Words by Simon Whiten
Learn from Lance Armstrong’s core strength team to beat back pain and to be a super strong, super stable cycling powerhouse.
I have suffered from back pain for most of my cycling life, made worse by losing one of my hamstring muscles when a crash snapped a titanium seat post that ripped into my leg. This muscular in-balance has meant that I rarely ever race or ride pain free.
If you have back pain then like me you have probably tried just about every possible avenue for a ‘cure’. The nature of back pain and its complexity means that a cure is often not possible without a real change in your lifestyle. By that I mean that its often a combination of many factors that cause you the problem, which in turn effects your cycling performance. Pinning down the exact cause can be difficult if not nigh impossible. So the next best thing is to build yourself an immensely strong back in the hope that this will combat any lifestyle issues…
By chance I came across these exercises when I was injured and unable to ride my bike, after reading a tweet from a team-mate, Neil MacLeod, author of the popular Raceright.cc blog, who also suffers from back pain. Now I have consulted physio, osteopath, chiropractor, sport masseur and so on, and whilst all have helped my situation, none have sorted it once and for all, nor have any of them ever proposed anything quite like the routine that is shown in these videos.
Proper form is important for achieving results
The exercises come from none other than the team behind the legendary Lance Armstrong’s core power and back fitness. I seem to be saying this a lot lately, but love him or loathe him, do not dismiss him, as you can still learn from him and his team of experts. After all they did win 7 Tour de France and even if we doubt the legitimacy of all of his methods, do not doubt the strength of his back and core, as he still pedalled all that way faster than anyone else; to do that we all know that you need to have a rock solid core and super strong back.
It helps to have a professional check your form
So how did he achieve those things? Well most practitioners of sports therapy and injury prevention would suggest that you tuck your hips under and curve your back out at the base to stretch out the spine and the supporting erector spinae muscles. This programme goes totally against this accepted norm proposing that you actually arch your back…
Most of us would do sit-ups or curls as the basis of any core workout but the Foundation Training implies that you get plenty of that style of movement in your daily life. Many of us amateur racing cyclists are doomed, as sitting at a desk all day and riding a bike are both typical of that sort of movement. So to counter this they advocate concentrating on strengthening your back – the posterior chain – as opposed to your abdominals, and actually go as far to say that you should train your back four times as much as your front. Note they are NOT saying that you stop training your abs altogether.
The exercises were in part developed for and used by Lance as a key part of his training. A typical bikie, it helped him combat the rounded back that defines many cyclists. As you’ll see you require no equipment but you must be able to maintain good form and get it exactly right, otherwise you will make the exercise worthless. Practice makes perfect.
Dr. Eric Goodman, a chiropractor, developed the routine to get rid of his own back pain and then partnered with ex-triathlete, Peter Parks, to set-up Foundation Training.
Foundation training founder Dr Eric Goodman
What I like about these is that the main routine in the third video is only 15 minutes long and can help anyone with a bad back, not just cyclists, so I have been able to rope my girlfriend into doing it as well, making a nice change from doing core training alone. An ex-professional dancer, her back is a mess, and she was very sceptical about this programme but now is hooked.
Remember that despite being short, it is quite tough and your form needs to be spot on. Start with the Founder position in video 1, then try the wicked back extension in 2, and when you are comfortable with those, have a go at the tough 15 minute workout in 3.
Did I say it was tough? You have been warned but it may just leave you free of back pain. Learn from Lance (some stuff anyway). Now here’s the videos…
More information: Foundation Training
This article originally appeared on CycleTechReview.