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Improve Race Speed Through Functional Training

by Robb Beams

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How Muscular Imbalances Occur and the Problems it Creates
As a racer, specific training requires certain ranges of motion (involving more than one muscle group and associated joint) that are completed to improve the skills necessary for faster lap times. By recognizing that each movement within the muscles involves a concentric action (the muscle shortens and acceleration of the body part) and an eccentric action (the muscle lengthens to decelerate the body part), and that movement requires traveling through more than one plane of the body (i.e. front, back, side), you immediately see how important it is to focus on engaging more than one muscle at any one time during your strength training.

To perform actions specific to riding & racing, the primary moving muscles tend to become over developed at the expense of the antagonist muscles limiting the range of motion that can be performed by the necessary muscle groups. Muscular imbalances can create the following symptoms:

  • Bad Body Position: the primary mover does not allow the antagonist muscle to complement the range of motion. If the quads are overly tight, the hamstrings will not become fully engaged which limits the body’s ability to properly get into the “attack” position.
  • Late Moto Fatigue: if the primary mover is overly tight, the antagonist muscle cannot bring the muscle back to its proper position which increases resistance and ultimately creates fatigue within the muscle.
  • Dropped Elbows in Turns: if there is limited range of motion within a muscle, the body will compensate to perform the movement in a non-biomechanically efficient manner.
  • Increased risk of injury: a tight muscle is similar to a rubber band that has been pulled tightly; the tension in the middle becomes high and is susceptible to tearing if asked to extend beyond its capable range of motion.

Three Direct Benefits of Strength Training

  1. It will increase the amount of force your muscles can exert on a particular object. As a racer, strength is a key component for finishing a race as strong as you started.
  2. Strength training will permit your muscles to reach a maximum output of force in a shorter period of time. This is beneficial when the bike gets out of control at high speeds; when you are strong, your muscles are able to pull the bike back quickly.
  3. The duration of time your muscles can sustain the level of force before exhaustion is extended. The primary muscle groups are the obvious muscles that are responsible for assisting movement. The secondary muscle groups are also referred to as “assisters” for primary movement. However, once the primary muscle groups fatigue, the secondary muscles are required to step up to finish the task at hand. Strength training makes this task familiar to the secondary muscle groups at both the muscular and neuromuscular levels.

Three In-direct Benefits of Strength Training

  1. Stronger tendons and ligaments. Strength training will increase the size and overall strength of both which will increase the stability of the joints that they surround.
  2. Greater bone density. Bone density will increase as a byproduct of tensile force being placed on the bones – without this tensile force, the bones will actually become brittle and susceptible to breaking.
  3. Enhanced joint range of motion. Increased strength will enhance the ease of mobility within the joint due to tendon and ligament strength and resulting efficiency.
Functional Integration - The Foundation to faster Speeds on the track
As racers, you understand that your core muscles (i.e. your stomach, lower back and butt) are the foundation for all of our movements – nearly every movement originates (directly or indirectly) from your core muscles. As you move around on the track, your core strives to maintain balance and provides a foundation for the other muscles to interact with for correct biomechanics and ultimately optimum strength & endurance. To ensure that you are forcing your sport specific muscle groups to engage in a more functional way (i.e. through all three planes-front/back; left/right; top/bottom), you have to incorporate a Functionally Integrated Strength & Plyometric Program into your cross training exercise program.

A simple illustration of what Functional Integration “feels” like, simply stand on one leg and close your eyes with your head facing forward. As your core strives to maintain balance (i.e. not fall over), you will feel the functional integration of the muscles starting at the foot and coming all the way up into your gluts, core and lower back. This is Functional Integration in a nut shell. Your body makes these subtle adjustments every time you ride or cross train off of the track. However, you are moving so fast, you don’t “feel” the balance taking place. [Side note: now try the exercise again, but this time tighten up your abdominal muscles so that you feel like you are piercing your spine with your belly button and notice how much more stability you have!].

