You’ve done it. You finally set aside enough time in your schedule to take that long motorcycle trip that’s been in the works for months. As a RideApart fan, you’ve read How to Gear Up for Adventure, picked up an Aerostitch Roadcrafter, and worked on your adventure skills with 11 Tips for Riding Off-Road. But, have you prepared your body? Here’s how to warm up and cool down for a motorcycle ride.
Photo by Gunnar Pettersson
With the top of the line gear, a fully prepared and maintained motorcycle, and a full spectrum of riding skills, the weak link in the journey is likely to be you, the rider. Long days in the saddle, and possibly questionable sleeping situations can have a tendency to negatively impact even the most well prepared riders. While at this point it’s too late to fully whip your body into ideal shape, spending about ten minutes pre and post ride to take care of your body (as you would your bike) will pay huge dividends in your comfort while both riding and sleeping.
Most riders (myself included) get some variety of back, hip, and shoulder issues after spending significant time riding. I’ve compiled a selection of easy to perform dynamic warm up movements and static stretches that, when performed before and after a long ride, will make your motorcycling life far more comfortable. For all of the dynamic warm up movements, it’s crucial to start with a short range of motion, and gradually progress to a full range of motion while the muscles, tendons, and joints heat up. Ideally, stretches would be performed after the warm-up.
Dynamic Warm-up Lower Body
Exercise: Lunge with Twist
The lunge with twist is a great way to start the glutes, quads, hips and back working without much stress. Step out with one leg, drop the back knee slightly above the ground and bring the opposite elbow to the front knee. Make sure to twist under control — no wrenching.
By loosening the musculature surrounding our hips and spine, we are able to enter more comfortable and varied riding positions with ease. Remember, just do enough lunges to feel warm, no need to tire yourself out prior to riding. How much you do depends on your age, flexibility, and general fitness level. For those of you that are more advanced in that regard, try holding the lunge position for a solid two-second pause fully extended.
Exercise: High Knee to Back Kick
This movement can be done holding on to something for balance (as I need to) or standing without aid. Pull the knee high to your chest, and then drive it backwards, squeezing the glute during the kicking motion. Again, this movement loosens up our hips (compressed while riding), and activates the glutes, which helps to pull the hips into proper alignment.
Make sure to take your time and control the tempo. Swinging your leg around wildly will not be beneficial. After a few of these, you will hopefully feel your lumbar spinal erectors (muscles to left and right of spine) start to work and heat up.
Exercise: Hip Opener
There are two main points to focus on while performing hip openers. First off, try to keep your hips square, and not rotate them with the leg; that increases the amount of stretch. Secondly, ensure that you are pulling your leg vertically high enough so that your low back begins to feel worked as well.
The back and forth motion does a great job of opening up the entire hip joint, an area that can get extremely tight while riding, especially in a compressed sportbike position. Go back and forth on your right and left legs, or just do one until you feel it’s warm.
Continue Reading: How To Warm Up and Cool Down For A Motorcycle Ride >>
Exercise: Bird Dogs
Continuing the theme of warming up our hips and back, the bird dog allows you to work those muscles while on your knees, helping to begin to warm-up your shoulders and mid/upper back. Stay square to the ground on these, don’t rotate your hips and chest into the air.
Do a better job than I did in the video of staying balanced. Controlling the tempo will help with that. Try and raise the arms and legs at the same time, and keep your back nice and flat. These can be challenging, so break them up into a few sets.
Dynamic Warm-up Upper Body
Exercise: Arm Circles
Just about the oldest warm-up movement in the book, arm circles are still very useful. I personally know that when I ride my DR-Z400 SM, I tend to get very tight shoulders from generally just being too tense on the bars. Circling the arms with an increasing range of motion (palms down and palms up) in both directions loosens up the entire shoulder in a big way.
I like to do these in sets of ten forwards and backwards, and then switching palm positions and repeating. If you experience some clicking in the shoulder while circling the arms, slow down and try and keep circling until it goes away.
Exercise: Arnold Press
Yes, it’s named after that Arnold. This is often performed weighted as a strength exercise, but I am a huge fan of it for the purpose of warming up the upper back and shoulders. When gripping the bars tightly, or with bars that are slightly high, the traps (upper back) can become very tight. Make sure when performing this movement that you press up and out at the same time, not separately.
Run through the Arnold Press a few times until you start to feel your upper and mid back starting to work. It is likely that you might hear some snap crackle and pop the first few reps, but that’s fine, many of us have upper backs and necks that need to be released.
Now that you’re warmed up, give these guys a shot. Conversely, you can also do these just after getting off the bike. Try and hold each position for a long count of ten, followed by a big exhale, and then another ten seconds of a slightly deeper stretch. Don’t start stretching at your maximal physical limit, gradually work into the range of motion.
Exercise: Glute/Ham Stretch
This is a multi-purpose stretch that needs a chair, rock, cooler, etc. on which to plant your foot. With a slight bend in the knee, apply force so that you feel a stretch in the upper hamstring and glute. After a few seconds, press forward to get the hip, and then back into extension.
Play around with the elevation of your foot and the flex in your knee. Find a place that feels like it needs stretching, hang out there for a bit, and then keep moving. For further degrees of difficulty, pull your toes up to your shin.
Continue Reading: How To Warm Up and Cool Down For A Motorcycle Ride >>
Exercise: Kneeling Hip Stretch
The kneeling hip stretch targets your hip flexors and low abdominals. In the upright kneeling position, think of driving and holding your planted knee into the ground by performing a mini-pelvic thrust. Pull your bully button into your spine, and remain upright.
Don’t crank way forward on these after pulling in your stomach and pushing the knee down. Using your big muscles to push your body forward while stretched can inadvertently pull a muscle. For bonus stretch, reach your arms up and away from the planted knee.
Exercise: Money Stretch
This is a stretch that I have heard called several names over the years, but this is one I like the best. If you want to call it something else, be my guest. This stretch involves the glutes and low back, and is a position you don’t want to force. As you hold the position, gradually let your face drop to the floor while relaxing.
While stretching, move your head out over the front knee as well as the foot. You’ll feel a stretch in different areas of the low back, groin, and glutes. Keep breathing slowly though this stretch, and get into and out of it with a controlled tempo.
Exercise: Shoulder and Lat Stretch
After the upper body warm up movements, we do need to stretch the shoulders and back as well. With the smaller and weaker joints in the shoulder and elbow than the hips and knees, make sure to not force any positions that are uncomfortable. Start slow on this, and don’t be afraid to do a few repetitions gradually increasing the stretch.
While stretching, move your shoulder blades to find a tight spot, and gently apply pressure. If you have had shoulder injuries in the past, this might be painful. Again, don’t force it.
These are just suggestions. Feel free to try some, or mix and match with anything else that you already do. I encourage you to make your own routine through experimentation. Find out what works for you and make it a routine to do exercises that you can work in and that you will actually complete.
If you’re interested in reading more about how and why we need to warm up, check out Warming Up and Why We Do It.
ABOUT: Andrew Patton is a strength and conditioning coach with NCAA, NFL, MCLA, WCLA, and ACHA experience. Currently he is the head S&C coach for UC Berkeley MCLA lacrosse. He also has worked with a variety of private clients in the fields of powerlifting, distance running, professional golf, elite military fitness, and others. He personally trains under Jesse Burdick at CSA Dublin as a Powerlifter. Andrew can be contacted at his website PattonStrength.com. He rides a CBR F4i and a DR-Z SM.