ALLI Sports Racer X Online MX Sports GNCC Racing Racer Productions The Racing Paper Racer X Brand

Trainer Talk With....Rick Johnson

by Racer X Virtual Trainer

Rick Johnson was inducted into the Motocross Hall of Fame in 1999. His superior conditioning is part what allowed him to rule the 80's!
Virtual Trainer: Hey Rick, I know you are an extremely busy guy, so thanks for taking the time to talk with us today. I was just reading your interview on regarding the Champ Factory riding school you run with Sebastian Tortelli. Champ Factory sounds pretty cool.
Rick Johnson: Yea it's going really well. We haven't pushed it as hard as we wanted because things weren't ready but now it's going at the pace we want and I'm stoked. Right now in the industry new bike sales aren't up, but a lot of people are riding. We are getting the Champ Factory website rebuilt right now so that should be all good when that's done.

Talk a little bit about what Champ Factory is and what someone can expect to get if they came there for instruction.
The idea here at Champ Factory was for me to be able to multiply myself. I kind of look at myself as the Green Beret of Motocross force multipliers deal to where it's not just about me it's about taking my surroundings and incorporating them into the school. I had an opportunity to work with Sebastian Tortelli and I liked the way he responded to training and we developed a very tight bond as a rider and coach. After he retired I wanted to continue working with him as a partner so I basically multiplied myself with him. That is why we changed the name from Rick Johnson's MX School of Champions to Champ Factory and the tag line is 'Champions building Champions!' The idea there was to take the base that I have learned from training everyone from special forces guys to factory riders to kids, vets, desert racers, and so-on and teach them the fundamental background of training and then expand on that. That's how Champ Factory was formed. Our primary home base is at Perris Raceway which I think is one of the best most powerful tracks here in southern California. The idea with locating at Perris was that I would have plenty of riders available so that I wouldn't have to search for riders or ship riders in. Right now we have a couple of full time students we work with that we coach a couple times per week. Our primary goal is to work with the KTM junior team and MDK team and on top of that we offer two day schools and we are putting together workshops and camps that we are going to be doing over the winter and throughout the summer as well.

Does Champ Factory cover physical training and nutrition as well or is all about on-the-bike training?
We touch on that stuff but our main focus is on riding. There a lot of people who are offering the physical fitness side of things and there are a lot of good trainers in the industry. Where I want to be the best is when it comes to the evolution and teaching of motocross, supercross and outdoor riding. If I can work with other trainers to teach that side of things then I will but right now our main focus is on how to ride the bike.

Well, since Virtual Trainer is all about off-the-bike training let's stick with that for now. You were one of the ring-leaders back in the day when it came to training along with guys like O-Mara, Bailey, Hannah and so-on. What do you see as the biggest difference between when you were riding and training vs. present day?
What I see is a bunch of people trying to reinvent the wheel. But I think it just comes down to good ol' hard work. You cannot avoid that. A lot of times riders will try to find a fancy way around hard work and I was guilty of that or a way of beating it. I think that guys think that they can play this game and that game to try to get out of just going out and working hard and pounding out motos. To me the biggest difference I see between now and then is the science behind keeping yourself healthy. Things were very loose back in the day. The 'no pain, no gain' theory was big. Carbohydrate diets were huge and there just wasn't the science behind fitness and nutrition that there is today. The science behind that has evolved 1000% from the early 80's - Well, maybe only 500% but it has evolved.

Do you think that the type of training and the amount of training you were doing back then would hold up against today's faster speeds and more intense pace?
Oh, hell yea, easily! I trained myself to do 20 laps as hard as I could on any track condition. When I trained for motocross I could go wide-open both 30 minute motos and when I trained for the GP's I just upped my training 15 minutes and I would just go as fast as I could the whole time.

David Bailey ended up getting the best of RJ in this battle, but like Rick says, it was the battle that kept him motivated!

You know, I have often thought that you guys might have actually been in better shape because the bikes were harder to ride and you had to absorb more of the track through your body and not the bike.
Yea, there was a lot of head shaking going on and the bikes were unstable for sure. But the cream is always going to rise to the top. If you put Ricky Carmichael on a bike in 1980 he would have done great. If you put Roger DeCoster on a bike in 2010 he would be great. It's the heart, desire and ability to learn on the fly that makes a great champion. You know with a guy like Ricky, Chad Reed and I were just talking about this this past weekend and Chad gives Ricky big props and I give him a lot of respect, was Ricky's ability to stay motivated when there was no one to race with. How he did that is hard for me to understand because when I was on top of my game, I got bored very fast. I always wanted a fight or a battle. And Chad is having a hard time with that right now.

