May 30 2011

Posterior Core Development

If you have read my site for over a day, you will see where I stand on strength training.  Obviously, cardio is very important, but for me resistance training is what helps you push hard on a rough track, not that 10 mile run you did.  However, cardiovascular training and resistance training build off of each other.  Take this week at Freestone for example; the track was rough and extremely hot.  As the track gets rougher, your muscular strength and endurance will help keep the bike under control in the braking bumps, those monstrous whoops and any close calls you have.

Most of this strength stems from your core.  The core consists of 3 main parts: abdominals, lower back and glutes (that’s your butt if you slept through anatomy).  There are simple exercises that can work the abs and lower back like leg raises and deadlifts, but how and why would you work the glutes?  When doing lower body movements like squats, deadlifts, or lunges, your glutes assist the primary muscle groups and maintain stability when balancing to prevent you from falling to one side.

One exercise that targets both the hip flexors and glutes is the hip thrust.  This movement looks a little crazy, but it very effective for posterior chain development.  By throwing in this movement, you can build upon your current core strength and you will see that you can squat and deadlift more.  Often times, imbalances between protagonist and antagonist muscles can cause mild injuries that may lead to bigger problems.  When you add the hip thrust, you completely develop your core.

It is important to remember that you begin with light weight to get the movement down. Start with the bar and then work your way up to a weight where you can 15 to 20 reps.

Here is a quick look at the hip thrust:

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May 25 2011

Uphill Battles

A grassroots motocross track is long, rough, and has plenty of elevation changes.  Just thinking of Glen Helen brings  monstrous and power robbing hills to mind.  Even if your local track doesn’t have steep uphills, the same technique is needed to efficiently maintain speed.

The foundation of proper motocross technique tells you to keep your head up and vision fixed on the next obstacle.  If there is a corner before the uphill, look for the smoothest line possible that will set you up for your line up the hill.  Remember to flow through the turn clean and smooth as this will maintain drive and the rear wheel provide plenty of traction.

As you exit the corner or previous section, keep your rear wheel on that ground as much as possible.  This will give you constant, linear drive up the hill.  This can be done by riding in a gear high than normal.  This doesn’t mean to chug up the hill, but you want to keep your bike in an RPM range where the power allows the front wheel to lighten up and skim the surface.  If you are in too low of a gear and revving, the suspension is going to load and bounce, not absorb the bumps.

When you are approaching the top of the hill and begin to lose power, your best bet is to fan the clutch.  Remember, when you fan the clutch, there is no power going to the ground.  So, fan the clutch only when necessary and if things slow down too much, shift down.  However, be aware that down shifting may put you too high in the RPM range.  Most uphills are going to be rough, so grip with your knees.  This and the right gear can keep you out of trouble.

Uphills are simply straights with some vertical grade as body position should be just behind the neutral attack position.  It is important to look ahead so you set up for smooth line and start your drive off right. This ensures a faster way up the hill than your competition.  Smooth throttle application and the right gear is something that is different for every uphill situation.  So, experiment with different lines and gears to get an idea of what the optimal combo is.

May 23 2011

Heat Acclimation 101

The Great Outdoors are upon us!  What a way to start out the series.  Chad Reed and Blake Baggett both put on incredible charges through the pack to take the overall.  To be honest, I was extremely surprised the raw speed Baggett had at the end of the moto after training heavily for the Supercross season.  Granted, temperatures were not as hot as years past, but the literal night and day difference between the two types of racing can wreak havoc on the body.  Getting accustomed to the summer time temperatures is mandatory, especially if you live in the Southeast and/or plan on racing Loretta’s.

Heat acclimation is a process that should be taken seriously.  Temperatures down here in Florida have been nice the past 2 weeks, but it has risen back to the normal 90o and above mark.  When the body is in warmer weather, it makes physiological adaptations to compensate for its environment.  For example, there is an increase in heart rate, sweat rate and blood flow is increased to the skin to try and cool the body down.  This is why people with fair complexions look flushed.

The best time frame to get accustomed to higher temperatures is around 2 weeks.  In the first 5 days, heart rate decreases and perceived exertion is much lower during exercise.  In the second week, electrolyte conservation is utilized to help the muscles firing and keeping the body hydrated.  If performing at normal levels of intensity in warmer weather, you will notice it is much harder to carry out the regimented workout.  The body is forcing blood to not only the skeletal muscles, but also to the skin to maintain regular core temperatures.  Because of this, it is recommended that you take things easy the first week and do less intense workouts to allow the body to adapt to the stress.

One important part of this process is to weigh yourself before and after workouts.  If you are in hot enough environments, you will lose a few pounds from water weight.  It is extremely important to know how much weight you’ve lost so you can rehydrate and see if you are drinking enough liquids.  For example, if you weigh 150lbs on Monday and go for a run outside to come back and see you’ve lost 2lbs.  This means you must rehydrate yourself back to 150lbs.  If, the next day you weigh yourself and you are only at 149, you are not ready to workout outside.  By constantly losing this water weight, you deplete yourself of electrolytes and water.

Take things easy to make sure your ready for the heat.  Heat exhaustion and stroke are not fun, so save yourself the misery and work your way up to the normal intensities.  Trying to speed things up in a hoodie and sweat pants is not the best idea as well.  Like I said before, your heart is working overtime to supply the skeletal muscles and skin with blood.  You are only putting more, unnecessary strain on your cardiovascular system as well as an increased rate of water loss.  Just don’t do it.


