Combining strength and fitness will make you a better rider; here's how to boost them at home

This mountain bike workout is a combination of five movements, which serve to enhance your riding ability and get you into an overall better condition.

>>> Get fit for riding: strengthening lower body

If you can’t ride, what can you do to increase your fitness? Over the last few months we have given tips on how to increase strength for riding, which is really important, but with the Covid-19 restrictions we understand that building strength without additional work, be it on the bike or conditioning, will not necessarily get you “bike fit” and ready for your return to the saddle. This article is all about putting the pieces together and getting you in great condition to ride so when you do get back on the trails, you’re in prime condition and ready to shred like never before.

Why we test

Say you can run 5km in less than 20 minutes, you might consider yourself in a good physical position to ride well. Or maybe you can squat double your bodyweight and think you’re able to hold positions and handle the bike well because of your strength ability. Being able to do both of these would certainly give you an advantage over many riders, however these are only single elements of the fitness you need to ride well. A better reflection of your fitness, one that would be more transferable to the bike, would be your “conditioning” — a combination of movements that tests various elements of fitness simultaneously, much like riding. So using the examples above, simply combined the two: do five rounds of 400m run and 12 squats at sub maximal weight and you’ll get a better idea of your conditioning. That in turn will give you a better reflection of how “fit” you are for riding.

This workout is a combination of five movements, which serve different purposes to enhance your riding ability, but most importantly, it’ll help you get into an overall better condition.

How to workout

First, ensure you are fully warmed up before attempting this, or any other workout, by raising your heart rate for 5-10 minutes and mobilising properly. Then perform each of the movements to familiarise yourself with them before starting, this means you can hit the workout full tilt but also test to see if you need any more warming up.

This workout is what we can an E.M.O.M. (Every Minute On the Minute). You perform the designated movement for minute 1 as many times as you can within that minute, then move to the next movements for the whole of minute 2 and so on.

Because this workout has 5 movements, it will take 5 minutes per round. We suggest 3-5 rounds without stopping. If you struggle you can add a minute rest to the end of each round or perform the movements for less time per round to allow for recovery.

The Five Movements

Jumping squats step 1.

Jumping squats step 2.

1. Jumping squats

Squat to a depth you can maintain the natural curvature of your spine, no deeper. Extend to standing but add some speed at the top to jump off the ground by three to six inches. Repeat in a cyclical rhythm for the duration of this minute.

Mountain climbers step1.

Mountain climbers step 2.

2. Mountain climbers

Hold a press-up position and bring your right knee up to your right elbow, return and repeat on your left side. 
Add speed and ‘hop’ between legs.

Burpee with tuck jumps step 1.

Burpeee with tuck jumps step 2.

Burpeee with tuck jumps step 3.

Burpee with tuck jumps step 4.

Burpeee with tuck jumps step 5.

3. Burpee with tuck jumps

Start standing, then lie face down with your chest and thighs on the ground, stand back up, jump as high as you can and bring your knees up to your chest. Repeat.

Alternating jumping lunges step 1

Alternating jumping lunges step 2.

4. Alternating jumping lunges

Step one foot forwards and the other back until your back knee is on the ground, quickly extend and swap feet to land in a mirror of the position you started. Quickly repeat. If this is too difficult to maintain, you can swap to lunges without jumping.

Sprawls step 1.

Sprawls step 2.

Sprawls step 3.

5. Sprawls (lateral bear crawl)

Lie face down with your chest and thighs on the ground. Perform a press-up, walk on hands and feet sideways two 
metres and drop your chest and thighs to the ground again. 
Repeat, travelling the opposite way on your second rep.

Take the test

We see a huge variation in ability in workouts such as this. It’s important to understand that you don’t have to grind yourself into the ground, but at the same time coasting won’t cut it. Take a look at our suggestions and decide what level you should be aiming for:

Beginner: Three rounds with 30-40 seconds accumulated work per minute. One to two minutes’ rest between rounds.

Intermediate: Three to four rounds with 40-50 seconds continuous work per minute. 30-60 seconds rest between rounds.

Advanced: Four to five rounds with 50-55 seconds continuous work per minute and no rest between rounds.

Pro (Elliott Heap/Adam Brayton): Five to seven rounds of 50-55 seconds continuous work with no rest between rounds.

Your coach

Jonny Thompson is head coach for Fit4Racing, an online fitness programme for mtb riders. Once a forensic scientist, Jonny has devoted the last 10 years to coaching athletes from Paralympians to world number one enduro racers. His main focus with the Fit4Racing team is developing and delivering fitness programmes to pro and amateur riders.

Training the likes of Adam Brayton, Jonny also sends digital programmes to riders all over the world, many of whom ride professionally