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How to workout like a Formula 1 driver

by Harry 5 minutes read

Last updated: 13 Apr, 2023

If you're not an avid F1 fan, many of you may wonder whether the drivers even need to workout - after all, they do just sit down and drive for a couple hours. But in fact, Formula 1 racing is one of the most physically demanding sports in the world.

Why an F1 driver needs to workout

At around 200 mph down the straights and over 100 mph round the corners, F1 drivers need serious strength and body control to compete at the highest level. At these speeds, a driver will endure up to 6Gs, meaning their body will feel a force equivalent to six times their body weight. This would be a lot for any person, but F1 drivers experience the extreme G-forces all while having to perform overtakes, communicate with their team and alter the cars settings from the hundreds of buttons on the steering wheel - making them some of the most elite athletes in sports.

The weight of the driver is also a crucial factor to finding success on the track. In 2023 the minimum weight for an Formula 1 driver is 80kg, which includes their shoes, helmet and suit. A ballast can be added to the cockpit to increase the total weight to 80kg if the driver weighs under the minimum. Therefore, most drivers will aim to be as consistently close to 80kg when suited up to race, but do their best to not be a single gram over. This means being in the best shape for a driver isn't about being as light or as lean as possible, instead they aim to maintain a consistent weight of roughly 80kg which will be easier or harder depending on the drivers height, muscle mass, fat percentage and more.

When we bring all of these factors together, it becomes clear that F1 drivers must follow strict diets and workout routines, while also keeping a close eye on the scales, to stay in peak physical condition.

How to workout like an F1 Driver

F1 racing requires a particular set of physical traits to make a great driver. The desired muscle distribution is quite different from many other sports making the strength training methods quite unique, while they must also keep up with endurance training too.

Here are a few ways that F1 driver Daniel Ricciardo trains for race day.

Protect the Neck

To develop both strength and endurance, Ricciardo prefers to use a neck harness and a resistance band to begin his workout regime.

To build strength, Ricciardo's trainer Michael Italiano has him step back with the band held taut around the back of his head. Ricciardo then moves his head from side to side for four sets of 30 repetitions. On the other hand, to enhance endurance, the resistance band pulls Ricciardo's head in one direction while he tries to maintain his neck stability. This endurance hold replicates the g-forces experienced during cornering.

Ricciardo is not the only racing driver who uses this method to strengthen his neck muscles. Most of the grid will do a similar exercise for neck training, including the likes of Lewis Hamilton and George Russell.

Strengthen the Core

Ricciardo and Italiano incorporate a blend of conventional abdominal exercises and F1-tailored positions. Their regimen comprises a sequence of four moves, namely hollow body holds (lasting for 45 seconds), side planks (45 seconds), prone planks (90 seconds), and swimmers (consisting of 15 reps), repeated for five sets with 30 seconds of rest between each exercise and a 2-minute break between sets.

Additionally, to target muscles utilised while driving, Ricciardo assumes a driver-centric exercise where he sits on a med ball with his feet extended on a Bosu ball, holding a weight plate in the form of a steering wheel and twisting it back and forth.

Full-Body Stability

Italiano incorporates a complete body strength routine for Ricciardo in addition to his preferred goblet squat, which includes exercises such as dumbbell farmer's walks lasting 45 seconds, 15 repetitions of TRX inverted rows, 45-second handstand wall holds, 12 repetitions of dumbbell overhead walking lunges, and 16 repetitions of kettlebell plant pull-throughs. Similar to his core workout, Ricciardo performs 5 sets with a rest period of 30 seconds between exercises and 2 minutes between sets. This final focus of his workout routine helps increase strength in upper body muscle groups.

So, if you want to start F1 driver training, it's all about core strength, neck strength, endurance and body weight maintenance. You'll need a mixture of traditional exercises, but you'll also need to incorporate some unique methods to make sure you can endure extreme G-forces at high speeds.

Check out Ricciardo's off-season workout routine below:


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