No more excuses! Ninja instructor and personal trainer Bekah Rottenberg helps us understand why every mountain biker should add strength training to their routine RIGHT NOW… and how just 2-3 hours per week will have you reaping huge benefits on the bike. Did somebody say #GAINZ?!
Okay, I can hear you mumbling under your breath:
“I’m busy, I don’t have time for the gym!”
“I’ll get faster and stronger just by riding my bike more. Who needs weights, anyway?”
“I don’t even have a gym membership, nor do I want one.”
“I want to lose these love handles so I’ll just focus on cardio to burn more calories.”
“I don’t even know where to start with this strength training stuff?”
Here are 5 solid reasons to commit to strength training along with a few resources to help get you started… after reading this you’ll be out of excuses and one step closer to a stronger, faster, fitter version of yourself. Let’s go!
1. Get strong
Let’s start with the obvious: incorporating a simple and consistent resistance training program will boost your muscular endurance, strength, and power. Lifting weights has the potential to increase the total amount of force applied to each pedal stroke, improves muscle imbalances, helps to prevent injuries, and increases bone density. Well, heck. Can’t argue with that!
2. Be time efficient
With the days getting shorter and colder, it’s harder and harder to find the time to ride. Maintaining (and/or building) your fitness throughout the year requires you to be efficient with your time. You can be in and out of the gym in 60 minutes, especially if you have a well-developed and easy-to-follow routine (more on that later). In the gym you can stimulate your body in ways that will have a direct benefit when you hit the trail. Think: core stability, less quad fatigue, increased grip strength, and longer and faster climbs… yes, please!
3. Your body will thank you
Strength training has the added bonus of increasing mobility. What the heck does that mean? As little kids we squat, crawl, roll around on the floor, play outside, fall down and get back up. Kids have great mobility! As adults we sit, and we sit, and maybe we stand, and we occasionally walk around or chase our kids/dogs/ice-cream truck. Then when we go to put our bike on the roof rack we realize our shoulders don’t feel great, our hamstrings are tight, and our low back feels wonky. Through strength training you will start to move in ways you once did as a kid but with the added benefit of placing an emphasis on proper form. Through movements such as the squat, deadlift, push-ups, pull-ups and core work you’ll start to feel much more connected to your body. When you hit the trail, your body’s ready for whatever obstacle comes your way and you don’t have to worry about pulling a hammy.
4. Burn more calories…while sitting
Doesn’t that sound dreamy?! Compare calories burned during a typical 1 hr ride or “cardio sesh” with calories burned during a 1 hr weight training routine and you’ll typically burn more calories doing the cardio. But that’s not the end of the story…. the benefit of strength training is that you build muscle. More muscle increases your Base Metabolic Rate (BMR), also known as the number of calories you burn at rest. This means that as you get stronger, you’ll be burning more calories as you sit at your desk/couch/hammock reading Ninja skills articles (1). There have also been studies that show you burn more calories following a strength training workout than a cardio workout (2,3,4). Cheers to that!
5. You don’t even need a gym!
While a gym is a great option for folks looking to add resistance training to their routine, it’s not a requirement. You can easily set up a home gym or workout space with a few pieces of simple equipment such as a pull-up bar, resistance bands, and a few kettlebells or dumbbells. There are also workout routines you could incorporate that are based solely on body weight and a few bands… that means you can get home from work, knock it out in your living room, and be Netflix and chilling in no time flat.
OK, you get it, you’re ready to commit to 2-3 hrs a week of off the bike training to boost your riding fitness. So how do you get started? What exercises should you do? How many reps and what weights should you start with?
Unless you are a seasoned strength training veteran, you can greatly benefit from finding a person or program to help you get started. A certified personal trainer can help show you the ropes and set you up for success. (Shameless plug 👋 – Hi, my name is Bekah and I create super affordable weekly training plans for mountain bikers at www.BravEndeavors.com). You can also find a number of strength training programs available on the web, including some that are mountain bike-specific. Be sure you look for programs that include something called “progressive overload”. This simply means that over a period of time you are systematically increasing the amount of weight you lift (or move). Any good strength training program will incorporate progressive overload!
