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Pre-Season Training

by Racer X Virtual Trainer

To me, this old-school picture is one of the coolest of all time and just makes me want to wipe the cobwebs off my bike and go ride.

To properly train for motocross, you should be incorporating three separate phases to your training program. Namely the off-season, pre-season, and in-season periods. The pre-season is the time period of 6 to 8 weeks prior to the start of your season. Your off-season should have been spent doing strength training, recovering from injury, and building a solid aerobic base. If your post-season training was a success, you should be fully recovered, stronger than ever, and ready to attack the upcoming season. With the post-season behind you, it is time to move into the all important pre-season training phase.

Pre-Season Defined
The pre-season workout involves exercises that are sport specific. This phase of conditioning will shift emphasis to speed training, interval weight training and interval cardiovascular training. Speed training conditions the neuromuscular system, developing balance, reflexes and coordination, while interval training increases cardiovascular and muscular endurance, and establishes fast recovery from heavy bouts of exercise. This program is the most intense of the three phases and is generally considered the meat-and-potatoes portion of your training. In this phase, you should be fully recovered from any previous injuries and ready to give 110 percent. Sport specific exercises are very important in the pre-season to get your body ready to get back on the bike. The sport specific exercises we will use mimic the motions and positions your body goes through during a race. In these exercises, we will overload the body by training interval style. Interval style training is necessary in order to push past your normal fitness levels. By overloading the muscles, you force your body to adapt and become stronger and attain higher and higher levels of muscular endurance. This will pay dividends during race day, allowing you to push harder for longer periods of time without tiring.

Energy Systems
There are two energy systems at work when riding MX; the aerobic and anaerobic systems. Since motocross is mostly aerobic, it is very important to broaden your aerobic threshold. By broadening your aerobic threshold, your body will be able to remain in the aerobic zone longer before entering an anaerobic state. The aerobic system requires much less energy to sustain for long periods of time than the anaerobic. For this reason, we want to stay in the aerobic zone for as long as possible when riding. Otherwise, you will enter the anaerobic zone and tire quickly. This is where interval training comes into play. By overloading your body and utilizing both the aerobic and anaerobic systems, your body will become more efficient at utilizing blood and oxygen and remain in the aerobic zone longer.

There are many advantages to interval training. Since Interval training uses both the aerobic and anaerobic energy systems it is a great method to use for MX. Aerobic means "with oxygen" and aerobic exercise is defined as any long duration exercise of low to moderate difficulty using large muscle groups such as the legs, back, butt, or arms. An example would be jogging. The aerobic system uses oxygen to convert carbohydrates into energy from various sources throughout the body. The anaerobic system, on the other hand, draws energy from carbohydrates stored in the muscles for short bursts of intense work such as sprinting or blitzing a whoop section. Anaerobic means "without oxygen", and can only provide enough energy for very short periods of time. The byproduct of anaerobic exercise is lactic acid, that wonderful thing responsible for the burning sensation you get when you push your muscles past their aerobic threshold. Motocross is mostly aerobic; using the anaerobic system in situations where high outputs of energy are required for very short periods of time like whoop sections, muscling the bike through a tough rutted section, or sitting and standing several times over a short distance.

-RPE- Description

To help equate these zones, here are some more familiar comparisons specific to MX:

RPE 17 - What you would ride if you were told to ride a 20-minute moto as hard as you could go but holding equal lap times every lap.

RPE 9-11 - Trail riding for 2 hours at a comfortable pace just for fun with friends would fall in this range

RPE 16-17 - A one hour hare scrambles event would clock in at this range.

RPE 19-20 - A two-minute all out sprint to catch the rider ahead of you for the moto win.

6 Recovery - Very, Very Light
7 Recovery
8 Recovery
9 Extensive Endurance - Very Light
10 Extensive Endurance - Fairly Light
11 Extensive Endurance
12 Intensive Endurance - Fairly Light
13 Intensive Endurance - Somewhat Hard
14 Intensive Endurance
15 Threshold
16 Threshold - Hard
17 Anaerobic Endurance
18 Anaerobic Endurance - Very Hard
19 Power - Very Hard
20 Power - Very, Very Hard

The following exercise program should be used in the pre-season, but can also be use during the season to supplement your weaker areas. When doing this program, stick to the following guidelines to attain peak results.

