25
May

The Lance Armstrong Workout: Build a Strong Foundation – Men’s Health

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By: Andrew Daniels

For the first time in his life, Lance Armstrong was fat. It was the summer of 2008, and the former cycling superstar was already three years deep into his retirement from professional sports—if you can call crisscrossing the globe to spread cancer awareness and only occasionally finding time to relax “retirement.” Exercise—once a daily staple—was now a luxury. Something to fit in when time allowed. And it showed.

He was, in the words of strength and conditioning coach Peter Park, kind of pudgy.

That might be hard to believe about a man who amassed seven consecutive Tour de France victories from 1999 to 2005, but that’s exactly what Park faced when Armstrong showed up at his Santa Barbara-based gym, Platinum Fitness, in 2008, and announced that he wanted to start competing in marathons, beginning with Chicago in the fall.

“Not only was he out of shape, but all of that time off from cycling had resulted in a lot of imbalances in his hips, hamstrings, and core, which threw off his strength and coordination,” says Park, who has known Armstrong since the two began competing in the same triathlons as teenagers, and coached him during cycling’s off-season (August to December) for more than a decade. At least there was one advantage to Armstrong’s softer physique: “During the first weeks of training, I could actually outrace him,” says Park.

Park’s bragging right didn’t last long. Armstrong soon began shedding fat, adding muscle, winning smaller races, and setting his sights not only on marathons, but also on the Tour de France. But before he could become truly competitive again, he had to get rid of some niggling injuries.

Like most cyclists, Armstrong had spent his athletic career hunched over the handlebars of a bike in a forward-flexed, internally rotated position that aggravated his spine and ultimately triggered low back pain. “It’s a particularly big problem for cyclists, since the back is where powerful pedal strokes originate,” says Park.

To rebalance Armstrong’s body, Park focused first on boosting his flexibility and strengthening his “posterior chain”—a series of muscles that includes the glutes, hamstrings, lower back, and others that support the spine and provide power, speed, and stability in sports. “I call it foundation training,” says Park, whose book on the subject, The Foundation, with co-author Eric Goodman comes out next year. “It’s a great place to start for athletes and beginners alike—everyone kind of skips right to the heavy weights without building these ‘foundation’ muscles, which comprise the body’s true core.”

As he does with all of his athletes, including surfer Kelly Slater and LA Lakers point guard Derek Fisher, Park also tailored Armstrong’s training to complement his specific goals. “If you’re a cyclist, you need to have the upper body of a 12-year-old girl and the lower body of a power lifter,” says Park, adding that a barrel chest and monster arms only weigh a cyclist down, especially during longer races with steep ascents like the Tour de France. “So we stayed focused on core work, leg strength, and flexibility.”

What followed was Armstrong’s second comeback (the first was in 1998 following testicular cancer). He spent the 2009 season with Team Astana, capping it off with a third place finish in the Tour de France and a determination to finish even stronger in 2010. It wasn’t meant to be. Three crashes midway through this year’s Tour (now with Team RadioShack) all but eliminated Armstrong’s chance at a medal and sparked renewed chatter amongst critics that the cycling giant had finally fallen.

Armstrong has heard it before. “He loves it when people count him out,” says Park. “He thrives on it. And he’s in the best shape that I’ve ever seen him.” In short, Armstrong might still have a few surprises left up his sleeve for his detractors. If nothing else, says Park, he now has the foundation to remain in cycling’s top ranks for years to come.

THE FOUNDATION WORKOUT

Follow Lance Armstrong’s secret training plan to banish back pain and build total body power

Even if you’re not a cyclist, odds are that you spend the bulk of your day hunched in a seat. And that’s a recipe for back pain, says trainer Peter Park, who developed the following workout to help Lance Armstrong strengthen his “posterior chain”—a series of muscles that include the glutes, hamstrings, lower back, and others that stabilize the spine and provide speed and power in sports. Add it to your own weekly fitness plan to shore up your weak spots and build a strong foundation for any athletic endeavor.

WARM UP

Perform one set of each exercise without resting. For example, you’ll do the prescribed number of repetitions of the first exercise, then immediately do the second exercise, and so on. Once you’ve completed all of the exercises, move on to the core circuit.

1. Lateral Band Walk
2. Plank (Hold for 20 seconds 20 reps)
3. Iliotibial Band Roll (6 per side)
4. Groiner (6-8 per side)
5. Hand Crossover (3 reps)
6. Lunge (10 reps per side)
7. Lunge with Side Bend (5 reps)
8. Elbow-to-Foot Lunge (10 reps per side)
9. Sumo Squat to Stand (2 reps)
10. Kettlebell Goblet Squat (3 reps)
11. Doorway Stretch (1 rep)

CORE CIRCUIT

Perform one set of each exercise without resting. For example, you’ll do the prescribed number of repetitions of the first exercise, then immediately do the second exercise, and so on. Once you’ve completed all of the exercises, move on to Strength Circuit 1.

1. Side Planks (30 seconds per side)
2. Back Extensions (3 reps)
3. Swiss-Ball Roll (30 reps per side)
4. Swiss-Ball Pike (20 reps per side)
5. Mountain Climber with Feet on Valslides (30 reps)
6. Wrist-to-Knee Crunches (25 reps)
7. Plank (5-6 reps)

STRENGTH CIRCUIT 1

Perform one set of each exercise without resting. For example, you’ll do the prescribed number of repetitions of the first exercise, and immediately do the second exercise. Then rest one minute. That’s one circuit. Do a total of 3 circuits, then move on to Strength Circuit 2.

1. Pistol Squat (5 reps each leg)
2. Single-Leg Deadlift (8 reps per side)

STRENGTH CIRCUIT 2

Perform one set of each exercise without resting. For example, you’ll do the prescribed number of repetitions of the first exercise, and immediately do the second exercise. Then rest one minute. That’s one circuit. Do a total of 3 circuits, then move on to the Metabolic Circuit.

Single-Leg Squat (12-15 reps)
Lunge (10 reps per side)

METABOLIC CIRCUIT

If you’re exhausted, stop here. But if you still have energy, perform this final circuit up to three times, depending on how good you feel. Perform one set of each exercise without resting. For example, you’ll do the prescribed number of repetitions of the first exercise, then immediately do the second exercise, and so on. Once you’ve completed all of the exercises, congratulations—you’ve just trained like Lance Armstrong.

1. Single Arm Dumbbell Swing (25)
2. High Box Jump (15)
3. Single Arm Dumbbell Swing (25)
4. Split Jacks (12 each side)
5. Single Arm Dumbbell Swing (25)

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