Introductory Strength Training for Motorcyclists


Category: How To

Upper Body

As mentioned earlier, our hands bear generally less weight than the feet and hips on the bike. However, that doesn’t mean we can totally ignore our upper body. We need to make sure that we are able to support ourselves under hard braking, maintain a flat upper back while turning, and generally be able to apply force when necessary without straining or getting too tense.

Exercise: DB Bench

Most people are familiar with bench pressing using a barbell, but this is a variation with dumbbells. As motorcyclists, we operate both of our hands separately, and we want to ensure that both arms are equally strong while working independently. Additionally, DB bench tends to be slightly less stressful on shoulders, wrists, and elbows and with the preponderance of those injuries in high performance riders, barbell bench press seemed less important.

Place the flat side of the dumbbells on the tops of your legs, and pop them up into your chest, leaning back at the same time. Once flat on the bench, squeeze your shoulder blades, control the descent of the dumbbells, with palms facing wherever is comfortable. Once the weights make brief contact with your chest, drive them up to the top position. When completed, rock the weights back onto your legs and sit upright. Dropping the weights is a great way to injure your shoulder, so be careful.

Dumbbell bench will do wonders for your chest and arm stability, and will hopefully reduce the necessity for those motocross and supercross bar pads. I like these in three to five sets of six to 12 reps.

Do: Control the weights.
Do: Pinch shoulder blades for the duration.

Don’t: Go too heavy and get squished.
Don’t: Drop weights off your chest/to the side.

Exercise: Pull Ups

Almost everyone is familiar with pull ups. Almost everyone doesn’t do them enough. It’s one of the single best ways to develop stability and strength in the shoulders and upper back. If we need to push on the handlebars, we need to pull as well. Being proficient with pull ups will definitely help. Jump up onto the bar with your hands slightly outside your shoulders and pull so that your chin is above the bar, descend with control, and repeat.

Do five sets, with as many reps as you can manage each time. If you can’t do one pull up, find a box or step and use that so you are standing with your chin close to the bar as is. Grab hold and try and descend as slowly as possible. Get back on the box to skip the ‘up’ part of the pull up.

Do: Control your body on the way down.
Do: Push yourself on these.

Don’t: Wriggle around on the way up.
Don’t: Get discouraged.

Exercise: DB Row

Yet another pulling variation, the dumbbell row will give us upper back and shoulder stability in the general position that we hold our handlebars. We don’t want to be tight on bars, but we need to be able to hold positions under duress. Set yourself up so that your back is flat (and remains so), and pull the dumbbell to the bottom of your ribcage so that the direction you pull is perpendicular to your chest.  Make sure the dumbbell actually touches you each time. Return to the extended position under control.

Initiate the pull with your shoulder blades and lats, not with your biceps. In order to keep your back flat, push your knee into the bench. Keep the dumbbell row between three to five sets of five to 20 reps. Feel free to mix up the reps and sets on this one and don’t be afraid to go heavy.

Do: Touch your chest every time.
Do: Use your lats.

Don’t: Round your back.
Don’t: Lean way back.

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