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CrossFit for Motocross and Action Sports

by Chris Worden

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Quick, pick one of these 10 general physical skills that aren’t necessary to a motocrosser: Cardiovascular Endurance, Stamina, Strength, Flexibility, Power, Speed, Coordination, Accuracy, Agility or Balance. Come on, isn’t there something in there that doesn’t matter to the motocross rider or racer? I didn’t think so.

Let me propose something here, then I’ll get on with my point: the fittest people on earth are those who are well balanced at all of those 10 general physical skills. Further, the fittest motocrosser on the track is probably more balanced in them than is the rest of the pack finishing behind him. But what can one do to improve his or her fitness to balance these general physical skills out?

You could move to Southern California and hire some of the industries highest paid trainers, or you could simply do CrossFit.

CrossFit has received a bit of bad press in recent months within the action sports business, and as a trainer, athlete and journalist I feel it’s my duty to step up to the mic and defend a training protocol I believe to be the best method to prepare for the demands of action sport.

First, let me introduce a term into the conversation that hasn’t seen any press yet: general physical preparedness (GPP). GPP is not a training protocol, like periodization or the conjugate method, it is a state we are trying to train the body towards; it’s putting your body in a ‘ready state’. This is the missing link for an athlete like you, the motocrosser/snowboarder/skater. I can tell you with absolute certainty, after personally training hundreds of athletes and spending my whole life on boards and bikes that most of us would benefit more from chasing GPP than anything else.

But how does one maximize GPP?

Fundamentally, you cannot improve your GPP without stepping out of your comfort zone. Think of that zone as all the movements you do in the gym because you’re either good at them, or they make you feel good (think jogging, cycling, bicep curls). Barrel chested dudes who love to bench press continue to do so because it makes them feel good, forget the fact that they couldn’t run a mile in under 12 minutes. Then there’s the long distance runner, or cyclist. Ask that person to press half their bodyweight overhead for reps or jump on a 36-inch plyobox, they’d probably fall pretty short of either of those tasks.

Enter CrossFit’s number one goal: improving GPP.

CrossFit utilizes a number of time-tested, functional movements that are scientifically proven to improve your fitness (see list below). Bicep curls, useless machines (elliptical, stair stepper) and hours spent on a bicycle have no place in this training protocol because regardless of what you’ve been told, they aren’t serving to make you a better athlete. Further, CrossFit’s programming is by definition highly varied, you’re doing some strength work one day, running the next, then the following your doing some mixed modality workout for time. The next week will look completely different. This is how GPP is improved. This is how you become a better athlete.

Take a look at the training program of any successful athlete with a high level of fitness (sans those in skill sports relying on talent) these days and you’ll find the following movements being done to prepare for their sport:

Weightlifting
Deadlift
Squat (Front, Back & Overhead)
Press (including the Push Press)
Power Clean
Snatch

Gymnastics
Pull-up
Push-up
Sit-up
Squats (unloaded)
Jumping

Monostructural
Rowing (most likely on a Concept 2 rower)
Running (mixed speeds and distances, not just jogging)
Cycling

All those movements listed above are part of the foundation of CrossFit’s training program and this is why you as an action sports athlete should consider joining an affiliate. In short order you will find yourself doing exercising you may be avoiding, and forgetting about the hours you’ve wasted doing work that haven’t paid dividends.

It’s time to start training like an athlete.

For more information on CrossFit, or to find an affiliate in your area visit CrossFit.com

About the Author
Chris Worden has raced motorcycles, bicycles, played tennis, football and kicked around on boards his whole life. The results he’s seen in his previous attempts at achieving a high level of fitness were marginal. Running, cycling and the rest of the steady-state cardio never did him much good athletically, but it took about 10 years to figure that out. Then he found CrossFit. He is currently the Editor of Motocross.com & GrindTV.com/moto as well as a personal and group trainer at CrossFit Costa Mesa.

His desk is made of used dirt bike tires.

