We all know it’s possible to just get on a motorcycle and successfully ride from point A to point B without being fit or taking fitness classes. But a stronger rider can go farther without getting fatigued, is better able to control her motorcycle and is in a better position to handle those unforeseen situations we all encounter when we ride.

Most of us have had that moment when our feet are on the ground—or at least they should be, but instead we have that “oh, crap!” moment. Maybe a stronger leg could have held that weight just a little longer, just enough to recover. Now, what about picking up that tipped-over behemoth by yourself? Can you put your bike on the centerstand? What about long-distance travel? After a long, fun-filled day on the road, the anticipation of laying your head on a nice, fluffy pillow is preceded by the need to carry all your gear up three flights of stairs because the elevator is out of order. That’s about the time you are wishing for stronger everything! I guess melting into a crying heap at the bottom of the stairs is an option…until the manager decides the sight of you is bad for business.

Here’s the good news: you don’t need a gym membership to get the job done. The exercises below can be accomplished in your home and at your pace. News alert: they don’t even have to be done all at the same time! Plus, muscles don’t have eyes, so if you have small children roaming around you can always use them as dumbbells. I kid, I kid. But seriously, even something like a can of soup can be used as a weight when you’re first getting started.

The six exercises below are aimed at helping to strengthen the most important muscles we use for riding: Core, Quadriceps, Hamstrings, Calves, Biceps and Forearm Extensors/Flexors. Of course, we use many more muscles than this, but these exercises cover the “big ones.”

 

Core: Consists of the Abdominals and Paraspinals (muscles that cover the stomach and back)

Core muscles on a motorcycle
A strong core helps to stabilize you on the bike, and makes long days in the saddle more bearable.

What they do:

  • Support your upper body, allowing you to have better balance and keep weight off your hands

What a strong core helps you improve:

  • Cornering
  • Braking control (since you can hold yourself up under heavy braking, keeping your hands light on the controls)
  • Dirt and off-road riding
  • Riding stamina, as the stronger your core is, the better it can support you through a long day in the saddle

Exercise: Plank. There are many variations of the plank, but the ones below are a good starting point.

Beginner: Place toes, knees and forearms on the floor, keep your stomach tight and hips level, and try to keep your head in line with the rest of your spine. Hold this position for 5 seconds and repeat 5 times. As you get stronger, increase the time you can maintain position, working your way up to 1 to 2 minute holds. If you find this easy, go to the advanced version below.

Beginner plank position
The beginner plank: toes, knees and forearms on the ground. Remember to keep your head level with your spine.

Advanced: Place toes and forearms on the ground. Keep your stomach tight and hips level, and try to keep your head in line with the rest of your spine. Hold this position for 5 seconds and repeat 5 times. As you get stronger, increase the time, working your way up to 1 to 2 minutes holds.

Advanced plank position
Advanced plank position: toes and forearms on the floor, head level with the spine.

 

Quadriceps: Consists of Quadriceps group (upper thigh muscles)

Exercises for motorcyclists
Strong quads will help you balance the bike at a stop, and are essential for off-road riding.

What they do:

  • Act as shock absorbers when standing up off-road
  • Connect you with the ground at stops

What strong quadriceps helps you improve:

  • Off-road riding stamina
  • Ability to “dab” when riding off-road
  • Holding your bike upright on uneven surfaces
  • Picking the bike up if it tips over

Exercise: Wall squats

Lean against a wall with your head, upper back and butt in contact with the wall. Your feet and knees should be about two fists’ width apart. Keeping your head, upper back and butt against the wall, squat until your knees are at about 45 degrees as shown in this picture, or to 90 degrees for advanced (90 degrees will be when your hips and knees are level with each other). Hold this position for 15 seconds. Repeat for 5-10 reps. As you get stronger, you can squat deeper and hold longer. Work your way up to holding each one for 30 seconds to one minute.

Exercises for motorcyclists
In this photo, the author is demonstrating a 45-degree wall squat. As you get stronger, you can drop into a lower squat position.

 

Hamstrings and Gluteals: Consists of Hamstring group (posterior thigh muscles) and buttocks

Exercises for motorcyclists
Strong hamstrings work with your quads to balance the bike and act as shock absorbers when standing up.

What they do:

  • Act as shock absorbers when standing up off-road
  • Help you move around on the bike when sport riding

What strong hamstrings and gluteals help you improve:

  • Picking the bike up if it tips over
  • Overall riding stamina
  • Looking good in your riding pants!

Exercise: Bench step-ups

This one is simple: stand in front of a bench, step, chair or other sturdy surface, then step up onto it. If you need to, you can start with a normal stair step. Do one set of 10 to 20 step-ups with the same leg before you switch to the other leg. Start with one set per leg, and add more as you get stronger.

Exercises for motorcyclists
As you progressively get stronger, you can add difficulty by holding weights in your hands while you step up.

 

Calf: Consists of the Calf muscle group (backside of lower leg)

Exercises for motorcyclists
Strong calves and ankles give you that little extra oomph if you’re balanced on your toes at a stop. They also do a lot of the work when we stand on the pegs when riding off-road.