  • Warm-up and stretch before your training session.
  • Workouts are to be completed in a circuit.
  • Follow training format in the order prescribed for best results.
  • Use "off days" for riding practice.
  • If unable to ride, use off days to train your weakest element (cardio, strength, endurance, etc.)
- Speed Training -
Warm-up and Stretch 10 to 15 minutes
Vertical Jumps (More Intense Jump)
15 - 20
Lateral Jumps (Demo Video)
15 - 20
Plyometric Push-up (Demo Video)
Bulgarian Split Squats
15 (each leg)
Bent Over Row on Bench
Standing or Sitting Dumbell Shoulder Press
15 (each arm)
Cardio Activity

15-20 minutes cardiovascular activity on the rowing machine, treadmill or stationary bike. This should be performed at a RPE of 14 to 16 (i.e. work pretty hard, but not as hard as you can)

  • When performing the above circuit, move as quickly as possible to the next exercise.
  • Rest three minutes in between circuits. (Option: Stand on Indo Balance Board)
  • Do cardio activity AFTER three complete circuits.

- Interval Weight Training -
Time (Reps)
Warm-up and Stretch 10 to 15 minutes
Interval Set 1
45 sec. (18 - 20 reps to failure)
Low Rows with Barbell (or TRX Atomic Pushups)
45 sec. (18 - 20 reps to failure)
Jump Pull-ups (or Burpees)
45 sec. (18 - 20 reps to failure)
Rower, Stationary Bike or Treadmill
3-minutes at RPE 13
3-minute rest period (Option: Stand on Indo Balance Board)
Interval Set 2
Walking Lunge w/Shoulder Press (or Hamstring Curls)
45 sec. (18 - 20 reps to failure)
Bicycle Crunches (on the floor or ball)
45 sec. (18 - 20 reps to failure)
Squat to Row (Option Using Bands)
45 sec. (18 - 20 reps to failure)
Rower, Stationary Bike or Treadmill
3-minutes at RPE 13

3-minute rest period (Option: Stand on Indo Balance Board)

  • When performing the interval sets, move as quickly as possible to the next exercise.
  • Perform Interval Set 1 - Rest 3-minutes - interval set 2 - Rest 3-minutes - repeat for 3 to 4 sets.

Interval Cardiovascular Training
Interval cardiovascular training is performed using intervals. Intervals are performed by alternating between low intensity (aerobic) exercise and high intensity (anaerobic) exercise. Once warmed up and stretched, exercise at the low intensity for a period of two minutes, then increase intensity to an all-out pace for one minute. This is continued for 20-minutes of training, low, high, low etc. Low interval training intensity is to be done at an RPE of 9-10. High interval intensity is to be done at an RPE of 19-20. Interval cardiovascular training is to be performed 2-3 times per week on a rowing machine (Concept2) or similar piece of equipment that requires the use of both the upper and lower body. This will ensure total body conditioning. See the Concept2 Page for specific rowing workouts for the pre-season.

You should always be incorporating some lower intensity cardio (base training) throughout your training season. An example of low intensity cardio training would be a 45 to 60 minute run, row, or cycle all at a RPE of 9 to 11. If you use heart rate zones, that equates to Zone 1.

Example Schedule
Monday – Recovery day if you raced on Sunday. Speed Training otherwise.
Tuesday – Ride or Interval Weight Training
Wednesday – Interval Cardio training
Thursday – Ride or Interval Weight Training
Friday – Rest
Saturday – Low Intensity Cardio Training (Base or Recovery Ride)
Sunday – Race or Ride

This schedule will vary greatly depending on your own needs. As you train you should become more accustom to what your needs are and adjust your schedule accordingly. If you feel like you need more muscular endurance, then add a day of interval weight training. Getting winded on lap 3, then add more speed or interval cardio training. You must learn to become in tune with your body and adjust this schedule to suit your needs. And remember, a day of rest is a good thing. Don’t over train.

Good luck adding this pre-season training program to your workouts. Remember, depending on where you are in your training program, this workout may or may not apply to you for a vast majority of the season. Evaluate where you currently stand fitness wise, and use the pre-season workout accordingly.

Before beginning any fitness program, always see a qualified healthcare provider for advice and to address any questions or concerns. The exercises presented on this website are for suggestion only and should not be substituted for medical diagnosis or treatment. Participate at your own risk and stop if you feel faint or experience shortness of breath.