What was you main staple for training; running, cycling, strength training?
I did a little bit of everything. I ran just about every morning for a light cardio thing, maybe 45 minutes or so. I also spent a ton of time on the bike maybe 3 or 4 days per week. I would do two days a week at the gym and some other stuff like dumbbell aerobics and stuff like that.

Were you into periodizing your works by splitting your training into different seasons like in-season and off-season?
No, I didn't know anything about that stuff back then. We had very little time off and when we did I would just hang out.

Did you have anyone helping you out back then?
I worked with a guy who was an ex-football player, Mike Douglas, and he helped me a lot with nutrition and proper form when lifting weights. He was a body builder and knew a lot about nutrition. He also was responsible for jump starting Jeff Stanton. When Stanton got to me he was a little pudgy. Mike totally changed his diet and Jeff completely changed.

Who do you think is the next big thing in motocross?
Ryan Villopoto if he can find a solution to his wrist problem.

What do you think in general about today's riders as far as their motivation and will to win when they are given such super star status at such an early age?
I think it's the same. You have 3% doing 100% of the work. You have a few good guys who really want to win and you have guys who are there waiting in the wings. You know if you watch the lap times and see the top two guys fall down and get hurt, all the sudden the whole group jumps up a second and a half. How does that happen? What - now that they think they can win they step it up. I think the general motivation is there but it's like any sport; there are guys that can handle being at the top and there are guys who can't.

Thinking of the weekend warrior type guy, what type of training would you recommend to them?
I would build a real simple program for building strength and core with push-ups, dips, pull-ups and other basic body weight exercises and flexibility. Flexibility is huge. I think the biggest thing for the weekend warrior is that they never stretch. I mean they are real good at going to the gym and getting on a bike and slinging some iron around, but they never work on flexibility. And when they fall down on the track they are more prone to getting hurt. I have all my guys doing yoga and the first two classes they were hating it and now they all look forward to it. Everyone from Jason Anderson to Justin Brayton. At first they going, I can't believe this and then all of the sudden they are hooked on it. I think flexibility has always been an issue and not just for the weekend warrior. As far as cardio goes, I think they need to go light. They need to realize what they are training for. I think they need to structure their cardio training around how long their motos are. There is no sense in running marathons. This is what hurt Johnny O'Mara is that he trained for such long distance stuff that when he really needed to go his kick wasn't as hard as some of the other guys. If you race ten minute motos, then go out and run as hard as you can for 10 minutes. Even if you have to walk a little bit, see if you can train yourself to go all out for 10 minutes. I also think that the rowing machine is great for cardio.

James Stewart uses the Concept2 rower along with a custom TransformX endurance system to train. This particular rower was customized by Rob Hill at Man and Machine and is available to everyone! 

I couldn't agree with you more. The rowing machine is a great piece of equipment to use for motocross training.
What I really like about the rower is that it works on flexibility in a passive manor. For me it really keeps my knees flexible because if you are rowing the right way your heels go all the way up to your butt with every stroke and it really keeps your knees flexible. I also like the motion and the variety that you get with the rowing machine. I have barely tapped into all the stuff you can do with that. I need to get some of those TransformX bars and use with the rower. Those bars are the proper tool to use because you are pulling in the same fashion as you are when you are on the bike. I have noticed that with the stock bars on the rower they are too narrow and they tend to cramp me up. I think once I get the TransformX bars it will feel more like riding and be more comfortable.

Well, I have been using the TransformX bars with my rower for a while now and I can certainly tell you that it is way more comfortable for those of us who don't row for a living. You should see the rest of the stuff that comes with the bars. You can get a platform that makes push-ups unstable, a hook for pull-ups and even resistance bands for strength training.
I will have to check that out because I am making a multi-station thing for Perris with push-ups, dips and other body weight exercises. I am going to make a little challenge course to see how many different exercises a guy can do in a certain amount of time. You gas out quick when you are doing body weight exercises.

No doubt. One last question and I'll let you go. I always ask this question because I think it is a bigger issue than most people think. What do you think about performance enhancing drug use in motocross? Do you think guys are using it and is it a problem?
Well, I can swear to you for sure that I do not know anyone personally who is using them. But I know that it is there and I have talked to some fighters [Ultimate Fighters] who have used all that stuff including growth hormones and for sure it works. I have watched guys cut weight and add a bunch of muscle with that stuff. It definitely works but the long term effects are bad. Now whether that will help you in motocross, I don't know.

Fair enough. Well Rick I really want to thank you for taking the time out of you busy schedule to share your thoughts and expertise in training with the readers of Virtual Trainer.
No problem. Thanks, Tim!

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

Share on:

Leave a reply