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Bodyweight Exercises vs. Weight Training
As a motocross racer most of your focus is probably on improving your riding skills and / or making your bike faster
to help improve your racing results. But, one of the most neglected aspects of your race preparation probably is
your strength and physical conditioning. On race day it is usually obvious who trains hard and who
doesn’t. If you are consistently out of breath, your muscles are weak or fatigued, or your arm pump keeps you from
riding a good pace, then you need to get yourself into shape to be able to ride a complete moto. Once you have
determined that you need to get in better shape, you need to formulate a plan of action to improve your
physical fitness. Your first thought may be to run several times during the week to improve your aerobic fitness.
You may also recognize the need to improve your overall body strength or even a specific body part (legs, arms,
etc.), so you embark on a weight training program. Or, you may already be in decent shape, and you want to boost
your physical condition even higher by combining different forms of training, or by hiring a personal trainer. There’s
nothing wrong with any of these ideas, but, besides lifting weights and / or running, there are alternative forms of
training that you can use that are just as or even more effective than those already mentioned (and they are free).
When performed properly and with intensity, bodyweight exercises can increase strength, endurance, and flexibility
even more effectively than a traditional weight training program.
First, I believe that both methods of training are effective for improving strength and aerobic capacity. Since I have
lifted weights for over twenty five years, I have experienced the benefits of weight training personally. During those
years, I have also done quite a bit of training using bodyweight exercises. In my early years of training, I would use
bodyweight exercises and lift odd objects when I didn’t have access to weights, and one thing that I noticed is that I
didn’t lose any strength (when tested with weights) when I did bodyweight exercises instead of weightlifting. Over
the years, one of the big problems that I have seen with lifting weights is the number of injuries that occur, especially
to untrained lifters. If you are a motocross athlete you don’t need more injuries; your sport is already dangerous
enough. If you do choose to weight train, be sure to have a partner, coach, or trainer to assist you with your
technique and for safety reasons. Weight training will make you stronger, but it is not a natural activity. For
example, look at all of the strong and fast animals in the world (gorillas, monkeys, bears, cheetahs, etc.) – Do they
train with weights? No, they rely on their natural abilities and instincts. In order to survive, they have to be strong
and fast or they don’t last very long in the wild. Their natural activities such as climbing or running have made them
strong and fit. As a racer you want to be strong, quick, flexible, and have endurance. Bodyweight exercises can
help you achieve this type of athletic ability with less chance of injury, and it costs less.
For hundreds and even thousands of years, soldiers and athletes have trained using bodyweight exercises. Martial
artists in the Far East, wrestlers in India, ancient Greek and Roman soldiers all have utilized bodyweight exercises
throughout history. Currently, the armed forces use bodyweight exercises to get soldiers into combat
shape. There are also famous athletes who have relied on bodyweight exercises in their training. Heisman trophy
winner (college football), Hershel Walker did not lift weights, but instead did hundreds of reps with bodyweight
exercises everyday. He would also use resistance when running by pulling a tire tied to him with a rope to increase
his strength and fitness. Walker had an unbelievable physique, and at his physical peak he was one of the fastest
sprinters in the world. After college he had a long and successful career in professional football. He accomplished
this by using bodyweight exercises in his training. Another famous example would be martial artist and film star
Bruce Lee. Lee trained almost exclusively using bodyweight exercises. In fact, the only serious injury that he ever
had came while lifting weights. Much like Hershel Walker, Bruce Lee had a great physique and was in outstanding
physical condition which led him to be one of the top martial artists in the world during his peak. These are two
athletes who reached the top of their respective sports by using a variety of training techniques that included
bodyweight exercises and resistance. Their weight training was very limited.
Now, I am not against weight training to improve strength and physical condition. I am a powerlifter with more twenty
five years of weightlifting experience, but after many years of training and study of different training techniques, I
recognize the value of using bodyweight exercises. You must understand that resistance comes in many forms
besides just a barbell with weights or a machine. Pulling tires, wearing a weighted backpack, utilizing heavy rubber
tubing, lifting rocks or sandbags, or using your own bodyweight are all effective means of resistance training that an
athlete can use in their training to increase their strength. The great part about bodyweight exercises (as described
in my book), as opposed to weight training, is that they will improve not only your strength, but your endurance and
flexibility as well. Bodyweight exercises will increase your functional fitness for your sport rather than just build big,
The key for most athletes is to adapt functional training to their sport (motocross included). What you and your
partner or coach need to determine is what will work best for you, given your current level of conditioning or
personal situation (job, family, school, workout time, riding time, etc.). In my book, I outline many functional
exercises and drills that you can do to improve your strength and conditioning for motocross. I also include several
sample workouts that you can use or adapt to your current training. Most of the exercises described are bodyweight
exercises requiring little or no equipment (or expense) to perform that you can do at home. I also outline different
means of endurance training in addition to the traditional distance running that many motocross athletes utilize. If
you still want to incorporate weight training into your program, you can, but I highly recommend that you give
bodyweight exercises an honest try before dismissing them as ineffective. To determine their effectiveness, try this
test. Do one of my sample workouts first, then, if you are still physically able, lift weights. Or alternate the two types
of workouts and compare the results that you get from each. Regardless of which type of training program that you
use to prepare yourself for motocross racing, it is hard to deny the need for additional training beyond just riding the
bike. In today’s competitive racing world you need all the advantages that you can get.
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