Are You Strong Enough to Be In A Pit Crew?

Are You Strong Enough to Be In A Pit Crew?

Race Car drivers are usually seen as the stars of the Indianapolis 500, and indeed they have to be in top mental and physical shape to withstand speeds of over 200 miles per hour. But behind the scenes, the pit crew (who are responsible for changing tires and making any other adjustments the car might need) are well-trained athletes themselves. 

According to Anna Chatten, 39, one of the few female mechanics at the event, it’s a dangerous job if you’re not fast and dextrous. “You have a frenzy of cars coming in from the track, quickly decelerating from 120 miles per hour to 40 miles per hour, down to zero, and cars are more susceptible to catching on fire from fueling while they’re still hot.” 

It’s important that the athletes have a good range of mobility and enough energy and mental acuity to stay sharp on race day. They need to build resistant bodies that can move well and are pain-free,” says Jim Leo, an Indianapolis, Indiana-based trainer who works with pit crew members. Great hand-eye coordination, solid core and upper body strength, heat tolerance, and explosive power are also musts.

Because all of the effort on race day is done in ten seconds or less, traditional conditioning work consists primarily of plyometric exercises such as jumps and medicine ball throws, as well as some low-intensity aerobic work to enhance recovery and improve overall stress management, says Leo. As far as strength training in concerned, areas of focus include the core (particularly obliques and transverse abdominis), hamstrings, shoulders, chest, and grip, he adds. Most of the pit crew are kneeling when working, so Leo focuses a lot of training exercises on one or both knees to help crew members when they’re in these positions.

Here, five moves to try to see what it takes.

No Money Drill
Targets: Shoulder mobility via the lower trapezius and rhomboids.

With your knees slightly bent, stand with your back up against a post, making contact with the post with your tailbone, shoulder blades, and the back of your head. Bend your elbows to 90 degrees with your palms facing the ceiling, positioning them directly underneath your shoulders.  Keep your palms facing upward and elbows still as you rotate your palms away from the midline, drawing the bottoms of your shoulder blades together.  Perform 8 to 12 repetitions, using a band around your wrists for added resistance if needed.

Half-Kneeling Oblique Medicine Ball Throw
Targets: core muscles. 

Kneel on one knee approximately three feet from a wall, with the outside of your up knee facing the wall. With the up knee bent at 90 degrees, think about pulling the ground toward you with your foot, and sit up tall by pressing your down knee into the floor. Holding a medicine ball at the hip outside of the down knee, keep the up knee still as you throw the medicine ball against the wall. Perform 3 to 5 repetitions, then change sides.

Tall Kneeling Cable Chest Press
Targets: chest, triceps, and core. 

Kneel facing away from a weight stack, holding a cable in one hand at shoulder height. Sit up tall by pressing your knees into the ground and think about tucking your front ribs into your back pockets, feeling your hamstrings and abs activate. Keep your abs and hamstrings engaged as you press the cable straight out, reaching long on the finish. Perform 8 to 12 repetitions. Switch sides and repeat.

Forearm Rotation
Targets: pronators and supinators of the forearm (the muscles that allow you to turn your palm up or down) to help prevent and treat elbow tendonitis. 

Hold a pipe or broomstick at one end with your elbow bent to 90 degrees, with your palm facing the ceiling and the stick facing away from the opposite shoulder.  Keep your elbow bent to 90 degrees and slowly turn your palm over, moving the pipe toward your opposite shoulder.  Reverse the motion and perform 8 to 12 total repetitions. Switch sides and repeat.

Tall Kneeling Anti-Rotation Press
Targets: core muscles.

Kneel with your side facing a cable pulley.  With the cable set at roughly chest height, grab the handle, holding it into your chest.  Sit up tall by pressing your knees into the ground and think about tucking your front ribs into your back pockets, feeling your hamstrings and abs turn on. Keep your abs and hamstrings engaged and exhale as you slowly press your hands straight out, and then inhale through your nose as slowly return your hands to your chest. Perform 8-12 repetitions.

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