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.
I'm a road Triathlete that lucked into a XTERRA World Championship slot via the lottery last year. Being a road...
I'm a road Triathlete that lucked into a XTERRA World Championship slot via the lottery last year. Being a road triathlete, I had very little experience and no technical skills on a mountain bike. I took the Ninja beginner and then intermediate classes almost back to back. Richard is a great teacher, and taught the sequential skills that matter most. He does a great job of "breaking things down" with the what and the why, and illustrates the information well with his demonstrations, all the while, delivering it with a sense of humor and enthusiasm. Richard's instruction helped me successfully get through a very technical course in Maui without major injury! Yea, thank you Richard!!. Whether a complete beginner or an advanced rider, I promise you can take a lot away from his classes.... and, let's be honest ...Who doesn't want to be a Ninja! ~ Ray S.
Team Eastlake Cycling Team thank you for your time, energy and expertise…
I’ve been coaching road & track riding for years. Got into mtn bike riding because of the terrain near our...
I’ve been coaching road & track riding for years. Got into mtn bike riding because of the terrain near our home AND my daughters like to ride in the dirt. Took classes through the high school league to be more acquainted with the fundamentals skills and acquire more knowledge of the NICA league rules. Coach La China and staff broke down the skills for our team riders in a fun and engaging process. Team Eastlake Cycling Team thank you for your time, energy and expertise to bring our riders to a new level of confidence. ~Ron G.
I really enjoyed the Intermediate/Advanced clinic with Aaron in Palmer Park, Colorado Springs. Aaron made sure that every skill was...
I really enjoyed the Intermediate/Advanced clinic with Aaron in Palmer Park, Colorado Springs. Aaron made sure that every skill was practiced thoroughly. He was paying attention to every move and detail and was very patient. My riding has definitely improved since than and I have been practicing the skills a lot on single track. The best advice I received - visualize yourself doing it! I definitely recommend this class to bikers of all levels. ~Yana Brown
I consider myself a strong intermediate MTB rider; I love highly technical downhill single track trails. A friend suggested I...
I consider myself a strong intermediate MTB rider; I love highly technical downhill single track trails. A friend suggested I take a multi-day skills clinic to help get to the next level. After a brief search I found that Ninja Bike Skills 3 day skills clinic up in Big Bear CA. If you have never taken a class then the old adage "you don't know what you don't know" probably holds true; it did with me. While it the clinic started off simple, the skills taught build on one-another to ensure you have solid foundation basics needed to safely leverage the higher skill stuff taught at the back end of the class. Richard and Aaron brought two great perspectives as one is a XC/Edurance/Enduro rider and the other is dedicated to gravity downhill. The teaching style was simple and actionable. All the Ninja instructors are very knowledgeable and very passionate about MTB which is infectious and make the class fun. I would highly recommend to any level riders who have never had any instruction in MTB skills. Plus if you take the class at a place like Snow Summit Big Bear, you get to ride amazing trails!! ~Greg A.
Woohoo! As good as it gets is appropriate! Richard is not only a great rider, he is a great teacher!...
Woohoo! As good as it gets is appropriate! Richard is not only a great rider, he is a great teacher! I would encourage everyone to stay away from the mind trap that buying a more expensive mountain bike is what you need to ride better. Spend the money on lessons instead, and I know you will be happier (and safer) in the long run. I can't say enough positive things about the Bike Skills clinics. ~ Chris G.
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.