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Goodness I hope you aren’t doing this…

5 Feb

 

As motorcycle road racers, we know that hanging off the bike is essential to enjoying the sport, being quick around the track and most importantly being safe.

We know we are supposed to use the outer leg to “lock in” to the fuel tank. But how do we train the muscles that we use to lock in? Being that the primary movement is to squeeze your leg into the tank, the quick answer would be to use the hip adductor machine.

lvseatedhipadductionBut do you really want to be the guy doing this? –>

There are many different methods we can use to train the inner thigh muscles that are:

  • Less embarrassing
  • More functional
  • More specific
  • Did I mention less embarrassing?

The first thing to consider is the posture that we are in when riding: knees bent, hips flexed, toes pulled up towards the shins. The video above is doing none of those.

Below are 3 different strategies on how to train these muscles. After all, as much as it feels useless to train these muscles, they are very important.

The first thing we need to do is to stretch these bad boys and get some new range of motion (ROM) out of them.

The most effective way to do this is through the deep lunge.

The deep lunge is done by beginning in a pushup position. Then you’re going to bring the right leg up until your foot is flat on the ground outside of your right hand. Very important: keep the right foot flat. If you let the heel lift, you’re going to feel a lot of discomfort in the right knee cap.

For many people, this may be enough to feel a stretch in the inner thigh. In fact, some people may want to put their hands on a workout bench to limit how far they lower their hips.

You’re going to hold this position for 5-seconds, then return the right leg to the pushup position and repeat on the left side. This exercise will allow you to do some pretty amazing things that require reaching the inside knee out toward the tarmac.

Now to strengthen this muscle, there are a few exercises that can be done.

balance2

Tall kneeling position on a stability ball. To make it even more challenging, move your knees wider to add more control.

The first is to use a stability ball and try to stabilize on it on all fours, progressing to an upright position from your knees. Doing this requires the inner thigh to not only contract, but to react to a changing surface, not unlike a motorcycle chassis flexing while leaned over. This is crucial because being able to quickly turn a muscle on, off and regulate force can improve cornering! Try to hold in the up position for 30-seconds. Once you can do for 30-seconds, try it with your eyes closed to improve proprioceptive feedback!

The second exercise we can do also requires a stability ball. Begin from a push-up position with your feet up on the ball. Roll the ball side to side using your lower body. This is an abdominal and inner thigh exercise that will greatly benefit us on the bike.  I call this Stability Ball Hip Swivels and it’s a pretty good inner thigh exercise on top of a killer abdominal exercise, both are great benefits for riders! For the Hip Swivels, aim for 2-3 sets of 15-20 reps per side. To make it more challenging, have your hands forward from your shoulders rather than directly under your shoulders.

Throw these two exercises into your next workout and see how you feel. Again, the inner thigh/adductor muscles provide more stability than they get credit for. Let’s not be silly in how we train them, but let’s not ignore them.

 

 

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Troy Bayliss is back on the track… and you can be too.

18 Feb

With the most awesome announcement by Ducati that the legendary Troy Bayliss will be substituting for the injured Davide Guigliano at Philip Island this weekend, the questions come up about Troy’s fitness to ride at the age of 45-years old.

Troy Bayliss

Photo courtesy of: http://static.guim.co.uk

Bayliss has never been one to slack on his physical fitness and training, maintainingg a schedule cycling and working out multiple times per week.

But there are many guys out in the trackday circuits that are his age or often older. How should these guys get prepared for a day at the track?

Fitness is paramount. When physical fatigue sets in, we start missing marks, reaction time slows and our fun day at the track can turn into a memory as the day you dumped your ride on your last out.

Step 1 is being honest with yourself that you probably aren’t in the best shape possible. Now we can move forward.

Step 2 is that Bayliss has probably maintained his flexibility first and foremost. If you’re lacking range of motion (ROM) check out a few of these videos and make ROM your priority. If you’re tight on the bike it can hinder you in that it changes the feedback provided to your brain from your muscles regarding the amount of stretch, positioning of a joint and how much force is being produced.

