Strength Training for Motocross
by Racer X Virtual Trainer
|Angela Butler is the '06 and '07 National Women's MX Champion....not a VT client
So far on Virtual trainer we have always presented articles with the assumption that riders have at least a little experience when it comes to training. These workouts cover the pre-season, in-season, and off-season periods along with flexibility, and strength training for kids and women. To follow these programs is easy even with the smallest amount of experience in the gym. But what about the person who wants to set up a program for the very first time or has never been to the gym? The seemingly simple task of "just training" is more difficult if you have never been shown how to train much less seen the inside of a gym. What we have yet to cover on VT is the somewhat complex topic of starting a new workout program. I say complex because there are so many variables involved for someone who has never trained, so where is one to begin?
Age, sex, size, physical limitations, coordination, flexibility, base strength, cardio capacity, time, etc. all play a significant role in determining where one should start their program. I have decided to cover this topic by allowing you to follow one of my clients as she progresses through her first full-on training program. This will allow you the opportunity to compare your situation to hers and make decisions based on a real life situation that will unfold in front of you. For those of you that are brand new to racing or have never been shown how to train, this article will cover the basics of starting a brand new program. If you guys are tuning me out thinking that this is "girly" program, think again. This is the same program I use on my male athletes and can be applied to everyone; girls, guys, beginners, and seasoned trainers. Her name is Angela and this is her story.
First Things First – Are You Ready for Exercise?
This is the part where I tell you to go see your Doctor and all that stuff before you start an exercise program. It should be obvious if you think you are not fit enough to exercise. If you have let yourself go and are moderately to extremely overweight and do not have any known risk factors (heart problems, high blood pressure, serious injuries, etc.) then get off your butt and start exercising. Men over 40 and women over 50 or people who have certain cardiovascular risk factors should check with their Doctor before beginning a program that involves vigorous aerobic activity. If you are young and healthy, your evaluation process will be brief. If you are generally healthy you can be reasonably sure that you can safely take part in at least a moderate physical activity program. Bottom line, use your head; it’s pretty easy to know whether you are fit enough to exercise.
Before you start any new training program, your first step is to ask yourself how active you want to be. This may sound like a silly question — you’re probably planning on doing whatever you’re capable of, whether that’s starting off slowly by running a few miles a week or tackling a full on training program. Set some goals like losing 10 pounds, or increasing your strength by 10% or running 5 miles in a certain time. Still with me? Good, let's get started!
|Meet Angela Adkins....with the help of a serious training plan put together by Virtual Trainer, she WILL BE the '08 National Women's MX Champion
Every Journey Starts with a Step
If you are ready to start a new program or if you have never trained before, the first thing you need to do is evaluate where you are, where you want to go and lay out a plan to get there. The first thing I did with Angela was to schedule an introductory meeting with her and her parents at their house. Evaluating your living circumstances is an integral factor in putting together a complete program. If you live in a college dorm room with three other guys as compared to your parents 5000 square foot house with a gym and swimming pool, your needs will certainly be different. My goal in our first meeting was to access the family, the distractions, talk with mom regarding the type of food she cooks, see if Dad is a pain-in-the-ass or an easy going guy, evaluate the support of the family, and determine the amount of time my new client has to commit to training. These are the same things you should do for yourself when starting a new program. I was happy to find out that everything was in place for a successful relationship not only with Angela but with her parents as well. After discussing Angela’s strengths and weaknesses on and off the track, her daily commitments outside of riding, and her general state of health we were ready to get to work. As a comparison to your own situation when looking at what I set up for Angela, she is attacking this head on and treating each day as full time job dedicated to becoming the next Women’s ATV MX Champion. If your not one of the lucky ones who is able to dedicate 8 hours a day to your riding and training, no problem; simple adjustments to the daily schedules presented below can be made.
|Outdoor Champion and MXoN's hero Ryan Villopoto gets his Vo2 max test done by training Guru Charles Dao
Taking it to the Gym
Before you or a trainer can set up an effective training plan you first have to know your strengths and weaknesses. I asked Angela what she thought her weaknesses were on the quad and she said, without a doubt cardio. She was just as fast as the rest of her competitors, but by the second lap she was gassed. She has natural strength and isn’t a tiny little fragile girl with no muscle mass, so that was definitely good. Once we hit the gym, I could see that she had good natural strength and indeed her cardio was a weak link. I also discovered that her flexibility was an area were we could make huge improvements that would have a significant impact on her racing.
