When we talk about training for specific forms of motorsport, one of the most unique and often under-appreciated is motorcycle racing. However, motorcycle racing fitness is extremely important, and riders must train in very specific ways.
Motorcycle racing fitness training programs involve strength, endurance and coordination exercises, in order to allow them to perform at their peak. These factors are all important for whatever discipline of motorcycle racing the athlete is engaged in.
Motorcycle racers all train in different ways, but the core principles of strength and endurance are at the heart of all training regimes. Below, we consider some examples of exercises motorcycle racers may implement in their training programs, and discuss the importance of nutrition as well.
Motorcycle Racing Fitness Overview
When an athlete first commences competing in motorcycle racing, the fitness regimes they are likely to follow are fairly similar to that of race car drivers, be it F1, IndyCar, or sports car racing.
Categories of motorcycle racing include:
- Road racing
- Superbike racing
- Endurance racing
- Sidecar racing
However, for the purposes of this article, we are going to focus on the main disciplines and the conditioning requirements to be successful within them. MotoGP, superbike racing, motocross, and endurance racing are the disciplines that we will focus discussion on. However, the fitness plans outlined below can easily apply to all disciplines.
On deciding to get into motorcycle racing, the first step is to join a club and get some on track coaching. There are many professional clubs all over the world. As far as training for motorcycle racing goes, a lot of training carried out is still very general. Unique motorsports training has not yet been heavily welcomed into these disciplines of motorsports.
Below, I outline some of the key strength training exercises a motorcycle racer may implement into their workout plan, and then I’ll give an example training routine you could follow.
Strength Training For Motorcycle Riders
For any strength training program, the exercises and sequences have to be specific to the individual and address each individual’s personal strengths and weaknesses. In general, a circuit based approach works well and training the entire body as a single unit is usually best, as this is how you will utilize muscle contraction and coordination on the bike during racing.
A motorcycle strength training routine would look like the following:
- Dumbbell chest press
- Single arm dumbbell rows
- Standing dumbbell delt raises
- Front barbell squats
- Side lunges with bands
- Exercise ball crunches
- Lower back extensions
Dumbbell Chest Press
Since each side of the body is utilized simultaneously when riding a motorcycle, having to balance each dumbbell rather than using a barbell or machine chest press is the best option for any sort of chest press exercise. This mimics the rider ‘muscling’ the bike around.
As the rider progresses, they can begin holding resistance with the non-target arm, and also utilize strength differences with variable resistances on each side of the body. The exercise can also be performed on the chest press machine focusing on each arm independently.
A variation of the dumbbell chest press is the dumbbell incline. This involves using an inclined bench and performing the same exercise as the regular dumbbell chest press. However, this exercise targets the upper pectoral muscles and the front of the shoulders in particular, both key muscle groups for controlling and turning the bike.
Single Arm Dumbbell Rows
With single arm dumbbell rows, each side of the body is activated individually with strength development focused on the lats and rear shoulder complexes to provide strength and stability to the upper and mid spine.
Standing Dumbbell Delt Raises
This exercise is important due to the side to side sawing motion carried out at the handlebars, similar to what a race car driver faces with steering resistance with no power steering, such as in IndyCar. It also caters to the need to actively use the shoulder muscles to shift the body around the bike through turns.
Front Barbell Squats
Front squats are great because this relates to having to move the bike around with arms and shoulders, while at the same time activating the larger leg muscles. Put this into one single exercise and the front barbell squat becomes one of the best all round exercises for motorcycle strength training. This exercise promotes good posture, which is another important aspect to develop for riders.
This exercise can be enhanced by pressing a weight barbell or dumbbells overhead and performing a set of squats, while maintaining shoulder stability. This works the shoulders, triceps, and upper chest especially hard, and essentially mimics the all-round muscle involvement that riding a motorcycle requires.
Side Lunges With Bands
Side lunges with resistance bands work on the glutes, quads and adductors, which are all crucial areas to develop for riding. This assists in shifting body position on the bike, and controlling the bike itself.
Exercise Ball Crunches
The core is extensively engaged when riding a motorcycle and changing position. So, lots of different types of core workouts and exercises are important, and exercise ball crunches are some of the best.
Lower Back Extensions
The lower back is often neglected in workouts, but it is a key part of the body’s core muscles. The lower back is important to strengthen and provide stability to the lower spine, especially for motorcycle riders. Aside from providing core strength, working out the lower back provides a protective strengthening effect, helping to minimize injury in the event that a rider falls off the bike.
