MTB PhD 12-week Pre-Season Training for Mountain Bikers

Average Weekly Training Hours 07:35
Training Load By Week
Average Weekly Training Hours 07:35
Training Load By Week

This is an off-season plan designed around the principles used to train Seamus Powell to his national titles in Super-D and XC as well as other top athletes like Jeff Lenosky. The plan's goal is simple: train things we don't always get to during the season -before the season- so you're ready to go when it starts. We work on strength in the gym throughout the 12 weeks, but also address aerobic training through both cross-training and riding. Both of these we have found very important not only to build on weaknesses we may have, but also to prepare our minds and bodies for a long season of being fired up on riding MTB! A lot of the coldest and dreariest weeks of the year are spent in the gym rather than simply suffering on the trainer. The end of the plan focuses big on training to increase our threshold power, which is highly correlated to any kind of endurance performance, but it's also something we almost completely miss out on as mountain bikers simply by the nature of our sport.
The plan is designed to get you into spring ready to either take on the trails or follow on with another plan for race-specific or genre-specific (e.g. enduro; DH; XC... even road!) preparation. Whether you are an XC whippet or downhill fiend, the workouts you will follow in the pre-season plan will have you ready!
Plan comes with handbook for ease of reference!

Sample Day 1

Testing will help you to determine training zones and track progress. Choose a location 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 maintain a higher intensity.
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 test. Apply even 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, take 90% of your 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%

Sample Day 2
Easy MTB

Take it easy, no big spikes in power, just try to stay in your endurance zone. Do not let heart rate exceed your endurance zone. Have fun!

Sample Day 3

Off the bike but staying active and using other muscles for aerobic activity. Have fun!

Sample Day 5
Easy endurance road ride

Endurance power and heart rate zones. Keep pedalling and do not have big spikes in power.

Sample Day 6
Lower Body A 3x12

3 sets of 12 reps
-Front Squat
-Leg press
-Walking lunges with dumbbells

Sample Day 7
Easy Jog

Endurance pace jog, stay steady

Sample Day 8
Upper Body A 3x12

3 sets of 12 reps
-Upright rows on lat machine or with dumbbells
-Shoulder abductors with dumbbells
-Lat pull-downs on lat machine
-Dumbbell bench press
-Pushups, increasing by 1 reps each session

Matt Miller

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.