Getting Started

step one: decide your goal.
The first thing you’ll want to do is decide why in god’s name you’re out there in dorky shorts and sneakers instead of happily sitting with your butt on the couch. Improving overall fitness is always a good start, but try to be more specific. For example:

  • I want my thigh muscles to stop hurting after a track day.
  • I want to improve my back and shoulder endurance for long-distance riding.
  • I want to ease back into riding after an injury.
  • I want to strengthen my legs and increase stamina for motocross riding.

If you have trouble thinking of a goal, remember that you want to be improving and strengthening muscles that already do the tasks on the motorcycle. Next time you’re out riding, pay attention to what hurts, cramps, or tires — those areas can become your strengthening goals.

If there are multiple areas in which you need work, feel free to have a couple of goals. I had three when I started: “I want my hips to stop cramping in the twisties”, “I want my shoulder to stop hurting after long freeway rides” and “I want my neck to stop hurting at the end of a day of touring.”

This might seem like a lot to bite off at once, but we’ll see in the next step that it’s attainable. Really!

step two: pick a routine that will help you acheive that goal.
This is the easy step — if your goal is concise enough, you should be able to pick out its target area. For example, my goal of “I want my hips to stop cramping in the twisties” has a target area of — you guessed it! — the hips. Told you this weightlifting stuff was simple.

The slightly trickier part is to find a couple of exercises for that target area and its surrounding muscles. Most exercise websites (, my favorite, for example) tend to err on the side of presenting too much information. Fortunately, creating a routine isn’t as hard as it seems. It requires a little bit of work at first, but after that, it’s a breeze.

The trick is to pick one or two exercises for your target area, plus one or two from a complementary muscle group. For example: if your thighs hurt after riding the twisties, you’ll want to pick one or two quadriceps exercises, but also choose one or two hamstring exercises. Other complementary muscle groups include biceps/triceps, abs/back, shoulders/neck.

choice a: use an existing routine
Here’s my Basic weightlifting routine for motorcyclists. I’ve listed at least one good dumbbell exercise under each main target area that a motorcyclist might come across.

choice b: roll your own
Once you’ve done a little bit of lifting, you’ll quickly see which exercises you enjoy, which give you quickest results, and, of course, which ones make you want to curl up in a ball and never look at a dumbbell ever again. At that point, grab a notebook (paper or electronic) and create your own routine.

For choosing specific exercises, I like to use’s Exercise Map (or here, if you prefer clicking on a naked rendered man). It’s super-simple to use — just click on the target area (the hip, in my earlier example). It’ll bring up a big page of suggested exercises for those muscles.

Don’t go overboard here — take maybe three exercises tops per goal. You can always swap ’em around later if you get bored.

step three: pick a schedule for that routine.
This step is a lot more important than most beginners realize, because you need to strike a balance of (a) working out enough so that you feel progress and (b) not overtraining. Working out every day might make you feel great at first, but you’ll burn out quickly.

A good beginner’s schedule is to work towards all of your goals on the same day, roughly three times a week. The only rule is not to work out two days in a row. If you have like fifteen goals, you may want to divide them up into two days, but I’m going to assume that you’re a motorcyclist who wishes to improve your motorcycling through weights, and not a serious budding weightlifter.

step four: ok, now grab those weights!
Yeesh, about time! You could have ridden 20 miles towards the hills in the time it took to read through all that, huh? Well, go put on some loose-fitting clothes, grab some water, a mat if you’re on a hardwood floor, and your dumbbells! You’re all set!

The idea is that you’ll do 2 sets of 10 reps. This means that you’ll do each exercise in your routine 10 times, then move on to the next one. Once you’ve done the whole routine, start over for your second set. Feel free to rest bewteen sets, drink some water, etc., but don’t rest for longer than 60 seconds. Lifting gets your heart rate up, and you want to keep it up throughout the workout.

Form is really important. Hold your spine straight, and contract your abs to support your lower back. Don’t swing the dumbbells — concentrate on what you’re doing and make sure you feel the right muscle working (trust me, you can tell if you’re using your pecs or your deltoids in a bench press….).

You should at least break a sweat (if you have a ton of goals, you may very well even be nasty and disgusting by the second set). If you can breeze through both sets without thinking about it, increase the weight. Similarly, if you can’t make it through two sets, just do fewer repetitions. Don’t be afraid of heavy weights — in my personal experience, fewer reps with a heavier weight is even more productive than higher reps with a lighter weight.

step five….and beyond?
If you get bored while training towards your goal, simply examine your routine. Have you been doing two sets of lunges three times a week for six months? Try alternating them with squats or step-ups.

If you’re hungry for more, add a new goal and start it over at step one. This’ll make your routine longer — feel free to split the goals into two separate days. Rememeber to rest each muscle group for at least a day, though.


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