Motocross is considered to be one of the most demanding sports in the world. For riders that are racing in adult championships, three motos, each being 30 minutes + 2 laps, is the norm. That’s 1.5 hours of intense riding and that doesn’t even include the warm up session. Whether you have huge amounts of natural talent or are just starting out, a clear training program is going to essential if you want any chance of winning a motocross championship.
Mental focus is a huge part of being able to win championships. The best riders in the world believe they can win and don’t let any excuses stop them. Jeremy McGrath is the all-time super cross king, with 72 wins and 7 titles. Most professional riders start racing when they are 4, but not Jeremy. He didn’t even swing a leg over a bike until he was 14; most riders have already been scouted by professional teams at this point. Whether riders are trying to win their first race, clear a gap to save time each lap or battling arm pump, they need to focus in a positive way.
With most bikes being over 100kg nowadays, you’d expect strength to be one of the only factors; it’s not. When racers race, they are keeping muscles and joints tense for 30-35 minutes at a time. One wrong move could easy result in a dislocated shoulder or a torn ligament so stretching is extremely important. Stretching shouldn’t just be done as a warm-up and warm-down; it should be part of a training routine. Aim to do 15 minutes of stretching every time you train.
After a first race, most riders ache in places that they didn’t even know muscles existed. For that reason, the only way to get bike fit is to get bike time. Not only will this help with strength, but it gives riders the technical ability that they need to win.
An important thing to consider is that focus should not be put on the areas of the track where a rider excels. If the rider is lacking on left hand turns, off-cambers or step-ups; the focus for their program should be there. In addition, training on a different track each week will give a rider a much more rounded skill set on the bike.
Don’t under-estimate the power of dieting. Most riders will fade towards the end of a race; possibly slowing their lap times by as much as 10%. Sometimes this is to do with their cardio or lack of mental focus, but dieting does play a role. Drinking lots of water, eating a balanced diet and loading up on carbohydrates before a race is going to help make sure that a rider can go the distance.
Check out most people in the gym working on their cardio routine. Most trainers will suggest that a 30 minute routine maintaining 60% intensity is going to do the trick and that includes some breaks; that’s not going to cut it for a champion.
A race is going to be 35 minutes long, there are no breaks and the likelihood heart rate is going to be running at about 70-80% throughout each moto. Even if a rider makes it through the first moto, there are still two left! Try and do three sets of 30 minute sessions. Increase the intensity as it becomes more comfortable and then increase to 35 minutes and beyond. Cycling, swimming and running are all great cardio exercises.
The big bikes weigh anything from 90kg (125) through to around 110kg (450). Riders will be lugging these bikes round for long periods of time. A rider needs the strength to muscle the bike where they want it and recover from sketchy moments that could’ve ended up with them getting a face full of dirt.
Ricky Carmichael is known as the G.O.A.T (greatest of all time); super cross and motocross combined. He is one of the only riders to win 24/24 motos in the AMA Motocross Championship; undefeated. Coming through the amateur ranks, nobody would’ve thought a 5.5ft rider could achieve so much. Although he might be one of the smallest in terms of height, he is one of the biggest in terms of build. His riding style has been adapted round his strength; it makes up for his lack of height.
Riders that need to build on their strength should a use a range of weight training and optimum nutrition whey protein which will give them a huge advantage on the track.
All of these factors play an important role in motocross. Cardio, dieting and even strength training might seem like hard work for some people; they are nothing for motocross riders. The real battle is having the belief and desire to win; focusing being first to the chequered flag is the key.