Pre-Season Training for Motocross and Off-Road Riding

By Rodney Womack, CSCS, for

Previously, I have discussed the need for different phases of training when preparing for your racing season. Off-season, pre-season, and in-season are the three most common methods of dividing up the training season.

The winter is usually considered the off-season for many off-road and motocross racers because of the cold and wet weather, and in a previous article, I described a sample off-season type of workout that one could do at home during the off-season. In this article I will go a little further by describing what you should do as you get closer to your racing season, or the pre-season phase of your training.

Pre-Season Training

The major goal of pre-season training should be to increase the intensity of your training to prepare you for the rigors of motocross, enduros, hare scrambles, or any other off-road riding. Before you start this phase of your training program you should already have several weeks of basic training to establish an adequate strength and conditioning base, you should now be ready to embark on a more strenuous training program.

First, we will talk about strength training. If you are currently doing the workout of pushups, pullups, situps, and bodyweight squats that I outlined in the previous article then you should have developed a good strength base. Now I will recommend that you do two things to alter your workout and make it more difficult. First, you need to increase the resistance of the exercises, and, secondly, you should decrease the amount of rest time between sets and exercises. This will help you develop more strength and more endurance in your muscles, and your workouts will increase in difficulty.

How do you add resistance to bodyweight exercises? An easy way is to wear a weighted vest, or a backpack with some added weight, when you do your pushups, pullups, and squats. Resistance can also be added by changing the angle of the exercise. For example, pushups can be done with your feet raised up on a chair or bench. Another great way to do pushups is with your feet on a stability ball and your hands on the floor, or with your feet on the floor and your hands on the ball. Either way it forces your body to work harder to stabilize itself which will develop muscles throughout your entire body.

It would also be advisable to add some different exercises to your program to avoid burnout or boredom. For the lower body you can add lunges or stepups on a bench or stairs. For the upper body you could add one or two of the pushups described above. In addition to situps, you can do leg lifts lying flat on the floor. For a more difficult version of the pullup, you can try towel pullups. Get a large towel, roll it up, throw it over the pullup bar with the two ends hanging down at an equal distance, grab each end tightly, and either hang for time or do pullups. This is extremely difficult, but it is great for developing your hands, grip, and forearms. Give it a try – this is a great exercise for motorcycle riders.

If you work out at a gym with weights, then you would simply substitute an appropriate weightlifting exercise for the one described above. Just remember that you are training to be an athlete, not a bodybuilder. Those who lift weights should concentrate on athletic movements such as power cleans, push press, squats, deadlifts, bench press, barbell rows, pullups, and core exercises.

For your endurance / aerobic conditioning I would recommend that you continue to run, bike, swim, use a rowing machine, or jump rope. However, it would also benefit you to add more high intensity interval type of training to your program. On a bike, or any other machine, you would sprint for 30-60 seconds, then back off for 15-30 seconds, then sprint again. Alternate this pattern for several minutes or for the entire workout. I am also a big advocate of sprinting, especially up hills or stadium steps. This type of high intensity training, with little rest in between sets, is extremely effective in developing strength and endurance in all types of athletes. Keep up your endurance training, but add this type of high intensity training 1-2 times a week for an added boost to your program. Once you do, you will notice the difference in your riding.

Once you decide on your exercises, it’s time to set up a workout. Here’s a sample workout that would be good for someone who has completed several weeks of basic strength and conditioning as described previously:

Strength Workout - Keep rest times between sets under 60 seconds

• Jog in place or bike for 5 minutes
• Stretching for the upper and lower body – 5-10 minutes
• Stability Ball Pushups – 4 sets of 10-20 reps
• Towel Pullups – 4 sets of 5-10 reps or hang on for 30 seconds
• Situps – 4 sets of 20
• Leg Lifts – 4 sets of 10
• Stepups on a Bench or Stairs – 4 sets of 20
• Lunges or Bodyweight Squats – 4 set of 10-20 reps

Endurance Workout

• Jog, Bike, Swim, Rowing Machine, or Jump Rope (or any other endurance / aerobic activity) for 30+ minutes, or
• Interval Training as described above, or
• Hill / Stadium Sprints

If you don’t have time to do the entire strength workout in one session, then divide it into upper and lower body workouts and do them on alternating days. Strength training should be done 2-4 times per week. Endurance training can be done on the same days or on alternating days with the strength training. Add or subtract exercises according to your personal needs. If you also like to lift weights, you can include them in your program. Remember - adjust the workouts to work on your weaknesses and maintain your strengths.


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