Step 3 is to develop general body weight strength. If you struggle with pushups, then start there. Bench press is not worth doing if you’re pushups are poor. Push-ups are a moving plank exercise, using all of your core muscles to stabilize your spine all while pushing through your chest muscles. Are your legs running out of juice on more spirited moto rides? Start with body weight squats, keep the heels on the ground.

One simple, quick and effective way to combine these into a 10-minute routine is to do: 

Repeat as many times as possible in 10-minutes. If you can make 4 circuits, you’re looking good. 5 times around? Now you’re at the sharp end!

Granted 10-minutes is not a full day of track time on the bike, but it’s a start. And it’s not time consuming. I know most of the readers of this website are pretty busy folks who may not be able to cut away to the gym for 90-minutes a day.

But if you can get 10-minutes a day, you’re more likely to stick with it, complete it and when combined with a good/great nutrition plan, you’ll see results both in your performance and your physique.

The moto is out of balance… is your body also?

15 Jan

We hear a lot that motorcycles in MotoGp or Superbikes are “out of balance.” Heck, look at the trials Ducati has faced over the past 6 years. They can’t seem to figure out why their MotoGP ride can’t turn! Even the almighty GOAT Valentino Rossi and his pal Jeremy Burgess couldn’t get that thing squared away!

But then look at the Yamaha since Jorge Lorenzo has been there. That bike has been the most “balanced bike” in the paddock. It balances power and agility. The Ducati and Honda both being a bit too abrupt on the power and not quite agile enough to stick with the Yamaha.

Rossi loses the front of the Ducati

Rossi had problems with the Ducati from the ground floor. This one infamously took out the only person who could actually tame the red devil, Casey Stoner. Image source: http://www.mundomoto.esp.br

Now granted there are a ton of physical forces that contribute to the balance of a bike and it being too stable vs too loose. But our bodies can be just as complicated.

When we are looking at training our bodies for riding on the track, we need to find a healthy balance between being too loose and too stable. There is a relationship between stability and mobility. Like a motorcycle, different parts of our body need to be mobile while others are more stable.

Most of us are too stable. We lack the ability to move freely. This is a result of Newton’s 2nd Law of Gravity – Inertia. An object at rest will stay at rest until acted on by an outside force. When we sit all day in our chair at work or in the car, our body says “Well, it looks like the owner wants me to stay in this position because he’s not doing much to change the position!

So we have to work on finding our own balance in our body. We need to be both mobile and stable. Functional Movement Screen creator Gray Cook has recognized the following relationships (the body joint:quality needed)

  • ankles:mobility
  • knees:stability
  • hips:mobility
  • low back:stability
  • upper back:mobility
  • shoulders:stability
  • cervical spine:mobility

Hopefully you recognize the alternating pattern there. When we have regions that have the opposite of what is needed, the joint above or below will compensate and develop the incorrect quality. This usually leads to injuries. To be in top shape for your motorcycle trackdays or club racing, you’ll need to work towards these qualities.

Now because I mentioned that we need to work on these qualities, it wouldn’t make much sense for me to stop there. So here are a few exercises, along with video links, that you can do to improve the qualities of the desired.

Ankle mobility: ankle mobilizations/calf stretches

Knee Stability: Split Squats

Hip Mobility: deep lunge, hip crossover, supine hip IR

Low back stability: Slow Mountain climbers

Upper Back mobility: Reverse diving,

Shoulder stability: Pushup + rotation

Cervical mobility: back scratch head tilt

Now for each of these exercises, I recommend doing 10-20 per side. But just be prepared, if you’re tight or too loose, you’ll probably wake up to some soreness tomorrow. But by addressing these issues, we find that beautiful balance between strength and agility that will make moving on the bike much easier and give us the endurance to keep our brain and body focused on the skill of trackday riding until the end.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this post or any other post! I encourage you to leave feedback or perhaps there is a topic you’d like to learn more about! If so, list it in the comments section and we’ll get it addressed! Take care and work on getting your body dialed in to get the most out of your motorcycle on the track!

Smooth Riding is better riding. But what is “smooth”?