E-mail Chris at cworden@motocross.com

That's it for now, until next time, good luck with your training and remember, if you have a question, log on to the Virtual Trainer Expert Forum and have your question answered by a panel of experts. In addition, be sure and check out the Racer X Virtual Trainer archive section. Your complete one-stop information zone for motocross fitness. VT Signature

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Discussion

  1. Gravatar
    Ryan Koontz November 12, 2010 at 12:35 pm

    I have been doing CrossFit for about a year now. This is going to become the new training for Motocross! From 2005-2008 I was competing professionally in motocross and was coming up a little short. I wish I had been familiar with CrossFit then, because I think it would have changed the outcome of some things for me. I am currently a member of a CrossFit affiliate now and I have to say, it works wonders. You may think you are fit, but until you try CrossFit you don't realize what FIT really means. I now have a motocross training business where I incorporate on-the-bike training with off-the-bike training. The off-the-bike training is CrossFit. Once one top rider begins training with CrossFit, they will see the difference and it will soon be adopted as the training choice for motocross athletes.

  2. Gravatar
    Matt November 12, 2010 at 12:35 pm

    I could not disagree more. Where did this cat get his education? I have a BS and a Masters in Ex Phys, I work as a S&C coach for a SEC college training their athletes and this guy is full of it. I raced bicycles for my graduate school, as well as olympic lift to train for mx. Anyone who knows anything about fitness knows that crosfit prepares you for nothing other than...well...crossfit and maybe the military (let me add I also attended a senior military college). While performing exercises for time, form goes out the window and increases the risk of injury. I tell my athletes daily "sloppy in the weightroom equals sloppy on the field/track". Don't misunderstand me, I have respect for crossfit athletes for what they do...compete at crossfit meets. They are indeed athletes, but the skills are not transferable to other sports due to the nature. I coach several competitive olympic lifters and you should know that at meets where crossfit athletes are competing there is a constant buzz over their horrible technique in the snatch as well as the clean and jerk. I'm sick of people giving shity advice, most of the time this website has valuable information with a scientific basis...but someone dropped the ball on this post.

  3. Gravatar
    casey November 12, 2010 at 1:22 pm

    @ Matt... I honestly do not care how a crossfit athlete competes at a powerlifting event. I train for overall full body fitness not just to lift a wieght one time and move on. I can do it all including run and then turn around and run a six min mile. I am a big fan of training like cross fit or even P90X as they have the ability to work toward overall fitness. I applaude meatheads powerlifting, but I look forward to being strong and able to run and jump.

  4. Gravatar
    Joe Celso November 12, 2010 at 1:42 pm

    Matt who? SEC what?

    I will admit, there are some sloppy CrossFitter's out there... but that's not everyone. Sloppiness is certainly not tolerated in my gym. Anyone worth thier salt knows that proper technique/form is the most efficient means of getting work done... mechanices - consistency - intensity... that is the protocol. Again, not everyone is good - and I too do not appreciate shitty coaches.

    Should the teeny-weeny oly lift community really complain because some novices have taken an interest in thier sport? That's like the A class complaining about the B, C, mini and Senior classes showing up at the races. Are the oly lifts ONLY valuable if performed flawlessy for 1 rep? Is Nick Saban gonna bench Mark Ingram for bending his arms early on a snatch?

    Not transferable? Yeah, learning to efficiently use your body as a unit to move itself and other objects through space wouldn't help me do anything other than move my body and other objects through space. On the other hand, locking my femur in place and flexing/extending my knee, and/or balancing on a rubber ball full of air transfers to... ...um ...damn! - absolutely nothing. Does the football player power clean so he can lift other players off the pile and up to his shoulders? ...Or is it do develop and learn to harness the power of the hip?

    Finally - CrossFit is far more than just the WOD on crossfit.com. Sure, it would be rather stupid for Dungey to go try "Tommy V" on the Friday before Anahiem just because it showed up on the main site. Does that mean he should not employ "constantly varied, functional movements at high intensity" in his training? CrossFit is a PHILOSOPHY that can be utilized to develop basic strength and conditioning for any sport (ie, CF Football, CF Endurance) including motocross too. After that, you need to practice!

