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5 Training Myths Worth Ignoring

by Racer X Virtual Trainer

Although it is not recommended to look like this for MX, this guy could still potentially ride without getting arm pump!

Here at Racer X Virtual Trainer we get a lot of great questions and useful feedback from MX athletes all across the country. When fielding these questions it becomes painfully obvious to me that not everyone is getting the memo on what you should and should not be doing when training for motocross. Although there is no such thing as a “bad” question, a lot of times the same questions are asked over-and-over again. I believe these questions are born out of myths that have been circulating around the race tracks and training culture for decades. Well, Virtual Trainer is here to set the record straight.

Myth #1 – Lifting Weights Causes Arm Pump. Okay, one last time for those of you who were in the bathroom the last time I said this; lifting weights does NOT directly cause arm pump. I am not sure where the notion of this came from, but it is utterly ridiculous. As counter-culture as it is to believe, strength training will actually reduce the occurrence of arm pump not increase it. As a case in point, I had a good friend back in the day who was a body builder and raced competitively for years in our local A class. He was mid-pack fast (definitely a good rider) and never had an issue with arm pump. The reason being is he had great technique on the bike and even more important he was in exceptional shape. He was not only strong but his cardio was off the chart. He was the proof that an athlete can be both strong and have great cardio. Don't get me wrong, I'm not recommending the body builder physique. My buddy would attest that his size/weight slowed him down at times on the motorcycle. But nonetheless his case illustrates that big muscles and arm pump do NOT necessarily go hand-in-hand. If you are still a believer in this myth, it’s my opinion that you have just found a convenient excuse for not going to the gym. No worries; just like the World needing ditch diggers, someone has to finish last! (More on Arm Pump)

Myth #2 – Warming up Before a Moto uses too Much Energy. This is another statement that I hear over-and-over. Let’s look at this a little closer by examining a few other sports. What does every team do no matter what the sport before a game? You guessed it; they warm-up! As a matter of fact, I’ll bet you can’t name a sport where the players don’t warm-up (and no, motocross does not count). To think that you don’t need to warm-up before a race because it uses too much energy is like saying that you shouldn’t start your bike until right before the race because the parts will wear-out too fast. The same guys that blame arm pump on strength training are most likely the same guys that go straight from their pit to the starting gate. Need more proof, don’t take my word for it, read what Andrew Short's trainer, Coach Seiji has to say about it!

On June 22, 1997, John Dowd won the Southwick National with a 1-1 sweep as a member of Team Yamaha. John was 31 years, 10 months and 12 days old. In 2006, John finished sixth overall at Southwick with 6-7 moto scores—at age 40!

Myth #3 – I am too Busy to Train. All I can say about this myth is Bullshizzle. Instead of saying you are too busy simply say you don’t want to train. We could get into a pissing contest as to who is the busiest, but the fact of the matter is, if you wanted to exercise you would; simple as that. You don't forget to eat each day, or sleep, or brush your teeth. For that matter I'm sure you don't skip meetings at work. Training on a busy schedule is actually very easy. Take out your smartphone and schedule 45-minutes, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday to exercise. Treat your training like it's part of your workday. It's a meeting that cannot be missed. Problem solved!

Myth #4 – My Body, Particularly my Back Hurts because I’m Getting Older. I can speak first hand on this myth because I have had a “bad lower back” all my life. My dad has it and so do I. The myth is that it get’s worse with age. I am about to turn 47 and other than an incident that happened last year, my back is no worse now than it was when I was 18. In fact in a lot of ways it is better. Body pain (your back in particular) is one of the leading physical complaints aging adults present to physicians, coaches, and trainers, but it’s primarily due to muscle weakness and being overweight rather than age. Strengthening your body’s structural core (abs and lower back) while increasing your overall health and fitness will lead to a higher quality of life no matter what your age. So if you find yourself skipping workouts or not riding on the weekends because you're getting older and "your body hurts." Take a step back and examine the real reason why this is true. I'll bet your that muffin in your hand that you are out of shape and over weight.

Myth #5 – Long and Slow is Better for Fat Loss. Although this myth relates more to general fitness, I still get questions from overweight people all the time who think that long, slow exercise is the best way to lose weight. While it is true that long slow exercise draws its energy from fat, high intensity exercise burns more calories. At about 30 percent of your maximum effort, approximately 70 percent of your energy comes from fat and the other 30 percent from carbohydrate. But when you increase exercise intensity to 50 to 60 percent of maximum effort, the fuel mixture shifts so you’re burning about half fat and half carbohydrate. However, because your overall caloric burn rate is higher, you actually burn more total calories per minute and per hour than at the lower intensity. The result: more fat disappears from your body in less time. The simple way to think about this is calories in and calories out. If you burn more calories than you take in over a given period of time you will lose weight. To lose one US pound (0.454 kg) of fat, you must burn 3,500 more calories than you take in as food.

