PT on the Net Research

Downhill Mountain Biking


Downhill mountain biking is a very fast and requires a lot of explosive power, upper body strength and fast reflexes. The races are about three to four minutes long. Free Ride mountain biking is an underground cycling movement but is becoming more and more popular. It's a little more radical than downhill with big drops of over 10 feet, huge jumps, a lot of balance and upper body strength and endurance. Do you have any programming suggestions?


You are correct when saying that downhill mountain biking, free ride mountain biking or downhilling is a fast and radical sport. The guys I have seen reminded me of downhill skiing - on the edge all of the time and just trying to get set up properly before any “huge” drop offs. This requires a rider to keep very focused for the entire ride. In order to do this, you must have some time in the saddle to develop your skills and be physically fit.

Skill development can be an in depth discussion by itself. Some people just get out there and “whale” down the hill. Others take time and practice certain elements. The physical training may also have this degree of variation with it. The way I see it (and as you have stated), most of the downhilling lasts about two to four minutes. If we look at energy expenditure, it seems in between aerobic and anaerobic metabolism. However, from what I have observed, it seems more anaerobic.

The reason for this is the short bursts of energy required to gain speed between sections or obstacles. This is done at high, intense repetitions and then a glide over or down a section and then repeated. Along with the “interval” like pace are usually large G-Force type jumps. This requires someone to absorb the punishment from the landing without a full body “buckle.” That takes strength. The repeated “interval” output takes anaerobic power. With this in mind, we may now look at training.

Free ride training can consist of mostly total body exercises, much like the ride itself. The term is specificity. The metabolic demands can be trained by carving out a one minute section somewhere. This section should allow you to pedal hard with high repetitions. After a good warm up, work that section at about 95 percent effort for a lap and then pedal easy for two to four minutes. After the easy pedaling (active recovery), crank out another one. Do this for five to 10 laps. This should help to improve your anaerobic power.

The resistance exercises can consist of Olympic type lifts with barbells and dumbbells. This will help you with total body power and strength with some balance issues thrown in. The lifts may consist of cleans, modified cleans (aka hang cleans) and pushpress. Other resistance training can be finished with some cables: upright rows, standing horizontal pulls with one to two arms and while on two feet or one foot. Machine work consists of incline or horizontal leg press with one or two legs.

The loads will oscillate between heavy lifts (85-95% 1RM) using two to three reps for three to four sets and lighter, faster lifts (40-50% 1RM) using eight to 10 reps for three to five sets. You will want to complete ALL lifts as fast as safe. This will help to develop your nervous system along with the central and peripheral systems. Rest periods of two to five minutes will enable muscles to recover between sets.

Good luck with the training!