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.


Cliff said...

Love this post. Love the graphic, did you make it?

Do you have one for the muscles that stabilize/secondary movers (ab/adductors)?


Pete said...

I wish I could say I made it but it came from USA Cycling groups and a fellow coach named Stephen Lardson. The pic came out through an on-line discussion about pedal stroke efficiency and I thought it would be cool to share.

liao said...

I'm looking for the source of the diagram to give credits to it in one of my documents but can't seem to find any clue. The closest I could get was a dead link to some website. Would you please share your citing imformations? Thanks in advance.

Pete said...

Just to reference the above diagram of muscles used....I have mentioned it in the body of my article...but here it is again.
Morphed Bianchi Camaleonte IV 2006, Ridley Damocles 2006, Garmin, Mac

thayer44 said...

Your glutes are your primary hip extensor, so I think you need to rethink your premise.

Unknown said...

One word: Pilates. OK. More words. Doing "clam" and any exercise that involves lifting the leg up while lying on one's side will hit these underused muscles. Here's an excellent resource:

David talpur said...

I must say, I thought this was a pretty interesting read when it comes to this topic. Liked the material. . . . . Mike Hunt

IMA said...

Two words: Power Cranks! Better than weightlifting.

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