America's #1 Balance Bike Destination

America's #1 Balance Bike Destination
America's #1 Balance Bike Destination

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

DO try this at home

Change of plans Tuesday- A conflict of schedules required me to skip Pilates last night, so instead, I did Individual Leg Training, later on. (This is the poor man's Powercrank) It goes like this:
20:00 Warm-up
3:00 right leg in 39x16 (other leg is unclipped and resting back by the rear skewer)
1:00 spin both legs
3:00 repeat with left leg in 39x16
1:00 spin both legs
Repeat 2 more times
5:00 Tempo
5:00 Cool down
When I first did these a few weeks ago, I had trouble turning the 39x19 for 1:30, and only one or two sets at that. Now I'm doing three sets of 3:00 in the 39x16. The last 15-30 seconds should hurt but still have good form- no chain slap.


solobreak said...

I'll play Devil's advocate, since I don't like to see you getting the comments goose egg.

Powercranks are all the rage. The triathletes have been doing these one leg drills for years. I think the product was called "Spin Coach" and it was just a footrest or something. Lots of bike racers do it to. Even me.

But let's think about this for a second. The first time you try it, it's hard to keep a smooth cadence for even a short time. You get the burning in the hip flexor, which shows that this muscle is not adapted to this kind of effort. Sure enough, you keep doing the drill, and it gets easier.

But why was it so hard in the first place? You've been riding for TWENTY YEARS, hundreds of hours per year, yet your hip flexors are not developed. So how important do you think they are for cycling? You have a lot of muscles that you don't use to pedal the bike. Does that mean you should? I kind of doubt it. Pedaling is not natural in the way walking is, right? Bikes have only been around for a tiny percentage of the time that humans have been on Earth. But pedaling (with both legs) doesn't feel un-natural does it? Don't you think that ever since we climbed on a bike for the first time that our bodies developed their own natural technique for pedaling?

I for one will not be surprised to hear of overuse injuries cropping up due to PowerCranks.

Are one-legged drills useless? I don't know, but just because they're "hard" and "unnatural" doesn't mean they are going to make you a better pedaler either. You might be better off riding the bike the way you intend to in competition. I suppose that argument could be made against any form of "drill."

huh-huh, he said drill.

solobreak said...

BTW, for real poor man's Power Cranks, just get a square-tapered crank and put on both arms in the same orientation. Hump away!

Murat Altinbasak said...

You're on a roll! That's twice today your wit and wisdom has made liquids evacuate through my nose.
>Hump away!<
Where do you come up with this stuff?
I think that stressing the muscles which ILTs isolate can add something to performance. Consider it a part of structural fitness. Weakness in those hip flexors is not going to propel you down the road any faster. That's a given. Strengthening them should help make the pedal stroke a little bit smoother, a little more efficient, less of a dead spot in the stroke.. It should help to make it possible to spin smoothly at very high cadence. In tonight's spin class, for example, I regularly got the rpms up high enough to make the readout go blank. You have to go over 139 rpm for this to happen and the screen says "STOP". I don't know coach.. you can knock a certain drill which you yourself refrain from doing, but that's like me when I used to say that "pectoral muscles do not propel you faster on a bike". This could be true.. but one thing that's guaranteed is that "weak pectorals definitely do not propel you faster on a bike". And as you yourself said, the big kahunas here in the New England masters criterium scene are not exactly waif-like. They're all pretty built.
As for the goose eggs, I have a feeling that my contributions here are satisfying enough to most readers that it's hard to come up with meaningful comments [such as yours].

solobreak said...

Read it again. I DO do some one-legged pedaling. I have for a long time. Not much though. I've strained hip flexors before (in the gym, not doing drills) and it sucks, very slow to heal. I do the ILT on the trainer more to alleviate boredom than anything else.

As for spinning, I think it's highly individual. The exercise-physio people can get all scientific about muscle fiber types and such. My take on it is this: you can push big gears, or you can spin, but what you really want to do is spin big gears. That's how you go fast.

When you watch a pro race on TV, the cadence of the riders looks higher than most amateurs. I've said this before: pros use 39/53 and 11 or 12/23 cassettes, much the same as most of the amateurs I know. Yet they are going 2-5 mph faster most of the time. What does that tell you? IMHO most amateurs ride a lower cadence.

This is especially true under high-power situations. My observation is that many amateur riders revert to grinding it out in a TT. There are a number of reasons for this that I'm not going to get into here. But, if a smooth, powerful spin is what you're after, then yes, the points you made about potentially gaining some small measure from ILT are correct. Beyond that though, I am suggesting the bigger bang for the buck is not so much to raise your max cadence (which might be helpful in some situations) but instead to work on raising your cadence in high power situations. As you know, for a given power, the higher the cadence, the lower the force required to produce it. For a more thorough explanation of why this might be good, go to and there are several articles.

So if, for example, you test yourself for FT6 and it comes out to 360 watts at an average cadence of 90, try doing some drills of 360 watts at 95 rpm.

Obviously the goal of all of these drills is the same: wire your brain and your CNS to be smooth and strong, and to spin faster rather than push harder on the downstroke when you call the engine room for more steam.