  5. Gravatar
    Aaron Pritchard November 12, 2010 at 3:34 pm

    Matt's problem is he has a college education. Kind of stuck in the box so they say, or what the books say. No disrespect to Matt, I am guilty also. Crossfit has proven that it will improve athletic performance in any sport. Not just once but over and over again. Once you start researching how many elite level athletes ( from all kinds of sports) are using Crossfit and have documented their performance improvements to prove results. Its real hard to argue that Crossfit doesn't work. I am by no means an elite athlete but after Crossfit every physical activity I do is easier and all the sports I play as a hobby I play better. Most top motocrossers are already doing Crossfit based workouts, they just don't know they are. If you want to argue that it is only for Crossfit athletes I know a few MMA guys you can argue with.

  6. Gravatar
    Matt November 12, 2010 at 4:35 pm

    Powerlifting (bench, squat, deadlift) is totally different from Olympic lifting(snatch, clean and jerk). There is no power involved in Powerlifting, yes kinda ironic. Power = force x velocity Powerlifts are not velocity dependent like Oly lifts. In Oly lifts if you don't move the bar fast you will not successfully complete the lift. Just wanted to clear that up.

    AND, natural tallent on the bike will take you further than any fitness program ever could, you can run 6 miles and be the stongest person on the track, but if you are not precise on the bike and ride flawlessly you won't win. (unless you are a sand bagger)

    Next

    If you have done Oly lifts then you should know that they are indeed full body. The Oly lifts are about motor unit (the neuron and the muscle fibers in connects to) recruitment. Teach the motor units to fire and produce the force necessary to move the object including a bike. Once you are stronger, it is easier to do the same amt of work (save energy or ride harder). This recruitment also helps in the changing of direction and injury prevention. Teach the right muscles to fire at the right time. Example, when you plant your foot there are often large amts of force on the knee. As you know a lot of guys tear ligaments this way. By strengthening the muscles around the joints such as the knee (Rectus Femoris, Vastus Lateralis Vastus Medialis and the Hamstring group) you better stabilize the joing during that stress. I fully realize that we are not training these athletes to be competitive lifters and no you don't have to do only singles to see results. The most powerful athletes in the world are Oly Lifters and throwers such as shot putters. This power results from Oly Lifting. I'm just saying why wouldn't we stick to what we know works and shows the results we want. My problem goes back to technique. Its like riding is your form as good at the end of a moto as the beginning...never. When you perform full body lifts for time or high reps you increase the risk of injury from form deteriation. Sets of 8s and 10s are used on a regular basis, but technique is where the success comes from. Injury rates in a all sports not just motocross have gone up in recent years with the addition of these fad programs. Its not a matter of thinking outside the box, its a matter of doing what has been shown to be successful and prevent injuries keeping you on the bike.

    Dang apparently I fired some people up. At least some people agree with some of the stuff I'm saying. I'm likin it.

  7. Gravatar
    Chris Worden November 12, 2010 at 5:44 pm

    You clearly didn't read the article.

    Notice how the clean and jerk and snatch are both mentioned as part of CrossFit's training program?

  8. Gravatar
    Tommy Gun November 12, 2010 at 10:29 pm

    None of you guys really understand, because it all comes down to genetics, and that's a fact. Opinions and trainers including all of the ones with Racer X are basically teaching nothing more than the basics, nothing has changed, but the face of the salesmen. None of you young trainers know what your talking about, and really full of yourselves. You think that you have the next great exercise, nutrition, gadget, and truly belive that your exercises are new, and different than anyone else. Wake up and quit ripping off your clients, get them a baby sitter, and go find another job.

  9. Gravatar
    tim November 12, 2010 at 11:22 pm

    matt,
    your point is made, crossfitters are not oly or power lifters. Isthe form perfect all time..no..but i would argue the GOAT's wasnt most of the time either. My point, being strong is important and having wind is.
    Crossfit is not a specialty..is there a perfect trianing program for mx..yep, you bet, and it aint crossfit, his name is Aldon Baker, for the rest of us that cannot get his number or pay for him daily we can get the next best thing for 100 bucks a month and get access to better athletic training than you can buy at any globo gym,
    or personal trainer.
    Matt, i am sorry you are loosing all of your clients to the truth, or as you call it, Crossfit, it sucks , my good friend gave up 70k a year to teach the truth, sorry the facts are on crossfits side, on top of the results..and oh by the way if you want to point to injuries, i will put crossfit's up agains mx 's any dya of the week and twice on sunday.

