By Tim Crytser; photos by Simon Cudby
Trainer Talk With......John Louch - Part 2
In part two of our conversation with John Louch, he shares his views on arm pump and performance-enhancing drug use and offers some advice on road cycling. Read Part 1
: Arm pump is such a hot button topic with so many riders that I think it is a topic that has gotten way out of control with guys having surgery and taking pills to combat the problem. Basically, I think it all boils down to conditioning and riding style, period. What is your take on arm pump and all of the fancy ways guys are coming up with to combat it?
John Louch: I completely agree with you that arm pump is all about riding style and conditioning. I don’t think it has anything to do with weight training unless you are doing something crazy like heavy arm curls and stuff like that. The majority of arm pump comes from poor bike set up, poor conditioning, and poor riding style. The reason why I don’t think weight lifting has anything to do with arm pump is because I have seen guys go out one weekend, ride great and never get arm pump. Then the next weekend they might get a bad start or go down early and then ride their butt off to catch up and end up getting arm pump. The reason they pumped up is because they weren’t relaxed and focused because they were trying to ride so hard that their riding style changed. Nerves also play a big part in arm pump. I see this all the time with guys who ride all day at the test track and never get arm pump and then suddenly on race day, get arm pump during their moto. Some guys just have a hard time relaxing like they do when they are practicing. So for a lot of guys, it’s not about training or even riding style. It’s about the nerves.
Do you believe there is a truth to the claim that a pill can help reduce arm pump, specifically that Pump-X stuff?
You know what I think is happening more than anything with pills and stuff like that is the mental aspect of it. I’ve used it before and I really think it is more mental than anything. I‘ve given it to riders before and they swear by it, but I think the placebo effect has more to do with it than science. But if the placebo effect works, then that is all that really matters.
It seems that most of the pros say that they are into road cycling. Are you big on that too or do you prefer Mountain Biking?
I am way into road cycling. My guys always give me a hard time and call me ‘Tour de France Temecula’. I am the biggest fan of road riding. I love it. I think it is the best way to train. We have a lot of fun around here with guys like Chad Reed and Grant and the other riders who live out here. We go on these rides and it can’t just be a normal ride. We always have to try to kill each other. We are all pretty competitive. It’s difficult to go on recovery rides with these guys, so I have to be really careful and back it down at times so we don’t over train.
What is a good length of time to be on a bike to train for MX?
Definitely no more than two hours. An hour and a half should be good. I think a big mistake guys make when road riding is going on rides that are too long. Going on a Tour de Franc type ride for 4 to 6 hours isn’t going to benefit you at all on your MX bike. You have to make sure you don’t always go out there and just kill yourself. Some days need to be recovery rides.
What is the biggest thing you see guys doing wrong while training for MX?
I see the biggest mistakes being made when it comes to weight training. Most guys lift too heavy. They need to be more into flexibility and endurance. Also, a lot of the guys I see, don’t ride enough. Bottom line is the more you ride the better shape you are going to be to race MX. I have found that some guys when they start really getting into training at the gym, they let their riding time slack off. Riding the bike is the most important thing.
Let’s talk a little about drug use in MX. Everyone is very familiar with doping in cycling. Since cycling and MX seem to be closely connected both in trainers that are involved in both sports and the fact that so many guys use cycling as a cross trainer, do you think there are MX guys that are using performance enhancing drugs?
That’s a very touchy thing. I really hope not. I have heard rumors that some guys do but I really have no idea if anyone does. Usually when the topic comes up, most guys just bury their heads. The problem is that the AMA doesn’t test for it [performance enhancing drugs]. The AMA’s main concern is for recreational drug use so that when the guys go out on the track they aren’t going to hurt anyone. I’ve even asked them this before. But the thing with performance drugs is that some of them can make you more aggressive, so that isn’t a good thing for the other riders on the track either. Now in Europe, I’m sure there are guys using drugs from what I’ve heard. But over there they are much easier to get than in the States. I think that if you train hard you do the right thing supplement wise, I really don’t see the benefit when it comes to MX.
Do you think there should be mandatory performance drug testing in professional MX?
I think there should be. Drugs like that can only hurt the sport. The problem is to actually get the AMA to do it.
Why don’t you think the AMA wants to test for these drugs?
You know, I honestly don’t know why. I guess they don’t think it is an issue. But again, I don’t think that any of the top guys like Ricky, Chad or Bubba take any kind of drugs like that, but I think the problem is that some of the Privateers may think the top guys are taking stuff and that they need to use drugs to compete. That is the problem of not testing.
I think that it is very important for the AMA to recognize that Amateurs do everything that the Pros do and if there is even the slightest suspicion that guys are using illegal supplements, this will have a devastating trickle down effect on our sport.
I completely agree. But I don’t think that this is a big concern right now because honestly in my opinion, I don’t think any of the pro riders are taking anything.
Well, I could talk about drug use and what the AMA should do about it for hours, so I will get to my last question. What advice on training would you give the weekend warrior if he has a full time job, doesn’t get ride during the week, and only has three one-hour sessions at the gym during the week?
I would break it up so that when you go to the gym, you start out with a little warm up on a stationary bike or tread mill for 10 minutes. I would concentrate on all push and pull exercises by using the cables. I wouldn’t use any free weights, and I would concentrate heavily on cardio. Interval cardio training is probably the best. When you ride, your heart rate goes very high and then comes down, so you need to train like that off the bike, and interval training does just that. So in the gym instead of getting on the tread mill and just running at a constant pace, run for 5 minutes and then sprint for 1 minute and keep doing that for an hour. That is a good way for the weekend warrior to train. Also, if people have access to a swimming pool, 20 minutes a day swimming laps is awesome. It strengthens your body, gives you a great cardio workout, and is low impact. If you can swim 3 times a week, you will be one tough dude!
Thanks John, I really appreciate your time.
No problem, Tim anytime.
That's it from John for now. Until next time, good luck with your training and, as always, VT can be reached anytime at
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