Honorable Mention - The Best Way to Train for Motocross is to Train as Hard as You can all the Time. In today's world of Twitter, Facebook and Instagram it's easy to follow every trainer and athlete in the sport. It's also easy to understand that to make a gym picture interesting it has to be of something crazy. No one wants to see a guy doing a deadlift with perfect form. We want to see a guy standing on a bosu ball, doing a deadlift while balancing a motorcycle on his head. Now that's exciting! But honestly when was the last time you saw a pick of a guy stretching or doing something "normal" in the gym? It's just not exciting. Most people assume from these pictures that the top riders in motocross train like animals. Full tilt, all the time, no exceptions. Well, a few do and those are usually the riders who fall off about mid-way through the season. The smart riders are periodizing their training and these are the riders who consistently finish up front. If all of your workouts are high intensity because you think that the harder you train the better off you will be, well you are dead wrong. You have to learn to train smarter not harder. For more on this whole concept check out this article.

So there you have it, a short list of false-hoods that I feel will never die in the sport of motocross. Squashing a myth that has been around the sport forever is a difficult thing to do. But hopefully this list gets us one step closer to putting these myths to bed and allows you to get the most from your training. Thanks for reading and I'll see you at the gym!

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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  1. Gravatar
    TK October 03, 2013 at 8:22 am

    So true. Great article.

  2. Gravatar
    nick October 03, 2013 at 8:50 am

    This is a great article. As a personal trainer who trains motocross racers and general gym members you would not believe the ridicule you canget from both ends. You want to be in great shape to race and develop the right amount of muscle to avoid injury. In my opinion arm pun comes from a number of other things. Not looking far enough ahead, being too nervous which causes uncertainty of the process needed to executeeach section etc. Also certain days should be for training hard and certain days should be for resting and building energy which is even more important for racing. Personal training is something I started because of the need to be in shape for racing. I am glad I caught this article because motocross racers need to see the importance of and proper ways to train. Thanks for showing there are some who see things clearly!

  3. Gravatar
    kris October 03, 2013 at 11:26 am

    These are all valid points that everyone needs to realize if they ever want to perform at their highest ability. I raced when I was going through high school and almost nobody I knew at the track would lift weights for the fear of arm pump and getting bulky. I can tell you that arm pump is for the most part a body position and technique error on the bike and bulking up is because your nutrition is off. All these myths are closely related and having been holding riders back from their true potential for years!

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    Joel Younkins October 03, 2013 at 11:37 am

    Funny when it comes to strength training that the stuff that actually works to improve strength gets labeled as boring while everyone wants to watch a circus act in the gym that actually doesn't improve strength (typically american views on training)...Motocross athletes should be able to perform the main lifts with a couple plates on the bar. P.S. don't worry you will not turn into a bodybuilder or powerlifter that easy, if you do please let me know the secret!

  5. Gravatar
    Cody garvin October 03, 2013 at 12:52 pm

    I highly agree with the article except the first point to a degree.

    Been racing for 25 years, a/b class last 15. Point being, my technique has not suddenly changed.

    Also, not making the point if not using any weights, just heavy weights with low reps. High reps low weight is fine.

    Last year during the winter series I was closely working with a personal trainer. Before I started, I didn't have any issues with arm pump. Racing / practice every weekend. After a month, the trainer had me hit the weights hard. I bulked up. From that point on I had major issues with arm pump. Something I didn't have for years. To the point my hands were coming off during the middle if the moto. I had a nasty wreck at horn rapids and decided I needed a different trainer. According to my doctor I was suffering from acute compartment syndrome.

    I traded trainers to a guy the didn't believe in machines and weights. Switched to trx in my 6 day workout, high usage of bosu, sand and exercise balls, coupled with cardio and foam rolling, I've now got back to no arm pump.

    Like the guy used as an example in this article, my chemistry may be one off. Perhaps explaining scientifically why heavy weights and low reps don't translate to arm pump would make me believe the first point. Using a one off example isn't enough. Just as using myself as a one off example isn't enough.

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    Racer X Virtual Trainer October 04, 2013 at 12:32 pm

    Cody - You made a key statement "I bulked up." Please don't misunderstand what I'm trying to say with regard to strength training. I only use 4 to 6 weeks of max strength training 2-3 times a year. There is absolutely no way you can "bulk up" in that amount of time. If so, body builders around the world would be paying me millions. The rest of the time is spent in Power Endurance phases (think high reps moderate weight done explosively) and strength maintenance phases. I would venture to say that if you put on a considerable amount of "bulk" your riding style changed AND your cardio diminished. this article explains in depth what I am talking about.

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