  10. Gravatar
    Chris Worden November 13, 2010 at 8:46 am

    Tommy,

    You'll notice that in the article I write that the movements used in CrossFit are time tested. Each movement was invented, or acknowledged as movements, LOOONG before CrossFit came around.

    Let it be known that CrossFit has not invented anything, more just taken what really works in exercise phys and used it to the benefit of hundreds of thousands of people around the world.

    Genes certainly play a role in the process, but one must express his/her genetic potential to be great; you can't simply rely on them alone.

  11. Gravatar
    tim November 13, 2010 at 9:54 am

    I guess when you think about it..your form standing up on a motorcycle is nothing more than holding a crappy deadlift/squat position for 30 minutes..so it would seam to reason that we had better pratice those lifts regardless right?
    but acroding to Matt, we better not learn them in a crossfit environment because its possible we could do them wrong ?

  12. Gravatar
    Trina K Reyes November 13, 2010 at 3:53 pm

    We personally have several riders that attend our CrossFit Station Box in Eagle Idaho..and I can say that we have helped them succeed in becoming better riders. Great Article - we appreciate the exposure for CrossFitters everywhere.

    Trina

  13. Gravatar
    Rob Styron November 13, 2010 at 8:49 pm

    @Matt...I can't agree with you more. You are hitting the nail on the head!

  14. Gravatar
    JC November 14, 2010 at 9:59 pm

    The debate over crossfit/Olympic lifting/powerlifting will never end. With that being said, I will agree with a little bit of everything posted here. Will cross fit help increase performance? Yes. Will Olympic lifting and powerlifting help increase performance? Yes. The point is if you take any untrained (strength training) athlete and introduce them to a strength and conditioning program they're going to see results. Now as a coach you have to determine what the best way is to go about achieving these results for your athlete.
    @ Tim, to answer your question about not learning these lifts in a crossfit environment because you could do them wrong... ask an educated coach, not your friend, and he or she will tell you that crossfit is probably one of the worse environments to learn Olympic lifting. Olympic lifting is about form and technique as Matt has already stated. You would be doing a disservice to any athlete you allow to learn these lifts during a crossfit workout. Trying to perform these movements while fighting exhaustion is just asking to get your athlete injured. Yes, I understand that on track situations may put a rider at risk but they shouldn't be put at risk of injury in the gym. And as far as losing clients to the "truth" you couldn't be more wrong. Many of my clients are former crossfitters that have been injured from the program.
    @tommy gun. I agree with you. We can't change genetics and far too many trainers want the spotlight in their athlete�s success. Truth is, many of these top athletes would be successful with nearly any program. It's not about making up the next great exercise or routine, it's about prescribing exercises in a manner that keep the rider safe and peaking at the right times during the season.
    As I stated earlier this debate will never end but ask yourself this, would you go to a doctor that passed a weekend test and became an "expert" in his or her given field?

  15. Gravatar
    Savage November 14, 2010 at 10:05 pm

    I believe Crossfit is a great way to train for MX. If any one has ever done "Karen" "Fran"or "Murph" you will feel like you just did a 30 min moto. Hands down it will better prepare you than anything you will do at a standard gym.

    Crossfit has also introduced me to the importance flexibility. Everyone MXer should do the MobilityWOD.

    Matt, I wouldnt say that Crossfit is a fad. They simply have taken tried and true exercises and blended them together. Shakeweight.. now thats a fad.

    Dont do it if you care not to but saying it doesnt work is false.