Training Tools to Improve Muscular Integration
There are a few productive tools that we use with all of our athletes:

  • Indo-Board™ with free weights or TRX Suspension System™
  • Concept 2 Rowers™
  • Bosu Ball with free weights
  • Folded towel with free weights
  • Single leg with free weights
Workouts to Test & Improve Your Strength and Muscle Integration
To help you assess how well your muscles work together to create speed on the track, I encourage you to complete the following steps over the next six weeks. Here is how the next six weeks are broken down:
  • Week 1 – Complete the Strength & Plyometric Assessment
  • Week 2 – Complete Push-Pull-Sprint Assessment; Interpret results; determine weaknesses to train
  • Weeks 3 - 6 – Complete the Functional Strength & Plyometric Workout 2-3x per week
  • Week 7 – Rest/Low Intensity Training (Reduce the amount of weight that you have been using by 20-25%)
  • Week 8 – Re-Test and Assess

NOTE: DUE TO THE INTENSITY LEVELS, DO NOT ATTEMPT TO COMPLETE THE FOLLOWING WORKOUTS WITHOUT PRE-APPROVAL FROM YOUR PHYSCIAN.

Week 1/Step 1 – Strength & Plyometric Assessment
Click here to open a link to the MotoE Rider Resource page. In the center of the resource page, you will find the MotoE-Plyometric Assessment File and Video box. Click on the first link, Strength & Plyometric Assessment – Phase 1. A complete spreadsheet will open up for you to save and print. Each exercise has an instructional video provided next to each exercise along with the directions on how to complete the assessment specific to that exercise. As you complete the exercises, write down the data requested so that you can later input the data into your saved spreadsheet for evaluation purposes.

Note: due to the intensity of this exercise, you will want to complete this assessment when you are well rested and fed; ideally at the beginning of the week.

Week 2/Step 2 – Push-Pull-Sprint Assessment
Click here to open a link to the MotoE Rider Resource page. In the center of the resource page, you will find the MotoE-Plyometric Assessment File and Video box. Click on the second link, Push-Pull-Sprint Assessment – Phase 1. A complete spreadsheet will open up for you to save and print. There is an instructional video provided along with the directions on how to complete the assessment over a 10 Minute block. As you complete the exercises, write down the data requested so that you can later input the data into your saved spreadsheet for evaluation purposes.

Week 2/Step 3 – Evaluating Your Results
Click here to open a link to the MotoE Rider Resource page. In the center of the resource page, you will find the MotoE-Plyometric Assessment File and Video box. Click on the last link – Video Interpreting your Strength & Plyometric Results. Within this video I will walk you through how to determine if you need to improve your Muscular Strength, Muscular Endurance or Lactate Tolerance (your ability to hold race intensity).

Week’s 3-6/Step 4 – Functional Strength & Plyometric Phase 1 Workout
Complete the following workout routine for the next four weeks. For optimum results, complete each exercise within each cycle twice and then move to the next cycle of exercises.

Click here to open a link to the MotoE Rider Resource page. In the center of the resource page, you will find the MotoE-Plyometric Assessment File and Video box. Click on the third link, Functional Strength & Plyometric Phase 1. A complete spreadsheet will open up for you to save and print. Each exercise has an instructional video provided next to each exercise along with the directions on how to complete the assessment specific to that exercise. As you complete the exercises, write down the data requested so that you can later input the data into your saved spreadsheet for evaluation purposes. Complete this workout 2-3x per week for the next four weeks.

I will provide you a follow up testing and training routine in six weeks to ensure that you are moving your strength and conditioning forward as the race season moves into full swing. Until next time, Train Smart-Not Hard!

About the Author: Coach Robb has been working with riders & racers for the last 22 years and is the founder of the Complete Racing Solutions performance program based in Orlando, Florida. CompleteRacingSolutions.com is a premium resource center for motocross, supercross and GNCC riders of all abilities and ages. The website outlines the MotoE Performance Training Systems used with great success by Factory Honda’s Ashley Fiolek, Factory Suzuki’s Ian Trettel, Factory Kawasaki/Pro-Circuit’s Adam Cianciarulo and Factory KTM Off Road Charlie Mullins. Please visit CompleteRacingSolutions.com to receive his monthly newsletter and learn more about resources such as: personalized performance training programs, eBooks, how to video series and much more! To discuss your current program or have a new one developed for you; feel free to contact Robb Beams at robb3@earthlink.net or 407.701.7586 directly.

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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