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High/Low Training Model for Motocross - Part 2

by Joel Younkins


In my last article, High/Low Training Model for Motocross, I discussed the overview idea of the high/low model and how it can be implemented in a weekly motocross training schedule. In this article, my goal is to take this concept a step further and discuss a few important considerations that will need to be understood while using a model like this. Before I continue, I want to recap a few key points from the original article of what the high/low training model is.

Previously, I mentioned the late Olympic Sprinters Coach, Charlie Francis, who designed the concept of the high/low model by training his athletes based on the recovery and state of the athlete’s Central Nervous System. On a high day, the CNS will be stressed greatly. In the 48-72 hour period after the high training sessions, your body will need to undergo low intensity training in order to not only achieve different levels of work, but also promote recovery throughout the week. Here is a table from the last article to identify high CNS activities to low CNS activities in the sport of motocross:

High Intensity Low Intensity
Sprint Laps and Motos Technical Skills, Sections, and Bike Testing
High Intensity Intervals Low Intensity Tempo Intervals or LSD
Main Lifts and Explosive Training (Max Effort)
Auxiliary and Core Work

Now, that we have a simple understanding of the weekly training model, lets discuss different considerations on when, who, and the how someone should use this training model. Just like with all aspects of training, everything has a place and time, even the high/low model.

First, I will discuss the when. The high/low model can be implemented at any time of the year. However, I like to use the model while the rider is in a block of training and riding his or her bike (which in most cases should be majority of the year). So, when I am planning on helping improve both training and riding qualities, I can plan high days of both so they do not interfere with each other during the week of training. The same will go with the low days. If I am working with an athlete who is only focusing on just Strength & Conditioning at the moment and is off the bike, at that point, I may go into other training models like a 4 day split or another appropriate model. High/low can still be used through a Strength & Conditioning program by itself. I simply like the program the best when training and practicing are congruent to each other.

Next, I will discuss the who. This model will benefit more experienced athletes who can generate enough work to get the most out of their high days. If the racer is not capable of riding fast enough and long enough to stress the CNS or is not capable of handling a high intensity training session, then they will not get the most benefit of a high CNS day. At this point, the athlete must become a better rider and become better at training (force production, technique, and work load capacity) before they should begin a high/low training model. Therefore, a youth/mini rider will most likely not benefit from a week of this training until he or she is capable of this workload. A weekend warrior/amateur racer will also be unlikely to get a great benefit from this training where they will not be able to ride at a high enough level. However, I will identify someone with a work schedule that can still implement high/low into their training. At this point you probably now notice that it takes at least a somewhat talented (healthy) rider with a solid training base to use the high/low model most appropriately. However, those that will be searching for a systemized training plan throughout the week of training/practice will most likely fit the criteria of this training model in theory.

Lastly, I will discuss the how. I mentioned above in the last paragraph that competitive racers with a job during the week can benefit from this model as well. This is the feature athlete I would like to discuss in the how section. From the time you wake up, until the time you go to bed, your body will undergo stress from all levels of life. Physical, emotional, environmental, work related, and so on down the spectrum will stress the CNS. So training and riding is not the only element of stress (this is why the pros try to have everything handled for them). With a work schedule throughout the week, you can still use your job in the criteria of high stress days and low stress days. This is where I’m coming from…Let’s say you are a local pro or privateer who competes at a high level on the weekends but has a job during the week; let’s say construction for instance. If you are training throughout the week, play off of your work schedule. If it is a long hot day at work, then maybe you just go out and ride that afternoon/evening and put together a few decent sprints and call it a day. And the next day you will try and keep your stress and intensity to a low. A low day in this case could consist of a day of work, then a low intensity run or bicycle ride later. Obviously, this situation is not a one size fits all, just like how all aspects of training should be looked upon.

My main focus of these high/low articles is to emphasize the importance of your body’s physical state during a week of training. Going too “hard” or adding extra training volume is not always a good thing. Sometimes less is more. When training goes too far, you can result in overtraining, injury, illness, and a decrease in performance. These are just a few effects to name. Plan your training accordingly to let your program help you instead of damage your abilities. The high/low model is not for every athlete, but what it does consider is the state of readiness of how the athlete is able to train. My goal for a part 3 of this model will be to introduce signs of CNS fatigued symptoms to help recognize when an athlete should focus on high intensity days and low intensity days.

