In order to keep up with the high-speed nature of go-kart racing, the body of the driver should be able to withstand the challenges of this sport, which is where working out is important. Training for go-kart racing and Motorsport in general is unlike any other. This sport requires a unique approach to training that focuses on conditioning the body to handle the g-forces that are experienced in racing. With that, here is a comprehensive guide on some exercises you can do in order to prepare your body for racing.
In order to be fast on the race track, it is important to maintain balance so as not to disturb how the go-kart responds. If the driver’s body moves around a lot while driving, this can result in your kart being unstable. Having a good core is needed to keep your body straight and to maintain the same centre of gravity while driving which in turn results in a stable go-kart that is consistent with it’s handling.
Sit-ups are a great basic movement to work the core. Be sure to keep your back straight both on the way up and on the way down to truly maximize this exercise. Planks are also good to practice muscular endurance and is considered to be a compound exercise (an exercise that targets multiple muscle groups) that can train your shoulders which are also needed in racing. Lastly, cable crunches, which is considered to be a kneeling version of the sit-up, is another great option. For this exercise, make sure to curl your core in order to feel the crunch and also to target your core even more.
With the high speeds and how quickly go-karts can corner, the neck takes a beating due to the immense gravitational forces or g-forces the driver experiences under braking. Going as high as 2G’s in shifter karts, it is important to train the neck to withstand the highest of g-forces
For starters, it is important to stretch the neck before engaging in any exercise that involves weights. Neck rotations are a great place to start. Be sure to do this with both clockwise and counter clockwise directions. Next are neck bends which involve stretching the neck forwards, backwards, to the left, and to the right. For a stretch that is more dynamic and with extra movement you can also try stretching forwards and backwards alternately.
The most effective neck exercises involve resistance bands. It starts with the trainer wrapping one end of the band over your head. From there, the trainer will pull on the band aggressively and the driver must stay still and avoid as little movement as possible. This exercise should be done in all directions in order to prepare the neck for medial (forces that are usually encountered under braking) and lateral (forces that are usually encountered during turning) g-forces.
To get the kart stopped at will, having a good lower body is needed to do it. This is especially true for hard braking zones which require a lot of braking pressure to be applied. And to do so, the lower body must be strong enough to apply such pressure.
When training the legs, be sure to emphasize explosiveness. This means that during the exercise, you must slow down the rep on the way down to increase how much time the muscle is under tension. From there, make sure to practice explosive movement on the way up in order to replicate the feeling of braking hard in a go-kart.
The traditional squat is the best exercise to train the driver’s legs. For the youth, it is highly discouraged to use the barbell. This is because light dumbbells or simply the driver’s own body weight is enough to make the squat a challenge to do and enough to make the legs stronger. Calf raises are also good as that is another muscle group that is affected when braking. Similar to the squat, be sure to emphasize explosiveness. Lastly, alternating lunges, with or without weights are another option as it involves most of the leg muscles doing work and does not isolate to a single muscle group compared to the previously mentioned exercises/
Getting the kart where it needs to be is crucial in karting. Braking as needed using the leg muscles was previously tackled, but we must also consider that the upper body is also involved when the driver attempts to turn the kart. The three major muscles the driver needs to work on in order to strengthen the arms are the biceps, triceps, and shoulders. All of these play a vital role in getting the kart to turn as the driver wants.
For biceps, the bicep curl is more than enough to train the bicep. Combine this with performing different variations of the bicep curl such as a hammer curl, concentration curl, and spider curl and the biceps will see immense growth. Triceps can be worked on with the basic push-up. If you cannot perform a push-up, then a kneeling push-up is a good place to start. If you have access to a gym then performing triceps extensions is another great exercise for the triceps. Lastly, for the shoulders, the push-up is once again a good option as not only does it target the triceps, but also the shoulders, making it a compound exercise. However, if you wish to isolate and work only the shoulders, then the bent over lateral raise is the best shoulder exercise to do.
Lastly, the heart muscle is perhaps the most important muscle to train in the world of motorsport. From the one lap, to the long and strategic heats and final races, having the cardiovascular endurance to withstand the motorsport conditions is needed as not only does it prevent you from fatigue, but also trains your mind to keep focused despite going well over 100 plus kilometres per hour.
The key to training for cardiovascular endurance is to do long cardio sessions that always keep the heart racing. Jogging is a great exercise to do that does not involve equipment. Cycling is another option as well and is typically a favourite for racing drivers, so much so that even Formula 1 drivers do it to stay in shape. Whether you have an actual bike, or a stationary bike, both are viable options that train a driver’s endurance.
Keep in mind that despite the need to practice endurance often, training with intensity and short intervals every now and then is also needed. High Intensity Interval Training or HIIT is a great example as this involves doing multiple cardio related exercises such as burpees, jumping jacks, and knee jumps in a short amount of time with minimal rest
There are some of the many exercises you can do to improve your physical abilities as a go-kart racing driver. A final reminder when working out, be sure to always emphasize minimal weight, but a lot of repetitions when doing the exercises mentioned. Remember your goal as a racing driver is not to look good or have big muscles, or lift heavy weight (doing this can actually be detrimental to your driving). Rather, your goal should be to have muscles that can go the distance and can withstand the world of motorsport.