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Muscles Used When Pedaling

The value of these two diagrams created by Stephen Lardson (USA Cycling Coach) is just outstanding. I have gotten several requests for references on this diagram so here is what I have found for those of you doing research projects at university.(Morphed Bianchi Camaleonte IV 2006, Ridley Damocles 2006, Garmin, Mac)

It really lets you know what muscles are working and when during the pedal stroke. One observation I can make is that the hip extensors are used during the power stroke. However the glutes nor hamstrings are neither a dominant muscle group being used during cycling during the POWER STROKE. They are used on the upstroke. One take away with this is that cyclists usually develop strong quads and have weak glutes and hamstrings. You can actually see this if you attend any USA Cycling event and just look at most cyclists body types out there. This is not meant to be a put down to cyclists as I am one myself. However, I often hear cyclists complain of lower back issues and this may be a reason why.

1) Weak Glutes: The gluteus maximus and minumus are two extremely important muscles in terms of structural support and the application of force to either the ground or pedal. They are not dominant in cycling as can be viewed from the diagram above and need to be maintained in the weight room through progressive resistance training.

2) Weak Hamstrings: Again, this muscle group is used in cycling but not as much during the power stroke with the exception of the knee flexor on the upstroke. Again, this muscle group needs to be maintained in the weight room.

Ironically, both muscle groups above are crucial in not just supporting the back but in supporting our entire body structure when we are not on the bike. Cycling is a great sport but it does have some critical detractors that must be identified and compensated for in the weight room. After all, you are sitting down when cycling and those muscles used to support your weight when standing are not being used when cycling. These must be strengthened at the gym through the application of 1-2 strength training sessions specifically designed to maintain these muscle groups.

Most athletes go to the gym in order to strengthen those muscles already used in their sport. In this case you will find cyclists doing squats/leg presses, maybe lunges, and in most cases you won't find cyclists at the weight room at all. This is more of a cultural condition of the sport but I digress and will save this idea for another post.

Basically, cyclists and most other atheletes go to the gym to primarily strengthen those muscles ALREADY used and developed in their chosen sport. Lowered Crossed syndromes develop in that your strong muscles get stronger and the weaker muscles get weaker and tighter. This leads to overuse injuries. Ahh,,,but you say, "I am a triathlete and I get all my muscles worked because I do all three sports." Not so fast. Although sprinting requires glute and hamstring activation, distance running does not. Neither does swimming. So again, you are not working your glutes or your hamstrings while running at slow speeds or swimming. Sorry to break this to you. This is why so many triathletes' bodies begin to break down. They are only working certain muscles in certain planes of motion (Sagittal Plane) in the case of running and cycling. They are neglecting frontal plane or side to side movements for the most part. Frontal plane movement needs to be addressed at the weight room in order for weekend warrior triathletes to continue to compete with fewer injuries.

Whoa, I really got into this one. Sorry about the jumping around but all this stuff ties in together. SO in a nutshell...get your ass to the weight room. You don't have to lift heavy weights and you don't have to neglect your sport's power muscles but please don't neglect the already neglected support muscles.....especially your glutes. Plus,,, just about everyone enjoys seeing a nice butt now and then so join in.


How To Lose 20 lbs.

I often get the question of how one can "lose weight". Usually most people want to lose at least 10 pounds and quite a few want to lose even more. Exercise is often a great way to start. However, before you even begin to lift that first dumbbell or before you go out to buy your gym membership, you may want to sit down with a friend or a coach and have them ask you a few pointed questions.


A common question I like to ask a client who is just starting a new way of life is, "Where do you want to be in 3 months?". Then I ask them where are they right now. This usually helps to identify the gap they presently face between where they are now and where they would like to be in 3 months time. I usually use 3 months time since most people have difficulty focusing in on goals that are beyond 3 months in duration. In coordination with this though is identifying your health/fitness "Dream". This is not always easy to develop but is most crucial in staying with a training program. Some want to be able to one day complete a triathlon or marathon. Others may simply want to be able to play with their grand kids. However, it must be something that makes their hair on the arms stand up. It has to scare them a little but also inspire them.

Once we identify their fitness "dream" we can get to work on their gap we can begin to cut things down to size and discuss the feasibility of losing "X" amount of weight in 3 months if that is their goal to get them to their "dream". We also discuss the 2-3 most major obstacles getting in the way of the client's progress. 9 times out of 10 they include some combination of the following three areas of one's life that needs to be adjusted (time management, diet, and exercise). I have found that most individuals over-estimate the amount of exercise they need to do and under-estimate the affects nutrition has on their overall appearance and/or results.

Everyone is different but based on a client's response to the initial questions above we usually begin to identify what their "Fitness Dream" is, what is getting in the way of that dream, and how we can begin to develop a plan of attack.

