Calf muscles - is it worth working on them?

Discussion in 'Cycling Training' started by Bigbananabike, Mar 10, 2006.

  1. Billsworld

    Billsworld New Member

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    I think acoggan has come to the conclusion that the demands of cycling are not enough to develop alot of mass. The riders that have calvs or thigh mass were MOST LIKELY given them by thier parents. The demands and forces of sprint training might develop more size I would think. ...Anecdotal alert..I have tried to use the calf to develop more power on the bike a failed big time. I think this is descrbed as ankling?:)
     


  2. netscriber

    netscriber New Member

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    A while back I tried working on this. My initial feeling was the same. However, after a couple of months back I feel much smoother especially in situations like wind, grade...etc.
    An important thing I did was instead of actually pulling hard(I dont think the hams are as strong as quads) I simply "lifted" my upstroke leg instead of letting the downstroke leg force it upwards. This is hard to do at high RPMs so you have to concisously start implementing it at low RPMs or form rides.

    I have seen a huge difference in my hams and calf muscles. Initialy they used to be very sore.
     
  3. Cat1RDR

    Cat1RDR New Member

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    There seems to be two topics in this thread: calf use and importance of the upstroke.

    In cycling as I have mentioned before you definitely use your calves and they are an essential part to your pedaling stroke. The upstroke is also essential to cycling. Having a smooth and complete pedal stroke will make you a better rider that exerts less effort to go the same speed as a less efficient rider.

    To answer your question. Focus on pulling back wards at around 3 or 4 o' clock in the stroke, you will be using your calves here. Just after 6 o' clock is when you want to start your unweighting your foot (hence pulling upwards). At this point you should focus on using your hip flexors (upper thighs) and calves. Read the article I attached earlier for better info.
     
  4. Billsworld

    Billsworld New Member

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    R U confusing the calf with the tibialis anterior? The pulling up would have little to do with the calf. Hip flexor yes
     
  5. frenchyge

    frenchyge New Member

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    I thought the topic was the benefit of doing specific work on one's calves. :confused:

    Your statements regarding the use of one's calves in the upstroke, and the upstroke's effect on increased pedalling power have neither been supported, nor shown to be relevant to the OP's question of "should I do calf work?"

    Shall we assume that you do a fair bit of weight-lifting to strengthen your calves?
     
  6. Cat1RDR

    Cat1RDR New Member

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    No, and here is an example to show why. Think about your leg and postion of your foot in the upstroke. Typically people have a toe down position. Now think about how you flex your calf muscle, you squeeze the calf and your toes also end up in a similar postion to your upstroke. Here is a nice picture of Popo' halfway through his upstroke and you can clearly see his calf is in tension and also rather large. http://www.cyclingnews.com/photos/2006/mar06/parisnice06/index.php?id=parisnice060/_TM_8296
     
  7. frenchyge

    frenchyge New Member

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    Maybe you should give it a read. Especially this part:
    While you're at it, search the pdf for the word calf or gastrocnemius. Happy hunting. :rolleyes:
     
  8. Cat1RDR

    Cat1RDR New Member

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    "Hi. Do calf muscles fitness/strength have a lot to do with on bike performance?
    I realise it's the quads that do heaps of the work...but pro riders usually have great looking calves. Is there a reason for this?
    Cheers, Paul :)"

    That is what the original question was and my statements about, "one's calves in the upstroke, and the upstroke's effect on increased pedaling power," say that yes, calf muscles do have a lot do with bike performance and yes, there is a reason that pro riders have great looking calves.

    And to answer your question, no. I don't do any lower body strength training in the winter. I ski, run, and work out the core and upper body. Oh yeah, and I ride.
     
  9. Cat1RDR

    Cat1RDR New Member

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    You are a negative one aren't you? As happy as you are to prove me wrong you are missing the point here. That article was used to show that the upstroke is important and that you need to use your hip flexors, like I mentioned in an earlier post. You also need to realize that the article was telling people to focus more on the hip flexors because they are often not utilized. When you move your leg there are tons of muscles acting on it. The article was simply saying to focus on your hip flexors.

    Now can't we all get along and get excited for the coming season? Let's just ride our bikes and have a merry time (I'll be using my calves, as for you, I don't know, isn't sarcasm nice?). [​IMG]
     
  10. Billsworld

    Billsworld New Member

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    I am a bit unarmed in knowledge of the perfect pedaling model. My background is weight training(and now I am learning sprint cycling). When I think of the calf contracting/shortening , that would be moving from a stretched or partially stretched position to a contracted /shortened position(toes pointed straight) I cant say that I have ever seen that in cycling. The calf seems to be one heck of a stabalizer in the little circles we like to spin, just not sure how much force is ever developed by the gastroc and soleus. My take on hypertrophy is that cycling doesnt create enough stress on tissue to develop anything but mitochondria and capilaries . Hey if it means anything I still train cavs hard. I only ride 500 meters at a time though:)
     
  11. frenchyge

    frenchyge New Member

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    I'm not missing the point, but rather trying to keep this thread on topic. The importance of the upstroke (or rather unloading during the upstroke), and the associated mechanics, have been discussed in much more detail in the stickied thread at the top of the forum. Since none of that relates to the calf muscle, which serves to push the ball of the foot *down* as others have tried to point out for you, I didn't see how the question of calf strength related to your comments.

