Upper Body Strength Is Key for Stock Car Drivers, Study Suggests

Released: 23-Apr-2012 10:30 AM EDT
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Citations Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research

Resistance Training and Physical Fitness Linked to Performance on the Race Track

Newswise — Philadelphia, Pa. (April 23, 2012) - For stock car drivers, time spent on resistance training—mainly building upper body strength—is directly related to success on the race track, reports a study in the May issue of The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, official research journal of the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA). The journal is published by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, a part of Wolters Kluwer Health.

The results highlight upper body strength and cardiovascular conditioning as key physical attributes for competitive performance in stock car racing. The research was led by William P. Ebben, PhD, FNSCA, CSCS*D, of University of Wisconsin-Parkside, in Kenosha, Wis., and the Stock Car Research Center in Lakewood, Wis.

Initial Studies of Physical Demands for Stock Car Athletes
In detailed interviews with 40 stock car drivers in 27 states, the researchers gathered data on the physical demands, injuries, and other factors involved in stock car racing. The drivers were also asked about their physical training regimens. As a group, the drivers were competitive in their sport, with most being nationally or regionally ranked.

When asked about the main physical demands of stock car racing, the drivers most often mentioned the importance of upper-body strength—especially for steering. Cardiovascular endurance and heat tolerance were also mentioned as important factors for withstanding tough race conditions.

Those demands were reflected in the drivers' physical training regimens. They reported about three days per week of resistance training, that is, strength training or weight training—average 50 minutes per session.

Most of this time was devoted to upper-body training: of the three resistance training days, two and one-half days were spent on building upper body strength. The drivers spent another three days per week on cardiovascular endurance training—average 35 minutes per session.

Time in the weight room seemed to provide a competitive edge, as reported time spent on resistance training was directly correlated with the drivers' track points standings. Drivers' ratings of their own physical fitness were also related to their track points ratings.

Implications for Sport-Specific Strength and Conditioning
Responses to other questions also supported the importance of upper body strength in stock car racing. For example, when asked how they felt after the end of a race, the drivers reported high rates of upper body muscle soreness and fatigue. Upper body injuries were also the most common type of injury mentioned, followed closely by back injuries.

Stock car racing has become one of the most popular American spectator sports, with nearly 1,400 tracks in the United States and 50 to 150 drivers per track. Research in other types of auto racing has shown that drivers have physical characteristics comparable to those of high-level athletes in other sports. Although strength and conditioning programs have been recommended for stock car drivers, few previous studies have looked at the physical demands, injuries, and training practices in this population of athletes.

The researchers hope their findings will be an important step in understanding the physical and other demands, training requirements, and injury risks associated with stock car racing. They write, "Our results can assist professionals in the development of strength and conditioning programs for performance enhancement and injury prevention that are specific to the needs of this population of athletes." Based on his research, Dr Ebben has developed some specific recommendations to help in developing top physical as well as mental performance for stock car drivers.

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About The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research
The editorial mission of The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research (JSCR) is to advance the knowledge about strength and conditioning through research. A unique aspect of this journal is that it includes recommendations for the practical use of research findings. While the journal name identifies strength and conditioning as separate entities, strength is considered a part of conditioning. The journal wishes to promote the publication of peer-reviewed manuscripts which add to our understanding of conditioning and sport through applied exercise science. The JSCR is the official research journal of the National Strength and Conditioning Association.

About Lippincott Williams & Wilkins
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