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Fundamentals of a MX Training Program

by Rob Styron

The Functional Movement Screen (FMS) is the product of an exercise philosophy known as Functional Movement. The screen is comprised of seven fundamental moments that test coordination, balance, core stability, and Left - Right body symmetry.

After writing the second article to Agility Training for Motocross, I got to thinking it would be best to share how I program my motocross athletes training. Sometimes people think it's okay to just show up at a gym, warm-up, throw a bunch of cool exercises together for 2 hours and BAM! They are ready to win! Not so; every exercise, every workout has a purpose. Remember, as stated before, the number one purpose for a quality strength program is injury prevention. If the athlete is hurt they obviously will not be able to perform at 100%. Followed a close second in purposefulness for training is the actual performance enhancement that comes with being physically fit.

When a client first comes to me, no matter their level in any sport, they go through a Functional Movement Screen. This is an evaluation process invented by the renowned physical therapists Gray Cook and Lee Burton. It consists of 7 movements and each client is ranked on each. It identifies imbalances therefore allowing me to prescribe corrective exercises to restore movement patterns. Remember, injury prevention. If you can’t move properly, compensation will occur, thus creating imbalances and injury.

Assuming we have a client moving with enough quality that isn’t dangerous, we start every workout with some myofascial release or also known as foam rolling. This helps create blood flow, lymphatic flow, gets the fascia (skin around the muscles) to loosen up, and in general is a great warm up tool. From there the client starts their dynamic warm up. Some studies have shown that static stretching before working out creates joint laxity. That’s a red flag for me; if there is a small chance of ANY injury we avoid it. Our stretching is done through movement patterns that don’t stress the ligamentous tissue. From there, the client moves into various mobility drills (think agility). Here is some food for thought, as Mike Boyle (a mentor of mine) says, “our bodies are a stack pile of joints that are supposed to be mobile or stable.” The ankle joint is mobile. If it doesn’t move properly injuries will follow somewhere up the chain. Our knee joint is a stable joint. If this is mobile we have big problems, think ACL tear. Hip joint is another mobile joint, improper range of motion and injuries will follow. Lumbar spine or low back is a stable joint, compensation occurs from other areas and the low back tries to be mobile. A big no-no. Upper thoracic including the shoulder complex is a mobile joint. When this is locked up the lumbar takes over.

After our mobility drills, the client performs some activation movement patterns. Most of the time with imbalances it’s as simple as forcing a client into a movement pattern that they aren’t used to doing and it will get them to activate the muscle groups that are usually shut down. Example, most clients have poor gluteus medius recruitment. That equals to poor stability within the knee and can lead to patellofemoral stress syndrome. Simple fix, we do mini band walks. One above the knee and on the ankles for 2 sets of 12-15 steps each direction. From here the client will perform some drills with the agility ladder, 5-7 minutes maximum. This is used more for getting the brain to wake up, connect with the body, to create awareness with movement. Now we move into the next phase of our workout for the day.

Some form of plyometrics are incorporated, we don’t get too involved with fancy drills. I’m more concerned with simplicity, and building a solid elastic response. Day 1, the client moves in a linear pattern, day 2, we work on lateral movements. A maximum of 3 sets and 6 reps is all that is needed. Remember the nervous system has been working; it is especially important that client is advancing slowly and has continuously performed each rep with perfect form.

From the plyo’s we move into some type of Olympic style lifts. The purpose for these types of movements is to build the central nervous system (CNS), create explosive power, and help build core strength. The main component is to make sure the athlete is getting triple extension. That means explosion through the hip, knee, and ankle. My favorites are kettlebell swings, dumbbell snatches, and hang cleans. By now the CNS is taxed, or it should be. It’s time to move into movement patterns that aren’t so focused on the power aspect of our program, but incorporate more strength patterns.

Almost all of our exercises are core related and multi jointed. That means the mid-section in the front, mid-back to the glutes is always activated and stabilizing. Every workout has a vertical pull/vertical press, a horizontal pull/horizontal press, a knee dominate push/knee dominant pull, a hip dominate push/hip dominate pull and some anti-rotation core movements.

All of this is done in a semi-periodized fashion. As stated earlier, we first focus on their movement screen. As they progress, we work on building strength for a few weeks. The plyo’s and power phase follows and as their season comes near we increase the intensity, while decreasing the volume. With this phase comes energy system development. Depending on the day of the week depends on the type of intervals used. We also cycle to get out of the gym and keep variety for the energy system workouts. By this time my clients should be fit enough through seat time on the motorcycle and time in the gym. I know their program is successful if they remain injury free (minus crashes on the bike) and they are able to complete all their moto’s at race pace without getting tired.

About the Author: Rob Styron is the President and Founder of X-Factor Human Performance Training.  He has a Bachelor of Science degree in Kinesiology, with an emphasis in Fitness, Nutrition, and Health from San Diego State University. He is a certified USAW Level 1 Coach and is Functional Movement Screen certified. He is also a distinguished member of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, and the National Strength and Conditioning Association.

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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  1. Gravatar
    Phil October 06, 2011 at 12:44 pm

    So, basically, Crossfit?

  2. Gravatar
    Joel Younkins October 06, 2011 at 1:00 pm

    We need to meet up one day Rob and talk shop! Sounds like we have similar philosophy's (with the exception of a couple areas as expected). Nice read and no this is the exact opposite of crossfit!

  3. Gravatar
    Phil October 06, 2011 at 2:08 pm

    Definitely not trying to start a crossfit debate, but reading that article I was struck over and over and over by how much of it I've heard in CF classes. If you think this article describes a program that is the "exact opposite" of CF, I suspect you've had very limited if any exposure to CF.

    I agree with this entire article, and am glad I'm on the right track!

  4. Gravatar
    Joel Younkins October 06, 2011 at 2:23 pm

    Ok man I'll take your word for it...

  5. Gravatar
    Rob Styron October 06, 2011 at 3:11 pm

    @Phil, not related to Crossfit in any way. Sorry.

  6. Gravatar
    Tommy Tune October 06, 2011 at 4:31 pm

    Fitness information that just gets turned over, renamed, regurgitated, and spit back out again with another twist. In the 70s we called this agility drills, circuit training, and then of course balance work. It's all good if you Just Do It !

  7. Gravatar
    Alex Jaroshevich April 01, 2013 at 2:15 pm

    Stretching in under valued and all athletes

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