Driving a racing car is physically demanding. Professional racers are not only skilled drivers, they are also athletes. Motor racing requires stamina and strength from its top drivers, which is why driver fitness programmes are so important.
Whilst each exercise programme varies depending on the driver’s physical condition and desired results, general conditioning and strength training are recommended. A total body workout two to three times a week makes up the core of a driver’s workout routine.
Exercises in these routines include squats, pull-ups, push downs, standing calf raises and wrist curls. Specific resistance routines for the upper body, core and neck are key elements of driver-focused workouts. The sets for each exercise range from two to four, with repetitions per set ranging from six to 12, depending on each driver. These exercises work all major muscle groups in the body, ensuring optimal performance on the track.
Cardio activities also contribute to a driver’s fitness. Most race cars do not have air conditioning, so a proper training programme helps drivers endure the effects of heat, giving them an edge over the competition. The best cardio routines involve intervals of long-sustained efforts and elevated heart rate. Not only does this build fitness, it also mimics the conditions a driver will encounter on the track. Running and cycling are two favourites that make up driver’s workouts.
Improving your cardiovascular fitness is a key if you’re planning to drive in longer races. Increasing your aerobic health can lower your heart rate, improve your respiration and help keep you as strong as possible in those crucial final laps. As an added bonus, most cardio exercises also strengthen your legs, which are constantly moving during a race.
If you’re new to aerobic exercise, regular walking - either outdoors or on a treadmill - is a good place to start. You can then move up to workouts including outdoor or indoor biking, jogging, jumping rope or using a variety of cardio machines. Swimming is another exercise that not only improves your cardio fitness, but helps strengthen your arms and legs as well.
Not only do drivers need to stay lean and light, they also require a wide range of motion. Stretching exercises promote increased flexibility. While this component of the workout is not the main area of focus, flexibility training is essential in a well-rounded fitness routine for race car drivers.
You don’t need huge arms to turn the steering wheel and shift gears, but you do need strong arms for a full race distance. Exercises such as bench presses will build your chest and for stronger arms, try pull-ups and curls, including wrist curls for your forearms.
To make sure those all-important legs can still help you brake on time and put the pedal to the metal when you need it most, perform exercises such as squats, leg presses, leg extensions and calf raises. To solidify your overall fitness level and work your core muscles, try sit-ups, crunches, planks and arm-leg extensions.
Unlike some sports, race drivers can typically do their workout routines all year round. Do your upper and lower body strength routines twice each week. Do the same number of sets, but perform fewer repetitions, in the second workout each week - the one closer to race day. Perform your abdominal training once each week.
A driver must also have excellent hand-eye coordination and react quickly. Sensory exercises focus on the ankles, knees, core muscles and neck stability. Try standing on one foot on a stability platform whilst bending and touching the opposite foot! Obstacle-based speed work and boot camp-style exercises can be incorporated into a workout to improve reaction time.
To win you need to make the most of every advantage and the highly fit and trained person will hold an advantage in competition.