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Feeling Stronger with the Ultimate MTB Workout Program

January 9, 2012

The program is having an impact on the World Cup and makes me hopeful for the 2012 season

It’s winter here in Canada and the end of the downhill mountain biking race season. Around this time, I look back and reflect on what has been, sometimes honestly, sometimes with rose-colored glasses. As it is every time, I’m faced with the same question: Could I have done better?
As racers, we review the events in our mind: the good the bad, the mistakes, and maybe the once or twice when it all came together. I think about what it would have taken to stay off the brakes a moment longer, to hold onto that corner all the way through, and maybe to fully commit to the final rock garden with the finish line in sight. I think about what it would take to not just respond to the trail but keep the power on, without excuses. The big question is, if I could, would it have made a difference?


I wonder about this question as I scramble through my new favorite exercise, the Turkish Getup, a movement that requires all of the muscles in your body working together to keep a kettle bell above your head as you pivot around and stand up. It has no right putting a smile on my face as it painfully reminds me where the label “core exercise” comes from. Apparently invented at the turn of the century by some fiendish strongmen, it forms the centerpiece of my first taste of the James Wilson Strength Training System.


As I wind down the MTB DB Combos 12 Week Program and am now shifting gears to his Ultimate MTB Workout Program, I’m beginning to get a sense of what it means to have more than simply a good aerobic base and having marked time in the gym. It appears that the key to these challenging movements — the get ups the short collection of weird motion squats, the weight assisted sit-ups and bridges is that they are all working specifically to build strength and endurance for a purpose – which is to allow me to maintain my proper biking position regardless of the situation. It makes sense.

It seems that Wilson has put together something special. He’s focused on the fact that racing a mountain bike is simply a different physiological experience than riding a road bike, playing hockey or preparing for a mixed martial arts fight. As Rob Fraser, Canada’s national downhill mountain biking series champion noted, “In the past, having a personal trainer who understands hockey, resulted in me being strong, without having muscular endurance, feeling like I could take the biggest hits, but ending up being exhausted at the end of a race”.

The MTB Strength Training Systems has played dividends for many racers including helping the current world downhill champion Aaron Gwin. He built a fitness base over three years working with Wilson that, in his own words, “was instrumental in his success at the World Cup level.” The potential keys behind Gwin’s performances caught the attention of Fraser, and another top Canadian downhill racer, Sidney Slotegraaf, who are both looking to build upon their national-level success. Like Fraser, Slotegraaf had also found shortcomings in his prior pre-season training. He says, “I had used a modified cross country mountain biking training approach before. I knew as I entered the season, I felt unprepared, in particular at the Mount Tremblant Canada Cup race”. If two of our top Canadian downhill racers have misgivings about their previous exercise programs, perhaps my own end-of-season reflection was warranted after all.


The MTB Strength Training Systems are effective on a number of levels, combining flexibility, dynamic mobility, strength and something Wilson refers to as “high tension cardio”, which is the element I found the most intriguing. For downhill riding he identifies the fact that while we might only be pedaling maybe a third of the time down a run, that after a rock section, a series of turns or jumps which may not be debilitating in their own right, when completed, somehow causes your heart rate to go through the roof.

What seems to be happening is that by involving your whole body in creating that control platform, to pump or accelerate your bike through the sections, results in a boomerang cardio effect immediately after the exertion which only multiplies as the run continues. The challenge is that if your training is built around “rhythmic pedaling”, like road rides or time on the bike trainer, it simply won’t prepare you for the inevitable moment on the trail where you’ll need to reach deep into your well of strength. It explains a lot and also speaks directly to my original question: Could I have done better? If I could get a handle on this aspect of my fitness, it may very well open the door to being more of a complete rider.

Beyond simply having insight into riding performance, Wilson has most importantly built an exercise regime that mixes videos, with coach’s notes and clear program guidance. Slotegraaf who switched to The Ultimate MTB Workout, made it clear that “The program is different because he takes the time to teach you each exercise, focusing on complete muscle movement and memory. You believe what you are doing is correct and you can trust the results will come”. The reality is, at first glance the breadth of the exercises are intimidating. Foam rollers? Tactical frog stretches? Seated T-spine twists? I found myself doing the first couple of rounds with my laptop open, stopping and reviewing the video examples repeatedly. Still you learn and it comes together.


It’s actually pretty exciting. Fraser says after his own switch to it, “I feel the best I’ve ever felt, the strongest and best me. I’m excited to see how it translates to my success in the 2012 season”. And as I continue along the path to the Ultimate MTB Workout, I begin to imagine what it would be like to race without being limited by my fitness, to just worry about the turn ahead. Will The Ultimate MTB Workout Program make a difference for me? So far, the new regimen has made my core feel much stronger, more stable and I’m sensing better results than any other workout I’ve done in the past. And like Fraser, I can’t wait to find out how it pans out for the 2012 season when I’m back racing.

For more info check out James site.  www.bikejames.com

Brian MacDonald – Toronto based, highly motivated, for fun downhill mountain bike racer. I’ve been racing big bikes on and off for any number of years, picking up the occasional skill and still learning to go faster.


  1. Great article Brian! This Program looks perfect.

  2. That sounds good! It might just be time for me to make my come back! haha

  3. Such a good program and good write up! I recommend this program to everyone! Not to mention he has just released the newest (4.0) version! Best one yet, in James Wilsons opinion.

  4. Looks like a good program and more importantly a product that fills a niche in the market. I think there’s a growing critical mass of old-guy riders that would use this as much as top-level racers.

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