself and the riders I work with through my prorgams get the most out of their training time I apply what I call BioPower Hacks.

Now first, like I explained in this previous blog post, Biological Power is a new and improved way to look at Endurance Training. Instead of focusing almost exclusively on one factor – cardio training – Biological Power takes into account all of the ways your body both produces and uses energy to create power.

Understanding how this concept applies to improving your mountain bike fitness and skills is the key to making the most out of your training time. Only by integrating all 4 systems that make up Biological Power can you hope to have the best program possible.

Which is why knowing how to hack into your Biological Power – or BioPower as I call it – is the key to having the best training program possible to fit your lifestyle. The less time you have the more of these hacks we can apply to squeeze the most out of the time we have.

And for the first time ever I’m sharing these BioPower Hacks with you. I use these principles to help guide the training programs I write for riders as varied as World Cup XC Pros to weekend riders who just want to have more fun and stop being the last one on group rides.

In this new webinar I tell you…

- Why riding a road bike in the off season will actually slow your BioPower transfer to the trail

- Why your brain is the most important thing to consider when creating your training program

- How to get the most transfer from strength training to the trail

- How hard and how often to ride to get the best results

- How to structure your rides based on your discipline

- Tons of Enduro Racing specific tips and strategies (they just seemed to keep coming up)

- The #1 reason that riders don’t see the results from their training program

- Why controling your arousal levels may be as important as how “fit” you are

…plus much, much more.

It has taken me over 10 years of helping riders at all levels to come up with these tips and strategies and I hope that you can use them to speed up your learning curve and avoid a lot of the mistakes I’ve made.

You can download the slides from the webinar below:

BioPower Hacks Slides

I hope that you get some good things to thing about from the webinar, especially as we head into the off season. While it seems like a long ways off, most of the time it comes down to who made the best use of the time between riding seasons that sees the most improvement from year to year.

Which is why on Wednesday I’m going to be opening up registration for my popular Off-Season Group Coaching Program. This is a new and improved version of the one I did last year and it combines my years of experience with the latest trends in strength and conditioning, taking all of the guesswork out of how to improve this off season.

I’m also really excited about the new additions to the Skills Training portion portion of the program. But more about that on Wednesday.

So check out the BioPower Hacks webinar and get some actionable tips to help you get the most out of your training program. And if you want someone to be your coach and take all of the guesswork out of the process then keep an eye out on Wednesday when I open registration for this off-season Group Coaching Program.

Until then…

Ride Strong,

James Wilson

MTB Strength Training Systems


Abel James isn’t your usual fitness expert. Or at least, he certainly didn’t set out to be one. But for thousands of people around the world that is exaclty what he is…and he earned that title the hard way.

As he puts it, one day he woke up and realized that he was fat and sick despite following the advice of doctor. At only 24 years old, he had turned into one of those people you see in the drug commercials who had “found that diet and exercise didn’t work”.

The difference, though, was that instead of looking for another pill to fix the problem Abel started thinking that maybe diet and exercise did work…maybe he had just been doing it wrong.

So he started to do the opposite of when he had been told. And just like George Costanza found in the episode where he did the opposite of what his instincts told him he found that he was seeing much better results (sorry if the Seinfeld refrence is lost on you, go watch the reruns on Hulu).

In just 40 days he had dropped 20 pounds and seen a dramatic imporvement in his health and fitness. What was more, he did eating more and exercising less than he had been.

What Abel found was that when you feed your body with clean food and quality movement that it wants to thrive. We aren’t born to be sick and falling apart as we get older, our diet and lifestyle just make it seem that way.

Now he spends his time helping to educate more people about the truth behind unleashing the health and fitness that they deserve. And through his Fat Burning Man Podcast (#1 rated fitness show on Itunes) and his book the Wild Diet he’s helped a lot of people around the world to do that.

A few weeks ago Abel took some time to join me for a webinar to share some of his insights and lessons. As a fellow mountain biker Abel had some unique insights into how to apply the Wild Diet and Lifestyle to some of the challenges we face. We also touched on things like…

- Intermittent Fasting

- Fueling up for a big day on the trail

- How to know what to eat to stay fueled on the trail

- How much do you need to eat and drink while riding

- Eating organic on a budget

- How to get your body to learn to burn fat for fuel

…plus much more. 

Learning how to eat and move in a way that works with our body is one of the most important things you can do to improve your riding and your life. Abel’s ability to take a complex subject and make it understandable and actionable is a great resource that you should be taking advantage of.

