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Vet Rider Training

by Coach Seiji

With riders able to ride into their Golden years, training for the vet rider becomes even more important.

How General Conditioning Helps Reduce the Risk of Injury in Motocross
Most participants in motocross or dirt biking are not competitive; they are simply pursuing it as an enjoyable and sociable hobby. Physically training for recreational riding is often considered unnecessary since the goal is just to have a great time. Nothing wrong with that, but it should be noted that improving general conditioning not only improves health and wellness, it can drastically reduce the risk of injury during riding. Nothing can end the enjoyment of the wonderful sport of motocross like an injury! Here is my top five list of how physical fitness can keep you safer while partaking in the greatest sport on earth!

  1. Riding on the edge of your physical ability increases the chance of making a mistake that can lead to a crash just like riding on the edge of your technical ability. The more fit you are, the lower within your physical capacity you can ride and maintain your enjoyable level of speed. Riding at a pace that is well within your physical limits allows your mind and body to focus on correct technique and maintaining your timing and reflexes thus leading to less mistakes and safer riding.

  2. Joint injuries occur when a limb is taken past its usable and injury free range of motion. This is due to two factors: flexibility and strength, both of which are increased through improved fitness. Greater flexibility allows a joint to move in a greater range without damaging soft tissues and connective tissues like ligaments, muscles and tendons. Once a joint gets to the end of a range of motion, your muscular strength/power must resist continued motion to prevent these injuries. The combination of increasing your range of motion through increased flexibility and your ability to resist further motion through increased strength will drastically reduce the incidence of joint injuries.

  3. You can actually decrease the possibility of breaking bones through increased fitness; specifically by strength training. The loading of bones perpendicular to their long axis that occurs in strength training causes those bones to increase in density. This reduces the rate of fractures in these bones. The increase in muscle mass that accompanies increases in strength also increases the shock absorbing ability of the body and thus spares the bones from receiving much of the impact forces of crashing. Muscles are your body’s number one shock absorber and force reducer. More muscle mass equals more shock absorbing capacity and less broken bones and other injuries.

  4. Part of being healthy is being physically fit. Being healthy means that you have healthy tissues. These healthy tissues (among them ligaments, bones, tendons and muscles) are better able to resist shearing forces, compressive forces, impacts and other attacks on them that create an injury state. Ligaments and tendons are especially affected by overall state of health. Healthy tissues are simply injured less and minor injuries such as slight ligament sprains and muscle strains are more quickly healed so that they do not progress into major injuries.

  5. Physically fit individuals are good “healers.” When the unfortunate accident occurs, the better your fitness is at the time of injury, the quicker your body will heal and the less permanent effects you will have from the injury. The greater your fitness, the higher your relative metabolic rate and the healthier your tissues are at the time of injury. This means that your cellular metabolic rate is higher so the processes of healing (building new tissues, breaking down and eliminating damaged tissues, fighting infection among others) is faster than if you were not fit. The healthier tissues that fitness can promote are damaged less at the cellular level as well thus decreasing the amount of repair that has to occur to get you back into action.

Vet classes are getting larger every year!

Vet racer #807, Spike Warden (1974 vintage Honda CR250)

OK, all these points sound great but how can you, the hectically busy Vet class/recreational rider, obtain these benefits with a small investment of time? Vet class riders and older recreational riders tend to be far busier than the racing crowd due to careers and family. These riders’ time is at a premium and it is important to make the most of this free time – free time that they would rather spend riding. It’s a conundrum: you have free time and you want to ride, not train! But if you train, you are less likely to get hurt and you will enjoy your riding more; and if you get hurt – there goes a lot of riding time. Argh.

One of the most effective ways to train for a rider like this is circuit training. You are incorporating aerobic conditioning with strength training in a way that saves time and gets the most done in that time. Aerobic and strength training activities are all done in a row with no rest but arranged in an order so that you are not stressing the same muscles back to back. This allows for each muscle group to rest before it gets stressed again. Aerobic activity sessions are done in between strength training circuits comprised of 3-4 exercises all done consecutively. The aerobic activity combined with quick transitions between strength training exercises keeps the heart rate and metabolism elevated for the entire training session. There is no idle time and therefore no wasted time! Every minute of the session, you are in motion and getting work done! This is very time efficient and effective.