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
    Pelotrain May 10, 2012 at 8:40 pm

    Good article Tim, just remember that all training should not be interval based as you have mentioned as to much intensity will start to have a negative effect on the athlete leading to other problems.

    keep up the good work bud.

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    Jake Falck May 18, 2012 at 7:59 am

    can i ride everyday? or will that be to much

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    Tim November 16, 2012 at 4:05 am

    Hi Tim,

    Would this be a good workout to add to the end of the 19 week Seiji program?

    Im thinking about doing 19 weeks of the Seiji program, then doing 4 weeks of this one on the end. I feel the extra intensity of this program would peak my fitness at the end of the 23rd week.

    Your thoughts?

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    kurt December 05, 2012 at 9:31 pm

    hi does it matter if your off season and your pre season only go for about 3 to 4 weeks because my season has a very shourt break

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    Racer X Virtual Trainer December 06, 2012 at 10:13 am

    Kurt, you will have to work with what you have. The more experienced you are at training the better you will become at applying the principles of each phase at different times. There are circumstances when I apply off season workouts in the middle of a season. All depends on the needs of the individual client.

    Two alternate solutions. First, you could follow the 19-week free training we posted last year. That is a periodized training plan that is set up specifically for moto. Second, in a few weeks I hope to have the premium training section of the site launched and for 20 bucks per month, you won't have to worry about this stuff. You will just follow the workouts that are emailed to you every day!

    Free Training -

    Premium Training -

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    Racer X Virtual Trainer December 06, 2012 at 10:15 am

    Tim - I love these workouts and think it would be a good addition to the 19-week training. BUT, at some point you need to go back and repeat the 19-week protocol most likely starting at week 3 or 4.

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    Erik January 25, 2013 at 12:45 pm

    I am a 21 years old rider and i have about 15 weeks before my First race. I started training 2weaks ago. but I've started this workout today with Interval Weight Training and it's really cool :). Is this enough if i do this workout still my first race? Could you give me any advice?

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    Racer X Virtual Trainer January 25, 2013 at 4:17 pm

    My best advice to you is to join the Premium Training community on Virtual Trainer. For $20 bucks a month, you will receive daily workouts from Andrew Short's trainer, Coach Seiji. That is the best deal anywhere in moto. Your first month is even free! Just click on the Premium Training button in the upper right hand corner.

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    Dylan April 27, 2013 at 6:21 am

    Hey just comparing this workout schedule to the in-season phase and it seems there's more work during the in-season phase. The schedule prescribed here has no gym workouts on riding days while the in-season does. I'm about 4 weeks out from the Canadian nationals - does that mean I'm still in pre-season mode? More importantly, how much work should I be doing at this point. Ride & gym/cardio if I can in the same day or is that too much?

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    Racer X Virtual Trainer May 01, 2013 at 10:38 am

    Dylan - If you are a pro racing the Nationals, I would highly recommend AT THE VERY LEAST, checking out the premium training packages. There are several to choose from and I would imagine that the Amateur Racer Program 2 would be your best fit. Don't worry that it says amateur racer. The programs are set up based on time available to ride and train and the Amateur Racer 2 plan is designed for the rider with unlimited (well almost unlimited) time to train during the week. See the comment above just before yours.....

    Regarding the scheduling of this particular article. It was not meant to be followed exactly as written but more as a general guide. If you have time to ride and train in the same day then that is great. But most people do not. the premium training plans take all the guess work out when to ride and train. The first month is free so I would highly recommend joining. And if you have been training for a while, I would start with month 3.

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    Guest November 05, 2013 at 11:45 pm

    This is really good

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    Riley January 05, 2015 at 11:36 pm

    can you do these exercises in season as well as pre/ off season?

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    Byron June 17, 2015 at 7:16 am

    In the section on Interval Cardiovascular Training it says the interval cardio training should be done 2-3 times per week but in the Example it only shows it being done once?
    Can you add and extra interval cardio day on Friday instead of resting and rest on Saturday instead or would that lead to being tired on Sunday to Race?

    Thanks :).

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    Racer X Virtual Trainer June 18, 2015 at 11:47 am

    It is a little confusing but what I meant to say was "Interval Training" which includes interval weight and interval cardio. Which type you use is up to the type of conditioning you need the most.

    This article was published many years before Coach Seiji and I developed the premium training program. My advice....for $19.95/month use the premium training plans. All the guess work is removed and you get a professional training plan. No brainer to me. Thanks!

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