Speed Secrets: Effective Physical Training to Prepare for Race Season
By Ross Bentley
February 04, 2015
We all know that being physically fit helps us perform better, whether behind the wheel or anywhere else in our life. I'm no expert on the matter, but it seems to me there are two main reasons drivers don't work out as much as they should: First, it's a motivation thing, and second, it's knowing what to do. This week we tackle this second issue: knowing what to do to get as fit as you can. And to do that, Simon Hayes, who runs Performance Physixx is here to share a couple of approaches. - Ross
It’s that time of year when drivers are thinking about commencing physical training (if they haven’t already started). At Performance Physixx, we are always coming up with new and interesting ways to enhance our clients’ programs, because, just like driving, there’s always more to learn and improve. And, variety helps with motivation.
Currently, training facilities tend to use generic programs that might fit athletes from any other sport. But racing drivers require very specific forms of training, down to the program for the car you would drive in a race, especially in a long-distance event. A Porsche GT driver may require an increase in cardio to deal with heat acclimation, whereas a Prototype/LMP driver may find greater g-loading the main challenge.
Two examples of how to deal with these issues would be the use of an interval training circuit using heart monitoring, tracking similar (and sometimes higher) stresses to what might be found in the car. It’s a training strategy termed “supercompensation.” The body is always seeking to maintain a state of homeostasis, so it will constantly adapt to the stress from its environment. Training is simply the manipulation of the application of stress and the body’s subsequent adaptation (Gambetta Human Kinetics, 2007).
Here are two examples of the way this training strategy can be employed within different race series:
1) A Porsche driver may employ the following:
- Spin Bike: 10 minutes (2 minutes warm up; 5 minutes including resistance and speed; 3 minutes steady state).
- Concept 11 Rower: 10 minutes (2 minutes steady row level 5-6; 3 minutes flat out; 2 minutes steady state; 3 minutes flat out; then 4 minutes cool down - not included in total time).
- Use a good heart rate monitor (such as Garmin) to record intensity.
- A stairs interval program is good for outdoor sessions, alternating periods of running and brisk stepping, and also alternating double steps with single step-ups. You should record your heart rate during the session and recovery time at the end (over the course of a minute).
As an alternative to stairs workouts, we go one better and perform sand dune interval sessions, using workouts in the hot Los Angeles heat, wearing a 10 lb. weight vest. Not for the faint-hearted!
2) A Prototype driver deals with g-loads and partial or no power steering, so the focus is more on strength. This program may look like:
- Incline dumbbell single arm chest press, 20 reps, on physio ball to engage core and low back. By engaging the non-target arm in holding, it strengthens the muscles of the chest and shoulders to better handle steering loads.
- Dumbbell flyes on ball. This can also be advanced by holding the non-target arm in finish position, while activating the target arm.
- Side deltoid raise with dumbbells, 20 reps. Increase by moving from side to a front raise in the same exercise, and you increase the "time under tension" which is specific to dealing with steering loads. When dumbbells are fully raised out to side, pull arms to front and lower under control (last part of movement can be performed by tilting weights, with thumbs-down grip).
- Neck conditioning for lateral g loading.
- For activating calves and tibialis muscles (front of lower leg, responsible for lifting foot after braking (see image set up with low cable and bosu ball, performed seated). This can be combined with standing calf raise, single leg on a step, and walking lunges with dumbbells.
Another useful exercise for all drivers to incorporate reactive ability is tennis ball drills, either assisted or as you see Walter Hayes Trophy star Michai Stephens demonstrate in this video.
A tailored-to-you physical training program is paramount for success in racing. If you have ever done a double-stint in the middle of the night after less than an hour of sleep, or a driven a flat-out-every-minute sprint race (sometimes, they’re one and the same), you know how important conditioning is! It’s definitely one of the best ways to be prepared and stay safe on the track.
Use the sample workouts I’ve presented here as a baseline to develop your own program. Or better yet, work with a trainer to custom-design a program for you and the type of car you drive.