MOTO is one of the fastest moving exposed man sports out there. You are balancing a 40+ horsepower machine at the edge of crashing almost all the time. Most people do not understand just how much balance it takes to ride a moto well, and quite frankly this is something that is really difficult to recreate in a gym. Most professionals will tell you that the most important thing is time in the saddle and deliberate practice of specific skills to get better on a bike. And they are not wrong.

What’s deliberate practice? It’s the intentional honing and polishing of specific skills over and over again over countless hours of practice. Baseball legend Joe Dimaggio was once spoke with a journalist that called him a natural hitter:

DiMaggio then looked at the journalist and said, “Don't you ever tell me that I'm a natural hitter again.”

The same is true on a dirt bike, there is no substitute for getting out there on the bike and trying to rail a corner technique, master the double blip, hit that seat bounce double, etc. But that doesn’t mean that the gym doesn’t have a place.

Understanding Dirt Bike / MX Fitness Programs

 Running a specific MX fitness program designed for MX and MOTO athletes is crucial for elite performance. Choosing a basic “get shredded for summer” training plan built for bodybuilders is not going to prepare you for your racing season. The only bright side of doing that would be you’d look good losing.

Jokes aside, there’s nothing wrong with looking good. However, one of the first things professional strength and conditioning coaches do when they train athletes is take a “needs analysis”. This is because each sport relies on different metabolic and physiological systems to improve an array of fitness variables. Let’s examine what variables are specific to MOTO and MTB athletes.

MOTO Athletes Rely On Different Metabolic Pathways

While there are three different metabolic pathways, each system falls under one of two types:

  • Anaerobic
  • Aerobic

This brings us to the first major difference. The MOTO athlete’s primary metabolic system used is the aerobic system which is drastically different from a bodybuilder who relies more on the anaerobic system.

Anaerobic Systems

Your body has two anaerobic systems, glycolysis and the phosphagen system. These are systems that can produce ATP without the presence of oxygen and are used primarily for high-intense activities of short duration such as weightlifting and sprinting.

While they are able to produce ATP quickly, they do so in small amounts leaving ATP stores too low to maintain high-intensity for very long. After 2:00 of intense exercise, the body will begin to fatigue and is forced to slow down.

Aerobic System

On the contrary, your body has one aerobic system which requires oxygen to produce ATP; the oxidative system. While this process takes longer, the end yield of ATP is much, much higher.

Therefore, if an athlete’s intensity is lower, their body has plenty of time to produce enough ATP allowing them to function longer. This is why it’s the major metabolic pathway for endurance sports such as MOTO.

MOTO Athletes Need To Focus On Their Aerobic Systems

To be clear, your body never works in absolutes including your metabolic systems. Your body has access to both so it’s going to use both. However, MOTO athletes will rely on their aerobic system much more extensively making it their primary focus.

Primary Fitness Variables For MOTO Athletes

When we speak about “fitness variables” we are referring to things like:

  • Muscle hypertrophy
  • Muscle strength
  • Muscle power
  • VO2max

Basically, these are the different variables that an athlete needs to improve to succeed in their sport. While a bodybuilder's sole focus is on muscle hypertrophy (larger muscle mass), this does little for endurance athletes.

With this in mind, the main goal of a MOTO athletes are to:

  • Increase VO2max (cardio system)
  • Increase power
  • Increase strength


VO2max is the primary variable used to determine the endurance ability of an athlete. It basically measures an athlete's ability to utilize the oxygen they breathe in. An athlete with a high VO2max is able to perform more work per unit of oxygen.

As a result, they become less fatigued, have higher time to exhaustion, and higher functioning muscles. What this means for a MOTO athlete is they can ride longer and faster while staying fresh.

There are many ways to improve this variable which we will discuss below.

Strength And Power

Many endurance athletes are surprised to hear they should include some strength and power training. However, this mainly comes from a misunderstanding of the terms as well as the physiological adaptations they have on the body.

Power refers to the ability to produce greater rate of force in a shorter period of time. This is why it’s also called “Fast strength” or “explosive strength” as movements such as jumping or throwing.

On the other hand, “strength” is the ability to generate a maximal amount of force. You can think of this as “slow strength” and includes things like heavy bench press, or squats

While dirt bike athletes aren’t necessarily performing these actions, power and strength training increases the efficiency of the neuromuscular system. This basically means it takes the existing muscle and makes it communicate better together. If this happened, a moto athlete would be able to spend less energy to create more work.

As a result, this adaptation has been found to actually improve numerous fitness variables as well as the actual performance of endurance athletes including:

  • Increased VO2max
  • Increased VO2MART
  • Faster Time-Trials
  • Higher Work Economy

Training Methods For MOTO Athletes

Here are the best ways a MOTO athlete can improve the variables we went over above.

Cardio Training Methods

There are numerous ways to improve VO2max. For MOTO athletes, steady-state is a great way. When doing so, the majority of work should be done in Zone 2 which is about 60-70% of your max heart rate for longer periods of time (1-3 hours). You should be able to hold a conversation in zone 2 without changing your breath, we have to warn you, this is pretty boring work. A good book on tape goes a long way while you are doing Zone 2 workouts. 

At the same time MOTO athletes can jump up to ZONE 4 (85-90% max heart rate) from time to time. One way to do this is by using “fartleks”. Meaning “speed play”, fartleks are basically running intervals with no set parameters. For example, you see a tree and can sprint to it then slow down until you see another. This can keep things interesting.

