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Eliminate Arm Pump – Part 4 (Why Improving Your Endurance will Help Eliminate Arm Pump!

Coach Robb



Why Improving your Endurance will Help Eliminate Arm Pump


This week we will look at how improving your cardiovascular (aka Cardio) engine will reduce your overall fatigue and help you maintain the proper body position and keep the load off of your forearms.
If you watched my Arm Pump video (

if you haven't seen it yet), you understand that my experience with arm pump is associated with bad body position. Specifically, if your center point (i.e. belly button) falls behind the pegs, the only muscles left to hand onto the bike is your forearm muscles.


As a human performance coach for the last 29 years, I have seen riders experience the dreaded arm pump symptoms because they are not properly prepared for the demands of a specific race. By understanding, training and improving your 5 energy systems will result in faster times on the track. First let’s break down the five Energy Systems and how often to train them for optimum performance.


Pictured: Ryan Dungey


Explosive Speed
What it is: the effort level used during maximum efforts
When used on the track: to pick up the bike after a crash and sprint back up to speed
How to improve: complete 8-10 sets of 15 to 30 second all out sprint efforts
How often to train: no more than 2x a week allowing for 2 days of recovery


Sprint Speed
What it is: the effort level used for durations lasting 1-2 minutes
When used on the track: opening lap of a race
How to improve: 4-6 sets of 90 seconds to 2 minute interval
How often to train: no more than 2x a week allowing for 2 days of recovery


Anaerobic Threshold
What it is: the effort allows the racer to perform at a higher level of output and for the entire duration of the race without becoming anaerobic (and slowing down!)
When used on the track: between first & last lap
How to improve: 10-20 sets of 2-3 minute intervals
How often to train: 2-3x a week allowing for 1 day of recovery


Aerobic Training
What it is: the effort level needed for races lasting longer than 15 minutes in duration
When used on the track: maintaining consistent lap times as the race goes longer than 15 minutes
How to improve: 2-6 sets of 10 minutes to 1 hour
How often to train: 5-6x a week; no recovery needed because of the minimal fatigue placed upon the muscular system


What is your physical limiter on the track?
Ironically, this is one question that many riders can’t answer as it relates to their performance on the track. Think about the question, where do you fall apart during a race? Do you lack opening speed? Are you unable to maintain a consistent pace for the duration of the race? Is your last lap your fastest lap at every race? The answer to these questions should dictate your training efforts on a daily basis–where you fall apart on the track is EXACTLY what you should be training during the week to eliminate any weaknesses on the track. At MotoE our focus is to identify & train your weaknesses during the week and race your strengths on the weekend. Eventually, you will have no weaknesses; once this achieved long term domination becomes a reality.


In addition to the MotoE Strength & Plyometric Assessment (please email me if you would like a copy of this assessment), you need to complete cardiovascular assessments to determine where to focus during your training both on the track and in the gym for maximum results in the shortest period of time. For a copy of MotoE’s Baseline Aerobic Assessment Protocols, please email me directly and I will send you a seven day training schedule that incorporates these assessments along with a spreadsheet that you can upload your results for future comparison.


The key to your improvement on the track is that your intensity during training (both on and off of the track) needs to be specific to the energy systems that have been validated as needing improvement. If you train at the wrong intensity, you will not eliminate your weakness on the track and your current breaking point on the track will continue to exist.


Race to Evaluate your Progress
A few races, planned two to four weeks out from your key race will help you identify if your training efforts are on point. For example, if your early race speed needed to be improved – how did you do when the race began? Where you able to sustain the high intensity levels necessary to be competitive? Was your warm up sufficient to allow you to get up to top speed early or did you use the first part of the race to make this happen? If there is a skill that needs to be developed for your key race, how is that skill developing? If you miss your mark, you have clear focus on what to work on over the remaining two to four weeks before your key event. I hope you see how this becomes an endless circle that guarantees your success!


Establish Training Volumes and Intensity Levels
Knowing your overall training volume (sport specific and cross training) is key to understanding if your body is getting the correct mixture of speed, endurance, strength, flexibility and mental development (all of which need to be outlined on your weekly schedule). I say this often, but feel it is worth repeating, “it isn’t what you do in the form of training, but rather, what you absorb”. If you are not seeing your performance elements improving, then guess what, you are not getting any better – think about this!


Additionally, most athletes are not training at the intensity levels that they think they are. It has been my experience that most athletes train too hard on their easy days and not hard enough on their high quality days. This creates a two-fold problem. They train too hard on easy days which leaves them too fatigued to push the intensity levels to the next level for improved fitness and top end speed. With this in mind, I have all of my clients train with a heart rate monitor to ensure that this scenario doesn’t happen. I have each client complete a maximum heart rate assessment every 6 to 8 weeks to ensure that we are using accurate numbers to maximize their training efforts. Note: please refrain from using the 220 – your age formula; I have seen this formula be off by more than 50%!


Properly Evaluate Key Workouts
As mentioned above, I have my athletes train with a heart rate monitor for every workout to eliminate any misperceptions of true intensity levels. I have some people argue that a heart rate monitor doesn’t factor in variables such as heat and humidity, but I would have to strongly disagree. If the body is struggling with these variables, it will be clearing indicated in the heart rate monitor. The athlete can adjust the intensity and the interval distance if the heart rate monitor is indicating that the overall stress on the body may be too much and counterproductive.


With the utilization of a heart rate monitor and the implementation of key workouts over a specific training cycle (based on your key race dates), you are able to specifically evaluate the progress of your endurance and top end speed. All of my clients are provided performance report cards so that they can specifically see the progress and adaptations that their body is going through during their training cycles of 6 to 12 weeks depending on their race schedule. With the feedback of these key workouts, we can structure the next weeks training protocols accordingly to ensure that the athlete’s efforts are laser focused – providing the athlete the results that he or she has outlined in their goal profile.


In Part 5, I will provide you specific workouts for each energy system that you have identified are holding you back while on the bike. In Part 6, I will show you (and provide you) how a week of cross training and riding should be combined to develop the necessary strength, endurance and flexibility to eliminate any physical limiters on the bike. Until next time, Train Smart, Not Hard!


Yours in sport and health,
-Coach Robb, Coaches and Staff




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