Although a motor sets the pace, strength and fitness control the bike and its speed, so being fit and strong will make a huge improvement to performance on the motocross bike.
Fitness Coach Alan Milway has dedicated his career to training young professional athletes in mountain biking and motocross into peak fitness and strength, garnering 13 years of experience and six world championships along the way. With his experience in fitness testing, planning and training, he's guy you want your training advice from! Below, Alan outlines key areas to improve for MX riders explaining why they're so important and lists the best strength exercises for each area.
Legs – making the key contact point strong
The lower body is a key contact point to the bike and has to absorb force, deliver force back to the bike to maintain position on it, and as you are essentially standing up and sitting back down repeatedly throughout the course of a lap, fatigue in the legs will have a massive effect on technique.
Squat variations. A split squat is a great way to build strength and strength endurance into the legs, without trying to lift huge weights. Use dumbells or a barbell across the front of your shoulders to increase strength in the lower back and core.
Calf strength and endurance is important areas in the lower body too – can you do 25 single leg calf raises on each leg? Place your hands against a wall for balance. Standing on a step or a platform, raise your heel so you're on your tiptoes, then lower your heel below the platform edge. Repeat on your other leg.
Trunk stability – how your core strength improves technique
The trunk or ‘core’ is the foundation from which we push and pull and deliver force to the bike. As we tire, our position changes on the bike and we often end up taking more weight through our arms due to a weak trunk which causes fatigue and poor technique. A weak trunk can also lead to lower back pain when riding which is the last thing we want to worry about!
Challenge your ability to hold a posture, or deliver force from that posture in a number of different planes: A plank position, a ‘Pallof’ press and a ‘deadbug’ are 3 great exercises to strengthen the trunk and teach you to maintain a good posture.
Can you do 15 side plank reps each side? Get in to a side plank position, with left elbow on the floor, right hand on waist and right elbow pointing towards the ceiling. Lift hips up, pause and then lower back to the floor. Repeat for both sides and compare!
Arms – improving strength and endurance
Arm pump are two words every motocross rider dreads. Grip weakens, control goes and pace drops away like a stone. Strengthening the arms was once seen as a big no-no as it would promote arm pump, but this was misleading. If you were training to get big muscular forearms that had poor blood supply, then yes you’d pump up quicker. But grip strength, strength endurance and improved strength in the whole upper limb will help control and keep arm pump at bay.
Bodyweight exercises can challenge the upper body in a great way: chin ups, dips, press ups and supine pulls (laying flat and pulling yourself up) are great ways to improve grip, arm strength and are also progressive by adding weight plates or a weighted vest.
Can you do 50 chin ups in ten minutes? Sounds easy right?! Give it a go. Now let’s be clear, a chin up I refer to is holding the bar outside of shoulder width with palms facing away from you, and from a dead hang for each rep. Rest when you need to and do as many in ten minutes as you can. Get the stopwatch out and give it a go!
The back – posture makes perfect
The lower back is an area of weakness for many people in their day to day lives, and motocross riding only makes it worse. Poor posture can lead to a weak back, and if we round the back when on the bike, we limit the ability to maintain good form on the bike and also limit how well we can push and pull on the bars.
The deadlift, hip bridge, or glute-ham raise are all great ways to develop strength in the posterior chain and improve a strong posture. Add core exercises as above to help the back too!
Lower back health is more important to test that ramping up weight through it. Lie on your back and lift one leg straight up – how tight are your hamstrings? Compare Left to right and aim to improve this tightness through stretching as this affects the back. In addition, try the four-point kneeling movement known as the ‘Bird-Dog’. On all fours, stretch left hand forward and right leg backwards, and try to maintain a level, flat back. It is harder than it sounds!
If you're interested in learning more about Alan's services, head over to www.mxfitness.com