You can also learn more about Abel James at and you can get your copy of the Wild Diet while you are there as well.

Until next time…

Ride Strong,

James Wilson

MTB Strength Training Systems


Last week I held a webinar going over Advanced Mountain Bike Core Training and how you can use specific exercises to improve your core strength and riding. It was a lot of fun and I had riders from all over the world register and tune in to the live presentation. In it I shared a lot of great info, some of which I’ve never presented before.

I started off with a short presentation answering some very important questions including…

- What is “core training”?

- What is the real job of the core on the bike?

- What is the one critical area that is almost always overlooked when talking about the core?

- How is core strength and grip strength related?

- Why will your mobility gaps will have a big effect on your real world core strength?

- What are the main core strength gaps that mountain bikers need to address?

- What are the best exercises to address those gaps?

After going over the presentation I then demonstrated the 3 exercises I’ve found target the main core strength gaps most mountain bikers have. I showed everyone how to do each exercise while also explaining how to get the most out of the movement and how to avoid common mistakes.

While I’m new to the webinar thing and I need to polish up a few things I thought the overall presentation went great and everyone came away from it with some great fuel for thought and exercises to start using. And in case you missed it I’ve got the replay ready for you to check out.

You can download the slides from this webinar by clicking here.


Riding a wheelie can be a tough thing to learn for a lot of riders. I mean, if you don’t learn it as a kid then it can be hard to pick it up later in life on a mountain bike. It is one of those skills that I still struggle with and I get a lot of questions from riders looking for advice on how to learn it.

Unfortunately there wasn’t a great resource that I could turn to myself or recommend to others. Sure, you could Google it and find a bunch of videos and advice but there wasn’t something to guide you through the actual process of learning how to wheelie.

Luckily for us, though, that’s exactly the problem my friend Ryan Leech set out to solve. Ryan is an expert trials rider and all around mountain biking bad ass that set the standard for technical riding for years through films like the Kranked series and countless other appearances in the media.

Ryan is also uniquely qualified to provide a guide through the process of learning wheelies. He struggled with them at first, which forced him to learn the process instead of relying on natural talent. Ryan also credits learning to do a wheelie with helping him become the rider the is today, giving him the confidence that he could learn to do anything on his bike.

Ryan is also a skills coach who has also taught countless riders the basics of a wheelie but he always felt something was lacking…he knew what riders really needed was a system instead of a single lesson. So he created the 30 Day Wheelie Challenge in which he shows you his 30 day system for learning to wheelie.

Ryan’s mission is simply to help more riders experience the “joy of doing a wheelie” so he agreed to come back on the podcast to share some of his top tips and strategies for helping you to learn this elusive skill. If you’re looking for a place to get started with learning to wheelie then this podcast is a great place to start. You’re bound to learn something from a truly wheelie master like Ryan that can help you.

In this new podcast I ask him…

- Why would I want to be able to ride a wheelie?

- What is the #1 thing you think rider’s don’t realize about doing a wheelie?

- What are your top 3 tips for doing a wheelie?

- Are then any equipment tips you have for learning to wheelie?

- How long will it really take before I can do a wheelie with confidence?

- What’s the story behind the 30 Day Wheelie Challenge?

- Why did you set it up the way you did with a lesson a day for 30 days vs. a regular manual?

And if you are interested in the 30 Day Wheelie Challenge then click here to sign up for only $30. That gives you unlimited access to not only the 30 day plan but also Ryan himself, who answers any questions you might have along the way. Its pretty cool that you can have access Ryan’s expertise and experience to help you along the way and I highly recommend this program.

Until next time…

Ride Strong,

James Wilson

MTB Strength Training Systems


Last weekend I had the chance to attend a new fitness event, the Strength Matters Summit. Headlined by the likes of Dan John, Steve Maxwell, Mark Reifkand, Dave Whitely, Perry Nickelstein and a whole host of “who’s who” in the strength and conditioning world, it was a great chance to learn what some of the best in the world have been up to lately.

Held in sunny San Diego, it was a great time with some great people. The driving force behind Strength Matters are some great geys from England who have  great vision for what they are trying to do with the summit. In a world full of entry level courses and seminars, Strength Matters is trying to stand out as a source of advanced level info for coaches who have spent more than a few years producing results.

Add it all up and it was an even I was really looking forward to and one that certainly did not disappoint. I came away with pages of notes and some really big “aha moments” that will help me create even better training programs. I also met some great people and got introduced to the art of nail bending and tearing a deck of cards in half.

