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High/Low Training Model for Motocross

by Joel Younkins

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The high intensity nature of motocross means that not everything you do off the bike should be high intensity as well. Low intensity training must be mixed in to ensure proper rest and recovery.

Motocross and along with all forms of off-road racing, require a large set of skills and abilities that are needed to be reached in order to maximize one's genetic potential. More often than not, racers do not lack the desire and work ethic to train throughout the week to achieve the highest level of racing, but at what costs? Training day in and day out, pounding motos and sprints while continuing to push themselves in the gym to get better may seem like great work ethic and the only way to train for success. However, this style of training will only lead to fatigue and the increase risk of injuries as the season continues. I will share a model that can help plan out your week of riding and training to help organize when to push hard and when to take a step back from intensity.

Charlie Francis, the late Canadian Olympic Sprinters Coach designed a weekly training schedule, simply called the high/low model. In its basic form, it is to ensure proper rest and recovery while still getting the development of multiple physical abilities. You will have your high intensity days and low intensity days to plan out your week. This model has been used by many other world renown Strength & Conditioning Coaches and or Physical Preparation Coaches to structure a weekly training schedule to help maximize an athlete's performance in various sports.

The high/low model is a great foundation in which I continuously use to implement into my training programs. With it, I can always ensure not only proper rest periods, but also, I will be able to properly plan out the high intensity days as well. With your high days, it essentially means days that are high in demands of your central nervous system (CNS). And low days have very little impact on your CNS in which help you recover. When you go high, meaning pounding out sprints and motos along with a high intensity training session, your CNS is typically fatigued anywhere from 48-72 hours after the session is done. So therefore, the next day you will do a low intensity day. You will not stress your nervous system again and will actually get other areas of work completed while you are still recovering from your high intensity day. So lets take a look at what the difference is between high and low days.

When looking at your high intensity days, this should be a day where you can put in an all out effort. This day on the bike will consist of your speed work and motos in which you should be focusing on higher heart rates with the focus of high intensity riding. When looking into the training aspect of this day, your main lifts, plyometrics or shock training, and any high intensity conditioning that you will want to cover will be done on this day as well. So you should continuously keep your riding and training on a continuum of high intensity efforts. This day will be very stressful on the body as your goal should be to get the most out of yourself in these sessions.

Guidelines for a high intensity day

  • Maximize intensity, this is the day to go as hard as possible
  • Heart rates should surpass your anaerobic threshold and be close to your max heart rate
  • Resistance training should be your heavy main lift day with any explosive or shock training involved
  • The duration for this training should be kept minimal with high intensity efforts

Now after a high intensity day, you should be feeling fatigued. You may have had some difficulty sleeping the previous night because your nervous system was stressed. Today, will now be a low intensity day. This is not a day to sit around and complain how tired you are. This is a time to aim for low intensity on every aspect of your day. So the day before, you did your sprints and motos for example, today you may work on technical aspects of racing on either maintaining or improving your skill sets. These skills may consist of cornering, starts, bike setup, etc. The intensity must be low so you can one, recover, and two, actually improve on your technique. When you are heavily fatigued, you are less likely to actually improve on a certain skill. The same goes with the training done on that day. Any weight lifting should just be kept to your auxiliary work. This type of work may feel hard when you do these lifts, but it is not stressful on your nervous system so you will be able to recover fairly fast. All conditioning work should be kept to either low intensity tempo work or LSD (Long Slow Distance) to help not only recover, but to help build mitochondrial density, capillary density, peripheral vascular temperature, and stroke volume for your heart. After this day, you should almost have a feeling of that of being “refreshed” instead of being fatigued.

Guidelines of going low

  • Focus on technical work, learning new skills, working on certain sections of the track
  • Heart rate should kept lower than your anaerobic threshold at all times
  • Avoid high CNS work like sprints, motos, and high intensity exercise
  • Only perform auxiliary work and low intensity conditioning during your training session
  • Training duration should be longer but at very low intensities throughout your sessions
High Intensity Low Intensity
Sprint Laps and Motos Technical Skills and Longer Lower Intense Riding
High Intensity Intervals Low Intensity Tempo Work or LSD
Main Lifts and Explosive Training (Max Effort) Auxiliary and Core Work

There are some limiting factors in this system depending on the level of racer and also the control of the weather and environment that you are in. I wanted to explain this model in a very general sense to help plan out a week of not on only training, but pairing your training with your riding. This article has only scratched the surface of a broad scope of programming in regards to the high/low model. But a general rule of thumb, every time you have a high intensity day, it needs to be followed with either a low intensity day or a day off at least. You should not have two high intensity day's following each other (remember 48-72 hours to repair CNS). If you follow this model, it will obviously change throughout the year in regards to your racing schedule, environmental interruptions, and how often you have access to train as well. So with that said, there are many possibilities in how to follow this model to make it the best for you as a racer. Using the high/low model properly will help benefit you with all of your hard work.

Examples of possible high/low training weeks

Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
Off High Low Off High Low Off

 

Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
Race Off High Low High Low Off

 

Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
Off High Low Low High Low/off Race

About the Author - Joel Younkins Training is dedicated to training and improving performance in not only motocross racers but in all action sport athletes as well. After ending his college football career early with a back injury, Joel returned to the sport of racing where his father Gary Younkins (Multiple 6 Days Gold Winner) created Joel's passion for the sport. Joel is now involved in training athlete's to help improve performance. Along with training his professional athlete's, Joel is the Director of Physical Preparation at Max Athletic Training in Boardman Ohio. His professional athletes include: Factory Husqvarna GNCC Racer Jason Thomas (XC2 Pro Lites) and ATV Racer Mark Notman (XC1 Pro) on the racing front as well as action sport athletes Anthony Napolitan (Professional BMX Red Bull Athlete) and Joe Sylvester (Monster Truck Driver for Bad Habit).

Joel's Website Joel on Facebook Joel on Twitter

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
    Greg Wolf February 23, 2012 at 10:47 am

    Hey great job on that article. We race cross country and I have been searching for a good plan to follow for training. We start racing in 2 weeks. Could you recommend some good core exercises that will benefit us in cross country racing? Thanks

  2. Gravatar
    kris February 23, 2012 at 10:59 am

    Great article. Just wanted to add that in regards to nutrition, make sure that you adjust your carb intake for the high intensity days to fuel your workout and recover faster. If you don't, you won't be able to keep up with this schedule and can easily overtrain.

  3. Gravatar
    Joel Younkins February 23, 2012 at 12:19 pm

    Thanks on the comments! Kris thanks for adding nutritional advice, nutrition will always go hand and hand with all sport performance. Greg looks like you race GNCC's?? Anyways with 2 weeks away it is kind of late to be ready for the opener but luckily the racing year is long! It's all about progressions, even with core exercises. First master plank holds (front and side) as well as McGill Situps. After that you can start getting into things like Stability Ball Rollouts and anti-rotational movements and such!

  4. Gravatar
    Greg Hammond / Concept2 February 24, 2012 at 9:38 am

    Good article Joel. Keep it up. - Greg

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