3 Dec

We hear it a lot in MotoGP. Reg Pridmore built his career (and his book on it). Smooth Riding the Pridmore Way

But being smooth is the best way to ride, bar none. Rough riding, deceleration, acceleration, lateral transitioning all will upset the suspension and make riding feel like work instead of fun. With winter coming and the weather starting to get sour in many parts in the world, riding time will decrease.

But how can you work on being smooth when you’re in the gym training for your trackday?

It’s actually quite simple.

Think about what it takes to be smooth when you’re on the bike. You have to roll on the throttle and roll off in a controlled manner. Control is simply being in tune with your body and being able to make small adjustments instead of making large inputs. Large input disrupts handling. Looking at MotoGP or World Superbike, when you’re on the edge of the tire is no time to be making large input changes to the bike.

When only 1/1000th of the tire is making contact with the ground is not the time to make abrupt changes. However, smooth riding is rewarded with faster cornering.

Now the best riders can make small, accurate inputs very quickly. I know when i’m riding and I focus on being smooth and not upsetting the suspension, it feels as though I’m taking a very long time to provide the input. And this is okay. It will get better, I will get better and the inputs will become more accurate and become quicker.

But how does a person improve smoothness?

By becoming more in tune with your physical body. When doing exercises, don’t just go through the motions and hope for change to happen. Instead, be intentional with your movements. Focus on how your muscles are working and which ones are working.

Imagine that your body is a computer. A really nice one. Your brain, it’s the CPU. Your muscles, joints and limbs? They are the hardware. The hardware relays information to the performance of your body back to the CPU. But if the hardware isn’t very sensitive, it’s not going to do much for the CPU.

Every time you focus on what your muscles are doing while you move, it’s essentially upgrading the hardware to match the upgraded software. So when you are focusing on being smooth on/off the throttle, you’re refining your hardware and your CPU is recognizing the upgraded hardware.

Think about the tunability of the CPU on a MotoGP machine, pretty awesome right? We’re always talking about how software makes these bikes amazing. Well upgrade your own software and hardware!

You can go out and run, cycle or randomly go through some exercises. Yes, you’ll see a modest “hardware” upgrade. But to really see some results in your ability to move on the bike, you have to focus and pay attention to what is going on during your workouts.

What are some ways to improve “hardware” sensitivity? First, gain some flexibility. Muscles that don’t stretch much, can’t provide optimal feedback. Start working on mobility with a deep lunge/Spiderman, lateral squats and hip crossovers. 

Strength exercises you can do are single leg squats, chin ups and dumbbell bench press (dumbbells require more rotator cuff use). For energy system development (ESD)/cardio, I would recommend a rowing machine, a VersaClimber or even some heavy rope slams as these all involve very dynamic movements that transfer well to the art of motorcycle riding.

So this winter, improve your smoothness by giving each workout the mental attention it needs and deserves. I think you’ll be pretty impressed by the results come spring riding season.

Get on the train(ing) before it leaves you behind…

12 Aug

In a recent interview with MotoMatters, Alvaro Bautista was asked about fitness for riding. I’ll give you the full quote here:


MF: Jorge had some physical issues…

AB: What issues? I’ve heard about it recently but I don’t know the details.

MF: He had three operations in the off-season and he couldn’t train properly. Is fitness really that important in MotoGP nowadays?

AB: It’s very important, because when you’re riding at the limit, you need to be really strong and really fit, also to keep you concentration. If you’re not fit, you lose concentration, then you lose a lot of time on the braking, in the corners and so on.

MF: How do you train?

AB: I train a lot. I train with some triathletes. I like cycling a lot but also do some running and swimming. Then I go to the gym.


So you can see that fitness training is very important for moto riders. From a rider who is at the pinnacle of the sport, fitness is important, particularly late in races. 

But how should you train? Well as Bautista states in the interview, his trainer makes the program. However, that does not mean it is a “top secret” type of workout. Most workouts are fairly simple as long as you look at the demands of the sport and then build the program around those demands. If you haven’t done any exercise in quite some time, then just about any program will result in positive effects on the bike. A book that I highly recommend is the New Rules of LIfting series from Alwyn Cosgrove. Cosgrove is originally from the UK but has landed himself in southern California where his primary clientele are people trying to lose weight.

