Most Physically Demanding Sport
One of the biggest misconceptions in all of sports is the physical fitness side of motocross; it is one of the most physically demanding sports in the world and requires extreme cardiovascular endurance as well as unique muscle strength. “You race motocross? How hard could that be? You just sit on the seat and twist the throttle and you go, anyone could do that. ” I have heard that so many times throughout my life, and it couldn’t be farther from the truth.
Motocross is a sport that started in the mid 1920’s; it used to be just a hobby that friends would get together and compete on the weekends. Now, it requires more dedication and determination than anyone could imagine. Pro motocross events are broken into two individual races, each being thirty minutes, followed by two individual laps after the clock strikes zero. These races are called motos. There are no breaks during the motos, and with the season being in the heat of the summer, it is extremely grueling.
The bikes weigh two hundred and fifty pounds, and the gear is approximately twenty five pounds. To muscle the bike around for that long and not injure yourself, it requires a special type of fitness to be a successful motocross athlete. Cardiovascular endurance is important in any professional sport, but in motocross, it is a necessity. Since racing is such an adrenaline rush, on top of being so physical, your heart is forced to beat at extremely high rates. Studies conducted at the University of Florida under Dr.
Augustine revealed more specific details. The heart rate spikes at the start of the moto, right as the gate drops, heart rates can reach over two hundred beats per minute at this time. After the start, the heart continues to beat at the same rate for the first few laps of the moto, then slows down to roughly one hundred seventy five beats per minute for the middle of the moto. All of these facts depend on the race, if the race is more intense, the heart will beat faster (Augustine).
Two hundred heart beats per minute is exceptionally hard on the body, but the heart rate threshold of a motocross athlete is even more astounding. A heart rate threshold is the percent of your maximum heart rate at any time during the activity. Your HR (heart rate) Max can be calculated very easily. For example, a twenty two year old athlete with a resting heart rate of sixty two beats per minute, has an HR Max of one hundred eighty five beats per minute, which is excellent (How to use Heart Rate Reserve).
In most sports, the athletes’ HR threshold ranges from 84-89%, motocross athletes show a HR threshold of 94-96% (Augustine). If ones threshold is any higher than 96%, it is considered dangerous and unhealthy (Heart Rate Reserve). Even more impressive than such a high HR max and HR threshold, is the ability of a racer to hold those numbers for the entire race, usually about thirty five minutes. During vigorous physical activity, it is difficult to keep your heart rate at such a high intensity without taking breaks.
Motocrossers are not able to take breaks unless such person pulls off of the track and withdraws from the competition. Most sports, like football, have several short breaks where players may catch their breath or call a timeout to get water or even get substituted for another player. Unfortunately, that is not the case for a professional motocross racer, once the gate drops, no stopping until the checkered flag flies. There are three main aspects of building the correct muscles for motocross; a strong core, a solid back, and the practice of total body movements.
These are all key ingredients to becoming the fittest one on the track. A strong core is the most important, some would say. “If you think core training is all about having a great six pack so that you can flex next summer when you take off your jersey, you would only be half correct” (Virtual Trainer). Strong core muscles allow for proper posture and minimal lower back pain. A strong abdomen acts as the base of support for the whole body when on the bike, core training also allows you to keep efficient form during a race.
If the core muscles are weak, the racer will change his form or posture, redirecting the force and strain to the shoulders and arms which will pave the way for a quick fatigue. A strong back is also a key component to the complete motocross racer. Typical body builders will concentrate on exercises that focus on the muscle groups that are clearly visible in the mirror; chest, arms, abs and quads. While exercising these muscle groups is still very important, it is equally important to work the muscle groups in the posterior chain (back, hamstrings, and calfs).
The muscles in your back are just as important to maintain proper riding stance as the chest, shoulders, and quads. A weak posterior chain will make for a slumped posture and fatigue other important muscles more rapidly. A strength imbalance between the front and back of your body can lead to general fatigue and poor riding style as the race progresses (Racer X). Total body movements are just as important as the other exercises and muscles mentioned above, but can be very difficult to do. As most people would say, they don’t have enough time to spare for weights and cardio training for the races.
A weight training program is designed to be quick and efficient, similar to a moto. The key to an efficient total body strength program is to incorporate exercises that require the use of multiple joints versus isolation exercises. For example, exercises like a step-up press, dead lift, and power clean, give greater overall strength benefits in less time than single-joint exercises like bench press or bicep curls. By performing exercises that are multi-joint oriented, you can better imitate actions on the bike and improve your skills and fitness on the track.
Motocross racers are experts at endurance training and therefore usually weight train with lower weights and higher reps, but lifting heavier weights for fewer reps is necessary for building strength during the off season. Having strong muscles will increase your stability of your joint, reducing the strain on ligaments. Such actions will help you recover when a lot of strength is required to prevent a crash. Some racers are afraid of building muscle, due to the bulky feeling racers want to avoid, which is why it should be done in moderation.
As long as a steady diet with sufficient calories is included in the program, muscle building will help significantly when training to become the best. As this is true in any sport, training and exercising should be done in moderation. Over training can result in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, a disease where the body has been over trained and becomes chronically tired throughout the day no matter what the activity may be. Working the right muscles, as mentioned earlier is key, but bulking muscles can be detrimental to your performance on the track.
Exercises like bicep curls and bench presses will get the muscles big, but sometimes that can mean too bulky. When muscles are too bulky, arm pump may arise. Arm pump, is a term used in motocross used to describe your arms becoming fatigued, and eventually cramping up solid. This can be related to “Superman’s Kryptonite”, because no matter how fast or fit you are, arm pump will ruin a good race (Virtual Trainer). Compared to other sports, motocross has always been looked at as just a hobby rather than something physically demanding on the body.
However, that is completely untrue. Motocross racers average a heart rate of 96% of the max of two hundred, football players average 75% of their max of one hundred seventy five beats per minute (scientific-football). Soccer is one of the most physically demanding sports on the planet, and their facts suggest an average threshold of 85% at one hundred eighty five beats per minute (physic football), still not as much as professional motocross. More closely related to motocross, mountain biking is also very vigorous; however motocross still stands at the top.
Mountain biking is close, with an average threshold of 90%, and a max of one hundred eighty five beats per minute (Augustine). All of these statistics are based on information on top athletes of their respective sports, which accurately places motocross among the most physical sports in existence. Although some people may never be convinced, the bottom line is motocross requires physical strength and outstanding cardiovascular endurance, and the facts prove it. Whether it is football, soccer, or bicycling, all sports are unique and physically demanding in their own way.