Tag Archives: fitness

!MotoGP SPOILER! Fitness is Foundational.

4 Apr

After many blog posts, I’ve realized that I may be leading many people think that if your fitness is up to par, then there is no reason that you can’t ride at the top of the class and you’ll keep the bike upright all day long.

Well, after watching the Argentina MotoGP race, I was brought back to reality (rather harshly, as I am a Ducati guy).

When 8 of the worlds best motorcycle riders fail to complete the race, that’s not an indication of a lack of fitness. Instead it’s an indication that some other factor has come into play.

It’s tough to say that MotoGP guys aren’t in as good of shape as they could be. Nobody in the paddock is overweight or even average sized for their height. All are on the thin side. However, they are definitely strong with great anaerobic endurance. While their body shape and size is definitely an asset in a sport that relies on an optimal weight:power ratio, most track day riders are not that same size.

Back to the race this weekend. As rider after rider spilled to the tarmac, it was evident that these guys are strong enough. After hitting the deck, sliding 20-30 meters then sprinting to their bike and picking it up, their heart rate is going. Yes, adrenaline plays a role. Yet, many of these riders were operating at their highest levels of fitness!

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Espargaro and Crutchlow run to bikes after crashing in Argentina. Photo: http://www.crash.net

You start to look at the riders who can sprint to their bike and pick it up out of the gravel pit and get back to riding. Then look at those who can’t get their bike going. This is where fitness definitely plays a role! Fitness allows us to keep riding even after a spill. It allows us to keep going after a long day at the track.

And if you’re Andrea Dovizioso, it allows you to finish the race!

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Dovizioso pushes his Ducati the final 2 corners to secure 13th position in the Argentina MotoGP race. Photo Credit: http://www.zigcdn.com

So how does this play into your trackdays? Fitness is the foundation for sport. Athletes who are not fit for the sport will not be participating for long. Just because you’re currently riding track days does not mean that you have to stop and “get fit” before continuing to ride. Any improvement in fitness will pay dividends.

As for fitness advice following the Argentina GP, if you can put treadmill pushes or plate pushes into your training program. To do treadmill pushes, turn the treadmill off, get on it, grab the handles in front of you and start driving the belt using YOUR power. Lean into it and drive your legs into the belt. You’ll find there is a lot of resistance there. March on the belt for 15-20 seconds followed by a rest of 60-90 seconds.Repeat 10-times. As you improve in your ability to do this, try to push it as hard and fast as you can for 15-20 seconds. You’ll find this is incredibly exhausting but it will prepare you for those maximal effort situations such as dragging your bike off the road or pushing it for a bump start when the battery dies!

Have a great week and don’t forget next week’s MotoGP race at Circuit of the Americas in Texas!

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!

MotoGP goes to Mugello: Fitness for a Fast Track

20 May

While Le Mans is a bit of a tight track with the occasional straight away, the top speed is under 280 km/h. It has quite a few slower, tighter corners.

To really hammer on the throttle, a solid core and strong legs are important to make keep the majority of the weight up on the front of the bike. Otherwise, you open up the throttle and it wants to wheelie. 

Mugello on the other hand has the longest straight on the schedule, sees a top speed of over 320 km/h and has multiple very fast corners. So how does this change the fitness of requirements of riding? How will Marc Marquez, Andrea Iannone, and Dani Pedrosa manage with their injuries?

Let’s first talk about a track with a long fast straight away. The first thing to consider is the fitness required for the hard acceleration as well as the hard deceleration at the beginning and end of the straight.

Obviously crunches would be your first thought. However, take a look at how the body functions on the bike and you start to see there are some different options.

First off, the thing we don’t want to do is to try and pull our selves forward using the handlebars. I’ll give you 2 guesses as to why, but you’ll only need 1.  Full throttle acceleration will cause the front wheel to get light. It gets even lighter if you pull yourself forward using the bars. Use your legs to push the back end down instead!

If you don’t practice getting strong from down low, you’re going to struggle to use your legs on the bike. Photo credit: http://www.bretcontreras.com

That’s right, you’ll pull the wheel right off the ground and only encourage a wheelie. Not what you’re looking for when you’re trying to move forward.