So let’s take a look at the demands of the sport and then help you decide what the training plan should look like. Sound good?

1. First off, before the motorcycle is even moving, you have to be able to achieve and maintain the proper position. This requires flexibility from the hips and ankles, as well as endurance from the core muscles. A deep lunge stretch is great for increasing mobility in the hips and legs. 

2. Once we get underway and the bike is moving, We have to be able to shift our weight from side to side. This involves leg strength and endurance. Exercises that would be beneficial for moto riders are squats with heels elevated (more emphasis on quadriceps), single leg squats, lateral squats and isometric squats. 

3. Upper body training is also necessary. Although on a bike the upper body needs to be relaxed, when you’re racing hard, sometimes things happen. A strong upper body is necessary for lifting the bike back up if you crash as well as hanging on during the rare tank slapper. For this, chin-ups (which also engage your abs) as well as a dumbbell chest press variation are optimal.

 4. Lastly, we would need to work on our muscular and cardiovascular endurance or as we like to call it, Energy System Development (ESD), preferably at the same time. To do this we can do a variety of traditional exercises such as running, cycling or swimming. Those are good options. However, we prefer something a little more practical and adventurous, such as a set or 2 of super legs, followed by a longer spin or swim. But here’s the kicker: the average rider has his heart rate around 80% of max during the race. So your training should reflect this. Don’t go off for an “easy jog”. Work hard! Get that heart rate up! Take a look. 

Now this is nowhere near a fully comprehensive training program, but its just to point you in the right direction. You could take this information and build a very raw workout but that’s about it. A comprehensive training program requires a lot of planning and direction. More so than this blog would allow. 

So for the meantime, start with some stretches of the hips, strengthen the legs, and core and finish off with a challenger and some energy system work. 

Your body = your moto?

23 Aug

Let’s face it. We’re sport riders. We don’t ride to get a good view of the wild flowers growing in the hills. We don’t ride for the fresh air (although it is nice).

No, we ride for the rush. And when we chose our ride, we chose it for the superior qualities that make it able to push the laws of physics.

We want a bike that is powerful, torque filled, agile, light and balanced.

Your moto requires a rider that is both mobile and stable at the right times and places.

And those are all fair qualities to desire in a bike. But would these qualities would be even better utilized if our own body had those traits?

Imagine if you were more flexible, yet stable; If you were strong, yet light weight; If you were powerful without being bulky. We could get a lot more out of the bike. And it’s very possible to develop these qualities. In addition, with mass centralized on the bike AND your body, the bike is more stable!

There really is no detriment to losing weight and getting stronger, more flexible and having more endurance. Again, you become the ultimate athlete.

So what could you do to make your body more like you’re ride? Take a look at what makes the bike better and that’s where you need to start.

First, take a look at your stability/mobility equation. A light and flickable bike is often a bit twitchy. Your goal is to improve mobility in the joints where it’s needed, and stability in the area’s where that is needed. One area that is commonly sore in most riders is the lower back region. This occurs for two reasons: First, the abdominal muscles are not very strong ISOMETRICALLY. Secondly the hips are tight. If they can’t move, the movement must come from the lower back.

Starting with lower back injuries, sit-ups will only cause more pain as the flexion of the spine puts pressure on the intervertebral discs by rounding the lower back. However, to get down and forward, it seems that we MUST round our lower back to get tucked. However, this isn’t a requirement. When the hips are mobile and have good range of motion, then we can flatten the lower back out and remove some of the back pain potential.

By rounding the lower back, the intervertebral discs as uneven pressure that can cause disc ruptures and herniation. A=anterior/front P=posterior/back

By increasing mobility of the bike you don’t have to fight the bike to turn. This is the same with your body. If you can improve mobility of the rider, then the rider isn’t fighting himself to get into position, to change position, and will in turn, reduce rider fatigue.

What exercises should you be doing to improve the mobility in the proper areas for the rider?

