8 Week MTB FOUNDATIONS + FREE 2 Week IN-SEASON Options, Trail + Smart Trainer + Gym Optimized

Average Weekly Training Hours 06:55
Training Load By Week
Average Weekly Training Hours 06:55
Training Load By Week

Have you been procrastinating? Did you promise yourself you'd start training for your major MTB event, but never did? Sure, you've still been riding a bit and having fun, but did that structure and those intervals ever materialize? Are you unsure of how to blend riding and gym work as the season gets closer?

If you answered yes to those questions, this plan is for you!

First off, don't worry- riding is fun and that's why we do it. But racing MTB is also fun, and that's why we do it! However, racing is more fun when we are more fit- and 8 weeks of training can get you there.
Your regular, casual riding has given you a bit of fitness, and this plan can help take you the rest of the way. Through some solid theory and proven practice, we gradually build you up through two solid training blocks without crushing you or taking away the fun. Each week has two DYNAMIC gym sessions that are good for any level. They aren't overly long gym sessions, but are a great added intensity when combined with some appropriate intervals and purposefully easy MTB riding.

Along the way, we test your fitness, which is a valuable thing to understand as you go through training. Results from this baseline test will help you understand your body for years to come and also put into perspective the benefit of training!

The plans finished with two FREE BONUS two weeks as option for you to use in-season as you start racing!

Before starting this plan it is expected that you have been doing moderate or difficult rides a few times per week for the last several weeks (~5 hours/week), and that you have some experience in the gym. If you haven't been riding much, please check out the other plans; you'll get more out of your training by choosing the appropriate plan. If you have any questions about the best plan for you, please email Dr Matt at matt@mtbphd.com

You don't need a power meter to do this training (though they are great!); really all you need is a bike and a stopwatch, though a heart rate monitor will be beneficial. Each interval workout is 100% optimized to be plugged directly in to your smart trainer to control the appropriate intensity. OR these can be done on the MTB trails!

This is for XC and Enduro MTB racers, with the major difference being how you term "FUN" out on the fun rides.
What are you waiting for?

Sample Day 0
1:00:00
TEST TIME TRIAL [Pre-training]

Try this on a long hill. See how high you can get your average power over 20 minutes. If you are feeling keen, it would be cool to see your one-minute power as well. I suggest doing this after a full recovery (20+ minutes) from the longer test. You can add this to each of your other test days.
Option B would be to do a "FTP Test" on your smart trainer and repeat this on each test day.
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Welcome to the first day of your training plan! The first day is a test day to determine what your fitness is now and to offer you a benchmark for your future training cycles.

We will try to control this as much as we can so that we know we are comparing apples to apples. We'll make sure the lead in to test day is pretty similar, control the warmup, and it will be up to you to eat similar foods.
(PRO-HACK: write down what you ate in the post-ride comments after you upload your file)


In addition to helping you track your progress, testing will also help you to determine training zones as you start your program.

IF YOU HAVE A SMART TRAINER
Click on the option to do an FTP test and follow the protocol. the time trial portion is VERY hard, and the program will tell you your FTP so that you can set your zones and intensities for the following weeks of workouts.

IF YOU HAVE A POWER METER OR OTHER:
Choose a road nearby that is easily repeatable on a safe section of road with no stops. Do this on the same bike every time. Using a MTB is OK. If this is uphill you will be able to pedal more steadily (less coasting) but flat or rolling terrain are fine if there are no stops or changes of road.
Get in a 15-minute warmup as follows: 5min easy seated pedaling- 10s acceleration with high cadence RPE~7 - 2min easy pedaling- 15s acceleration with slightly higher RPE, high cadence - standing pedaling for 2 minutes with heavy gear @50rpm ~RPE 5 – 5s acceleration just below max – 5min easy seated pedaling.

Record start location and begin the test, shooting for a steady power at a maximal rate for 12-20 minutes. Record stop location, elapsed time, weather, perceived exertion, heart rate, bike and tires used.

IF TRAINING WITH HEART RATE
Follow time trial protocol as above. Take average heart rate from test portion only. This is a good estimation of your lactate threshold heart rate. Zone will be as follows (derived from Andrew Coggan, PhD):
Zone 1: <68%
Zone 2: 69-83%
Zone 3: 84-94%
Zone 4: 95-105%

(PRO HACK 2: you can enter these zones on your Training Peaks profile and the metrics from your rides will be appropriately calculated.)

Sample Day 2
0:45:00
AM Workout: Beastly Circuit

Warmup: 3-5 minutes on rowing machine, bike or elliptical machine. Start easy and build yourself up to hard effort for final 30s.

Workout: 6 sets of 6 reps of these 6 exercises with no rest in between-
Deadlift
Hang clean
Push Press
Backsquat
Barbell row
Romanian deadlift

*note: use the same weight for each exercise.

You'll want to start with only the bar for your first few workouts and work your way up by 5-10kg every few sessions.


Between sets: Alternate between 3 minutes of easy rowing (between sets 1,3 and 5) and 3 minutes of easy cycling (between sets 2 and 4).

If your forms starts to falter, stop the workout--you've done enough!

An example of the workout can be seen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OwxHa1lifww

Cool down with 3-10 minutes of easy aerobic exercise.

Sample Day 4
1:00:00
AM Workout: Peaks and Valleys A

For this first one try not to go too heavy in the Force Segment. Give it some time before you really start to push it with the weight.

Warmup: 5 minutes aerobic exercise, gradually building up to an effort of 7/10

Force Segment:

Sets x reps. 70-90% effort. 2 minutes b/n sets. Move to Rhythm if form falters. Warm up with one set at 50% and one set at 70%.

--3x8 Back squat

--3x8 dumbbell renegade fly

Rhythm Segment:

3 sets with 3 minutes rest. Each set is done as quickly and powerfully as possible. Move quickly from one exercise to the other and recover after completing a set of each.

10 bounds --> 10 pushups --> 10 burpees

AWC Segment:

3 sets

--90% max rep pullups --> max 250 meter row--> 500 meter very easy recovery row

Sample Day 4
1:00:00
56.55TSS
5x5 min @ 90% threshold with long recoveries

I really like this workout to help improve your ability to convert lactate in to fuel, which is good whether you are smashing down a descent or climbing up a hill. Try this workout out on the trail if the weather is good. One option could be to do 2 efforts with the short recovery up a climb to the descent [twice] and then add the fifth effort at some other part of the track.

Threshold efforts are a really good bang for your buck! They are not overly hard, which means you can do quite a few of them. But they are hard enough that they will definitely stress your system. Your ability to improve in this spectrum will allow you do more hard efforts when you get out on to the trail since you will recover faster between sprints.
This is just 5x5 minute efforts in your zone 4, with 4 minutes easy between each effort. Fantastic workout!

Sample Day 5
2:00:00
MTB group ride

Choose any pace, have fun!

Sample Day 6
2:00:00
MTB group ride

Choose any pace, have fun!

Sample Day 8
1:30:00
Easy MTB

Take it easy, no big spikes in power, just try to stay in your endurance zone. Don't let heart rate get too far into your zone 3

Matt Miller
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MTB PhD

Dr. Matt Miller is the premiere international MTB researcher and coach. He has over 10 scientific publications on factors affecting MTB performance and more than 10 years of competing at the elite level in cross-country and enduro MTB.