As I write, professional cycling's best and brightest are pedaling through the mountains and plains of Spain in the Giro d'Italia, arguably the sport’s second most grueling multi-stage race behind the Tour de France. Whether or not you are a cycling fan, you share something with those athletes - the need to prepare your body for the physical challenges you encounter day after day.
Great news! Preparing for a sport, a physically active job or even just waging war with the aging process can be addressed in the gym ahead of time. Start by defining the demands those things place on your body, then simply strengthen and lengthen the areas that need it.
The roots of this challenging routine can be traced back to a hot afternoon in September 2001. I was standing in my living room in Austin, Texas, talking to my wife when my cell phone rang. I picked it up....
"Nate, this is Lance Armstrong."
After I picked my phone up off the floor, I managed to stammer, "What can I do for you, Lance?" I've trained a number of elite athletes in my career, but this was another level altogether!
"My massage therapist says you're the guy to talk to about my off-season strength training. Can we get together and talk about that?"
"Let me check my calendar… yeah, I think I can fit you in. What time works for you?"
I met with Lance at his home a few days later, discussed what he had in mind, and we were off and running, literally. Our first workout later that week was a five-mile trail run in central Austin, with crunches, push-ups and chin-ups thrown in at regular intervals. We dug deeper into the details of how best to prepare him for another successful year of training and racing and finished the run with a pretty good idea of how to proceed.
I was surprised to learn that Lance had never incorporated much strength and flexibility work into his year-round training. He'd won three Tours already without it, but he had a few more than three in mind. Many athletes at the top of their game become paralyzed by the fact that the only way to go is down, and you know what happens to them. To his credit, Lance was far from paralyzed. He said he needed to add in something extra that off-season.
As he told it, the rigors of training and racing at the professional level and the effects of aging demanded that he be more intentional in preparing his body for competition each year. He was also experiencing the back pain most cyclists get when the miles in the saddle start to add up.
His goals would be improved leg and core strength, muscular endurance and mental toughness, with a focus on maximizing multi-joint movements. After four sessions to lay down some fundamental movement patterns, we dove in to a linearly periodized program. These were followed with a muscular endurance phase during the four weeks before he returned to Europe.
View dynamic warm-up exercises as well as the main workout and complex workout routines in the digital issue! Click here>>