Mobility Training for Motocross
by Luke Duncan
It’s true you don’t need an Olympic gymnast’s level of flexibility to be a good motocross rider. Still, a lot of riders could stand to gain by putting an emphasis on maintaining or improving their mobility, especially older riders. Mobility is important because being able to move through a full range of motion in all your joints provides the greatest freedom of movement on the motorcycle and it also contributes to minimizing the chances of injury in the event of a crash. Outside of riding, mobility will help to stem-off the tension that sedentary life causes and it will allow you to get the most out of your other cross training. Motocross riders are all human, so the needs of a rider don’t differ much from the needs of other people.
In my experience, the best way to structure mobility training into your routine is to make it your warm-up (or at least part of your warm up). If additional work is needed in the form of stretching, incorporate that as part of your cool-down (static stretching should only be done when the body is already warmed up). Since this is just part of the warm-up, don’t do anything ’til failure. Going really hard in your warm-up is only going to be counter-productive. There are thousands of different mobility routines that people use. I’ll provide a few different links at the end so you can see what’s out there. As long as you understand the basic principles, you can construct your own if you can’t find one that you prefer. For now, here’s some different exercises that should be given emphasis in your routine.
Squatting is one of the movement patterns that humans are built for. Being able to do a full-squat is a sign of good hip & knee mobility and doing them often will serve to maintain good range of motion as time goes on. As part of a warm-up, don’t worry about doing max set work with a heavy barbell on your back. Two versions I prefer for warming-up are the Prisoner Squat and the Goblet Squat. Prisoner squats are a bodyweight exercise done with the hands behind the head. They emphasize keeping the upper back tight (similar to a barbell squat) and maintaining a good strong arch through the movement. Goblet squats are done by holding a weight in front of you against your chest with your elbows tucked in. The placement of the load is generally favorable for promoting good squat technique for people who have limited experience with the exercise. Whichever version you prefer, emphasize a full range of motion (below parallel) for maximum benefits. Some of you are probably saying, “squatting too deep is bad for the knees”. This is only true if you have bad knees to start. If you’re a healthy individual, squatting deep will improve or maintain good, strong knees and hips. Shorter people will generally have an easier time achieving full range of motion while taller people (like me) will have to modify their technique in order achieve depth; generally, this means standing a little wider (~shoulder width) with the feet rotated out around 45 degrees. Either way, take the time to find which stance works best for you.
I know the name for this exercise isn’t the most comforting, but trust me, it’s probably the best thing you can do for your shoulders. Dislocations are typically done with an empty broomstick or a length of PVC (anything that’s light and allows you grab a couple hand-width’s outside of your shoulders will suffice). Start with the object hanging down at arm’s length in front of you, then without bending your elbows, raise it over your head and back down behind your body (as you lower it behind you, squeeze your shoulder blades together). Quickly reverse the motion and repeat for reps. When you start, take a wider grip, then over time as your mobility gets better you can move your hands closer together little by little. In addition to opening up the shoulders, it also provides a dynamic stretch for the chest and helps to warm up the upper back.
3.) Hip Circles
Hip circles are an excellent choice to improve range of motion in your hips. Start on your hands & knees; raise one knee off the ground and try to draw circles with it. Keep your upper body level and your back arched. When you’re done, do the same with the other leg and then repeat by reversing the movement on both sides. They’ll also serve to strengthen the muscles around the hips (glutes, psoas, abductors, adductors) if you’re a new trainee.
4.) Cossack Squats
This is one exercise that I think is of special use for motocross riders. The cossack squat really stretches out the adductors and the hamstrings, similar to when you stick your leg out for entering a turn. Doing this exercise is a great way to help improve squat depth as well.
5.) Soft Tissue Rolling
Soft Tissue work (a.k.a foam rolling) is equivalent to a self-massage. It’s a great way to recover from intense exercise but can also be used as a way to loosen up before a workout too. Foam rollers are the most common implement of choice, but even more effective (also more uncomfortable, but cheaper) is a length of PVC. Medicine balls and tennis balls can also be used to emphasize unilateral rolling. The more dense the roller, the more effective the massage is.
6.) Basic Strength Exercises
The best way to indirectly promote mobility is by using a full range of motion on the big, basic exercises. If you can do a squat, deadlift, press, chins, and pushups with good form through a full range of motion, you will have good mobility. The benefit of this is that in addition to promoting muscular strength, you’re also promoting bone and connective tissue strength since the exercises are performed under load. This goes a long way towards injury prevention.
I’ll leave you with some sample warm-up mobility routines for your consideration
Until next time…
About the Author: Luke Duncan is the author of “Layman’s Strength," a blog site directed towards the aspirations of real world people and their concerns. A Certified Fitness Trainer with the I.S.S.A. and a Los Angeles County certified E.M.T. from 2008-2010, he is a health & fitness enthusiast with a passion for helping people realize their fitness & lifestyle goals in the most efficient, sustainable, & commonsense-way possible. He has ridden motorcycles since the age of 6 and currently produces motocross & other action-sports’ related content for D-Squared Images.
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