Tag Archives: back pain

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

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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

Why most PRO racers cycle for fitness – And why you may not want to.

15 Mar

When we think of fitness for motorcycle road riding, we often look to what the pros are doing. And most of them cycle – at least a little bit. But why? What exactly is the purpose of cycling for fitness?

Their are a few reasons why road racers cycle. First off, is the stress it puts on your legs. The requirements placed on the legs during a 45-minute motorcycle race are surprisingly high! Think of how often the riders have to remain still…not too long considering the tracks they race at.

They are usually moving on the pegs from side to side constantly during the race. The demand is muscular endurance, which cycling trains quite well.

In addition, the average heart rate (HR) of a professional road racer is upwards of 85-90% of their maxHR. Studies show that the energy demand of throwing a motorcycle around for 45-minutes requires the muscles of the legs to act over and over, contracting, relaxing and holding isometric contractions to maintain position on the bike. Cycling covers this quite well.

Also, the postures are the same in road racing and cycling. I think cycling may be a bit more extreme of a posture, but not by much. Although, it seems that cyclists don’t have the postural changes that racers do when braking and cornering. But the specificity of the posture transfers between the two sports as well.

So with all this being said, cycling appears to be a good training tool to improve our riding ability.

However, there’s one thing to remember: most of us are NOT pro racers. We may pretend to be, but most of us go back to our J-O-B on Monday’s after we’ve lit up our favorite curvy road.

Which means that we don’t have hours on end to spend in a bicycle saddle. We don’t have hours on end during the week to address the other training and fitness needs of our body.

So why might cycling be BAD for the average moto rider?

First off, most of the time cycling takes at least an hour, and the people I know who ride are usually out for a minimum of 3 hours at a clip.

Also, cycling puts you in a posture that is actually worse for your body than a racers posture. Cyclists are the worst when it comes to joint tightness, poor posture, weak core muscles and overall mobility. But in motorcycle racing, mobility is EXACTLY what you need!

Have you ever watched Rossi “pray” to his foot peg? Have you ever tried to squat that low and get into that “fetal” position? If you have, you know it’s not that easy. This is one reason why these professional riders are so skinny: too much muscle can get in the way of the body being able to fold up and be aerodynamic.

Now imagine being on a bicycle and being in that folded, rounded spine posture for hours on end. This would bring a lot of trauma to the lower back. Remaining in the tucked position can be detrimental to mobility. Why? The body will begin to adapt to a static, or constantly held, posture. Now if we go back to our main occupation, and we sit at a desk for hours on end, or drive in a car, we are taking on this posture that makes it difficult to move around on the bike. In other words, in makes us immobile.

So if cycling alone is bad for posture, muscles and joint mobility, then what can we do to improve our riding ability without investing hours on end getting abused by a bicycle saddle??

First off start with mobility. If you’re mobile and your joints don’t hurt, you’re already one up on the rest of them. But many riders aren’t mobile and as a result, after a spirited ride through the hillside, they are wiped out and their back hurts.

Don’t be that guy.

Instead, work on your mobility. And start with the hips. Shakira was right when she said, “the hips don’t lie.” If your hips are tight, I can guarantee that back pain and knee pain are only a 20-minute ride away.

Begin with a Figure 4 stretch. Sit in a kitchen or desk chair and move toward the front half of the seat. With one knee bent at 90-degrees, place the opposite ankle up on that knee. Know place your hands on the knee and ankle of the leg that is up. Keeping your chest up tall and back flat, lean forward until you feel a stretch in the hip of the leg that is up and crossed. Breathe slowly and put a mild stretch into the hip. Hold it for 20-seconds and repeat on the other side. Do 3 on each side.

This is a great stretch to do while sitting down for a meal during lunch on your ride with buddies! It will keep your hips loose and in turn take some tension from your back!

One way to keep your back flat during the Figure 4 stretch.

One way to keep your back flat during the Figure 4 stretch.

So remember, cycling is good for developing endurance. But sometimes the benefits do not outweigh the costs. In which case, you need a better option!

Keep an eye out for “TrackDay Fitness” in the coming months. It’s a training program designed to increase your riding endurance, reduce your riding pain and improve your riding ability.