Motocross stretching exercises to improve your performance and do away with motocross injuries for good.
Before it was motocross, it was a British sport known as scrambling, the first of which took place at Camberley, Surrey, in 1924. The sport grew in popularity during the 1930s, using bikes that were not all that much different than the types used on the roads of England. Due to the intensity of the early sport, the technology was forced to evolve, changing first the frame, followed by the suspension. By the 1950s the first aerodynamic sport bike, closest to those used today, hit the international market.
If you’re looking to improve your motocross performance or just seeking to prevent motocross injuries it is important to follow the information in this article. In addition, adding a few simple stretches to your fitness program will also help. To get started on a safe and effective stretching routine that’s just right for you, check out the Ultimate Guide to Stretching & Flexibility.
Motocross was introduced to the United States in 1966 after an exhibition course ride by Swedish champion Torsten Hallman against American riders at a site known as Hopetown in Simi Valley, California. The following year Hallman returned with more European champions. They dominated the competition and their two-stroke, lightweight bikes started the motocross fire that would burn for decades.
It was also during the 1960s that Japanese bike manufacturers began their race for supremacy in the racing world. Suzuki dominated the 1970 competitions, and added new fuel to the fire by sponsoring one of the first stadium competitions in Los Angeles in 1972. By the 1980s, American riders had caught up to their European and Asian counterparts, and started aiming for new heights in the sport.
Today, the sport has created subdivisions, some of which combine the endurance trail riding with acrobatic stunts. The stadium events are now known as Supercross and Arenacross and are held in indoor arenas. Freestyle motocross competitions have their riders judged on jumping and aerial acrobatic skills. Supermoto races take place both on the tarmac as well as off road. And, finally, the vintage form of motocross still thrives all over the world, using the bikes from earlier eras to compete.
Any road race dealing with bikes calls for a lot of cardiovascular and muscular endurance, for which an overall good muscle tone is necessary. According to most riders on the motocross circuit, the following muscle groups are the most important to concentrate on:
- The Core Muscles: the rectus abdominus, the obliques, hip flexors and spinal erectors are responsible for maintaining a good riding posture and preventing lower back injury. They act as a base of support for the rest of the body while riding.
- The Muscles of the Arms and Shoulders: deltoids, biceps and triceps, as well as those in the forearm, wrist and hand are important for maintaining control of the bike during stunts and over rough terrain, as well as while performing emergency manoeuvres during competitions.
Strength training is an effective way to keep all of these muscles at their best but special attention must be paid to the core muscles. Weak core muscles can alter the posture of a rider and put more stress upon the shoulders, arms and legs, which can cause them to fatigue more quickly.
Most Common Motocross Injuries
Motocross is arguably one of the most dangerous sports ever: high speeds, rough terrain and the uncertainty of what the other riders may be doing. While the high excitement factor may seem nerve wracking to some, it is an adrenaline fix to others.
The recent releases of better quality helmets for this sport has resulted in considerably reducing the number of serious head injuries in motocross. The more common injuries in this sport are thankfully minor. Motocross bikers think nothing of cuts, scrapes and bruises or ankle or wrist sprains; however, there are potentially serious injuries to be aware of and some the most common related to this sport include ACL tears, shoulder injuries, ankle sprains and broken collarbones.
- Anterior Cruciate Ligament Tears (ACL): This sport definitely puts some extreme stress on the knee. Falls, getting thrown from the bike or rough landings can cause severe knee injuries, particularly tears of the ACL. Without the stability provided for the knee by the ACL, any motocross manoeuvre becomes difficult to handle.
- Shoulder Dislocation: A dislocation happens when the head of the humerus bone completely pops out of the socket. The more this happens, the more frequently it will pop out. It can usually be relocated with only minor trauma, and there will be pain and muscle aches for a short time afterward.
- Shoulder Subluxation: A subluxation is the feeling that the shoulder is sliding out of its socket, and then immediately sliding back into place. This can happen in multiple directions and medical treatment is recommended. Some people are more “loosely” jointed than others and this condition may wind up being a recurring one if your joints are determined to be looser than normal.
- Rotator Cuff Tear: A torn rotator cuff usually occurs with repeated trauma to the shoulder. Non-surgical treatment will include non-steroid anti-inflammatory therapy coupled with physical therapy and cortisone shots. Should the tear be more than this simple treatment can fix, then a minimally invasive arthroscopy will be performed to reattach the muscles and tendons in the shoulder to the rotator cuff. Weeks of physical therapy and anti-inflammatory or cortisone shots will follow the surgery.
- Broken Collarbone: Flying off of the bike will often cause the clavicle, or collarbone, to be broken, cracked, and may even separate it from the shoulder. Most of these will not require surgery but it will require abstaining from competing until you heal. Cryotherapy (cold therapy), done both inside and outside the doctor’s office, can help heal collarbone injuries quickly.
- Ankle Sprains: An ankle sprain typically occurs when you put your foot down the wrong way when coming off a turn. Usually ankle sprains are not too severe and can be easily treated by wearing an ankle support while it heals.
Injury Prevention Strategies
First and foremost, donning the safety gear (including proper clothing, helmet and protective padding) is the most important step a rider should take to keep severe injuries at bay. Other injury prevention strategies include:
- Any sport that calls for physical exertion requires the sportsperson to perform the necessary warm up routine before completely indulging. Warm ups “awaken” the muscles preparing them for the oncoming streak of excessive and rigorous muscle movements. It is very important to include stretches in your warm up routine. Stretching out the muscles of the back, shoulders, wrists and knees prior to competing is crucial to prevention of sprains and strains.
- Over exercising is never good for the body or the performance of a racer. Many harbor this misconception that the more they exercise, the better they are bound to perform, but this is untrue. The body requires its share of rest and relaxation. Pushing the body beyond its limit for too long will only lead to more and more injuries.
- Utilize proper exercise and strength training during the off-season, especially strengthening those muscles that take the most punishment during a race.
- Learn to fall properly; the majority of injuries that occur in sports like this happen when the rider falls off the bike. Tumbling and gymnastics classes will teach you how to be more flexible and relaxed while falling.
The Top 3 Motocross Stretches
Stretching is one of the most under-utilized techniques for improving athletic performance, preventing sports injury and properly rehabilitating sprain and strain injury. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that something as simple as stretching won’t be effective. Below are 3 very beneficial stretches for motocross; obviously there are a lot more, but these are a great place to start. Please make special note of the instructions beside each stretch.
Rotating Wrist Stretch: Place one arm straight out in front and parallel to the ground. Rotate your wrist down and outwards and then use your other hand to further rotate your hand upwards.
Assisted Reverse Chest Stretch: Stand upright with your back towards a table or bench and place your hands on the edge. Bend your arms and slowly lower your entire body.
Lying Knee Roll-over Stretch: While lying on your back, bend your knees and let them fall to one side. Keep your arms out to the side and let your back and hips rotate with your knees.