Want to ride your best at the weekend? A few specific targeted training sessions during the week is all you need to make a huge difference to on-bike performance. Part of the YT Industries Be a Better Rider Week
It’s easy to convince yourself that you don’t have time to train. But it’s often not entirely the case. Don’t believe me? Okay, stop reading this, pick up your phone, click the screen time feature and check how much time you’ve spent this week mindlessly browsing the web or scrolling through social media? Was it 5h? 10h? Now, think how good you’d be on your bike if you spent a fraction of that time training instead.
And it can be done, as we all know people with crazy busy jobs and life stress who aren’t wasting time. In fact they are the ones who are most likely to be training already. It‘s why Benjamin Franklin famously said; if you want something done, ask a busy person. But let’s assume you’re not a head of state. How do you go about structuring your week to hit the weekend in optimum shape and improve your fitness for mountain biking?
First up, you need a plan, so we start by working back from the goal. Let’s assume you’re going to ride on Sunday, but it could just as easily be Saturday or both days. Chances are you’ve been sitting at a desk most of the week, so on Friday lunchtime a 30min low-intensity mobility drill would be a great option to loosen up. You’ll also move better on the dance floor if you’re heading out on Friday night. The idea is to get rid of any tightness that you’ve accumulated during the week.
Working backwards from our goal, Thursday should include some functional movement combined with higher intensity work. Yes, that means intervals. Which are going to hurt, but at least they are short and sweet.
For the strength training component we’re going to split it into two parts, both positioned earlier in week, but separated by one day. On Wednesday we’ll do the heavy lower body hinge movement like a deadlift, and some squatting volume at a lower intensity to augment Monday’s squat workout. On Monday we’ll start the week with heavy squats, with hinge assistance work to complement Wednesday’s workout. Both strength days will also have upper body work.
All in, that’s less than 5 hours of training per week.
On Tuesday we’ll separate the two strength sessions with a longer, lower intensity zone 2 workout. This can be on the bike, going for a run, or in some kind of circuit if you don’t fancy braving the elements. The idea is to boost your aerobic capacity and fat oxidation.
All in, that’s less than 5 hours of training per week. And by taking a structured approach we can tick all of the training boxes necessary to improve performance on the bike, and still feel fresh for your weekend blast.
Without a training plan you’re simply exercising, and while that’s better than just sitting on the sofa, if you follow the structure outlined here, you’re going to see big improvements in your riding. No amount of screentime can deliver that, right?
So if you want to conquer that epic ride that you’ve been inspired to do, feel better on and off the bike, or simply hand it to your riding companions on the weekend, taking a structured approach to training is the most effective way to go about it. We’ve outlined what a typical training week should look like, but there’s some flexibility in how you organise your time. The key things to remember are, do not perform the two strenuous strength sessions on consecutive days and don’t do a high-intensity workout the day before your big ride day.
Weekly training plan for mountain biking
Monday: strength training
Kickstart the week with the undisputed king of strength exercises; heavy squats. This is followed by upper body exercises like push ups, then some higher volume hinge movement like kettlebell swings to assist the second strength session on Wednesday.
Tuesday: zone 2 workout
This is Zone 2 day. The less strenuous activity will help pump blood around your system to aid recovery from the squat workout, but the real goal here is to drive adaptations in your mitochondria to improve your aerobic capacity and fat oxidation. Think LSD (long, slow distance) where you could still hold a conversation while exercising. Road rides, jogging or a static trainer are all good options.
Wednesday: strength training
We’re back in the weight room, but this time it’s for a heavy hinge movement, like deadlifts. We also switch to upper body pulling exercises, to complement the push ups on Monday. We then finish with some squat volume, so lower load, higher-rep training like bodyweight Bulgarian split squats.
Thursday: functional movement
Functional movement plus intensity. Functional movement is just another way to describe a dynamic warm up, and it really is the calm before the storm. The real focus of this workout is to drive up the intensity to similar levels that you see on the bike. You can do this on a night ride, a static trainer like a rowing machine or Watt Bike, or by using a combination of intensity exercise like burpees and barbell thrusters. Thursday is the day where you really push the pace.
Friday: mobility and rest day
After four consecutive days of training, fatigue will start to accumulate, and that’s actually the goal as it’s what drives the adaptations we are after. So Friday is an active rest day, where some mobility work that raises your body temperature a little and makes you feel less tired than when you started is recommended over complete rest.
Saturday and Sunday: go ride your bike
Head out onto the trails, lap those tracks, embark on a long-distance epic, or just have fun with your mates. This is what all that training is for, so enjoy it!
Body primed and ready to ride? Upgrade your bike for an all-round performance boost. The best mountain bike tyres paired with great MTB wheels will offer traction and lighten weight. A great set of brakes will help with control and confidence.