Perfecting pedal technique for century cycling rides
Fit to be Tried
The key to an efficient pedal stroke is minimizing the dead spot at the top and bottom of the pedal stroke. The stroke is best described by using a clock analogy. From 12 oand#8217;clock to 5 oand#8217;clock we incorporate the greatest muscle activity, including quadriceps (knee extension), hamstrings (hip extension), iliotibial band (lateral stabilizer), gracilis (medial stability) and gastrocnemius (plantar flex foot).
From 5 to 6 oand#8217;clock, the same muscles are employed but with less activity. From 6 to 9 oand#8217;clock it is primarily the hamstrings and gastrocnemius. And all the usual suspects are present with the exception of the grastrocnemius to complete the pedal circle from 9 to 12 oand#8217;clock.
We want to pedal in circles, but what does that mean? We do not apply equal pressure around the entire circle, which is impossible due to the effects of gravity. The goal in pedaling circles is to perform more work consistently throughout the circle, and actively unload on the upstroke. Essentially, increasing power over the top and at the bottom of the stroke ultimately eliminates power loss on the upstroke.
The benefits of smoothly pedaling circles include the ability to use more muscle mass and increase power; distribution of work around the entire pedal stroke, preventing muscle fatigue; and the potential to improve pedal efficiency and sustainable power.
Initiate the push forward, primarily with the quads, at 10 oand#8217;clock to 3 oand#8217;clock. Think about driving the knee, from the hips, toward the handle bars, maintaining solid hip, knee and toe alignment. From 3 to 7 oand#8217;clock we think scrape back with primary movers, the hamstrings and#8212; feel as though you are scraping mud off the bottom of your foot. This is a quadrant of the pedal stroke that demands concerted concentration and training. It is not a natural movement as is the push forward with the quads. From 7 oand#8217;clock back to the top, it is an active unloading of the pedals, so the recovery leg is not just hanging out on the pedal providing dead weight.
We train and enforce pedal technique and efficiency via single-leg pedaling drills and high-cadence and specific-strength intervals.
Single-leg pedaling drills are best first attempted on a stationary stand. Take one foot out of the pedal and pedal single-legged for 15 seconds, with the goal to be smooth over the top and bottom and#8212; no hitch in your get-along. Start single-leg drills with 6×15 seconds on each leg, and as long as there are no hiccups in the pedal stroke, increase time by 15 seconds every two weeks, up to a minute. These drills provide valuable feedback on where the individualand#8217;s strengths and weaknesses occur in the pedal stroke.
High-cadence intervals, 90-120 rpm, teach the body to intuitively pedal efficiently. Additionally, high-cadence pedaling has proven more efficient as it lessens the load on muscular forces and transfers it to the cardiovascular system. Start with 6×2 minutes, with equal recovery, and a perceived exertion of 60-70 percent.
Specific-strength intervals known as slow frequency repetitions (sfr) are extremely potent. These are intervals performed on a shallow grade of 4-6 percent, with low cadence 40-60 rpm and high resistance. When first attempting, please be mindful of the knees, hips and lower back as the torque is high.
Put it all together and think smooth, round and relaxed.
and#8212; Julie Young is a Truckee resident and owner of o2fitness. She is a former U.S. National Team member and pro cyclist who currently competes in triathlons and trail runs. Contact her at email@example.com.
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