About the Author: Joel Younkins Training is dedicated to training and improving performance in not only motocross racers but in all action sport athletes as well. After ending his college football career early with a back injury, Joel returned to the sport of racing where his father Gary Younkins (Multiple 6 Days Gold Winner) created Joel's passion for the sport. Joel is now involved in training athlete's to help improve performance. His professional athletes include: Pro National Racer Mike McDade, GNCC Racer Jason Thomas (XC2 Pro Lites), and ATV GNCC Racer Mark Notman (XC1 Pro) on the racing front as well as action sport athletes Anthony Napolitan (Professional BMX Red Bull Athlete), Monster Jam Driver Joe Sylvester (Bad Habit Motorsports), and Pro MMA Fighter Joey Holt.

Joel's Website Joel on Facebook Joel on Twitter

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
    Eric Simpson July 19, 2012 at 7:26 am

    Excellent article! Quick question however....

    Im a Firefighter who works 24 hour shifts and loves to ride. Ive been doing the following for quite a while:

    My days after a shift, which usually have disrupted/little sleep, I fit into the "low model". Usually some LSD or Tempo work on the road/mountain bike followed by and easy bodyweight/gymnastics Crossfit wod. The day after that is "high" with a core lift and a more intense Crossfit wod, then either Moto or Intervals on the road bike in the aft. Days at the hall are off days and I squeeze in a light row and mobility when I can.

    Skill is my limiting factor on the bike from my point of view. I can get my heart rate up to where its at during my intervals or CF wods, but I can't hold it for more then 10-15mins on the bike before either arm pump or general fatigue sets in. Should I be ditching the CF wods and intervals on the high days in leui of more riding on the dirtbike?


  2. Gravatar
    Alex Jaroshevich July 19, 2012 at 8:07 am

    Intensity is the key, most weekend warriors do 4-7 laps which is about 15 min per session!

  3. Gravatar
    Joel Younkins July 19, 2012 at 8:07 am

    Hey Eric thanks! Sounds like you have a general idea on how to have a planned week of training...However, at the end of the day all that matters is your ability to ride the bike if that is your overall goal (to become better on the bike). That can never be ignored. Training just helps you attain your abilities to a certain level and also injury prevention as well. So yes, obviously work is most important, then riding should be second on your goals, and then plan your training around the 2. If you have anymore questions feel free to contact me!

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    andy July 19, 2012 at 11:08 am

    Great stuff. I've inadvertently have used the high/low for years because of my work schedule and straight-up listening to my body. Plus, enjoying multiple sports with overlapping seasons (and trying to perform at a high level in each) often means going out and playing hard (high) every few days and then lighter work-outs (often recovery oriented) in between depending on what I fell I need the most.

    Question: any advice on training for a multi-day event? Obviously proper nutrition, planing, as much recovery as possible, but any tips on performing at max for 2 -3 days in a row?

  5. Gravatar
    Joel Younkins July 19, 2012 at 1:07 pm

    I think what you need to consider after the preparation is done up to the days of the events is the recovery time needed in between. So look into areas of contrast showers, quality of sleep, soft tissue massages, and of course your nutrition would need to spot on too...these are a few ideas to look into as a general direction.

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    Racer X Virtual Trainer July 19, 2012 at 9:13 pm

    I think recovery leading up to the event is critically important. There is nothing to be gained the week or two prior to a race from a training perspective. There is a lot you can muck up and loose but nothing to be gained. I find that one of the hardest things top athletes struggle with is resting leading up to an event. 99% think they will "get out of shape" if they do not continue to train right up to the race. As a matter of fact, most will go harder than ever (training-wise) the week prior to a big race in hopes of gaining more fitness.

  7. Gravatar
    Joel Younkins July 20, 2012 at 6:37 am

    Great point Tim! That topic could be an article in itself...A lot of people don't realize that training can not only help improve performance when done correctly, but can actually decrease performance if done poorly.

  8. Gravatar
    Racer X Virtual Trainer July 20, 2012 at 10:26 am

    Joel - That would be a great topic. I'll look for the rough draft from you in my inbox next week :)

  9. Gravatar
    Joel Younkins July 20, 2012 at 2:32 pm

    Hahah...feels like I'm back in school now!..

  10. Gravatar
    Mike McDade July 23, 2012 at 9:54 am

    Last year i trained high intensity everyday to get ready for a national. I thought and was told that coming from doing nothing that would get me in shape fast. I was strong but always tired and especially on race day. I couldnt imagine how i would have done if i wasnt over worked, until this year. I have been training with joel since may. I do not get to practice during the week which is crazy but i feel amazing in between motos and during the week. During the motos i am getting faster the deeper i get into the moto. Especially the 2nd motos. I agree with the "less is more" because somedays i feel crappy and we dont do as much and work on different stuff and then i feel fresh the next day verse working through it hard and then feeling even worse the next day and on and on. Thanks joel

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