100W Hamstring booster - or just bad pedaling?



hmronnow

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Aug 12, 2006
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Lately, I noticed that when relaunching speed (after turn, lack of focus etc), or when facing short hill / roling terrain, I noticably pull more, hence engaging the hamstring muscles (and maybe some others).

This is like a 100W-200W booster for 5-30 seconds - e.g. raising from 260W to 400W. When going back to usual pedaling, the quads don't feel like they overspent. After a few minutes, I can 'boost' again. For the relatively short duration, it feels rather easy to produce the extra power. If I try to produce same 5-30 second increased power with quads, I have to put significant strain into them.

My questions is: Is this normal, or does it indicate bad pedaling style?
Does it mean that I am under-using the back of the leg most of the time?
If so, how should one try to improve? I could try increasing the duration of the 'boosts'. Or I could try adding a bit of pull during usual pedaling.
Some people practice pedaling with one leg unclipped. Is that necessary? I find it annoying. I probably should, though, as my left leg is weaker ever since a moutnaineering accident some years back. Related to this: does any powermeter allow to see independently right and left leg push and pull? Maybe one would need a synchronised pair of ergomo+SRM...

Thanks
Henrik
 

daveryanwyoming

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Oct 3, 2006
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hmronnow said:
...My questions is: Is this normal, or does it indicate bad pedaling style?...
Read this sticky thread to see the conflicting views on this subject: http://www.cyclingforums.com/t233514.html

Tradition encourages cyclists to spin smoothly, exercise physiology hasn't shown that spinning smoothly actually translates to higher sustained power and at least one study showed that more powerful cyclists spin less smoothly and just push down harder on the downstroke. But then you'll get input from the one legged pedaling advocates or the small fixed gear for spin advocates, the folks that idolize a particular rider's pedaling style and sooner or later somebody's gonna try to sell you special cranks that force you to work on your upstroke.

Believe what you want, but personally I wouldn't look to spinscan or fancy cranks for additional sustained power. The fact that you can get a momentary boost by engaging additional muscle groups isn't surprising, you get the same thing when you jump out of the saddle and engage your upper body or momentarily pull hard on the bars while climbing seated. But can you sustain it?

Time to check out before the pedal style flame wars erupt.

-Dave
 

swampy1970

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Feb 3, 2008
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Dave,

One word.

Powercranks.

:D

Forget the floodgates...

Dam_Break.jpg
 

Alex Simmons

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Mar 12, 2006
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hmronnow said:
My questions is: Is this normal, or does it indicate bad pedaling style?
I would have your bike fit looked at first. Once that's in good order, then the body is pretty darn good at working out how to pedal well, provided you train (hard and smart) enough.

hmronnow said:
does any powermeter allow to see independently right and left leg push and pull? Maybe one would need a synchronised pair of ergomo+SRM...
Nothing readily available would do that - it is quite a tricky matter and to be frank, not one worth worrying all that much about (hey I'm an amputee who uses a prosthetic on one side and I just focus on the total power I can deliver since that's what matters). If my good leg is more powerful, so what?

Certainly the combination of power meters you mention might appear to provide a way to answer this question but the problem is you can't (easily) calibrate the ergomo, so anything it reads is already tainted by i. lack of calibration and hence ii. any existing leg imbalances.

I can also imagine such imbalances might also depend on power/intensity you are riding at but I am merely speculating on that last point.
 

hmronnow

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Aug 12, 2006
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Thanks for info and suggestions. Much appreciated.

Wow, that 42 pages thread on pedaling style is indeed opnionated. A few pages in, I decided to go for a ride instead...
 

swampy1970

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usahotads.com said:
Powercranks work great, however you can get similar results by climbing long grades or hills. This will force your legs to use your hamstrings and hip flexor muscles... Just long, moderate climbs, in the saddle..
Nope... not even close. Powercranks force you to pedal differently that regular cranks regardless of terrain.
 

swampy1970

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Feb 3, 2008
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usahotads.com said:
I had the adjustable power cranks for years, even replaced them when they changed to the manual lockouts, use to be locked in place with an allen wrench.. Again, Power cranks work great.. However, climbing a long hill will hit similar if not all muscle groups as the power cranks do, as you are forced to pull up on your pedals on long climbs..
The obvious difference is, that power cranks give you a workout reguardless of terrain.. The power cranks are nice, however, you are much better off just climbing hills if available.. I think power cranks would be ideal for someone who does not have access to hills (Ex. Floridia, Kansas, Texas, the great planes states)
I still have the adjustable powercranks with the newer version of the lockout (not that that feature gets used) and have hills that make the likes of Jonathan Vaughters and Chris Horner reach for 38x28 in a 5 mile "stage"... there's a few less severe climbs too.

