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.
Enrolling in the Intermediate/Advanced clinic was the best thing I’ve ever done to improve my speed and ability on the bike.
Hands down, enrolling in the Intermediate/Advanced clinic was the best thing I've ever done to improve my speed and ability...
Hands down, enrolling in the Intermediate/Advanced clinic was the best thing I've ever done to improve my speed and ability on the bike. I am so much faster on singletrack and through technical sections/jumps that even if people are more fit than me, I still keep up with them (and kind of love watching them do a lot more work than they need to). Richard and Kris are fantastic and break things down in a way that makes sense and is manageable. By the end of my first clinic, I was jumping off ledges and power climbing up sections that I couldn't drive a car up. You could buy a $5,000 carbon bike and do 10,000 ft rides every day, but you will get the best return on any investment you make in your riding by attending a Ninja Skills Clinic. ~ Regina J.
My 14 year old son and I (I'm 43) went to the Intermediate/advanced skills clinic at Malibu Creek State Park....
My 14 year old son and I (I'm 43) went to the Intermediate/advanced skills clinic at Malibu Creek State Park. We both race and ride at a very fast pace. Getting faster for us is about making sure our fundamentals are solid and we can continue to use those fundamentals to smooth out our flow to increase our skills and confidence. Richard has a way of breaking down all the information to make it very understandable and usable. My son and I have been to other skills classes before and knew what to expect, mostly. Richard was able to coach us to better form riding high speed flat corners! We brushed up on and cleaned up some less helpful habits. We really worked to understand the how and why behind some skills that we already had but didn't know we that we did. All in all we had a blast! Richard was fun and informative. Taylor was helping Richard out for the day. It was fun to watch her demo some skills at speed. Her input throughout the day was informative and light hearted. It was a fun day on the bike with some great people and coaching. This will not be our last Ninja training clinic! Thanks for everything Richard and Taylor! ~Eric Zubick
I have, like many cyclists, been riding bikes since childhood. Feeling like I hit a plateau in my technical riding...
I have, like many cyclists, been riding bikes since childhood. Feeling like I hit a plateau in my technical riding skills (because I had), I began searching for a mountain bike skills camp. I wanted to attend a camp that would push me to be a better rider, but I needed it to be in a great location on actual trails. After a fair amount of searching, I decided that spending a weekend at a Ninja Mountain Bike Skills camp would be perfect. It didn't hurt that the camp was in Big Bear. The condensed review: It took only a few hours of trail riding with Richard and Daniel to drastically change my riding for the better. The long review: The camp was broken into morning and afternoon sessions, separated by an amazing lunch on each day. The morning sessions were, in general, based on technique and riding isolated technical features. The afternoon sessions functioned more like a capstone; we rode incredible trails, like Fall Line and Skyline, and put our newly-learned skills into action. Richard and Daniel were attentive to both the class as a whole as well as each individual. The pacing of each individual lesson (I'm a teacher, so I viewed each piece as a lesson) was wonderful. There were constant checks for understanding as well as incremental assessments of our skills on the bike. We were never once, all weekend, bogged down in repetition, nor were we rushed through a skill or concept. I was blown away by the sheer volume of skills that were taught in such an easy-to-grasp manner. Of course, we were not standing by our bikes the whole time listening to a lecture: we were actively riding while Daniel and Richard looked on with critical eyes. Richard was clear in his introduction...
G2 Bike looks forward to many more of these clinics in this area.
Ninja Mountain Bike Skills is a warm and friendly environment to learn new skills and hone ones you already know....
Ninja Mountain Bike Skills is a warm and friendly environment to learn new skills and hone ones you already know. It's a non intimidating environment where mistakes are welcomed so corrections can be made. I own G2 Bike is Aliso Viejo and this clinic has been ran out of the Aliso Woods area and when I interviewed the clients they had all but great things to say. None arrogant instructors and easy to follow steps. The biggest bang for many was meeting new area riders at their skill level, gaining confidence, and getting the bike set up and fit properly. G2 Bike looks forward to many more of these clinics in this area. Thanks Richard for all you do for the MTB community! ~ AJ S.
We are a group of passionate, dirt-loving, community oriented, world class mountain bike skills instructors committed to helping you reach your personal riding goals through clinics and camps. We are excited to work with riders of all ability levels and share the joy (STOKE) of mountain biking.