Key areas that can really prevent rider mobility are the hips and thoracic spine. Notice that these two regions are below and above the lumbar spine, respectively. We have a saying in physical therapy: the area of pain is often the victim, rarely the culprit. Instead because the hips are immobile and the upper back is immobile, the movement has to come from somewhere. And that is usually the lower back. Think about your motorcycle: if the bike fights the turn in, you either have to sacrifice speed or be prepared to really risk some serious damage.

Exercises to improve mobility of the hips are the deep lunges, sumo squat to hamstring, and pushup to pigeon exercise. 

These exercises all work to improve hip mobility which will make it much, much easier getting around on the bike and allow you to get the most out of your ride, on the street or the track. – TDF

How to use your HEAD while riding…

1 Apr

In the final MotoGP test of the 2013 pre-season, Dani Pedrosa chose to sit out. Granted the weather wasn’t great, but there was something else that was bothering him. And it’s something that effects many track day riders as well.

Every good rider knows that when you’re on the bike, you go where you look. This is one reason why many riders drift outside of their lane when riding canyon our mountain roads. It’s also a key part to going faster on the track.

Now most of us like to think that we have pretty good neck mobility. Sitting in a chair, we can turn our head left and turn our head right. But push your head forward and look up at the ceiling like your hunkered down over the fuel tank on the bike and THEN try to look left and right. Oh yeah, and don’t forget to put a helmet on with a more narrow eye port. A little more tightness in the neck, eh?

Feel that tightness in the front of your neck and the shoulders? That’s going to be a problem. And if you don’t think it’s THAT big of a problem, it’s what kept Pedrosa out of the final test of the season. Granted it wasn’t a race, but it was enough discomfort to keep him – a guy gets paid a truck load of money to ride a motorcycle – from riding at the last test before the season starts. It should be become more apparent how a tight neck can severely restrict your overall riding.

So although neck tightness might not seem like that big of an issue, it’s a part of the sum. When you’re neck is tight, your knees ache and your back is ready to cry mercy, it is more difficult to remain focused on the complicated task at hand. And contrary to what most people think, you need your entire body working well if you’re going to ride safe and fast.

How can you keep your neck flexible? Obviously stretching is going to be a big part. The first stretch is for a muscle called the levator scapulae (LS).

The LS sits under the trap and gets VERY tight in riders.

The LS sits under the trap and gets VERY tight in riders.

It sits under the trapezius and isn’t stretched with the usual stretches that you stretch the traps with. To get the LS, first bring your arm up and put your hand behind your neck, trying to reach between your shoulder blades.

The key part here is that the elbow needs to be up as high as you can get it. With your left hand behind your neck, keep looking

straight forward and then tip your head to the right. You should feel a stretch in the left side of the back of your neck. To add to the stretch, with your head tipped to the right, turn your chin toward your right shoulder. This should add to the stretch. Don’t forget to keep that elbow high!

The SCM is a major player in the neck being able to move. When it's tight, it's tough to see where you're going.

The SCM is a major player in the neck being able to move. When it’s tight, it’s tough to see where you’re going.

 

The second muscle group that gets tight in riders is the sternocleidomastoid (SCM)/scalene group. The SCM is a triple headed muscle that connects to your sternum, your clavicle and the mastoid process under the ear. The scalenes sit under the SCM and pull the head forward and down.

Now obviously these muscles are necessary for the stability of the neck (they stabilize your neck when it’s buffeted around by the wind). But at the same time, if they are tight, they can severely limit the ability of a rider to look up and look left or right. Again, this is a problem when that adds to the distraction and fatigue of riding.

How do you stretch these muscles? Reach your arm down and back at a 45-degree angle. Then look up in the opposite direction at a 45-degree angle. Now here’s the last part, and the most important to feeling a good stretch here: using the muscles of your middle back, pull the right shoulder blade down.

These two stretches serve as a very important part of the stabilizers of the neck. But too much stability is also called tightness. Tightness causes fatigue and fatigue leads to poor concentration. Use these two stretches prior to your next ride and feel how much easier it is to look through the corners and see where you’re going. Your head will only go where your neck lets it. So start using your head.