Tag Archives: abs

Core Training: Part 2 – Cornering

1 Oct

How often is it that we see that the phrase “core exercise” is just another word for abdominal exercise. Instead of doctors saying, “well your back hurts because your abdominals are weak” they now say “You need to strengthen your core” but then prescribe the same exercises?!

The best trainers in the world recognize that the “core” is bigger than just your abs. It includes the muscles of your hip and shoulder girdle, or rotator cuff.

And in cornering, it is these core muscles that are used extensively. Using the muscles of the hip to hold onto the bike, the muscles of the shoulder to push and pull with control and tact, and additionally the muscles of the core being used to keep proper posture no matter what position the bike is in.

Just like the chassis of a bike has to be able to flex laterally to absorb bumps on the track, so does the rider’s body. Which means they have to be able to flex laterally from a fixed position.

Side planks are a great exercise for beginners and veterans alike. Getting easy, just hold it longer!

Side planks are a great exercise for beginners and veterans alike. Getting easy, just hold it longer!

The most simplified way to do this is the basic side plank. Think about the longest corner you can on your favorite track and try to hold the side plank for 3 times that long. The longer you can hold it, the better.

Other lateral core exercises you can do are cable chopping exercises, both upward and downward chops. These are great because, contrary to how most people do them, they are not rotational exercises. They are actually supposed to require a strong, stable core while the muscles of the chest and shoulders pull and push the handle of the cable. Additionally, the hips are supposed to rotate inward as the movement is progressed.

Upward cable chops train the core to contract and remain tight while the head and shoulders are moving.

Upward cable chops train the core to contract and remain tight while the head and shoulders are moving.

Lastly, a more advanced core exercise is a side plank with the bottom leg elevated. This exercise is great for motorcycles because you’ll feel the inner thigh of the top leg really working to hold you up; which is EXACTLY what it does while your banked over in a turn. So if you can progress to this exercise, give it a try. It will pay off handsomely!

So there are your primary core exercises for cornering. Don’t worry about side bends, don’t worry about twisting exercises. We need stability! And these 3 exercises provide it in spades!

A much more advanced, but very specific side plank for moto racing!

A much more advanced, but very specific side plank for moto racing!

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The BEST Core exercises for moto racing… (pt. 1)

7 Jul

Every racer has an opinion on core exercises. Some racers swear by crunches and sit ups as seen in many riding books and online articles. These books are very good when it comes to riding technique. I own a handful of them!* (See bottom of post).

Unfortunately, each book contains only a short section/chapter on fitness. It touches on the very basics of fitness training and the exercises and recommendations are not specific to riding high performance race bikes. They are simply recommendations that I would give to any average Joe wanting to lose weight.

But when you really look at the forces at play on the track, you begin to see that we probably need something a bit more specific than simply doing crunches. After all, are we really lying on our back pulling our torso off the ground when we are on the track?

So shouldn’t we have something a bit more specific for riding? So here’s what this post is going to do: First, take a look at the riding position. Weight is forward, braced by legs and arms. This is just in a static position. Now obviously when we accelerate, brake or corner, momentum and inertia will place different forces on the bike and our body.

So looking at straight acceleration.  If acceleration is strong enough to lift the front wheel, it’s strong enough to push your torso up as well. But at the same time, we are holding onto the bars and will be trying to lean forward without pulling on the front end of the bike. The action created here is actually the abdominal muscles resisting spinal extension and contracting in an isometric (no change of length) fashion.

The exercise that I recommend for this is a Stability Ball Rollout. Now you can do this with an ab wheel or to make it even more challenging use a TRX or Jungle Gym. But make no mistake, this exercise is probably going to be the first one you go to in your trackday fitness training. Aim for 2-3 sets of 20 repetitions.

The next sequence to consider is in line braking. The forces during this skill will push the body forward. At this point we want to minimize the movement and contribution of the rider’s weight to destabilize the bike. We need to be still, but able to feel the bike. Generally, stability ball knee tucks are good for this exercise. To make it even more challenging, try to do a push up after you’ve brought your knees to your chest. 

Another great exercise that is a bit more dynamic is a reverse bear crawl. This exercise utilizes an arm pushing motion while maintain core stability. Both are great and if you can implement them both into your program, do it! Aim for 2-3 sets of 20 repetitions.

As you can see, when deciding which exercises are the best for our trackday needs, the more specific you can be the better. Motorcycle racing is different than any other sport because the forces are magnified exponentially by the speeds we reach as well as the fact that our body mass has a much greater contribution to the movement of the motorcycle.

In the next blog post, I’ll explain how we can train our core to better cornering and what exercises are the best for this part of racing. Until then, ride well, train hard!


Total Control by Lee Parks

Smooth Riding the Pridmore Way by Reg Pridmore

Twist of the Wrist II by Keith Code and Doug Chandler

What’s better than CRUNCHES for sport riders? (not what you think!)

19 Apr

For those of you not in the fitness community, there is a lot that has been found in the past 10-years about the possible negative consequences of doing crunches.

Studies have demonstrated that full spinal flexion is

  1. NOT the exercise that gets the greatest abdominal contraction
  2. too many crunches can make lower back pain worse
  3. Crunches do NOT lead to reduced abdominal fat

In light of this, many people might say “Then what should I do?!”

Honda Wheelie

Strong abs help maintain a forward lean during hard acceleration.
Photo courtesy of http://www.motorcycle-usa.com

Well, let’s not completely demonize crunches. They can be a serious ab burner when done correctly (use a small range of motion moving only enough to bring the shoulders off the ground). And when considering how fast motorcycles accelerate and how easy it might be to begin leaning backwards, the abs pull the upper body forward when on the throttle hard.

But don’t be fooled into thinking that crunches are the ONLY ab exercise.

Truth be told, chin-ups are actually a better ab exercise than crunches! See, the latissimus dorsi muscle, pecs and abs all work together to pull the upper body forward. Especially on a sport bike!

With the amazing torque and power of today’s superbikes, you’d better be able to hold on. Abs will help you do it. And pull-ups can get the abs, and the grip strength you’ll need to ride your iron horse!

Pull-ups for riding

Notice the grip, shoulder and elbow angle. Move the hands a little closer and it’s easy to imagine this guy riding a superbike! (No this is NOT yours truly)
Photo from marksdailyapple.com