So you’ll need some good leg strength from the crouched position. It is exactly for this reason why it’s important to work on getting a very low squat.

So whether you use a dumbbell to do goblet squats or a barbell to do front squats, either way we just need to focus on getting our hips down.

This way we push our weight over the front wheel to help keep it down without unintentionally pulling the front of the bike up.

The second thing to consider is on deceleration. We need to use our legs to grab the tank and keep us from sliding forward over the front wheel. Yes the bike will turn better with more weight up front but it also makes  it easy for the back to move around and unsettle the bike. Here we can use our arms as well to keep us from sliding forward. However, remember that if we put to much pressure onto our arms, it gets transferred to the front wheel. With that being said it is important to keep a solid posture by using our glutes and core to keep us from folding over during braking.

Looking at the image of the squat, you can see that doing squats also requires good posture. This makes squats a very good choice of exercise when training for riding. However, here’s a nugget of information for you to make the squat even better for moto riding.

When at the bottom of the squat, rise up 1-2 inches and hold that posture, focusing on contracting your glutes and postural muscles for 3-4 seconds before returning back to the up right position. Do this 2-4 sets of 6-12 repetitions.

So it’s a simple trick, but throw it into your workouts and see how well it transfers over to your riding! You’ll be amazed!

How to NOT be Dani Pedrosa during your trackday…

10 Apr

It was recently announced that Dani Pedrosa would not be racing for the next 3 rounds due to fascial release surgery to cure arm pump. Too bad Casey Stoner won’t be replacing him. But that’s a different story.

First a quick review of what fascia is. Think of it like the casing around a sausage link. The muscle is the meat. If the fascia is restricted, the muscle cannot expand or stretch. Throw in something like arm pump and the lack of fascial extensibility can essentially “choke” nerves that run through the forearm and cause tingling, numbness and overall poor performance.

In my personal opinion, having worked in physiotherapy for 8-years, this was a good call by Pedrosa. This certainly wasn’t going to get better over the course of the season.

But how can you work to prevent this from happening to yourself? Massage Therapy.

The best thing you can do for yourself is some type of myofascial release using a foam roller or massage stick.

For most people, muscles around the hips and ankles get very tight. Using massage therapy for these can be very beneficial as long as it’s done consistently. Kind of like brushing your teeth.

If you only do it before seeing the dentist, he’ll know. You can’t lie on this one.

How will foam rolling improve your fitness for trackdays? First off, being able to move around on the bike is crucial. Tight muscles make moving around more work than it needs to be on the moto. Additionally, as we’ve seen with Dani Pedrosa, myofascial tightness can make riding fast a challenge: legs get tight, forearms pumUse a foam roller to improve mobility of the hips and get rid of restrictions and back pain.p, shoulders tense. All can be minimized with proper fascial health.

How do we maintain fascial health? Foam roll the glutes, foam roll the calves. Spend about 60-seconds per side on each muscle group.

If you’d like a video “how to” on rolling the glutes, calves and quads, click on the links provided. Additionally you can see a simple way to perform myofascial release on your forearms here.

Myofascial release will keep muscles from feeling tight and impeding nerve function. When nerves are compressed, signals are delayed and muscles certainly don’t function as they should. By keeping the fascia healthy, movement comes easy and natural.

I’ll warn you though, myofascial therapy is quite uncomfortable. It probably won’t be the most comfortable thing you’ve ever done, but it sure is effective.

So let’s prep for our track day and get ourselves in shape to really ride the wheels off the moto! I’ve read interviews and seen video of MotoGP and WSBK riders using A) a foam roller, B) a massage stick or ball C) a physiotherapist performing manual myofascial release techniques on them.

Give the foam rolling a try before you watch the motoGP race from Circuit of the America’s this weekend. Then roll a little afterwards as well! You’ll be a fitter rider for it! Leave a comment and let me know how the rolling went and any questions you have! I’d love to answer them.

Also, leave a comment on your podium finishers for the Austin race! I’ll go first!

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.