This is where organization and knowing what to do becomes important. When should you push yourself? When should you rest? How long should you rest? All these variables become important to your success. Your plan is much like building a house. If you have a strong motivational foundation you are more likely to continue to do that. If there is one secret in becoming fit and healthy it is consistency in diet and training.

Everyone usually starts out with the best of intentions but ultimately becomes sidelined by either an illness, injury, or outside responsibilities (Job/Family/School). This is where a plan becomes crucial.

Plans can be written on paper or be developed by your coach through any one of the several training platforms available on-line. I like to use to deliver daily workouts via e-mail to my clients. It is useful as an organizational tool but also as a communication tool. We can track their training and nutritional progress and also find a source of motivational articles and topics at a common source. However, for those of you just starting out and who can't afford a coach you may want to consider keeping a workout log and a diet log on a website and/or in a journal. Be sure to write everything down. After all, what is measured usually improves over time. Be sure to plan in sufficient rest and never add more than 10% to your training volume at any one time. It also helps to continually change up your training intensity and volume on a weekly basis to keep things new and interesting. Again, the most important thing is consistency and small incremental improvements that are powered by your plan, measured, and tied into your fitness/health "dream".

With any plan, it is just that. A guide to your goals. However, things happen and plans are meant to be changed. Changing your plan based on how your body is responding to the training is critical in maintaining your progress and keeping you moving forward. A common mistake with most self-trained individuals is that they get into a training rut and do the same things day in and day out. At first this will work. Unfortunately, over time your body will adapt to this training and you will not get the same bang for your buck when it comes to training time. At this point you or your coach will want to change gears and tweak your plan accordingly.

Once you have made the necessary changes in your plan and you realize you have been now training for 3 months it soon becomes time to re-evaluate your goals. Did you get to where you were trying to go? Are you closer to your "Health/Fitness Dream"?
What can you improve upon and what is up for the next 3 months? Usually a weekly phone call or email from your coach will keep you on the right track. I have also found it crucial to get those close to you on board in order to support healthy lifestyle changes. For example, if you are trying to eat healthy but your husband is constantly buying cookies and cake you are going to have a much harder time than someone who is loosing weight with their spouse who is also eating healthy. Let those close to you know what you are doing and why you are doing it. Usually, they will support you but it takes a team effort, communication, and hard work. Imagine if your entire family began to be more active and fit.



Above you will see a client's WKO+ file in which I have taken their average power, average cadence and average heart rate to help determine which cadence produces the most power at the lowest heart rate. As you can see there are several workouts listed above. I have commented on some of the emerging relationships between these three factors. We are attempting to determine at which cadence he is most efficient. Right now it appears to be around 77 rpms but we must continue to monitor these factors as his fitness improves.

He is scheduled to compete in a multi-stage race in France this summer. The mountains are going to be brutal. If we can determine the cadence he can crank out while getting the most power with the lowest heart rate he is going to have quite an advantage over those that are red lining it as they hit the mountain stages.

Periodized Stretching? Why not?

We have periodized running/swimming/biking/weight training, and periodized diets. Why don't we periodize our stretching and warm-up routines as well? There is quite a bit of controversy when it comes to stretching. Does it not make sense to periodize your stretching and warm-up routine?

During your less intense base period stretching can be somewhat more static in nature with stretches being held for 10-15 seconds in duration. Performing these types of stretches before and after training is ideal. Foam rolling can also be incorporated into your warm-up along with 1 or 2 core movements (I like the plank, chin-up, or push-up). I usually follow the core activation phase with a short plyometric phase just prior to my main training set of running, cycling or weight training. As you progress through Base I to Base III training phases slowly reduce your stretching hold times until you are only holding your stretch for 1-2 seconds by your final Base III phase. You can slowly increase your activation exercises and plyometric warm-up as you progress through your Base I - III phases. Remember though to do very little plyometric warm-up and always step down off the box if doing box jumps. I never go over 25 box jumps in a single warm-up session and always precede box jumping with some light rope jumping. I feel that for masters level cyclists and triathletes this little extra plyometric activity pays big dividends as the season progresses by maintaining power levels on the bike and continually reminding the legs of that extra stress they receive in competition.

During your more intense build I and II phases of training your stretching can be more dynamic in nature with stretches only being held for 1 second or less. I know many physical therapists like holding a stretch for about 1-2 seconds as this reduces the micro tears in the muscle fiber. See what works for you.

As you progress through your build I and II phases your stretching routine in both your warm-up and cool down periods will become more and more dynamic until you are ultimately performing leg swings, arm swings, and isolation stretching of about 1 second. Definitely avoid long holds at this point in your training and use the extra time available due to shorter holds in order to hit more and more body parts.

This sounds like a great deal of time but in reality you can foam roll, stretch out and activate your muscles in about 15 minutes if you really get to it. Avoid over stretching in all phases but especially in you build I and II phases.