  16. Gravatar
    Rob Stryon November 15, 2010 at 12:03 pm

    O lifting is just a component of an overall program that needs to be sequenced accordingly. Not throughout an entire circuit fashion program as Crossfit usually incorporates year round. Also, no athlete needs to do any kind of rep range of more than 15-20; I have seen workouts from the above stated that want 40-50 pullups...talk about rotator cuff problems. @Jc thanks for the intelligent post. You have to remember the number one purpose for strength and conditioning is injury prevention. If your athlete is hurt, they can not train, race, or compete. This is not the goal of Crossfit.

  17. Gravatar
    BJ November 16, 2010 at 10:09 am

    As a CrossFit trainer, I feel the need to clairify a few points being discussed on this forum. We currently train several professional and amateur motocross athletes, and the gains in their fitness, flexibility, and overall strength in the gym and on the bike truely impressive. To say that CrossFit doesn't improve an athlete's performance is naive and unsupported.

    Injuries during CrossFit are a real concern for anyone, as some of the movements are very advanced and require precise form and technique. At our box (gym), we run all clients (athletes and everyday people) through careful training in order to master these techniques long before they ever perform them in a WOD (workout). If someone cannot show to be proficient at a movement, they are modified down untill they are. We never throw someone in a WOD and have them perform a movement for the first time, as this WILL create injury. CrossFit gets its bad rep from bad trainers, not from the programing.

    In addition, all our Moto athletes programs are a modification of the standard CrossFit protocal, in order to meet the special needs of their sport. Same goes for all our Baseball, Soccer, Football, Volleyball, Swimming, and other athletes. While it may opperate under the same base of ideas, it is not the same.

    I invite all who are curious to do their own research on www.crossfit.com, as there are numerous journal articles and research to get info from.

  18. Gravatar
    SEAN November 16, 2010 at 6:20 pm

    Can you provide some peer reviewed scientific research articles supporting Crossfit?

  19. Gravatar
    Chris Worden November 16, 2010 at 9:48 pm

    SEAN,

    Here's a start:

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9139179

    It's a study on the metabolic profile of high intensity intermittent exercise which is essentially what CrossFit is, sans the strength building stuff that is done pretty frequently, along with the monostructural work.

    /c

  20. Gravatar
    JC November 16, 2010 at 10:25 pm

    I did a little research because that's what I do. Maybe it's because I'm stuck in the box still? Here are my findings:
    The author of this article joined CrossFit in 2009 and has since become certified... Hardly an expert.
    It says in this article that, his desk is made of used dirt bike tires.
    It says on his gyms website that, his desk is made of bumper plates.
    I have a hard time believing someone that doesn't know what his own desk is made of.
    And then I also found this video...
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V75gyilOMCU
    I'm not trying to attack your opinions regarding CrossFit. I'm just trying to show the visitors of this website that there are much healthier training options out there. Just check out the homepage of this site and you will find a lot of scientifically backed information.

  21. Gravatar
    Racer X Virtual Trainer November 17, 2010 at 9:09 am

    Ok, as the owner of this website I feel it is my obligation to join in on this conversation. First, I like the fact that a topic on training raises questions and sparks debate. With the obesity problem (read lazy) we have in the world right now, any and all discussion on fitness is welcome. I don't have the time to address each answer but I would like to say this.

    1. JC - First of all, thank you for supporting the VT website. I have tried my hardest to involve the best trainers I can find to contribute to the site. I think I have done a pretty good job of that. BUT, you saying, "'I'm not trying to attack your opinions regarding CrossFit" and leading off by mocking the authors choice of words to describe his desk IS attacking. Plus saying that he just became certified in 2009 and then calling him "Hardly an expert" is a bit out of line as well. I feel that part of my responsibility on this website is to present topics and articles that I feel are written by people who DO know what they are talking about. Chris (the author) is certainly one of those people in my opinion. We can all disagree and have our opinions on the merits of Crossfit, just keep it on a professional level and be respectful.

    2. While I do not completely agree with the first post by Ryan, that Crossfit will take over the world and be the only form of training to ever exist (I'm being funny), I do think that if more riders trained with Crossfit other than going to the gym and doing what they did in high school, they will be better off. Using Crossfit to train for MX is a great fit. Both develop lean muscle mass, muscular endurance, flexibility, and superior cardio.

