What exercises do F1 drivers do?

Like every participant in a competitive sport, it is all about making a difference, through every means possible. However, when you train to be your best while focusing on all consistent improvements, you stand a better chance of improving your performance in the long term, no matter how small those gains may seem.

Let's use Formula One drivers as an example. It is safe to say most of us underestimate the fitness level of Formula 1 drivers, or most motor-sport drivers. However, it is important to understand that driving an F1 car at high speed for about 180 minutes without a break demands enormous core strength and top-notch muscular endurance.

Formula One drivers can not only rely on their techniques to get the desired results. Instead, they sharpen their techniques and improve their performance through excellent strength-based exercises.  In this piece, we will be discussing how you can supplement your physical training as an elite sportsperson right in your gym, using Formula One drivers as a case study.

Top F1 driver muscle groups and strength training exercises

Let’s look at some core exercises that are mostly practiced by F1 drivers to give themselves a competitive advantage while on the track.

1. Swiss ball (exercise ball) push ups

You can build your core strength by balancing your feet on a Swiss ball while doing push-ups. Working out in this position ensures that all your supporting muscles are engaged, just like doing free weight bench presses.  For best results, you can aim for three sets of 12-15 reps.

2. Pull-ups

This workout builds your strength by giving you a strong grip.  If your back and forearms are not well-built, it is practically impossible to grip an F1 steering wheel for up to 2 hours without experiencing any burns.  To do an over-arm pull-up, extend your arms with the palms facing in and pull yourself up until you have your chin over the bar.  Maintain that position until you are tired. 

3. Swiss ball balancing

This is quite simple, and you need a Swiss ball for it as well.  Sit on the Swiss ball while lifting one foot and maintain this position until you fatigue.  This position ensures that your lower back and hip muscles stay engaged throughout seating.  You can also push your forehead against the palm of a partner.  Doing this, conditions your body to engage muscles for a long time without getting too tense.  It also helps to build your neck muscles.

4.  Overall strength workout

The importance of the overall athletic strength to an F1 driver cannot be overemphasised.  However, these workout sessions mainly involve lifting big compounds.  For instance, a strength session of an average F1 driver will include 3 x 12-15 reps each of squats, dead-lifts, bench press, rows, pull-ups, and shoulder press.

F1 drivers are usually more focused on their core – from their waist up to the neck.  By building a strong core, they can easily prevent injury when they crash during the race.  With a strong neck, they stand better chances of withstanding the G-force pressures that develop whenever the attempt to make a sharp turn at high speed or braking and accelerating fast. F1 cars are fitted with power assisted steering. However, the drivers will still require strong core and arm muscles for effective control of the car during longer races. 

It's not all about strength and muscular endurance, F1 drivers also need incredible stamina to increase their chances of winning races. HIIT (high intensity interval training) is a great way to do this. It involves running or cycling at intense sprint speed for 30 seconds followed by a period of 90 seconds resting or jogging. This is then repeated five to 10 times. 

So, you now know what to do to be as fit as an F1 driver, even if you will never make it to the Grand Prix!