Formula One Fit: Training The World’s Top Drivers

Formula One Technogym training system

Formula 1, as we are well aware, is one of the most advanced sports on the planet. Average team budgets approach the £200 million mark each season, and the drivers themselves are in the upper echelons of sporting fame — but how do they stay Formula One Fit?

Racing at over 200mph, with forces up to 6g  [g-force], takes a huge toll on the body. Nowadays, F1 drivers are elite athletes, and they train with highly engineered equipment to reach peak performance. I head to McLaren’s Headquarters to chat to Simon Reynolds, McLaren’s Human Performance Manager, about how the drivers train.

What is your role in the team?

My role is the first line of support, so I work one to one with the drivers and monitor them closely on our systems. Especially using the Technogym equipment throughout both the season and off season to ensure they optimise and maintain their performance throughout the year.

We do fitness testing on the drivers and the race team, we also provide ongoing monitoring and training programs.

How do you help the drivers and the team?

Through Mclaren Applied Technologies, the platform we’ve integrated with this year, we can now provide a really comprehensive service to the drivers and the race team.

Everyone follows the ethos that wellbeing is very important, and that looking after yourself can help you perform at your best, whether you’re a driver or working on the race team to complete a pitstop in under 2 seconds.

We also have nutritionists working in our team, and external experts who assist us with supporting the drivers and race team.

How do you train an F1 driver?

Over the past 10 years, I’ve started to evolve what I do with them a lot. You start to understand the sport a lot more, and you can do a lot more with them as you become more aware, because it’s a very unique sport.

There aren’t many dynamic movements. In football, for example, it’s dynamic, there’s a lot of physical movement, but the drivers are in an isometric, isolated position, the motion is coming from minimal joint movement from breaking to get force through the pedal, and then the steering maneuvers are trained through a lot of shoulder and arm dominance.

There’s also a lot of stress on the neck and shoulders to support not only the arms for steering, but to withstand the g force to make sure they maintain a neutral head position. A loss or weakness in this will hugely affect their ability to drive the car properly.

So they’re really training to reduce stress and maintain neutrality?

Absolutely, and that’s quite a unique way to train. We do train in similar ways to other sports, and of course the training they do is very dynamic, but at the same time we do do specific work with them to keep the core stability strong.

We probably do more core than other sports, because postural stability is about ensuring that when you’re standing up, or performing movements, you can work with your body well and stabilize your structure. As the drivers train hard for that stability, they can perform far better under the stress in the cars.

What would a daily routine look like?

Keeping up to date with science, we train them in the morning with cardiovascular endurance exercises. They may be biking, running, rowing, or spinning.

They’ll do interval training and a lot of hill work to bring them through heart rate changes, which places different stresses on the body. I use a periodisation model, so during the off season it’s very much about building, developing and preparing them for competitions.

Through the competitive phases, it’s about maintaining what you’ve worked towards during the off season. As it’s really an endurance sport, the drivers could be working on a continued basis to replicate the movements that they perform during their working day. ML

Formula One Fit,