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May 18 2011

Plyometrics for Motocross

When most people hear the words power and strength, they usually think they are the same thing.  Strength is simply how much force you can exert, while power is the force exerted over a certain time and distance.  Think of a those meat heads you see in the gym; they spend countless hours benching to increase their strength (how much weight they can lift).  When you see a power lifter perform a clean and press, he quickly “jerks” the bar up and then presses the weight over his head.  The person doing the clean and press is not only exerting force, but he is exploding the weight up over a certain distance as quickly as possible (aka power).

Ok, enough physics.  How does this apply to motocross?  Obviously you need to be strong to take control over your bike, but you also need that power to quickly make adjustments.  Anyone who has had the rear end swap out knows you need to act as soon as possible.  That power training will help you bring the rear end underneath of you and continue riding.

To get this power training, one of the best methods is jump training, or plyometrics.  This is just how it sounds.  You can use small boxes that are about 18 inches high and jump on, off, over and any other combination you can think of.  Plyometrics is just like resistance training in the sense that you have reps and sets, except you can take a 5 to 10 second rest between each rep.  For a total volume, you measure in foot contacts to the floor, so you might have 50 taps you want to complete.  You could do 5 sets of 10 reps.  You can also incorporate weights as well; only use up to 30% of your 1 rep max.  If you squat 200 lbs, the weight you would use for jump squats would be 60lbs.

Because it is a higher impact training, you need to treat it like a strength training workout. Have a day off after with no other strength training the following day. To keep your joints in good shape, you never want to land flat footed or on your heels. You want the impact to start at the toes and lightly tap the heel. With any other type of training, always warm up, stretch then cool down.

Here is a sample lower body plyometric workout:

Depth Jump – 50 contacts

Split Squat Jump – 50 contacts

Standing Long jumps – 50 contacts

Weighted Jump Squats – 30 contacts

Here are also a few videos to show you how to perform each exercise:

Depth Jump

Split Squat Jump

Standing Long Jump

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May 12 2011

Treat Your Body Like Your Bike

When you look at the title of this article, I am not referring to washing your body and loading it up with decals.  I’m talking about taking care of your health and fitness.  Motocross is known to be the true man and machine sport, with the athlete and bike needing to become one.  But so many times I see racers only find it necessary to take care of their bike and do not bother take care of their bodies.  I have seen people eat candy on the way to a race and talk about drinking beer the night before, but when I see their bike, it looks like it just came off the show room floor because it has been taken care of so well.

What I am trying to say is motocross and offroad racing is demanding on your body just as it is on your bike.  Racer’s often want to put the best race gas in their bikes but will not eat healthy foods leading up to the race.  If something is wrong on your bike or it needs fixed, everybody makes sure it is ready in time by the next race, but will probably neglect some knee pain or some fatigue issues.  These are just some examples of typical scenarios of what amateur racers will do.  I like to use and believe in the phrase, “train like the pro’s.” Learn from the pro’s, they do something better than you do, so take advantage and learn from them whenever possible!

One thing you may notice is that most top riders will hire a trainer to make sure their bodies are properly prepared.  Going back to the way of thinking, treat your body like your bike, they hire a trainer to be their mechanic for their body.  So if you work on your bike yourself, always remember, when you go out to race or ride, it’s not just the bike going out there doing the laps, it is the rider too!  I hope this can be a different perspective on the way of thinking about your bike being in relation to your body.  So try to make improvements on your health and fitness every week.  Keep making minor changes that will help you on and off the track, so not only will your bike be running good, but so will you!

My name is Joel Younkins, I am from Hubbard Ohio.  I am an Exercise Science Major at Youngstown State University.  I played football at YSU until I hurt my back last summer which ended my career early.  After my injury and rehabilitation I began my own training business Joel Younkins Training.  You can look me up on Facebook (Joel Younkins Training) or Twitter @j43y.  I train motocross racers, all athletes, and general population.  Also since I am done playing football I am now a student strength coach for the university in which I work with all sports.

Editor’s note: Joel is now training XC2 championship contender, Jason Thomas in the GNCC series.

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May 11 2011

Mastering Whoops

Whoops are one of the toughest objects on a motocross course. Period.  They are intentionally designed to slow you down and rob you of momentum.  Because of the degree of difficulty, many riders struggle through them and are intimidated to practice them.  If you watched the Supercross Final in Las Vegas, I’m sure seeing Stewart and Windham go down in the whoops makes you want to get out there and practice them!  However, if you apply a few techniques and gather up some courage, you can be blitzing whoops quicker than you think.

The first part to successfully traversing a whoop section is having the correct body position.  Simply leaning all the way back and pinning it through will not end well.  You will be surprised to find that you can be slightly behind the center of your bike and still keep the front wheel up.  It is extremely important to grip with your knees to control the bike from your lower body and keep your head up.  If you get caught looking at the whoop right in front of you, you will end up on the ground.  So constantly look way ahead.

When you find the rhythm of the whoops, you can adjust your body back more or even forward.  When you let the bike just go through the motions, it saps energy from you slowly as the bike ends up riding you.  Once you get the flow of the section, you can “row” back and forth to help stabilize the bike’s rocking.

The hardest part of entering whoops is commitment.  Being timid on the first whoop slows you down and makes every hit harder and more intense.  If you come in a gear high, get the front wheel up and charge through them, whoops become easier to ride through.  When you start slow, the whoops just rob you of speed exponentially greater than coming in with more momentum.  You can get on top of them and skim on top, rather than try to soak each one up.

Remember to start small and work your way to faster speeds.  Don’t get to cocky as they can come up and bite you in the butt.