In this podcast I review my weekend and share my notes and thoughts from the presenters. There were some great lessons about how to create great habits, how the big toe and obliques are the key to your power and why you need to massage your breathing muscles among many others. If you’re interested in the best training methods to help you improve your strength and cardio then this is one you don’t want to miss.

If you are in the fitness field of are interested in the latest and best strength and conditioning info you should also check out the Strength Matters website at They have an excellent podcast as well as some other great resources that I use myself.

That’s it for now, I just got back from a Dan John seminar so I’m sure I’ll have some great stuff to share from it as well. Until then…

Ride Strong,

James Wilson

MTB Strength Training Systems


I’ve been around long enough to see a real change in the way most riders think about Skills Training. When I first started riding mountain bikes almost 15 years ago Skills Training wasn’t something I had ever heard of, much less considered an important thing for me to do.

Fast forward to the end of 2014 and Skills Training has become extremely popular. Thousands of riders every year are attending some sort of skills training class or camp. Hundreds of thousands more are watching free Skills Training videos online.

Almost every serious mountain biker now recognized the importance that improving their skills on the trail can play in improving their fun and safety on the trail.

But this also means that a lot of riders are pretty frustrated with their lack of progress in that department as well. It seems that despite more riders than ever knowing “what” to do most riders I talk with still struggle to apply it consistently.

The problem is that these riders are trying to build their skills on a weak foundation. By not addressing the physical qualities needed to improve their skills they can’t get much further.

In the last part of my 5 Fundamental Elements of a Mountain Bike Training Program podcast series I explain how you can avoid this problem and avoid the frustration that comes with not being able to consistently improve your skills on the trail.

Here are the notes from this episode:

- Improving your skills can increase your speed, endurance, safety and “flow” on the trail.

- Skills Training works on being able to apply good movement while on the bike to maintain good balance on the trail.

- It ultimately boils down to a relationship between your center of gravity and your bikes center of gravity.

- If you can’t move well (Flexibility), you can’t produce adequate tension (Strength), you can’t easily do it with speed and power (Speed) and you can’t fuel it (Endurance) then you won’t see much progression with your Skills Training.

- Trouble with executing a skill is usually because you lack a fundamental movement or prerequisite skill, not because you don’t know what to do. Trying to learn how to corner before you really own your Body Position is a good example.

- Beware of “quick fixes” or advice based on a symptom of good technique instead of focusing on the cause of good technique. “Elbows Out” and “Outside Foot Down” are good examples of focusing on symptoms instead of causes.

- Learning how to make the mental connection between how you move in the gym and how you move on the bike is important to getting the most out of your program. This doesn’t mean that exercises have to look like what you do on the bike, though.

- There are 5 basic trail skills you need to work on.

1 – Body Position: This is your ability to achieve and maintain a strong, balanced body position on the bike with either foot forward (regular and switch-foot). It relates to your Horizontal Push and Hip Hinge movement pattern.

2 – Standing Pedaling: This is your ability to stand up and achieve a strong, balanced standing pedaling position. It is related to you Squat movement pattern.

3 – Seated Pedaling: This is your ability to achieve and maintain optimal position while sitting down to pedal. It is related to your Horizontal Push and Hip Hinge movement pattern.

4 – Manualing: This is your ability to use your hips to shift your weight back and lift from the end of your bike. It is the cornerstone skill for other skills like Bunny Hopping and Jumping. It is related to your explosive Hip Hinge movement pattern and requires excellent Body Position.

5 – Cornering: This is your ability to maintain optimal balance and position through a corner. It is related to your lateral Hip Hinge and requires excellent Body Position.

- This is also the order I advise that you focus on the skills. Take 4-6 weeks and focus on one skill before moving on.

- Use parking lot drills to help with the basics and use Skills Focus Rides to apply it all to the trail.

- Use flat pedals when trying to learn a new skill or push the envelope with a current skill to push it to the next level.

- You can’t learn how to do it all in a weekend, Skills Training is a lifelong pursuit that requires focus and a plan.

It is important to understand how you can improve your skill development by filling in the movement and fitness gaps that are really holding you back. And once you see how your fitness and your skills are interconnected it starts to put training into a new perspective.

A good mountain bike training program should improve your fitness and your skills. And the only way to do that is to make sure you have the 5 Fundamental Elements of a Mountain Bike Training Program covered in way that meets our needs on the trail.