HIIT is also a great method and is unique as you can improve your anaerobic endurance as well as improve your VO2max. Simply pick a mode of exercise and choose a work/rest ratio. You then work at maximal intensity during the work and then slow down (not stop) during the rest interval. A good place to start is using a :20/:40 work/rest ratio but also play with longer sessions up to 20 minutes.

Strength And Power Training Methods

The MOTO athlete doesn’t need to waste time doing exercises such as curls. Instead, when weight training they need to focus on compound lifts such as squats, deadlifts and lunges.

These movements should be used under the following loads:

  • 4-6 reps using 82-85% 1RM
  • 1-2 reps using 90-95% 1RM
  • Loads of 60-75% with emphasis on performing the movement explosively.

In addition, power movement will also greatly improve the neuromuscular system.

This includes movements like:

  • Box Jumps
  • Squat Jumps
  • Ball Slams

Also consider using multi-directional and dynamic movements as well such as:

  • Burpee To Pull-Up
  • Sled Push/Pull
  • Carries

Something like front carries could be very beneficial as it will train the entire core to brace. Further, it trains the lower body to carry weight under load while improving muscular endurance of the upper body.

The main focus is your training is based on performance, not aesthetics.

Utilize Stability Training

A dirt bike race is a constant game of balance. When you’re not falling over, you’re fighting inertia trying to pull you off the bike. This is why it’s important to utilize exercises that get you off balance.

When using stability training, there are two types:

  1. Standing on an uneven surface
    1. Bosu ball
    2. Stability balls
    3. One footed or singled handed exercises
  2. Using uneven loads

For example, doing an exercise on an uneven surface may be something like doing squats on a BOSU Trainer Ball. The instability of the surface will cause higher activation in your stabilizers as they will need to work extra hard to stabilize yourself.

Using uneven loads would include exercises such as a briefcase carry. This is when you pick up a heavy dumbbell or kettlebell in one hand. While maintaining an erect torso, you then walk. Because you are holding the implement in just one hand, the uneven load will want to pull you over.

Another interesting method requires a resistance band. Wrap the resistance band around your waist and have a partner hold the other end. Next, you simply perform movements as the partner pulls on the band.

Movements that work with this are:

  • Running agility ladders
  • Sled pushes
  • Body weight squats

If you don’t have a partner, you can wrap the resistance band around a brace to hold it and perform static movements (Squats, deadlifts)

Utilize Anti-Rotation Movements For Core Training

True Or False: Crunches Are Good For Core Training?

A lot of people get core training wrong, especially from a performance perspective. You could probably guess that the answer is “no”, crunches aren’t great for performance training. In fact, any movements that train the core with hip flexion really isn’t ideal, especially from a performance perspective.

To begin with, “the core” does not mean “abs”. It refers to the entries musculature around the midsection including the abs and back. Second, the main function of the core is not to flex the spine or extend it; it’s to maintain rigidness and stability in an erect position. This means crunches are often used to train the core using a movement that goes against its main function!

Of course the core can also rotate the torso as well as flex and extend the spine. However, the core primary function is to maintain rigidness to protect the organs, spine, and help maintain proper posture. Imagine taking a massive jump and upon landing, you do a “crunch” and smash your face on the handlebars! Of course you don’t want that!

Instead, you want a core that can handle being jolted and help fight inertia on tight turns. Therefore, use what are known as “anti-rotation” movements. These are movements that force your core to resist a force that’s trying to rotate the torso.

Awesome anti-rotation movement examples include:

  • Pallof Press
  • Side Planks
  • Briefcase Carry
  • Woodchoppers

In addition, start working on barbell rollouts. These are like planks on steroids and are quite possibly the beast core stability exercise there is!

So What Should MOTO Training Look Like?

The primary reasons for a dirt bike athletes training is performance gain, but it also can play a huge part in injury prevention. This is why it's in your best interest to use the training methods discussed above.

A strength session might look something like this:

  • 3X5 Barbell Deadlift
  • 5X3 Squat Jumps (Using dumbbells or hex-bar)
  • 3X8 Single Leg Deadlift W/ Resistance Band Pulling
  • 5X10m Front Hold With Medicine Ball
  • HITT W/ Sled Push
  • Woodchoppers 3X8/side
  • Pallof Press 3X15/side

Cardio can include a number of modes:

  • Steady state
  • Fartleks
  • Threshold Runs (Performance at a maxintensity just before when you feel a burn)
  • Intervals with various intervals. Experiment with some longer work durations such as 3:00
  • Longer HIIT Workouts i.e. :10/:50 for 20 minutes.
  • MOTO Fitness Wrap-Up

Try to get 2 strength/power sessions a week and 2-4 cardio-specific sessions (including dirt bike rides). Remember, cardio doesn’t need to be fancy or super intense. Lower intensity cardio training for longer periods of time (1-3 hours) can be very beneficial for dirt bike athletes.

That said, your off-bike training should never supersede being on your bike. However, if you can get in the gym, get in there. Including this training will have a great impact on not just your performance, but also help prevent injuries.

You can also look into pre-endurance training supplements that support hydration, fueling and focus like our PREPARE+ product. The delicious natural flavor will keep you going back for more, too.


Explore our MOTO and MTB pages to learn more. 2% of all our profits go to protecting trails, public lands, etc. so you can feel good about using Race Provisions products while you do what you love.

If you have questions on your personalized nutrition plan or any of our products, be sure to Contact Us! Simple performance nutrition is what we do!

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