Arm Pump Solved: Part 1
by Dr. Patrick Cohn
|RC has always had the mental toughness to win|
Part 1: It's All in Your Head
It is my opinion that most people in motocross do not fully understand the cause of arm pump or why it happens. After studying the minds of athletes and racers for over fifteen years, I think most racers never consider what I think is the real cause of arm pump. My theory on arm pump is that it is all in the mind.
Imagine this scenario: You are on the start line ready for the next moto. You have trained hard, sweated out thirty-minute motos at home in practice, spent tons of money to get your bike just right, and are now ready to conquer the world. The gate drops and you grab the holeshot. Everything is going according to plan as you check out from the pack. However, on the second lap, arm pump begins to set in. Your arms feel as hard as bricks and you can’t work the clutch or brake because you can’t feel your hands. You start to lose speed and, just as quickly as you went to the front, you begin to fade toward the back.
Related Article : Arm Pump in Motocross
After the moto, you struggle with the fact that you can do thirty-minute motos in practice without getting arm pump, but in a twenty-minute race, you tighten up on the second lap. Everyone agrees that arm pump prohibits racers from riding up to their potential. However, it seems in motocross that no one fully agrees on the causes of arm pump or understands why arm pump happens. Most, if not all, racers and coaches think that arm pump is a physical inadequacy due to lack of fitness or poor riding technique. Therefore, many people in motocross explain the cause of arm pump and its cures with a purely physiological or equipment explanation. I am certain that poor fitness or riding technique will contribute to the severity of or how fast you get arm pump, but the real causes start in the mind.
From my perspective as a mental game coach to professional athletes and motocross racers, arm pump is caused by a change in the racer’s mindset or attitude from practice to race situations. I have worked with pro and amateur racers for over three years on the mental side of racing – confidence, focus, and mental preparation. Motocross is a sport that is late to adopt and embrace mental training as a means to peak performance. I am not sure why this is the case, but I know that I have helped my students reduce and, in many cases, eliminate arm pump from their racing and vocabulary by developing their mindset. It has been my experience that riders put more pressure on themselves during a race to succeed or win. This pressure causes mental tension or the need to try harder. When you try harder or race with high expectations, you try to be more perfect or correct, and this causes you to force the bike around the track, fight the track, and give the handlebars the death grip, which eventually leads to the physical symptoms of arm pump that many motocross racers have experienced.
|Metal Coaching and conditioning are key components to a riders success both amateur and professional|
What is Arm Pump?
Arm pump happens when lactic acid in the forearms, due to exercise, makes them feel like they are burning and tight. Therefore, as you exercise your muscles, lactic acid enters the muscle and gives a burning sensation when you are working beyond the anaerobic threshold – or the point at which lactic acid builds up in the muscles. For the motocross racer, the hands tense up on the grips and give a feeling that they cannot be moved. There is an overwhelming sense of stiffness in the hand and it is difficult to work the clutch and the gas to the full potential. One of my motocross students said when he gets off the bike after a moto, his fingers are so clenched on the grips that he has trouble moving them or taking them off the handlebars. Obviously, this is a major problem that prevents him from riding to his full potential.
When a rider gets arm pump, the issue becomes of greater mental concern. Once arm pump begins, it becomes a mental block as the rider thinks, I’ve got arm pump. I have the dreaded disease of arm pump and I can’t do anything about it—this moto is done and I am down and out for the day.
My Theory of Arm Pump
I have read many theories about arm pump and most if not all focus on the bike setup or your fitness level. A popular theory is that your bike may not be set up correctly. For example, the suspension is wrong, causing you to hold onto the bike too tightly or change your riding position. Nevertheless, you have to ask yourself, ‘Why do I get arm pump in races when it never or rarely happens in practice?’ Based on my experience, this is the most important question you have to ask yourself.
My theory on arm pump is that it begins in the mind, with your race mindset. If you can ride a thirty-minute practice moto and never or rarely get arm pump, but then only get arm pump in races, this tells me that arm pump starts in the mind with fear of failure, tension, or anxiety about the race. The reason it starts is that your mindset changes from practice to racing because practices do not count and the races do.
Riders want the easy fix or a quick-fix solution to get rid of arm pump. Just take a pill and no more arm pump! However, without concerted effort and digging at the root cause—the mental game issues—they will never find out how to solve arm pump forever. None of the physical or equipment solutions addresses the main underlying mental game breakdowns that I believe are the real cause of arm pump.
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.