In our first trip to the gym, she exhibited some pain and extreme lack of flexibility in her left wrist while doing some routine pushups. I asked her about the wrist and sure enough she had crashed earlier in the season and had not seen a Doctor. After an appointment with an Orthopedic Surgeon for some x-rays and a CT scan, it was indeed broken, but did not require surgery; just some intense physical therapy. This was all vital information for me in setting up her training plan for the next 26 weeks. We started in September and her race season begins in April so that gives us more than enough time to heal her injuries, increase her base strength, improve her flexibility, and shift her cardio into overdrive. This is the same type of simple assessment you should do on yourself when setting up your training program. Evaluate your strengths and weaknesses, determine the time you have to dedicate to training, maintain your strengths and work on your weaknesses.
|Angela is fast....once she is fit there is no telling what she will do!
Making a Plan
If you haven’t done so already, now would be a good time to read CoachSeiji’s article on Periodization for Strength Training. Much of what I created for Angela follows the same plan. Since Angela had never trained in the gym before (or even been to an aerobics class!) I decided to start her strength training plan with 4 weeks of Anatomical Adaptation training to introduce her to the exercises, teach her proper form and prepare her joints and muscles for the more intense periods to follow.
In this phase we worked in circuits performing 3 sets of 20 repetitions per set with relatively light weights. From there we moved on to the Muscular Transition period for 3 weeks. This period is marked by slightly heavier loads and repetitions in the 12 to 15 per set range. The exercises were the same as the first phase. The next phase, Maximum Strength, is the most intense portion of the strength training program. In this phase we will significantly increase the weight to where muscle failure happens in the 6 to 8 repetition range increasing the weight between each set. We will also perform the exercises in straight sets as opposed to a circuit. This period will last 6 weeks and then transition to the Power Endurance phase which will concentrate on explosive movements with 12 repetitions per set being the goal. This phase is second only to the Maximum Strength phase in intensity and is also done in straight sets. We will spend 4 weeks in this phase before transitioning to the Pre-Season training plan for the next 9 weeks. In the Pre-Season period we will again work on explosive movements except this time we will incorporate plyometrics and interval based cardio training.
Along with working on strength and cardio during this 26 week period, we will also be addressing Angela’s flexibility issues. In my opinion, flexibility is the element that rounds out a complete athlete. Flexibility goes hand-in-hand with overall body strength and among other things ensures a higher probability of bouncing back after a hard fall. For Angela, I prescribed a 7 day a week, twice a-day flexibility program; once in the morning and once at night. Not to mention the flexibility training we did after our personal training sessions. So you can see how seriously I take flexibility! Angela is following the same routines that are available to everyone and should be done no matter what your level of training or fitness.
The last area of concern I had for Angela is the all important diet. I talked to her mother and went over the basics of eating low fat, healthy meals. I don't like to go overboard at first when changing someone's diet since calorie and carb counting can quickly lead to frustration. If your diet is poor, try changing a few small things like eating smaller portions, avoiding soft drinks, limiting yourself to 1 Monster Energy a day (or non at all!), and making smarter, low fat choices. Once you master this, you can move on to more complicated diets and really fine tune your results.
I follow the KISS (Keep it Simple Stupid) rule for eating; the easier, the better. I believe in eating clean, healthy food. Most people do not need suppliments but if you feel you must, I recommend Muscle Milk through out the day with breakfast, lunch and dinner, followed by EvoPro before strength training workouts, Cytomax sport drink during workouts and of course Cytomax recovery after your workouts.
REMEMBER - These workouts were set up specifically for Angela and her strengths and weaknesses. You will need to set up similar workouts for yourself. If this is your first time in the gym it won't take long to get used to the exercises and pretty soon you will be adding exercises and modifying the routines to suit your taste. Good luck and train hard!
|Weeks 1 - 4||Anatomical Adaptation||Workout|
|Weeks 5 - 7||Muscular Transition||same as Anatomical Adaptation, except increase weight and perform 12 to 15 reps per set|
|Weeks 8 - 13||Maximum Strength||Workout|
|Weeks 14 - 17||Power Endurance||Workout|
|Weeks 18 - 26||Pre-Season Training||Workout|
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.