Motorcycle Racing Fitness Training Regime Example
|Exercise||Reps per Set||Sets per Circuit|
|Dumbbell Chest Press||15-20||3-4|
|Single Arm Dumbbell Rows||15-20||3-4|
|Standing Dumbbell Delt Raises||15-20||3-4|
|Front Barbell Squats||15-20||3-4|
|Side Lunges With Bands||15-20||3-4|
|Exercise Ball Crunches||15-20||3-4|
|Lower Back Extensions||10-20||3-4|
All of the sets above are excluding a warmup set, and the weights/resistances used will vary depending on the rider’s abilities. Doing the above as a circuit is usually recommended.
However, if a rider is focusing on increasing their weights or developing strength in general, they may perform each exercise’s 3-4 sets in turn (with appropriate rest in between sets and adding more weight if required) before moving on to the next exercise.
Cardiovascular Workouts For Motorcycle Riders
Cardiovascular workouts are key for all kinds of racing drivers. Both race car and motorcycle drivers require high levels of endurance to withstand the tough conditions of a long race, and cardio should therefore be one of the key areas of any training program.
The Skierg Machine
The type of cardio performed away from motorcycle racing can be of a wide variety, including using some sort of skierg machine. This is a very efficient piece of equipment that, although built to develop strength and endurance for cross country skiing, can be used to develop race-specific cardio for motorcycle racing in particular, as it pushes the upper body significantly.
Rowing Machine And Spin Bike
It can be used in conjunction with a circuit employing a rowing machine, and a spin bike. The muscle groups exercised for the upper body specifically involve activation of strength and muscular endurance of the chest, shoulders, upper back, biceps, and triceps, while the spin bike is good for overall endurance. All of these areas prepare the motorcycle athlete for the track very effectively.
Outdoor cardio can also be of incredible value, including not only using the disciplines of mountain and road biking, but kayaking too, which engages multiple sides of the upper body consecutively, along with engaging a rider’s balance and coordination.
Cross country and downhill skiing train the rider’s balance, hand eye coordination, endurance, strength, stability, and core strength engagement. Although these training methods are used for pro race drivers of all disciplines, they have a much more defined crossover with motorcycle racing due to the similar specific physical and mental requirements.
Motocross is also a great cross training activity for track based motorcycle racers. The conditioning element of off road riding works specific muscle groups required for track racing.
Nutrition And Hydration
It’s not always clear what a motorcycle rider specifically needs for nutrition that may be different for a race car driver. Both are highly athletic disciplines, regardless of the formula or type of motor racing, and drivers and riders both require high levels of complex nutrition for training.
So, I will just give an outline of basic nutritional requirements for motorcycle racing and an example nutrition program of an actual competitive motorcycle racer. This should not be used as a be-all-and-end-all plan for all individuals, as this would involve an in depth analysis of metabolic requirements to suit them specifically. It is just used here as an example of a nutrition plan.
Adequate protein should be consumed irrespective of whether you are a vegan, vegetarian, or can consume animal sources. If you do not use animal sources, it is advised to use high quality supplementation, kept as natural as possible. So, good natural protein shakes and other similar products are suitable.
Again, as with a professional race driver, good quality sources of protein are best eaten at regular intervals throughout the day. 1.6 g of protein per kg of bodyweight per day is more than enough when combined with a balanced nutrition program encompassing carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, and minerals.
Carbohydrate needs should be met with wholegrains, fruits, and vegetables.
Vitamins & Minerals
Utilize additional vitamins and minerals found in foods such as honey and coconut milk too. Include some of the so called ‘superfoods’ such as blueberries, alfalfa sprouts, flax seed, soy, turkey, tomatoes, beans, oats, salmon, chlorella and cranberries, as these foods contain properties for healing and muscle recovery.
Nutrition At The Track
Nutrition at the track should follow the same guidelines as for race car drivers, making sure the athlete is adequately supplied throughout the weekend with carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and protein.
Ensuring that the athlete eats in enough time to avoid the feeling of ‘over fullness’ with regard to practice, qualifying, and the race is key. Remaining adequately hydrated is also important.
Motorcycle racing fitness is very important, as it allows the rider to perform at their best from the beginning of a race weekend until the checkered flag. Creating a training regime that focuses on key areas of strength, endurance, and coordination is key, no matter the racing discipline.
Simon has over 20 years of experience training elite racing drivers across series such as Formula 1, NASCAR, IndyCar and Le Mans. With clients including multiple championship winners, he shares his teachings at Flow Racers to help more drivers reach the highest ranks.