With the advice you’ve gotten from this podcast and the rest of them in this series I hope you’ll be able to better do just that.

Until next time…

Ride Strong,

James Wilson


Endurance Training is by far the favorite subject of mountain bikers everywhere. No matter what they ride or where they are from, more riders want to know how to improve their endurance than just about anything else.

And for good reason. Endurance Training is the most specific of all of the physical qualities you can train and represents the pinacle of the Sports Specific Triangle. It don’t matter how much flexibility, strength or speed you have if you can’t sustain it on the trail where it matters most.

But this has also lead to a lot of confusion about Endurance Training, especially as it relates specifically to us as mountain bikers. Like I’ve pointed out before, the term “cyclist” is usually just a code word for “road riding” and no where does this matter more than when picking an Endurance Training Program.

In this new podcast I go over everything you need to know about Endurance Training for mountain biking. You’ll learn why it isn’t the same thing as cardio training, what the most valuable cardio training you can do is and some tips to help you pick the right Endurance Training program for you.

Endurance Training is the most important part of your training program but it has to be built on a solid foundation of flexibility, strength and speed. You also have to make sure you aren’t falling into the trap of doing more and more cardio instead of focusing on improving the quality of the cardio you are doing.

When you get it right, though, the right approach to Endurance Training can make a huge impact on your riding. Hopefully the info and tips in this podcast will help you find the right approach for you.

Until next time…

Ride Strong,

James Wilson


Speed Training is an interesting topic for mountain biking because it isn’t really a part of many programs. Early on in training mountain bikers I realized that few of them had the ability to truly “tap into 100%” and that this was holding them back in a lot of different ways.

Speed Training isn’t just doing some intervals as part of your cardio program and needs to be looked at and trained as a separate element. It can help improve your endurance, help you more easily power through tough efforts on the trail and as well as help you get faster when you need to lay down some power to the pedals.

As you can see, it can do a lot for you and should be part of your program this off-season. But if you’re like most riders you probably have a few questions like how is Speed Training different from just doing some intervals and what is the best way to use it as a mountain biker.

And that is why I put this podcast together for you. In it you’ll learn more about how Speed Training can help you as a rider and how you can use it to improve your speed and endurance on the trail.

Here are the notes from this podcast…

- Most sports have a speed training aspect where they focus on the ability to quickly produce power in the shortest amount of time possible.

- It requires the ability to recruit as many muscle fibers as possible while also maintain the most efficient postures and movement patterns.

- This ability to tap into 100% is a skill most mountain bikers lack and so they are waste a lot of energy when they try to do it on the trail.

- Speed training helps us tap into more muscle fibers which, like strength training, makes more of them available for endurance.

- Speed training also reinforces proper posture and movement habits since speed increases the stress on the system, magnifying the cracks that don’t show up as much at slower speeds.

- While most people think of fast movements for speed training, trying to move a heavy load quickly also results in improved power and speed.

- This is important because we need this ability to quickly push against resistance to sprint or grind through a higher gear – a lot of trail riding takes place below 80 rpms and this needs to be trained.

- Speed can be trained on the bike or in the gym with power exercises like the Swing, DB Cheat Curl and Push Press. These are especially useful for working on “high tension” speed.

- While power is a huge part of speed it isn’t the same thing as Power Training.

- Speed training and speed endurance training are different and need to be trained differently.

- Speed training requires a relatively fresh nervous system for maximum muscle recruitment.

- Speed endurance training should focus on maintaining a certain speed/ effort level instead of just surviving the workout.

- Start with working to improve your speed early in the off-season before working on speed endurance closer to the riding season.

- In general, anything over 60 seconds isn’t Speed Training and is starting to get into Endurance Training.

- Speed Training is going to be relative to the distance you usually ride with longer distance riders able to use longer sprints.

- Every riders should spend some time working on true speed with intervals less than 10 seconds.

- Unless you are a 4X/ Dual Slalom rider then Speed Training shouldn’t be a big part of your program, perhaps 1-2 days a week for 8-12 weeks in the off-season and 1 session every 7-14 days during the season. But it is an important part of your training program and without it you have a gap in your fitness which will effect everything else.

As you can see Speed Training can help you in a lot of different ways so make sure you aren’t neglecting it this off-season. If you have any questions or thoughts about Speed Training for mountain biking be sure to leave a comment below, I’d love to hear them.

Until next time…

Ride Strong,

James Wilson


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