Calf muscles - is it worth working on them?



meandmybike

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Feb 7, 2005
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OK, I'm firmly on the fence on this one. I agree with Ric that a typical power improvement of 40% sounds ridiculous but there's a part of me that accepts that just because we can't explain something doesn't mean it isn't happening (i.e. Powercranks working, even if not to the level claimed).

Sooooooo, here's some fuel to the fire. A quotation from an old Cycling News interview with Bjarne Riis:

CN: What was the main thing that helped you win the 1996 Tour?

BR: The one factor that most helped was the improvement to my pedalling action. Using video and computer equipment I worked to improve the point at which I started to put force onto the rotating crank arm. I was able to start putting force onto the pedal almost 20 degrees earlier than the previous year. This improvement in power, along with a smoother action gave me the significant increase in power, which in turn gave me the Tour.



Let battle recommence...


http://www.cyclingnews.com/riders/2003/interviews/?id=bjarneriis03
 

n crowley

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Jul 10, 2003
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meandmybike said:
OK, I'm firmly on the fence on this one. I agree with Ric that a typical power improvement of 40% sounds ridiculous but there's a part of me that accepts that just because we can't explain something doesn't mean it isn't happening (i.e. Powercranks working, even if not to the level claimed).

Sooooooo, here's some fuel to the fire. A quotation from an old Cycling News interview with Bjarne Riis:

CN: What was the main thing that helped you win the 1996 Tour?

BR: The one factor that most helped was the improvement to my pedalling action. Using video and computer equipment I worked to improve the point at which I started to put force onto the rotating crank arm. I was able to start putting force onto the pedal almost 20 degrees earlier than the previous year. This improvement in power, along with a smoother action gave me the significant increase in power, which in turn gave me the Tour.



Let battle recommence...


http://www.cyclingnews.com/riders/2003/interviews/?id=bjarneriis03

Frank, as I mentioned earlier, if Riis had continued to use a forward tangential force around the 12 o'c area, it would not have been possible to do this. I can prove by demonstration that Anquetil started his main power stroke 60 degrees earlier than the normal start of other riders.
 

Bigbananabike

Active Member
Dec 29, 2004
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Wow, I'm impressed with all the information and thought that has gone into this.

I read part of a book on cycle racing/training the other day(just in a shop - didn't buy it and forgot what it was called) in which the author(well recognised) stated the benefits of doing strength/weight work for legs.
It produced stamina and strength.
I agree with him.
I have been doing(ok, intermitantly) seated and standing calf raisers since starting this post and find my lower legs have felt stronger on the bike and I have felt stronger/slightly faster("felt" - as I haven't taken note of comparative speeds on different days(of course there are other variables) up hills since doing calf work.
I'll be doing more lower leg work partly as my knees take a beating(they're not in the best biomechanical shape) on the bike and I don't want to stress them with strength work.

Thanks people, Paul :)
 

mitosis

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Jun 21, 2004
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Bigbananabike said:
Wow, I'm impressed with all the information and thought that has gone into this.

I read part of a book on cycle racing/training the other day(just in a shop - didn't buy it and forgot what it was called) in which the author(well recognised) stated the benefits of doing strength/weight work for legs.
It produced stamina and strength.
I agree with him.
I have been doing(ok, intermitantly) seated and standing calf raisers since starting this post and find my lower legs have felt stronger on the bike and I have felt stronger/slightly faster("felt" - as I haven't taken note of comparative speeds on different days(of course there are other variables) up hills since doing calf work.
I'll be doing more lower leg work partly as my knees take a beating(they're not in the best biomechanical shape) on the bike and I don't want to stress them with strength work.

Thanks people, Paul :)

If you want to be a faster cyclist ride your bike more and forget the weights.
 

cuocciom

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Jan 13, 2006
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mitosis said:
If you want to be a faster cyclist ride your bike more and forget the weights.
I'm unsure about the calf muscle issue. I had surgery on my left heel in the 90s, and my left calf lost about an inch in size. I've worked to equalize the two, and I've gained about half the difference back. Neither of my calves feel stressed after a hard ride - for whatever that's worth.

