Tag Archives: core training

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

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!

The simplest things, for the BIGGEST improvements

10 Aug

Being that I work in a physical therapy and fitness facility, you can imagine I see a lot of patients with knee, hip and shoulder pain. Now  I also work with athletes and the average Joe that need to avoid shoulder and hip pain. So what are the simplest of exercises that will give us, motorcycle riders,  the biggest “bang for the buck”?

First we have to look at the needs and demands of sport riding. In this case, the biggest demands are on hip mobility and strength along with shoulder/scapular stability. We have to be able to slide side to side on the bike while simultaneously throwing the knee out and holding it there.

We also have to have excellent upper body postural endurance and stability for when we are transitioning, braking and accelerating.

So here are 2 videos. The first is for your hips. The second is for your shoulders.

The first is hip abduction. From your hands and knees, lift the knee out to the side. Now if you don’t have a band to put around your legs, you can still do this and feel the hips doing a lot of work.

The next exercise is for your shoulder blades. Many riders have shoulders that are rounded forward, or protracted. This is usually caused by tight chest muscles and weak shoulder muscles. And it can cause a few frustrating injuries for racers and weekend riders alike.

Face pulls are great for the rhomboids and lower trapezius which are found to be weak in most people with shoulder pain.

Both of these exercises are good to start the workout with as they fully warm-up muscles that stabilize the shoulder, knees and lower back.

What areas of your body are you having trouble resolving pain? Let me know and I’ll give you the run down on the injury and how to get rid of the pain.