November 29, 2021 8 min read

The dreaded arm pump… Something riders don’t want to experience while they’re ripping the track or trails. But, unfortunately, it does happen. This can be an annoyance for riders across all skill levels, including amateurs and professionals. For those who don’t know, this is what arm pump is in motocross.

Arm pump in motocross is a clinical condition that develops intermittent pain in the forearms from holding onto your bike’s grips. The pain arises because your forearm muscles swell, reducing the blood flow and oxygen levels needed to recover the muscle. 

Arm Pump

As you’re able to see from the above, arm pump is unpleasant. However, because it’s such a prevalent issue within the sport, many have tried and tested methods to reduce this clinical condition. The prevention method you choose can range widely from surgery to changing up your diet. 

To better understand this dreaded arm pump, we’ve created a comprehensive guide to help you identify what it is, why motocross riders get it, and several techniques to reduce it dramatically.

What is arm pump in motocross?

For a better understanding, let’s describe this clinical condition a little bit further. 

If you’ve ever experienced arm pump, you’d certainly know as you’d feel an awkward cramping sensation within your forearms. While this occurs, you’ll start to lose strength throughout your whole forearm, hands, and fingers. Because of this, some riders generally have to stop their session as they can no longer use their clutch, throttle, or break.  

This irritating issue occurs when riders grip the handlebars and go over bumpy terrains. This is because they’re holding onto the handlebars vigorously, causing the forearm to have an intense workout. 

During this time, the forearm muscle is indicating it needs more blood and oxygen. However, because it needs such an excessive amount and because the rider is usually contracting every muscle in their arms, it causes both of these muscle-important elements to become “blocked” or “trapped” in your forearms. As more and more blood and oxygen is flowed into the forearm, it builds up pressure. This is why many motocross riders believe that their arms are going to “pop.” 

Some people experience it much worse than others, and this depends on an array of genetic, dietary, or skill factors. Nonetheless, most and if not all, motocross riders will experience this type of pain. 

Without a doubt, it’s something everyone wants to avoid as it can gradually become more problematic over time. So you can understand more about this mysterious arm pump, I’ve listed some reasons why people within the sport experience this issue. From this, you can understand why this is such a regular occurrence and act on it. 

 Motocross Riding

Why do motocross riders get arm pump? 

Arm pump can occur due to many different motocross circumstances. To gain a better visualization of the topic, we suggest you read the below scenarios. 

You’ve just started riding   

It’s evident that beginners will experience this type of pain more than professional riders. This is because they haven’t built up the conditioning for the muscle. Your forearm muscles work precisely in the same way as any other muscle group. The more you work out the muscle, the stronger it’ll become. 

To reduce this from occurring as a beginner, you should consider strength-building exercises to enhance the development of your forearm strength. You can do many forearm exercises from home, but many professionals say that riding your bike is the best way to build strength for this purpose. 

However, always remember that overtraining can make the situation worst. If you encounter a painful arm pump, we suggest you take appropriate time off to recover. Failing to do so can increasingly make an arm pump occur more, worse, and for longer. 

If you choose to ride as your source of conditioning for the muscle, be sure to take it easy. If you’re riding to exhaustion each day, developing a painful arm pump and then taking a month off riding isn’t going to help. Instead, slowly build up your strength. Ride until you start to feel an arm pump develop and stop and wait for it to subside. This way, you can keep riding with less risk for injury.

Reduce Arm Pump

You’re riding too frequently

No matter your skill level, if you’re riding too frequently or overriding compared to what you usually do, you’ll experience an arm pump. It goes without saying professionals will have much more endurance in their forearms than any amateur. However, even if they’re riding more frequently than what they’d typically do, they run the risk of encountering arm pump. 

To boost your endurance in your forearms, many professionals and skilled motocross riders start other sports like climbing, rowing, or swimming. All of the mentioned activities are a great way to increase your forearm strength without riding your bike.   

From the above sports, we highly recommend climbing. This is because it’s an isometric exercise that requires you to hold a position for a while. This stimulates a similar situation as you’d experience when doing motocross. Doing exercises that can replicate a similar scenario is the best type of activity to partake in. 

Rock Climbing

You may have lost conditioning 

If you’re coming back to the sport, either after taking a break or because of an injury, you may have lost some conditioning you once built up. To start building up your conditioning again, I recommend you start introducing some basic exercises into your daily lives. 

Here it would help if you used such equipment as handgrips or finger resistance bands, as these can start to stimulate your muscles back to their original state. Muscle memory is a real thing, so you’ll be back to your normal strength in a matter of time.  

As you can grasp from the above, literally anyone can experience an arm pump when doing motocross. Now you’ve developed some knowledge based on how motocross riders encounter an arm pump, let’s discuss how you’re able to reduce the possibilities of this occurring radically. 

How do you avoid arm pump in motocross?

There are many factors you can implement to reduce the chances of an arm pump occurring massively. As mentioned above, these can widely range from something as dramatic as surgery or just changing your diet. Nonetheless, so you can start minimizing the potential of an arm pump happening, we suggest you implement one of the below solutions. 