Regular cranks don't force you to pull up on any terrain. End of story.
 

hmronnow

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Aug 12, 2006
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Just to update on original thoughts. After the replies, and reading a small subset of the 42 pages pedaling thread, I paid bit more attention to the pedaling. What I first described as Hamstring pull, is perhaps just as much of the 'top-forward-push' / 'bottom-backwards-pull' nature. Yet, I cannot do this type of pedalling repeadetly for more than 20-30 seconds (maybe 1 min if I burn some matches), and I cannot do it beyond 600W. Hence, for the time being, it will be a way to avoid loosing cadense on small hills / ondulating terrain. Probably this is how I've cycled for 10 years, only difference being that the power meter made me think of what is going on.
 

tigermilk

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Jun 20, 2006
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usahotads.com said:
I had the adjustable power cranks for years, even replaced them when they changed to the manual lockouts, use to be locked in place with an allen wrench.. Again, Power cranks work great.. However, climbing a long hill will hit similar if not all muscle groups as the power cranks do, as you are forced to pull up on your pedals on long climbs..
The obvious difference is, that power cranks give you a workout reguardless of terrain.. The power cranks are nice, however, you are much better off just climbing hills if available.. I think power cranks would be ideal for someone who does not have access to hills (Ex. Floridia, Kansas, Texas, the great planes states)
You mean like me? I live in dead flat coastal Texas (well, ok, a 1 foot rise per mile, so I do have access to a .0189% climb). What have PCs done for me? Check http://james-p-smith.blogspot.com

BTW, I've climbed short and long climbs in Japan, Italy, and France from 4-10% grades. No difference in sustainable power between flat and hilly terrain.
 

n crowley

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swampy1970 said:
Nope... not even close. Powercranks force you to pedal differently that regular cranks regardless of terrain.



Can you explain exactly what difference there is in your pedaling now compared to what it was before the start of PC training. Where in the pedal stroke does that torque increase occur which is responsible for that 30% power increase.
 

swampy1970

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n crowley said:
Can you explain exactly what difference there is in your pedaling now compared to what it was before the start of PC training. Where in the pedal stroke does that torque increase occur which is responsible for that 30% power increase.
I think I've answered that about 4,000,000 times for you in another thread...

I push sooner, I push harder and I'm pulling up somewhere.

Get it? Got it? Good!

It's hard to quantify because you just do it... instead of thinking about it and thinking that you're doing it. I used to think that I pulled up but that 'myth' was shot to sh!t the first 20 seconds I had the PowerCranks on.

Was that gain all down to the cranks? Probably not... but the fact of my own year of training with these is that even when you switch back to normal cranks you still have that nice feeling of being able to 'get the gear' over. You just sit and pedal, smoothly.... The biggest difference is when you're in a gear that's a little too big and the next gear down is too small, I just feel like it's not that hard to just keep it in that gear and just keep it ticking over. Even when I could put that kind of power out before I never felt that 'good' about my pedalling.

I have a new bottom bracket for the PC's (the shimano unit failed) and they'll be going back on in the middle of July.

All I gotta do now is add another 40 watts and lose 25lbs. The later will probably be easier than the former but I'm going for both. Why not? Instead of concentrating on long hard 2 hour efforts there's going to be lots of n*40 minute climbing sessions cause my climbing is just sucking bad. It's better than it was but now my legs are catching up with what my brain remembers on the flat, the ol' grey matter is still mystified as to why I must have the brakes on going up hill... LOL
 

n crowley

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swampy1970 said:
I think I've answered that about 4,000,000 times for you in another thread...

I push sooner, I push harder and I'm pulling up somewhere.

Get it? Got it? Good!

It's hard to quantify because you just do it... instead of thinking about it and thinking that you're doing it. I used to think that I pulled up but that 'myth' was shot to sh!t the first 20 seconds I had the PowerCranks on.


No I don't get it. What is done between the pushing harder and pulling up.
Do you believe effective crank torque is being applied to the rising crank by that pulling up in addition to the unweighting effect on the downward crank. How does PC training enable you to push sooner or push down harder ? In what direction are you pushing sooner.
 

swampy1970

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n crowley said:
No I don't get it. What is done between the pushing harder and pulling up.
I stop and eat my wheaties... :p
... judging by the few better defined muscles on the top of my thigh I'd say there was a little bit of pushing forwards too.

n crowley said:
Do you believe effective crank torque is being applied to the rising crank by that pulling up in addition to the unweighting effect on the downward crank. How does PC training enable you to push sooner or push down harder ? In what direction are you pushing sooner
I'm not sure that I am pulling up harder - I might be because pedalling is smooth and the crank isn't going to make it's own way up there... But I "believe" (and this is hugely subjective) that the biggest improvement comes from not having to think about pedalling. You just do it - I no longer think "am I pulling up" or "I need to push harder at 'point x' " . If 'the form' isn't there then it gets all jerky in a hurry but otherwise you just sit on the bike and make it go. It took a lot of pain and effort to get it to that stage but it seems to be paying dividends. Once I got to where I could ride smoothly for 60 to 90 minutes I noticed that my hamstrings were being used more and I've never had that feeling of soreness in my hamstrings/glutes - it's always been my quads that end up toast.

Maybe I'm finally using the 'big muscles'... and that's why I'm going better. Maybe I'm just becoming more efficient because I'm not quite the sack of lard that I was... Maybe it's because I'm training a little more consistantly... Maybe it's because the meds might be working (although the spirometry results really don't point to a huge improvement)... Maybe it's because my diet is better ... or maybe its a little bit of all the above.

... but there's still a lot of room for improvement - or at least it feels that way.