CrossFit Made Ricky Stenhouse a Fitter Nascar Driver

March 7, 2022


It wasn’t long ago that the thought of a NASCAR driver running the stairs of the Los Angeles Coliseum for exercise would have been considered insane. For Ricky Stenhouse Jr., it’s become another way to get a good sweat in.

Just a few years ago, a workout of this nature would’ve been a hard no for Stenhouse. The driver of the No. 47 Chevrolet for JTG Daugherty Racing had always done his own workouts here and there, even doing some training with the pit crew when he was at Roush Fenway Racing to help build team camaraderie.

In 2014, he started accompanying his friends to CrossFit workouts and immediately fell in love with the competitive aspect. He even met CrossFit legend Rich Froning and the two became friends. Froning began sending him some workouts and even hooked him up with Rogue Fitness, which outfitted the CrossFit gym Stenhouse had built on his property in North Carolina.

“I liked the intense, beat-the-clock kind of workouts,” said Stenhouse. “I learned a lot of movements that I never had incorporated in my workouts before.”

While Ricky Stenhouse was physically able to handle the physical and mental rigors that come with being a driver, he knew there was another level he could reach and that’s exactly why he reached out to trainer and founder of Second 2 None Fitness Ryan Von Rueden.

James Gilbert/Getty Images

Von Rueden had previously worked as the director of fitness and lifestyle for Kasey Kahne for nine years. The call from Stenhouse came in 2018 a day after the Coke 600, NASCAR’s longest event at 400 miles. Von Rueden said that Stenhouse had provided his vital stats from the race and the heart rate numbers were so high that it was a surprise he was able to get out of the car.

“If you take a look at a top-end marathon runner, they’re not hitting that high of a number and their averages are much lower, said Von Rueden. “He wanted to figure out a way to make that different because it doesn’t feel good when your heart rate is that high. “The overall concept was just to be in better shape.”

How they attacked this was three-fold. They started with steady-state cardio for an aerobic base. From there, they would do short one-minute intervals to help build Stenhouse’s anaerobic endurance to help increase his work capacity underneath that heart rate while also helping better at buffering out the lactic acid. From there, they stretched those intervals to five to 10 minutes. Stenhouse’s heart rate now are within averages of what both feel comfortable with.

Nascar racer Ricky Stenhouse performing a jerk and clean with a barbell in his home gym
Jared Allen

Von Rueden also implemented CrossFit-style workouts into the programming, allowing Stenhouse and the Camping World Truck and Xfinity series drivers the opportunity to compete with one another to gauge where each is at, and to keep training fun as they push each other throughout each of the individual seasons.

Another important component of Von Rueden’s programming has been the data from WHOOP that he uses as a checks and balancing system on when he can push a driver or scale back. Usually, Cup series guys like Stenhouse will be drained on Monday’s, coming off the previous day’s race. Von Rueden will make it a movement day that includes some light running, bike riding and bodyweight exercises, lessening a 90-minute session to 40 and only about 60 percent of what a normal workload would be.

Ricky Stenhouse, who was leading this year’s Daytona with eight laps left before a multi-car crash knocked him out of contention, feels he’s in a much better place physically since that fateful call to Von Rueden and is looking forward to making a playoff push.

“I’m definitely more of an all-around athlete now,” Stenhouse said. “I would feel comfortable going in and doing any type of workout with anyone. I didn’t like running at all before and now it’s no big deal if we want to go and run nine or 10 miles. He’s really gotten it instilled in me the fact that running is one of the best ways to get your heart rate up and get a really good workout.

“I’ve gotten a lot stronger without gaining a lot of weight. Usually, when you build muscle, you gain weight and that’s something you don’t really want to do in racing. You want to keep things on the lighter side. The focus on heart rate and getting my heart rate down in the race car. We’ve definitely seen a dramatic drop in that area.”

Nascar driver Ricky Stenhouse performing a barbell exercise in his gym
Jared Allen

Ricky Stenhouse Crossfit Workout

Warmup

  • Foam Roll: 5 min.
  • Cardio: 5 min.
  • Shoulder and Hip Mobility: 5-10 min

Workout

  • Run: 1 mile
  • RDL:  70% body weight x 10
  • Hang Clean: 70% body weight x 10
  • Front Squat: 70% body weight x 10
  • Push Press: 70% body weight x 10
  • Pullup: x 10
  • Flat Bench: 90% body weight x 10
  • Upright Dip: x 10
  • Toes to Bar: x 10
  • Run: 1 mile

Directions: Run 1 mile, then complete 6-8 sets of the strength with minimum rest periods, then run the second mile. Change the prescribed weight to accommodate each individual’s capabilities.





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