The Tour de France tests pro cyclists with three straight weeks of racing. During those three weeks, the smallest edge can make the difference between a rider winning the race and dropping out. That's why Radio Shack, the team of seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong and three-time Tour of California winner Levi Leipheimer, brought Allen Lim on board as the team's sport scientist.
Lim earned his reputation as a forward-thinking innovator in the cycling world with his groundbreaking Ph.D. dissertation on power meter-based training at the University of Colorado-Boulder years before wattage-based training became the norm for competitive cyclists. Prior to joining the Shack, Lim played the same role for the Garmin-Transitions team where he worked with athletes including four-time US time trial champion Dave Zabriskie and Tour de France contender Christian Vande Velde. “My role at Radio Shack is to think about innovation, think about technology, think about the processes the guys go through and bring innovations to the team that work day to day. Some ideas people bring to me don't fit into the culture or the daily routine and end up being logistically implausible to use.” When Lim encountered the TRX, though, he knew he'd found an innovative, flexible tool that would benefit his riders throughout the season.
Off Weights, Onto the TRX
Professional cyclists traditionally lift weights during their brief, six week “off” season to bolster power and strength for the coming season. But once the racing season gets underway, they don't have the time, resources or energy to hit the gym while globetrotting, and any gains made in the weight room quickly fall by the wayside. “I was looking for a product to give to guys so they could so some strength maintenance, balance, mobility and core work throughout the year that was convenient and travel friendly that they'd all have access to since pro cyclists train on their own and work with their own coaches,” he says. “Why even bother with weight training if the guys just end up detraining the gains they made lifting weights? The question became, ‘What could we give the guys to do year-round?’” Lim encountered the TRX while working with Garmin-Transitions where Vande Velde had started using the TRX with his personal trainer. After familiarizing himself with the TRX, Lim quickly saw the huge potential Suspension Training held for his athletes and for all cyclists, whatever their ability. The TRX's lightweight, portability, scalability and ability to be set up anywhere, including in hotel rooms—where pro cyclists spend much of their time off the bike in season—made it a great tool for Lim's intended outcomes.
How the Shack Uses the TRX
Currently, Leipheimer and Armstrong use the TRX on their own and Lim would like to prescribe team-wide TRX training both in season and off season. “We've been seeding the TRX among individual riders and seeing how we can use it in the future.” During the off season, Lim specifies, brief, intense TRX workouts using simple whole body movements that emphasize metabolic “cardio strength” training. In season, he likes the TRX to be used to maintain strength and power gains, mobility and agility, and for prehab, muscle activation and core strength maintenance. “We've gone away from the paradigm of trying to maintain Schwarzenegger-type strength gains on the bike and have shifted to intense, metabolic conditioning-style strength workouts. It's amazing how much you can tear apart a pro cyclist with 15 minutes on the TRX. You don't need to get in a special outfit, go to the gym, check out the ladies and come home three hours later. It's a frickin' waste of time. You can make the gains you need with a simple routine.”
Crash-proofing with the TRX
Another huge benefit Lim sees from TRX training is that it helps “crash-proof” riders' bodies. Crashes are the hobgoblin of pro cycling, occurring frequently and unpredictably, often sidelining marquis riders at the absolute worst moments, like during the Tour de France. The mobility, agility and balance riders develop on the TRX can help them stay upright and rolling when bad luck strikes and the peloton goes spilling onto the pavement. “The TRX helps riders develop the skill and balance to keep from falling. Playing music transfers to doing math better. In the same way, better control and balance on the TRX transfers to better control and balance on the bicycle,” says Lim. “The TRX can also be used to address strength and mobility asymmetries and weak cores that can blow up a rider's back or cause him to sit wrong on the bicycle.” Lim likes the TRX as a prehab tool before rides and post ride for opening up the chest and tight muscles constricted from the riding position.
How to Get the Shack/TRX Advantage
Lim feels recreational and amateur competitive cyclists stand to reap the same benefits elite riders like Lance and Levi get from TRX training using the simple 15 minute TRX workout below. Give it a shot and watch your riding improve.
Allen Lim's TRX Workout for Cyclists
Perform 15 minutes as a continuous circuit of 10 reps of each of the following movements:
- TRX Single Leg Squat
- TRX Lunge
- TRX Sprinter Start
- TRX Pendulum
- TRX Mountain Climber
- TRX Chest Press
- TRX Row
For all of you Lance wannabes out there, we've got some great cycling content coming up this month, so stay tuned!
Lance Armstrong, Levi Leipheimer, Tour of California and Tour de France are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective owners. No sponsorship or endorsement of, or affiliation with, TRX or its products is implied by referring to any third party trademarks.
Andrew Vontz is a journalist and trainer who writes for TRX. He programs functional training for endurance sports and life.