Take your racing or riding to another level By Haley Crofut

The age-old question has been asked time and time again: What’s the best way to train for ATV or dirt bike racing? Repeatedly, I often see athletes being misled into thinking that “cardio” is the only way to train for the sport. Yes, cardiovascular conditioning is undoubtedly important in enduring the length of races, but it is just one aspect of a complete strength and conditioning program. By solely focusing on cardio, you are only engaging in one component—cardiovascular endurance, which measures the efficiency of the heart, lungs and blood vessels in supplying oxygen to the muscles during physical activity. What’s still missing from the puzzle are muscle endurance and muscle strength—the ability of your muscles to hold a contraction in any given position and their overall strength. Only performing cardio weakens your body’s potential for strength and power.

Have you ever experienced arm pump during a race? Or, struggled to flip your machine back over after a wreck? Maybe your legs have hurt from repeated sitting and standing on your machine, or you’ve experienced “pumping” on your machine. Have you ever felt lower back pain from hovering? Don’t limit your potential for greatness by believing that spending six hours a day on a bicycle will make you race-ready. Here are some common areas of the body that professionals like GNCC’s ATV XC1 Pro Adam McGill and GNCC’s 4×4 Pro Landon Wolfe say strength training has significantly helped, specifically for powersport athletes. Additionally, I’ve included some exercises that focus on improving strength in those areas.


Your body is a powerhouse during races, serving as the vital connection to your machine. With strong and powerful legs, hips and butt, you gain control over your machine rather than the other way around. These muscle groups play a crucial role in shifting gears, applying brakes, maintaining stability during leans, achieving balance, controlling your standing position, and assisting in extricating your machine from stuck or flipped situations.

Best exercises: Power cleans, power snatches, squat and squat variations, lunges and lunge variations, and deadlifts and deadlift variations.


The demands of pushing, pulling, steering and stabilizing are incredibly important, all of which originate from your grip on the handlebars. Additionally, experiencing arm pump can negatively impact even the most skilled rider and take a toll on one’s confidence. 

Best exercises: Power snatch, power clean, bench press and variations, pull-ups, push-ups and variations, row and row variations, and literally any exercise that requires a grip on a barbell or dumbbell (external resistance).


Comprising not only the abdominals but also the lower back, your core is defined as the “wrapping” around the midsection from front to back. It serves as your foundation and center of mass, providing the necessary posture to maintain during a race. Furthermore, the core enables you to lean, balance, brace and generate force.

Best exercises: All Olympic lifts, as well as core-specific exercises, including ab crunch and crunch variations, plank and plank variations, bridges and bridge variations, and bent-over exercises (i.e., bent-over rows).


Before jumping into these exercises, it’s best to understand whether or not you already have developed muscular endurance and muscular strength first. If you do not have a clue where to begin, this is where a good trainer or coach comes into play—with an understanding of how to periodize training in the correct volume and format, and a trainer who can elevate you to a higher strength and conditioning level. It’s important to find someone with experience, education and, most important, someone you can trust.

Make sure to go to Haley’s website at to see what she has to offer to athletes. You can also follow her on Instagram @hcconditioning.

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