Set up your bike correctly 

The first avoidance technique you should consider is setting up or bike correctly or reevaluating how your bike is set up (If you believe your bike is already set up correctly, ignore this procedure). See the below of what you should check on your motocross bike:

  1. The first thing you’ll want to look at is your front and rear suspension to ensure they’re providing a sufficient amount of force absorption.  
  2. You’ll also want to make sure your front brake and clutch levers are set at the right angle. If these are offset, you’ll be straining your fingers to reach for them, which will cause an arm pump. 
  3. You should also check your handlebar height. Changing this can massively alter your riding position, which may make it much more comfortable. 
  4. Be sure that your clutch cable is well-lubricated to reduce the resistance of pulling it inwards. 
  5. Additionally you should make sure your tire pressure is within factory recommendations to prevent the motorcycle from reacting poorly to terrain features.

By quickly running over the above, you can understand if your bike is set up correctly in accordance with reducing the chances of arm pump. 

Motocross Bike Set-up 

Improve cardiovascular fitness and health 

Apart from your bike, your physical cardiovascular health is significant to minimize the chances of an arm pump. As mentioned above, we understand that an arm pump occurs when blood and oxygen become congested within this muscle, causing it to cramp and hurt. 

However, if you were to improve your cardiovascular fitness, it promotes a process called neovascularization. In short, this fancy word means “new blood vessels,” and by enhancing your cardiovascular fitness, you’re creating more blood vessels in your muscles, which reduces the chances of this congestion. 

Improving your cardiovascular fitness is excellent, but your health is also vital. Although physically training to improve your fitness will better your cardiovascular health, you can enrich this more by eating a well-rounded diet. 

If you’re someone who struggles with arm pump a lot, it’s recommended to eat food high in nitrates. This is because it helps your blood vessels dilate, meaning they can store more blood within them. To see a comprehensive list of foods that are high in nitrate, click here. 

 Improving cardiovascular health for motocross

Use the correct equipment 

Something else you should consider is the equipment you’re wearing. This doesn’t necessarily mean your helmet, boots, or clothing, but actually your gloves, etc. Be sure that your gloves are well-maintained and can currently support your hands on the grips. 

Something else you should consider is palm protectors. These aid the following:

  • Protection against blisters 
  • Vibration reduction 
  • Helps absorb impacts

Arm pump solutions

If you’ve followed this article closely, you can see from the bottom two “benefits” that palm protectors will reduce the chances of an arm pump. 

Here at Risk Racing, we adore palm protectors because they offer full protection across the palm of your hand, they have sufficient padding to reduce vibration, and you can also wear them underneath your gloves. This makes them ideal for arm bump protection as they are unseen and offer immense protection benefits. 

Bike upgrades 

Including the above, you can also opt-in for bike modifications to decrease the chances of an arm pump occurring. From doing this, you won’t see drastic changes. But, it can help reduce the possibility of arm pump happening. Below are the following changes you’re able to make: 

Investing in these four motocross parts can help aid the reduction of arm pump.  

Improve your mental health 

Something that isn’t discussed enough is the effects stress has on your physical attributes. If you’re stressed or suffer from anxiety, it can stimulate the “fight or flight” response. During this process, the body sends blood to more critical areas of the body. Meaning blood is taken away from your fingers, palms, and forearms and transferred over to your legs. 

Although we need blood and oxygen flowing through our legs, it’s also vital to have them heading towards our forearms. However, because this doesn’t occur during the fight or flight response, you’ll probably start to feel an arm pump. In theory, the less blood flow you receive to a muscle group, the more pumped it’ll be. 

To reduce this from happening, try to relieve stress before you hop on your bike. This could be through a sport, hobby, or just meeting up with family or friends. Whatever it takes, it doesn’t really matter as long as you’re feeling de-stressed before your motocross session. 

Warm-up before your session

Before indulging yourself with another quality motocross session, you may want to think about warming up. You’re able to achieve this by just undergoing some light exercises and riding techniques. Many professionals use stationary bikes to warm up their bodies. For most, this isn’t possible, and therefore, you should go for a gentle jog, skip, or do some jumping jacks to prepare your body. 

How to warm up before riding motocross

Arm pump surgery 

This next one can seem questionable, but it’s certainly a procedure that many people have gone through, and it’s so good that over 90% of recipients said they’re happy with the results. But why do people think this surgery works so well?

The fascia is inelastic, and it covers the muscle within the forearm, meaning it doesn’t expand to accommodate for muscle swelling. Once operated on, people say it’s like taking a whole seam out of your clothing. This allows more room for your muscles to grow, meaning that arm pump is massively reduced. 

Arm pump surgery

Conclusion 

As you’re able to see from the above, there are various ways in which you’re able to reduce the chances of arm pump occurring. If you’re worried about arm pump, I wouldn’t be. As mentioned, everyone (including professionals) encounters this regularly. It’s really just something you need to keep an eye on. If it gets worse, stop, then even worse, take a few days off.  

Now that you’ve read this post, you should consider the above methods of reducing the arm pump and implement them accordingly. This way, you’ll massively decrease the chances of this happening and be able to ride for longer periods of time. 


Leave a comment

Comments will be approved before showing up.