What they do:

  • Help you balance on the pegs when standing off-road
  • Push on the pegs when sport riding
  • When you’re on your toes at a stop, they play a large part in holding the bike up

What strong calves help you improve:

  • Off-road riding stamina
  • Sport riding stamina, especially when “hanging off” the bike
  • Keeping the bike upright at a stop, especially on uneven surfaces

Exercise: Double/single calf raise

Beginner: On a flat surface, stand where you can hold onto something or put your hand on a wall for balance. Rise up onto your toes, favoring the big toe portion of your foot versus rolling out to the pinkie toe side. Start with one set of 20 reps with both legs, working your way up to doing three sets of 20 reps. Once you get to that point, switch to doing them one leg at a time, one set of 20 reps and work your way back up to three sets.

Exercises for motorcyclists
Double-leg calf raise.

Advanced: Stand on a stair or other sturdy raised surface; you only need it to be a few inches off the ground. Position yourself so that the balls of your feet are on the edge of the step, with your heels hanging back over the edge. Start by dropping your heels an inch or so—just until you feel a little stretch in your Achilles tendon, then push yourself up onto your toes, favoring the big toe portion of your foot versus rolling out to the pinkie toe side. Start with one set of 20 reps with both legs, working your way up to doing three sets of 20 reps. Once you get to that point, switch to doing them one leg at a time, one set of 20 reps and work your way back up to three sets.

Exercises for motorcyclists
Single-leg calf raise.

 

Biceps: Consists of the Biceps muscle group (Upper arm)

Eat your spinach, because these little lovelies will keep you from being that hot mess at the bottom of the hotel stairway!

Exercises for motorcyclists
Strong biceps are gonna carry your gear and luggage to the hotel room, and loading up your bike will be easier!

What they do:

  • Carry your heavy luggage up the stairs

What strong biceps help you improve:

  • You’ll be able to load your bike more easily, as well as be stronger overall

Exercise: Biceps curl

Stand straight, arms hanging at your sides, holding a weight in each hand. Keeping your elbow as motionless as possible and your wrist straight, lift your right hand and bring the weight up to chest level, then slowly return to the starting position. You can do both arms at the same time or individually, making sure your motions are smooth and controlled. If you’re not a regular exerciser, start with 3 pounds per arm and work your way up to 10-15 pounds. No need to go buy a bunch of weights. You can use a can and add sand or rocks to equal the desired weight you want to work with. Start with one set of 10 reps per arm and work your way up to three sets of 10 reps before you increase your weight.

 

Exercises for motorcyclists
Start with your arm straight down at your side. Keeping your wrist flat, smoothly lift the weight, then return (smoothly!) to the starting position.

 

Wrist Extensors/Flexors: Consists of numerous small muscles (Top and bottom surface of forearm)

Exercises for motorcyclists
Strong wrists make it more comfortable to operate the clutch, brake and throttle, especially in stop-and-go traffic.

These are relatively minuscule compared to the rest of what we’ve covered, but these babies play a vital role in throttle, clutch and brake control. Roll On!

What they do:

  • Modulate throttle, brake and clutch

What strong wrists/forearms help you improve:

  • Riding stamina, especially when a lot of brake and clutch work is required (in heavy stop-and-go traffic, technical off-road, hard sport-riding)
  • Pushing the bike around

Exercise: Wrist Extension/Flexion

For this exercise, you can use weights or your can filled with sand or rocks. Hold the weight in your hand, elbow bent, forearm parallel to the floor, palm facing down. Gently roll your hand up, then return to your starting point. Now turn the weight over so that your palm is facing up, and gently roll your hand up, then return to your starting point. Start with 1-5 pounds. Perform one set of 20 reps in each direction and work your way up to three sets of 20 reps. When that becomes easy, add some weight and start back with one set of 20 reps.

 

Exercises for motorcyclists
Pretend like you’re rolling on and off that throttle!

If any of the above exercises cause pain that is sharp or in the joint, do not continue the exercise. You should feel warmth or burning in the intended muscle group while you’re working out and maybe some soreness afterward. This usually presents itself one to two days after working out, but it should not linger. Any pain that is sharp or lingers should be brought to the attention of your physician.

Stay tuned, as we will be discussing how to make these muscle groups happier after a long ride in the next Mad Maxine Moto fitness installment.

Life is the biggest ride we will have…breathe deep…stay strong for those hills, valleys and curves…and hold your head high!

Ride Safe!
Mad Maxine Moto

10 COMMENTS

  1. A great article that not only explains what you need to do, but WHY it matters so much. Chock full of great ways to keep yourself in great condition!

  2. MMM,
    Really nice article. Very appropriate and well explained and illustrated. I say this not only from the experience of 40+ years of riding, but I am also a physical therapist. My wife, who also is a PT but not a rider, just a passenger; states many of these exercises would also help her as a passenger with getting on and off the bike and decreasing fatigue at the end of a day.

    • Bob, I am glad you enjoyed it and thanks to your wife for pointing out how these would benefit passengers as well!

  3. Great article. I like that it explains how the exercises improve riding and details proper technique. I do similar exercises to prepare my body for long-distance riding (on my touring bike) and short bursts on my physically-taxing sportbike.

  4. Thanks Maxine….I’ve been a pillion passenger for many years and only recently (3years) started riding my own motorcycle…..graduated to a larger/heavier machine recently……so it’s great to find your very useful article…..can see how improved muscle strength and general fitness is certainly a bonus when riding/handling a motorcycle….and recovering after a long day in the saddle.

    • Welcome to the world of motorcycles! It has proven one of the best decisions I have made in my life! It has brought so much more joy to my life. I always thought riding on the back was a blast…….but, WOW…..even way more fun as the driver!!! If you enjoyed this article please read the secondary article on stretching you may like those as well. Safe Travels always!

      madmaxinemoto

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