Many people tend to underestimate the prime athletic status of Formula One™ drivers. All they do is sit in a car and spin the wheel for a couple of hours, right? Hell, you do that every week without getting any fitter, so how hard can it be? In actual fact, to drive an F1™ car at high speeds for two hours without rest requires an extremely high level of muscular endurance and core strength.
For F1™ drivers, the most important area to work on is core fitness. Not only will a strong core help prevent injury during crashes, but a strong waist and neck are also vital when it comes to withstanding the G-force pressures the drivers’ bodies are subjected to when cornering at speed and braking and accelerating quickly. (The same goes for astronauts – when was the last time you saw a fat astronaut? Think about it.)
A mix of core strength exercises, low impact endurance training and athletic strength training is the key to optimum F1™ driver conditioning, and therefore most of the blokes taking to the grid at the Melbourne Grand Prix this weekend will subscribe to some variation on the following 3-part workout.
Part 1 – The F1™ Core Strength Workout
Swiss Ball Push Ups: One of the best core strength exercises. Having your feet balanced on a Swiss ball while doing push ups ensures that you engage all supporting muscles. Aim for 3 x 12-15 reps.
Swiss Ball Balancing: Sit on a Swiss ball, lift one foot up and hold until fatigue. Repeat with the other foot. This exercise engages both hip and lower back muscle groups. Additionally, while in this position, pushing your forehead against a training partner’s palm will help build neck muscles.
Hammer pull-ups: With arms extended and palms facing in, pull yourself up until your chin is over the bar and hold until fatigue. This is a classic back and forearm strength builder, the main purpose of which is to build a strong grip. Without proper preparation, two hours clutching an F1™ steering wheel rapidly starts to burn.
Part 2 – The F1™ Endurance Workout
Your average F1™ race lasts almost as long as a marathon and requires a great deal more concentration. Tiring leads to mistakes, which in the racing business can be deadly. This is why being extremely fit is an essential part of Formula One™, and why drivers undergo a variety of endurance training — running, swimming, cycling or rowing — depending on their preference. These cardio workouts are designed to prepare the body for 120 minutes of torturous driving, hence the runners will typically cover about 16kms per day and the cyclists will cover up to 50kms. Rowing is also a popular form of cardio for F1™ drivers, as it involves training in a seated position and also works the arms and shoulders, which receive most of the strain while driving.
Part 3 – The F1™ Strength Workout
For F1™, overall athletic strength is the most important thing, so driver strength workouts involve big compound lifts. The following is what a typical driver strength session might look like:
Squats – 3 x 12-15 reps
Deadlifts – 3 x 12-15 reps
Bench press – 3 x 12-15 reps
Rows – 3 x 12-15 reps
Pull ups – 3 x 12-15 reps
Shoulder press – 3 x 12-15 reps