Bekah Rottenberg is a NASM certified personal trainer, Certified USA Olympic Weightlifting Coach, and PMBI certified Mountain Bike Instructor. Bekah coaches for Ninja Mountain Bike Performance, Northwest Excursions, and teaches strength and spin classes at her local gym, The Power Station, in Hood River, OR.
Bekah Rottenberg is a former professional enduro racer who now runs her own business, Brave Endeavors, which specializes in on-line strength training programs for mountain bikers. Bekah believes that through strength training we can improve confidence, longevity, and mindset and ultimately have more fun on the trail and move through life happier and healthier. Bekah is a Ninja instructor and coaches kids on mountain bikes in her hometown of Hood River, OR. Bekah is a NASM certified personal trainer PMBI certified Mountain Bike Instructor.
I attended an intermediate skill clinic last year and had an awesome time. My riding improved instantly and I have...
Ninja Mountain Bike Performance
I attended an intermediate skill clinic last year and had an awesome time. My riding improved instantly and I have really enjoyed the increased confidence jumping my bike over obstacles. My muscle memory takes a while to kick in and Coach Richard and his crew of master Ninjas were really patient with me. I even got some bonus education on climbing faster during one of our warm-up laps! Even though I have been riding for years I learned something new with every skill taught. The clinic was worth every penny and I will be signing up for an advanced one this summer. ~Michael W.
Went to the beginner Ninja clinic at Alison. Richard and Kristen were awesome! We all got the opportunity to work...
Ninja Mountain Bike Performance
Went to the beginner Ninja clinic at Alison. Richard and Kristen were awesome! We all got the opportunity to work on improving our skills with their feedback. Next time I would definitely do the intermediate clinic or do a one-on-one session. Richard is super patient and provides great feedback and riding tips. ~ Lisa D.
My speed and confidence going down steep descents have been SIGNIFICANTLY improved!
I just had my first race (XC endurance) since I did the camp and both my speed and confidence going...
Ninja Mountain Bike Performance
I just had my first race (XC endurance) since I did the camp and both my speed and confidence going down steep descents have been SIGNIFICANTLY improved. I would not have attempted 50% of the drops and jumps on the course prior to participating in the clinic, and my overall time would have been much slower. The first two hours of the class (int/adv Sedona) made the whole thing more than worth it, and the rest of the two days seemed like a bonus. Both Courtney and Richard were encouraging and patient, and both had that classic mountain biker charm and humor ready when the moment called for it. Overall a very enjoyable and valuable weekend. For reference, I participate in amateur XC endurance races (with no hope of ever coming close to winning anything) and have been riding for about two years. I was worried before taking the class that I would not be skilled enough, but the int/adv was appropriate for my skill level. If you're worried, just go for it anyway. There is a good mix of people and everyone was very friendly! ~Alana Bencivengo
The course was very fluid, engaging, and I would highly recommend it.
I took the intermediate/advanced course in Balboa Park after having ridden for just over 2 years on my own. It...
Ninja Mountain Bike Performance
I took the intermediate/advanced course in Balboa Park after having ridden for just over 2 years on my own. It covered a wide breadth of skills, some of which I already felt aquatinted with and others I had little to no experience with. I found all of the material useful. I was able to improve skills I already had and was able to learn new skills. I also feel confident leaving the course that the instructors have provided all of the information for me to practice and improve outside of the course setting. The environment of Balboa Park was perfect for learning and sessioning the skills covered. The instructors were friendly, fun, and attentive to all of the participants. They spent more or less time on certain skills based on how the entire group was grasping them. They also gave individualized attention to participants that required more help with technique. The course was very fluid, engaging, and I would highly recommend it. ~Heather B.
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