I'm more interested in the "power" controversy raging on this thread. Both sides (I think there are two) make sense, but I'm no physiologist. I've seen the studies that say elite cyclists push down more than other riders. I've got questions though. Is the "push" of elite cyclists greater than non-elites in both absolute terms (total torque/power) AND in relative terms (percentage of each cyclist's total power developed through the entire rotation)?
I've thought that two cyclists might develop equal power with very different pedaling techniques. But I've also wondered if a cyclist that "spreads" his/her power over a greater arc of the rotation might maintain power longer due to lessened muscle fatigue.
It seems that concentrating the power 'surge' in a relatively small part of the total rotation might cause increased fatigue of the fiber bundles most intensively used at that part of the stroke. On the other hand, maybe cyclists that pedal with a relatively strong surge/push develop the specific strength/endurance to deal with this stress.
I remember reading an interview with Kent Bostick, several times national TT champion in the 1980s and 90s. He said that he consciously worked on developin hard/easy pedaling patterns (three hard rotations, one easy, etc), and that he alternated the easy stroke from side to side. According to Bostick, he was able to rest muscles without losing much power with this technique. I wonder whether that same rest dynamic applies to the force if it were distributed more evenly during a single rotation of the pedals.
 

Fday

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Dec 6, 2005
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cuocciom said:
I'm unsure about the calf muscle issue. I had surgery on my left heel in the 90s, and my left calf lost about an inch in size. I've worked to equalize the two, and I've gained about half the difference back. Neither of my calves feel stressed after a hard ride - for whatever that's worth.

I'm more interested in the "power" controversy raging on this thread. Both sides (I think there are two) make sense, but I'm no physiologist. I've seen the studies that say elite cyclists push down more than other riders. I've got questions though. Is the "push" of elite cyclists greater than non-elites in both absolute terms (total torque/power) AND in relative terms (percentage of each cyclist's total power developed through the entire rotation)?
I've thought that two cyclists might develop equal power with very different pedaling techniques. But I've also wondered if a cyclist that "spreads" his/her power over a greater arc of the rotation might maintain power longer due to lessened muscle fatigue.
It seems that concentrating the power 'surge' in a relatively small part of the total rotation might cause increased fatigue of the fiber bundles most intensively used at that part of the stroke. On the other hand, maybe cyclists that pedal with a relatively strong surge/push develop the specific strength/endurance to deal with this stress.
I remember reading an interview with Kent Bostick, several times national TT champion in the 1980s and 90s. He said that he consciously worked on developin hard/easy pedaling patterns (three hard rotations, one easy, etc), and that he alternated the easy stroke from side to side. According to Bostick, he was able to rest muscles without losing much power with this technique. I wonder whether that same rest dynamic applies to the force if it were distributed more evenly during a single rotation of the pedals.

No one has really studied this issue because, until PowerCranks, it was essentially impossible, with any reliability, to train people to distribute the forces better around the circle. This meant it would be difficult to design a study to compare two groups as there was essentially only one pedaling style available to most. So, as the Coyle study showed (which was done before PowerCranks), pedaling patterns didn't very much and the more powerful riders tended to just have stronger pushing muscles, because that is where all the power was generated - the losses on the upstroke being pretty much the same in everyone. This makes perfect sense when there is no effective way to learn to pedal in a different fashion but it does not answer the question as to whether this is the best way to pedal now that there is an effective way to learn how to pedal differently. The Luttrell study suggests that changing the pedaling form with PowerCranks results in significant improvements.

We will have to wait until other studies are done (more PC studies are underway but who knows when they will be published) to better understand this issue and what is truly better and what is not.

Frank
 

n crowley

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Jul 10, 2003
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Fday said:
No one has really studied this issue because, until PowerCranks, it was essentially impossible, with any reliability, to train people to distribute the forces better around the circle. This meant it would be difficult to design a study to compare two groups as there was essentially only one pedaling style available to most. So, as the Coyle study showed (which was done before PowerCranks), pedaling patterns didn't very much and the more powerful riders tended to just have stronger pushing muscles, because that is where all the power was generated - the losses on the upstroke being pretty much the same in everyone. This makes perfect sense when there is no effective way to learn to pedal in a different fashion but it does not answer the question as to whether this is the best way to pedal now that there is an effective way to learn how to pedal differently. The Luttrell study suggests that changing the pedaling form with PowerCranks results in significant improvements.

We will have to wait until other studies are done (more PC studies are underway but who knows when they will be published) to better understand this issue and what is truly better and what is not.

Frank



If you don't know what you are supposed to be proving, how can you ever hope to set about proving it. The ladies track pursuit final last week supplied the perfect example of stomping v circular, the stomper came out on top even though she was running out of steam towards the end. How would you describe the most beneficial way of applying constant maximum power to the chainwheel for this event.