Strength and Conditioning for Super Bike Riders
Written by Mark Coles - Follow on Google+ | Facebook | Twitter
In response to some of the emails I receive each week, I thought I should clear up some of the confusion about strength and conditioning for Superbike riders. I fully appreciate that riders don’t want to be packing on slabs of muscle leading up to a race season, but there’s one part of the puzzle that is almost always over looked.
There are many recreational exercisers and athletes out there that still believe that the only way to get fit for endurance sports is to spend hours on treadmills or hours out on the road covering miles on push bikes. Whilst most of you are doing that, the guys (like Chris"Stalker" Walker, seen here training at M10 Fitness ) I work with are doing things slightly differently.
I don’t focus on the technical skills required to ride a superbike, I leave that down to the professionals. My focus is in their physical conditioning.
A typical race is 30 – 35 minutes; it’s very physically demanding and mentally very tiring. Therefore one would assume that the training riders should be doing would account for all these variables. Unfortunately this isn’t normally the case. Riders that speak to me before they come to my gym, often complain of mid race fatigue and muscular aches. If you watch them race, this is the exact same time as you see other riders passing them on the track or their lap times start dropping slightly. Cardiovascular fitness will only take a rider so far. If they are working overtime because of their muscular weaknesses, their heart and lungs are going to be working overtime too. Therefore if riding a powerful superbike becomes less physically demanding to the rider, less oxygen is used up and riding performance will improve. If a rider is strong for his bodyweight, he will be able to perform and focus a lot better around the circuit than his weaker competitors.
A good Strength and Conditioning Coach will be able to make a superbike rider strong without adding unnecessary weight to his frame. From the time the season finishes to the time the riders hit the grid, their training is structured. It is more than likely that injuries will have happened throughout the previous season, so in the early off season I look at their structural imbalances and undertake a phase of what we call general preparation training. Once the body is balanced in terms of flexibility and stability, I move into a small muscular building phase before heading into a good solid strength phase. Once the strong foundations are laid and we are building up to the season, it is here that the training steps up another level. The training sessions involve very demanding muscular endurance work which challenges every muscle a rider uses throughout a race. Their mental focus is pushed to new limits and fitness levels pushed way higher than that of a race. They are always shocked when they see that their heart rates are way higher than what they are following their standard 3 hour push bike rides. They are a lot more relative to the actual sport they partake in and so is the time of the session.
An added bonus of the strength training process is injury prevention. The riders who strength train tend to have fewer injuries. Strength training strengthens the muscles at all ranges and increases bone density. When force is placed on a bone, as in strength training they get stronger. If a rider does get injured they also tend to heal a lot quicker and they are able to get back to training a lot sooner than the riders who do not.
The next time someone tells you that strength training can slow you down on a bike, ask them to think again. A proper strength training program may well be the final piece of your training “puzzle” to quicker lap times and a step on that podium.
In my next article in this series (nutrition for Superbike Riders) I will cover some of the tips and techniques I use to get my riders to sub 10% body fat.
Mark has helped take me to new limits, my strength and physical fitness are better than they ever have been. I am now leaner, faster and a lot stronger, in body and in my mind than I have ever been
Chris “Stalker” Walker
You can read the article on the MCN website here:
Riders Mark is currently training or consulting to:
Chris"Stalker" Walker Kawasaki British Superbikes (Primo Racing)
Ben Wilson Kawasaki Supersport
Tom Young Kawasaki Superstock 600
Simon Andrews Kawasaki British Superbikes
Sam Warren British Supersport