Contributed by Joel Woodward, Coaching Director


The most common benefits of good strength programs from my reading and training are:

  • helping athletes be more resistant to overuse injuries,
  • Improved body composition,
  • better bone density,
  • and improved performance

Young athletes many find strength training rewarding and enjoyable. It is important to keep in mind that, like riding in the woods on a mountain bike, strength training comes with some risk and being mindful and respectful of managing that risk is critical.

Push ups work great

To keep this simple and practical we will look at very simple body weight options that can be done on a skills day either before or after in a grassy spot.

To help kids be oriented and consistent, break the workout into upper body, lower body and core. Particularly in the early season, and with new riders with unknown backgrounds, it’s good to use simple body weight exercises to start the process. Keep the duration short. A handful once a week in the early season does wonders.. Old standards like pushups, dips, planks, and lunges are great to get muscles, ligaments and tendons off the couch and in shape, especially to start the early season.

There is always opportunity, as the season progresses, to offer more demanding exercises later. Starting slow and adding challenge slowly works well and minimizes the risk that the kids will get super sore or get a strain that could nag them during the season. Easing into exercise is safer and makes it much more likely to see growth and success for the long haul,

Simple “Early Season” Starter Set

Upper Body a) Three sets of Push ups:

  • A set equals 10 to 20 or so pushups.
  • Some will do them with knees touching.
  • Some will do them with feet toucing

b) Dips:

  • A picnic table bench bleachers, park benches or set of stairs work great.
  • 10 to 20 repetitions

Lower Body

a) Body Weight Squats  

Three sets of  20 or so per set  





b) Body Weight Lunges

20 (or so) 10 with each leg forward.  

Pace across a field or park doing these easy lunges.

Core Planks,  60 second hold,  1 each

a) Front Plank:





b) Right side plank






c) Left Side Plank


All done!  


Over the past few seasons I have spent a good deal of my coaching time implementing dedicated strength training for high school athletes. I started working in this area based on recommendations for my own preparations for Leadville.

My coaches and mentors Greg Rhodes and Morgan Luzier helped me prepare. They had me doing a-once-a week dedicated strength program. My reading and studying, and my experience through that training convinced me of the potential benefits.

“Stretching and Strength Training for Young Mountain Bikers”, a NICA presentation for coaches, will be presented in this year’s Leaders’ Summit. Following up on the presentation, I will be including additional resources on strength training in the Coaches News. 

This is a complex topic and may not be suitable for all your athletes all the time. We will start with the basics and keep it pretty simple. There is a seemingly endless body of material available online and in books for those who want to take a deep dive. This column will not attempt to reiterate those resources, but will offer practical, simple and safe options for you and your team.

Following the example of the League Mission and Core Values, our end goal is to offer a positive experience for riders; to have them see cycling as a lifelong healthy activity, learn and grow.

Educating student-athletes in basic sound strength training can serve them their entire life.

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