Below is an example of a circuit training session that a Vet class/recreational rider may employ. It would take just over an hour and covers the entire body. It incorporates all three aspects of fitness: cardiovascular, strength, and flexibility. It combines 35-minutes of cardio with 22 sets of strength training and 10-minutes of stretching. Twice per week, spaced out evenly, would be a realistic goal for most busy Vet and recreational riders. Again, this is only an example; let your imagination and ingenuity create different circuit training activities. Circuit Training Example Workout

Muscular Endurance for Vet class/Recreational Riders

Goal = 2x per week

Exercise Sets and Reps
Warm up: 10-minutes cardio, heart rate zones 1 and 2.
Lower body circuit: No rest between sets, perform 2 sets then do cardio
Alternating Dumbbell Walking Lunge 1-minute
Barbell Back Squat 45-seconds
Box Jump (20"-24") 45-seconds

5-minutes of cardio (row, stationary bike, treadmill, etc.)

heart rate zone 3 or RPE 7 - When complete do not rest and move straight to upper body circuit

Upper body circuit: No rest between sets, perform 2 sets then do cardio
Barbell Bent Over Low Row 30-seconds
Push ups 30-seconds
Strict Barbell Shoulder Press 30-seconds
Pull ups 30-seconds

5-minutes of cardio (row, stationary bike, treadmill, etc.)

heart rate zone 3 or RPE 7 - When complete do not rest and move straight to core circuit
Core circuit: No rest between sets, perform 2 sets then do cardio
Plank 45-seconds
Side Plank or Side Plank Advanced
Superman Back Extension

5-minutes of cardio (row, stationary bike, treadmill, etc.)

heart rate zone 3 or RPE 7 - When complete do not rest and move straight to cool down
Cool Down:

Option 1: Foam Roller

Option 2: Full body flex routine


NOTE: When doing these exercises, a minimum of 15 reps should be the goal. The maximum reps are irrelevant in this workout as long as you are taking each exercise to failure. If, at the end of the allotted time you can do more reps, then you have NOT taken the exercise to failure and need to use a heavier weight. Movements should be performed in a smooth, controlled manner.

One Final Thought....
The load in this workout is chosen so that you can just barely do 30-seconds of lower body repetitions and 45-seconds of upper body repetitions in a smooth and controlled manner. The range should be 15-20 repetitions so the load is fairly light. This stresses muscular endurance, NOT raw strength. Muscular endurance is the real culprit in motocross performance for almost all vets who don't have all the free time to perioidize their training all year.

If you are using this workout the same week you are planning to race, beware because you are more than likely going to affect your racing. My suggestion is to gradually work yourself into the routine using lower load and possibly lower speed. Not being able to move for three days is actually making you weaker and not stronger and you could be doing damage to connective tissues like tendons and ligaments. If you are going to follow this routine, then just modify it to give your body time to adjust and grow from it. At first you are more than likely going to have to take extra recovery days and those days are best spent doing light cardio because that will actually speed your recovery from the strength workout.

Interested in a more complete plan? Check out the Virtual Trainer premium training section.

Motocross is dangerous enough as it is. Educate yourself, get into better overall physical condition, and maintain your fitness to reduce injury, increase enjoyment and improve your health.

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 Yenerch, 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
    mark s June 06, 2014 at 11:31 am

    I have trained since I was in high school and have never stopped, I still train four days a week but often wonder if I over do for heart rate. I don't have any problem keeping my heart rate in the 145 to 170 range for 30 minutes on an elliptical machine or bike and when I am finished I feel good and not really breathing hard.

    I am 58 and always see on the machines where 85% heart rate for someone 50 is like 136 and for someone 60 is 128 So I often wonder is it bad to have my heart rate that high for my age even though is seems easy. I thought I read somewhere that if you have been training you entire life that the heart rate suggestions don't really fit because your heart is stronger then what heart rate charts suggest. What do you think.

  2. Gravatar
    Weekend rider June 08, 2014 at 4:41 pm

    I always wondered about the heart rate issue as well. I'm in my mid 40s, over weight (6' and 240), and only make it to the gym once a month ( I try to ride on weekends). When I do go to the gym and do cardio, the machine usually reads about 170 for heart ratte average over 20 to 30 min. When I enter age in machine, I'm way over. When I out in 25 for my age, I'm okay. Don't get me wrong, I'm breathing hard, wouldn't be able to talk, and sweating like I'm in the shower, but it feels good when done.

  3. Gravatar
    Racer X Virtual Trainer June 10, 2014 at 6:37 am

    Great questions guys. Please read this article and I think your questions will be answered.

    Mark, the "marketing" on cardio machines (fat burning zones, etc.) is complete BS for most people. As you will read in the article the often used formula 220-age formula to predict max heart rate is dated and should NOT BE USED.

  4. Gravatar
    Rob July 31, 2014 at 11:19 am

    In the article you mention to alter or decrease this plan if you are racing that same week. Are you referring to someone who would be starting this program or someone who is new to working out only? Just wondering if I can use this workout during the week Tues - Thurs and still race on Sundays?

  5. Gravatar
    Racer X Virtual Trainer August 07, 2014 at 1:08 pm

    Yes, you can use this plan Tuesday - Thursday and race on Sunday.

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