Smooth Strokes

News & Results

12/21/2002| 0 comments
by Seiji Ishii

Smooth Strokes

Training: Where do you start on your quest for that energy efficient smoothness?

the opposing leg does not have to waste any energy lifting that dead weight. A cue you can use here is to attempt to throw your knee over the handlebar. A visual indicator you can use during this drill is to look at the top run of your chain. If the chain droops momentarily, that is a point within your pedal stroke where you are not applying tension on the chain, which indicates you are not applying the correct force to the pedal. Start this drill at a slow cadence so you can concentrate fully on correct form. Gradually increase your cadence while maintaining this form and continue the interval only a long as this form holds true. You can start with 30-second intervals and work up to one minute per leg. Alternate legs and periodically use both feet concentrating on the form you were using with one leg. More than likely you will feel fatigued in strange muscles that you have been underutilizing, usually the hip flexors (in front of your hip joint) and anterior tibialis (in front of your shin). Remember to only perform this at a cadence and time interval that allows perfect form.

The next factor to consider in your quest for efficiency is cadence. Practicing and implementing a higher cadence during your cycling will give you a deadly double-edged sword: First, the higher your cadence, the less force you must apply at the pedals to generate the same power. Less force applied to the pedals means less stress applied to the musculature of your legs, leaving you more reserves for the run. You can, of course, apply the same force with a higher cadence to achieve a higher speed as well. Second, the higher speed at which your feet move through a pedal cycle results in a smaller time interval during which you have to apply this force.  Basically you have less time to apply the force during each crank revolution since you are getting through the cycle faster. The effectiveness of this one-two punch can also be better understood if we think about some physics here. Power is defined as the product of force and velocity. A higher cadence diminishes the force and the length of time you apply this force per pedal stroke. The result is less power produced per pedal stroke. This is what saves your musculature. Just ask Professor Armstrong about that equation. You can use high cadence drills to teach your nervous system to operate in this more efficient manner. Use a low gear that keeps you well in your aerobic HR zones and do 5-10 minute intervals at a cadence between 107 and 130. Relax your upper body and feet, be smooth and supple with your legs. No bouncing in the saddle! Remember that you are specifically stressing foot speed here, not force, so the force you apply to the pedals should be very low. Recover for the same amount of time at a lower cadence of 90 to 100. Use various hand positions during these drills to make sure you

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