Nathan Watson© Olaf Pignataro/Red Bull Content Pool
Get fit for motocross with Ben and Nathan Watson
The Watson brothers give you 10 tips on how to get in shape to ride motocross.
Written by Greg Stuart
Published on
Stick your average man on the street on a motocross bike and tell him to go riding on a track, and he’d be begging for mercy within five laps. Motocross is one of the toughest disciplines there is for fitness, requiring strength and endurance in equal measure to make it to the chequered flag.
Watson brothers Ben and Nathan, two of the UK's fastest offroad riders, give 10 tips on how you can get fit for motocross.
Ben and Nathan Watson share their motocross workout tips.
Nathan and Ben Watson

1. Do a lot of cycling

Nathan: With cycling and running, you do endurance for one to two hours at a low heart rate in the off-season. Then you start picking your heart rate up for a shorter amount of time at a higher intensity as the season gets closer. You can do that in running, cycling, rowing, swimming – anything really.
Planks are great for your core 
Nathan Watson

2. Try to keep a strong core and back

Nathan: Planks are great for your core because it covers all the areas. Then press-ups and pull-ups are good for your upper body. I like doing the Russian Twist too, where you’re in a seated position with your legs raised and you move a medicine ball from side to side. All that dynamic stuff helps really. Then you’ve got to have pretty strong legs, so squats are important too.
MotoGP rider Karel Hanika demonstrating the plank
MotoGP rider Karel Hanika demonstrating the plank

3. Keep the weights low and the reps high

Ben: We don’t tend to do bicep curls or anything like that. But if you have to do that, use a lower weight with a lot of reps, never big weights. Riders that use a lot of weight in the gym end up getting arm pump [where the forearms get pumped up with blood] because they’re so used to grabbing. Then they go out in the race and go, ‘Oh, my arms are pumped up’ because they’ve been in the gym all week bench-pressing.
If you go out worried that you’re going to get arm pump, then you probably will
Ben Watson

4. Stay relaxed to avoid "arm pump"

Nathan: I’d say we’re the lucky ones, because I don’t even know what arm pump is – I've never had it.
Ben: I think we’re quite relaxed and that helps. If you go out worried that you’re going to get arm pump, then you probably will because you’ll be tight.
Nathan: Whereas we go out thinking, ‘Well, I’ve never had arm pump so I’m not going to get it’.

5. Use TRX bands

Ben: Our trainer Darren Roberts hooked us up with these.They’re great for doing moves with your own bodyweight. That’s perfect for motocross, because your bodyweight is all you’ve got on the bike.

6. Don't judge yourself against others

Nathan: We’re always trying to stay active, but it’s actually hard for us to train together, because I’ve got my set of heart rates that I need to hit and Ben’s might be different.
Ben: So if we do end up training with one another, it’s normally just for a bit of fun. Like when we play badminton together.

7. Cross-train on other types of motorbike

Nathan: We’ve got trials bikes and we’re on them all the time. It’s fun, but we think it helps as well. A lot of the top grand prix riders ride trials bikes because you’ve still got a clutch and a throttle, so it’s good for your clutch and throttle control. But I think any motorbike you ride is going to help, and the more you do, the better.

8. Stretch properly

Ben: We don’t do yoga or Pilates or anything like that, but we do a lot of stretching at the end of every training session.
Nathan: You’ve got to stay flexible so that you don’t get an injury. It’s quite easy in motocross to pull a muscle or to put your back out, so it’s important to stay loose.

9. If you want to be super-fit, ride on sand

Nathan: Riding on sand is so physically heavy. [I can] ride on a hard pack track all day if it’s flat, it’s so easy. But sand tracks, because they’re so rough, you’re constantly using your body and constantly standing up, so you get really tired. The top sand riders are often really fit.
Ben and Nathan Watson share their motocross workout tips.
Riding on sand requires supreme fitness

10. Ride your motorbike!

Nathan: Ultimately, you can’t get bike fitness in the gym or from running or cycling or anything because it’s completely unique. So you’ve got to ride, but do A LOT of riding. You can’t just turn up at the track and do a few 10-minute sprints. You’ve got to go there and do 30 minutes, three times. It’s hard work.