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Best Cardio Methods for Motocross

by Coach Seiji

Although road cycling is Coach Seiji's preferred method of training his athletes he is good at mixing all forms of cardio.

One of the most common questions posed by motocross athletes is, "What is the best form of cardiovascular exercise for me?" How effective a mode of cardiovascular exercise is for any rider partially depends on how enjoyable it is for them; just plain personal preference. Another aspect to consider is how a certain mode of exercise may irritate an injury. In addition to these factors, the listing below of my personal pros and cons of popular modes of exercise will help in the decision making process for those new to training.

Road Cycling
The most popular mode of cardio training by far for serious competitors.

Pros: Non-impact, can be done almost anywhere, high enjoyment factor for most, easily controllable intensity level (via heart rate or power), can become a lifetime activity, can be done in a group (has a social aspect).

Cons: High cost of entry, volume/duration needs to be higher than other forms of cardio, possibility of injury due to crashing, difficult to travel with equipment required, cold weather/rain can interfere.

Mountain Biking
Almost a natural cross-training choice for motocross riders.

Pros: Non-impact, very high enjoyment factor for most, can become a lifetime activity, can be done in a group, relatively easy to control intensity (but not nearly as easy as road cycling).

Cons: High cost of entry, accessibility to riding areas difficult for some, possibility of injury due to crashing (although lower speed on usually softer surfaces compared to road cycling but they occur more often), hard to travel with equipment required, volume/duration needs to be higher than other modes of

aerobic activity, cold weather/rain can interfere.

The ultimate in convenience; head out the door and you are already training.

Pros: Very low cost of entry, can literally be done anywhere at any time, easy to control intensity, can be done over a wide range of temperatures and conditions, can be done in a group, duration/volume can be lower than other modes of cardio, easy to travel with required gear

Cons: High-impact, boring to some, high rates of overuse injury

MTB'ing may not be a primary form of cardio for Coach Seiji but he still gets out on the trail to keep things fresh.
The most therapeutic of training modes.

Pros: low equipment cost, zero impact, full body usage, can become a lifetime activity, relatively easy to control intensity, promotes good upper body range of motion, duration/volume is low compared to other modes of cardio exercise, only mode listed that involves movement in a different plane (twisting), easy to travel with required gear.

Cons: must have access to lap pool which can be impossible/expensive to some, boring to some, additional time needed due for driving time to/from pool.

Consistently gaining followers in the moto-world.

Pros: zero impact, full body usage, can become a lifetime activity, rowing machines are in most gyms these days.

Cons: high cost of entry (if you want your own machine), boring to some if done on machine (vs. real rowing on the water).

Of all the pros and cons to each listed activity, the two factors that mean the most to me as a motocross trainer are:

  1. Low impact activity: motocross is very high impact, about the most impact you can take doing a sport. Gravity is the enemy and the motor and suspension make it possible for you to be exposed to forces much higher than in other activities. Ideally the cardiovascular portion of your training would allow you to recover from your bouts with multiple gravities aboard your motorcycle. Some modes like swimming and cycling are done in less than one gravity so they are therapeutic to the joints that are stressed beyond normal during motocross. MX is high impact enough, why add to it? I believe that utilizing cardio that minimizes your already high impact load will allow recovery from riding at a much higher rate and can prolong the years that you can ride pain free.

  2. Enjoyment: Much of the cardio training is done alone and it's probably second to motocross riding in terms of weekly volume. To ensure long term motivation, your cardio training has to be enjoyable to you on some level. Some athletes find swimming relaxing (no noise, fluid movement, floating in water) while other find it utterly boring for the same reasons. Maybe mountain biking will be exciting; maybe road cycling in a big group will do it because of the social aspect. Whatever it is, it has to be fun or relaxing (or both) for your motivation to remain high for a long time.
Coach Seiji primarily uses the rowing machine for warm ups and rehab. This photo is a few week's after Andrew Short underwent knee surgery for an injury sustained in Supercross.

I think it is best in the long term to utilize at least two forms of cardio on a regular basis. It's much healthier for your body to move in different ways, use different ranges of motion and just be exposed to different stimuli. It's also just more engaging mentally to be involved in different activities. This all leads to greater motivation for a longer period of time.

I also believe for long term success of your training program you should strive to become good at your chosen disciplines of cardio; if road cycling is one of the modes you use, then strive to learn the skills, tactics, etc. to become a good, competitive cyclist. This will add dimension to the things that you are interested in, it can add more long term motivation and can lead to a healthy, lifestyle for the years beyond motocross. It's not just a training mode, it's another challenge for you to accept and conquer!

Hopefully this primer on some of the popular cardiovascular cross training modes helps you decide what direction to pursue as you expand your motocross training. The benefits reach well beyond making you faster and last longer on the track; aerobic exercise promotes improved general health, has been proven to enhance mental function and can lead to a lifetime of health and fitness.

About the Author: Seiji Ishii is the head coach of provides online coaching and personal training services to motorsports athletes. Coach Seiji has worked with both pros and elite amateurs including: Heath Voss, Ryan Clark, Austin Stroupe, PJ Larsen, Hunter Hewitt, Drew Yenerich, Rusty Potter, Jason Anderson, and Andrew Short. Learn more at or contact Coach Seiji directly.

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
    Jeff June 11, 2015 at 6:41 pm

    I hang out with a bunch of different type athletes, from Ironman competitors to those just starting couch to 5k programs. Not sure what Kelly is talking about since the best and most successful people I know all have coaches and are the most dedicated/hardest working of the bunch. Thanks for the articles Coach Seiji!

  2. Gravatar
    robbo February 09, 2017 at 5:30 pm

    What would you say about a crosstrainer (epileptical?)? And the ski-erg?

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