The Motorcyclists Workout

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Yamaha Motorcycles Street Event - I-90 Motorsports


The Motorcyclist's Free-Weight Workout

Made simple for riders 17-77

For many motorcyclists, the idea of heading out to the gym several times a week just isn't appealing. But a simple free-weight workout can be done at home a few times a week and greatly enhance your motorcycling adventures while putting a healthier edge on your life in general.

Why you ask? For one, the human body functions much better when the muscles are toned up and there's enough muscle mass to accomplish the tasks at hand. Picking up a bike that has fallen over requires an extensive number of muscles throughout the body to complete the task including quads, abdomen, chest, triceps and biceps. The chore can be much easier with a set of toned muscles. Ditto if you have to push a bike with a flat tire off to the side of the road, load it into a truck or ride it several hundred miles a day. And if you're a dual sport rider, you'll most certainly want to keep your muscle sets toned so you can handle the bike through the various terrains that nature spits out at you.

In the following workout, you'll be utilizing simple free-weights (dumbbells), about the only expense in the whole deal. A weight-room style bench would be nice, but as you can see above, a simple ice chest and patio chair will cover that need without the additional expense. We're not shooting for a Hercules approach here, we simply want to tone up and build up a little muscle mass so it's available when we need it. Then simply maintain it by doing the workout several times a week.

If you're getting on in years, and who isn't, take heart. It sounds like some suspicious promise from a late-night infomercial: feel 15 to 30 years younger by exercising just one hour a week! But that's exactly what happens when you lift weights. Strength training has been shown to increase balance, decrease insulin resistance, decrease resting blood pressure, reduce arthritis pain, even improve memory. Some experts believe it's as essential as aerobic training: "As good as walking is for a variety of things, it does not address the loss of muscle that accompanies the aging process," says Wayne L. Westcott, Ph.D., fitness research director at the South Shore YMCA in Quincy, Massachusetts, and coauthor of Strength Training Past 50 (Human Kinetics, 2007). That loss of muscle - about seven pounds per decade for men and five pounds per decade for women - causes a slowdown in resting metabolism that then translates into a host of health problems.

Much of that age-related decline in muscle mass can be halted - and even reversed - by strength training. Gary Hunter, Ph.D., a professor of human studies and nutrition sciences at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, found that lifting weights for 30 to 40 minutes three times a week increased the muscle strength of women 60 to 77 years old by almost 40 percent - putting them on a par with 35-year-olds. Other studies have found similar benefits from lifting just twice a week.

Try the following routine for a month, and see if you don't notice a change. You need only a few things: an hour a week (in two 30-minute segments), a pair of dumbbells and a bench or ice chest to utilize during two of the exercises.

Beginners should start with one set - 8 to 12 repetitions - of each exercise, using 5-to 8-pound weights (you can find them for $40 or less at any sporting goods store). More advanced exercisers should shoot for two sets of each exercise, using 10- to 12-pound weights.

Before you begin:

Get the right weights - To select the set of free-weights that are right for you, visit the sports store and try a set of exercise #2. Find the set that allows you to complete 8 repetitions without too much trouble.

Go Slow - Keep in mind that resistance is key. Raise your weights slowly and lower them slowly. This requires a bit more effort and control than simply lifting and lowering at natural or high speed, thus you'll build more muscle over time.

Once every two to three days - Do the workout only every other day or every three days. Doing the routine daily will simply tear down muscle, but you need a day or two in between to allow the muscle mass to grow.

Feel and imagine - As you do each exercise, you'll feel the muscles you're working on. Imagine just what it is you use each of these muscles for during motorcycling. For those with sport bikes, the Trunk Curl exercise (#6) is a start to sustaining your laid-over position for many miles, but you may want to investigate additional abdominal exercises designed to strengthen your back.

Warm Up - You need to warm up a bit before you begin. Since you'll probably be doing this at home start with 10-20 minutes of gardening or housework, wash your car or motorcycle, take a short bicycle ride or walk, or do a repair you've been putting off. There's plenty you can do to warm the body up around the house. No need to run out to a gym and watch CNN from the Stairmaster.

Always check with your personal physician before beginning any exercise program.

1. Dumbbell squat (quadriceps, hamstrings, gluteals) Hold a dumbbell in each hand, with palms facing inward, arms down by your sides, feet about hip width apart. Keeping your head up, shoulders back, and eyes fixed straight ahead, slowly squat until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Finish the exercise by slowly returning to a standing position.

2. Dumbbell lateral raise (deltoids) Hold a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing inward, arms down by your sides. Slowly lift the dumbbells away from your body until they're level with your shoulders, so that your body forms a T shape. Lower slowly to the starting position and repeat.

3. Dumbbell Curl (biceps) Hold a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing inward, arms down by your sides. Lift the dumbbells in unison toward your shoulders, rotating your wrists as you do, so that your palms are facing your chest. Slowly lower the dumbbells to the starting position.

4. Dumbbell overhead triceps extension (triceps) Grasp a dumbbell with both hands and lift it upward until your arms are fully extended, directly above your head. Slowly lower the dumbbell behind your head toward the base of your neck, then raise the dumbbell until your arms are fully extended.

5. Trunk Curl (abdomen) Lie on your back on the floor, with your knees up and feet flat on the floor. Place your hands behind your head, then raise your shoulders about 30 degrees off the floor. Be careful not to pull your neck - your hands are there for positioning only. Slowly lower your shoulders to the floor.

6. Dumbbell bench press (chest) Lie on a bench (or in our case - an ice chest/patio chair configuration like you see here) with your feet flat on the floor, a dumbbell in each hand, and your hands on either side of your chest near your shoulders. Push your arms up until they are fully extended above your chest, then slowly lower the dumbbells to your shoulders. Repeat.

7. Dumbbell one-arm row (biceps) With your right knee and hand on a bench and your left foot flat on the floor, grasp a dumbbell with your left hand. Slowly pull the dumbbell to your chest, then lower until your arm is fully extended. Repeat the set with the weight in your right hand.

SR! - Spring 2010

Thanks to Ryan Barnett who modeled as Mr. Moto-Muscle-Mass and processed all the shots used in this feature. Parts of this story were adapted from AARP Magazine and Human Kinetics.

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