    You betcha. I use mine, too, but it's to stabilize the foot during the downstroke. :D Still, they've gotten quite solid and defined just from the many hours of use. There's no way I'd waste my time working them out in a gym.
     
  12. WarrenG

    WarrenG New Member

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    The right honorable gentleman from Kansas has spoken well.

    Without strong calves your foot would not be able to maintain it's position while all of your force is directed to the pedals via the front part of your foot-your ankle would simply flex under the force and your heel would be down below your pedal at the bottom of the pedal stroke.

    "Well-defined" calves are due in no small part to the lower levels of bodyfat covering the muscles.

    As for strengthening your calves in the gym, if your calves are weak relative to your other muscles they will have to work very hard and generate too much lactate and related problems, which lowers your performance. If there's a weak link in the chain because of calves the gym can help with that. Slow cadence/ big gear on a hill can too.

    Trying to utilize the very small muscles available to unload the upstroke leg should not be overdone because you're asking a very small muscle (group) to do a relatively high amount of work.

    When some sprinters are nearing the end of their sprint, and when kilo riders find their legs have aready imploded with 150 meters still to go we think about raising our knees on the upstroke (the pedals tend to follow). When accelerating out of the saddle or doing standing starts there can be some thoughts about lifting the feet on the upstroke. Simply, simultaneous push/pull.
     
  13. bikeguy

    bikeguy New Member

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    The gastrocnemius and soleus when contracted extend the foot, to contract them when on the upstroke would produce a downward pressure on the pedal which would be a waste. Of the lower leg muscles, only the tibialis anterior could be *theoretically* put to use on the upstroke because it flexes the foot (up towards the knee). However, it's a small muscle group so the hip flexor is a better muscle to use to do this. That said, if the tibialis "collapses" under the pull of the hip flexor then there is a waste of effort, so the tibialis definitely works hard in static contraction during cycling. My calves (both tibialis anterior, gastrocnemius and soleus) get quite sore after riding, they all work isometrically to hold the foot in position while larger muscle groups provide the motive power. My calves are more ripped from cycling than they ever were when I was doing seated calf raises and standing calf raises (I have a split viewed from the side and rear now in my calves) but I've lost about 3/4 inch in calf diameter.

    In pictures of pro cyclists, I've seen some very well developed tib anteriors
    certainly larger than mine, even when I was weight training.

    -bikeguy
     
  14. n crowley

    n crowley New Member

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    That photo could be giving you the wrong impression, is he pedalling or free-wheeling round a corner ? Not only have you got your muscles mixed up, it is also obvious from an earlier post of yours that you cannot distinguish between the objectives of rotorcranks and powercranks.
     
  15. Billsworld

    Billsworld New Member

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    All this talk of imploding... youll never get roadies to ride track with talk like that:) I think frenchy and bike guy nailed it . The lower leg is basicly under an isometric contraction to keep foot in position during the circle. Going off track, I always thought it was funny that to mesure a sprinters capabilities , the first thing they look at is verticle leap. It seem the lower leg has a large influence in leaping, but much less in sprint cycling
     
  16. whoawhoa

    whoawhoa New Member

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    First of all, the girlie leg thing was a joke. Mostly anyway. Also, you really can't look at pictures for ideas of muscular definition, they tend to make you look bigger. Lastly, even if a pro cyclist had big legs (and i've seen few that do, all though many of them are quite ripped with moderate sized legs) it would be from genetics or doing something like weight lifting. Why? Strength requirements in cycling are too low to produce much hypertrophy.

    BMX'ers also have to take their feet off of pedals for tricks, get off the bike fast in the event of a crash, etc.
     
  17. wnowak06

    wnowak06 New Member

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    So...what I'm getting from this is that the calf muscles serve to stabalize your leg, while the hip flexors and hamstring muscles actually give you power in your upstroke?

    That sounds about right to me...
     
  18. AmpedCycle

    AmpedCycle New Member

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    What calf muscles do is push the foot down and flex the knee! For christs sakes' it's not that hard. As quoted from an anatomy book, "Gastorcnemius (calf muscles): plantar flexes foot at ankle joint and flexes leg at knee joint."
    "Hamstrings- flexes leg at knee joint and extends thigh at hip joint."
     
  19. WarrenG

    WarrenG New Member

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    If you have a relatively high % of fast fibers in the muscles that help you leap you probably have a relatively high % of fast fibers in the muscles that help you sprint.

    FWIW, my vertical leap in high school was right around 30 inches and I could also sprint pretty well.
     
  20. bikeguy

    bikeguy New Member

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    What does this have to do with selection of foot position during cycling? Is ankling better than not ankling, and should the foot be extended when coming over the top? Or the reverse? Or in between?

    -Bikeguy
     
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