    3. The post that pretty much sums up my opinion on Crossfit and how it relates to MX is by BJ. First - If Crossfit is viewed in a negative light, it is done so b/c of bad trainers not the protocol. Second - Athletes who are training for a particular sport should take components of CF and modify the program to fit their specific needs (this is what personal training is all about). I think too many people think that CF IS the WOD and there is no straying from it. We all need to train our weaknesses and be cautious about doing a certain workout just b/c everyone else is doing it or its the WOD.

    Bottom line - Is Crossfit a good program for the general public and MX athletes. Absolutely!!!!! It's about damn time we get off the tread mills and stationary bikes and do some real work. Is it difficult and does it incorporate "dangerous" moves. Hell yes, but if you learn the correct technique the risk is greatly reduced. And as far as being too tough and "most people won't be able to stick with it." (I hear this quit a bit) Well, all I can say to that is welcome to the couch my friend. You just found another excuse NOT to exercise. From the look of the general population, we need more exercise. Especially exercise that is challenging.

  22. Gravatar
    JC November 17, 2010 at 2:06 pm

    Tim,

    Thanks for the response and thanks for having a great site. Were my comments a bit out of line? Yes probably but I've spoken and I have got a response. Thanks for that by the way. I have already stated in a previous post that crossfit will indeed enhance performance. I'm not debating that. I just wanted to produce the facts that I have found. I agree that there are no bad exercises just bad technique and bad prescription of them. I also understand that high intensity exercises are extremely important for motocross. However there are many other components to fitness that need to be established, other than technique, before these high intensity methods are used.
    Thanks again for the website.

  23. Gravatar
    Racer X Virtual Trainer November 17, 2010 at 3:50 pm

    JC - Well said. Now go exercise!

  24. Gravatar
    Ryan Koontz November 18, 2010 at 5:20 pm

    As some of you have already stated, CrossFit is more than just the WOD. But the bigger point is what Tim just said in #3, even though #2 is not entirely where I was going with that. CrossFit can be taken many ways by different people. The biggest misconception that I think some Crossfit gyms are portraying is technique. The CrossFit gym that I am a member of takes you through a 4 week course on technique LONG before you go out and try to perform these moves at high intensity and higher weight. If technique is the focus of your Crossfit trainer, which it should be, then by doing a workout for time you can almost entirely eliminate poor form. It is just like riding, you learn the technique and you push yourself hard and faster while still maintaining proper technique on the bike. It is you as an athlete and your CrossFit trainer to push you appropriately and ensure you are doing proper technique. Again, if Crossfit is performed correctly with the correct technique and experienced trainer, this will bring a whole new level to an athlete.

  25. Gravatar
    Chef January 03, 2011 at 4:20 pm

    The fact is there are any number of CrossFIt boxes out there that have no formal training in physiology, kinesiology, corrective exercise, postural analysis, or any experience modifying the program to meet the needs of specific athletes weakness' or sport-specific needs. That's ok, I can name a dozen big box gyms in our area that suffer from the same diseases.

    We have in our staff members we have 85 years of combined coaching experience, three sports/health related masters degrees, 4 undergrad degree holders , literally dozens of collegiate and professional athletes that have trained and continue to train with us... and we offer CrossFit as our first choice of GPP for those athletes and our military service members.

    Matt, you go to crappy gym, you get crappy training, regardless of the program.

    eat like it's a sport,

    Chef

  26. Gravatar
    Chase Novelich May 05, 2011 at 11:52 am

    I didn't take the time to go through and read all of the comments and I am a little late on this whole matter. I am going to have to say I disagree with "Matt" completely. I work in a CrossFit gym as a graphic designer and where I can see form going out the window, form goes out he window in motocross as well. If you look at CrossFit you are pushing yourself for 20-45 minutes non stop as you do in motocross. If you can push yourself and still remember to maintain your form in the gym then you can certaintly do it on the track. That is another reason why CrossFit is perfect for motocross athletes.

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