Calf muscles - is it worth working on them?

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

  1. Cat1RDR

    Cat1RDR New Member

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    Does the George example not work for you? He can now go the same speed by using a more efficient technique thus allowing him to produce fewer watts and save energy. That wasn't beneficial to his cycling performance?

    Can you put up a link to these force pedal tests? If you compared the watts, pedal stroke, and general ability to these riders you could probably see why efficiency works.

    As for elite riders, no they don't all pedal the same way. Not all pros are equal in talent either. I would guess that efficiency has a lot to do with why some pros are better than others. Efficiency is what made George better and would probably make some of the other pros better too.
     


  2. frenchyge

    frenchyge New Member

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    Sorry dude, you said you wanted to drop this topic a while back, and yet here you are still. :rolleyes:

    I was just trying to show you the differences in what was said, before you start to pick a bone with probably the most knowledgeable and respected poster on this forum, and possibly much of the sports science community. But hey, you know what you're doing, so go right on ahead. :cool:
     
  3. Cat1RDR

    Cat1RDR New Member

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    I don't see how George improved his efficiency through biochemistry. You just said that without proof so how come no one is jumping on you? Here is the rest of the article, which believe it or not, has to do with biomechanics and his pedal stroke.

    "Biomechanical efficiency is the element people miss when they say a watt is a watt, no matter how it is produced. In George's earlier years, when he was less biomechanically efficient, he had to produce 550 watts over the same ten-minute section of pave in order to stay with the leaders. This was because he was fighting his own forward progress from within his pedal stroke. In the final 50km, he did not have the energy to stay with the leaders, whose superior efficiency allowed them to go the same speed with a lower sustained power output. Through training, his mechanical efficiency improved to the point where he can afford the energy cost of being one of the race leaders, and even attack and sprint in the final 10km. The Classics are nearly 300 km and 7 hours of riding a bicycle over terrain American suburbanites wouldn't drive their SUVs over. To be one of the "hard men" who can win such an event, you have to be extremely efficient with your power delivery.



    The way to improve mechanical efficiency is to learn to apply force through as much of the pedal stroke as possible, especially through the top and bottom. Overgeared, high-power, low-cadence workouts are essential. Climbing hills, seated, in a big gear forces George to keep force flowing to the pedals over the top and through the bottom of the stroke. It is the only way he can maintain enough momentum to keep the bike moving forward. Later on we add sprints up steep hills, again in a big gear and with slow, rolling starts. During these workouts, George has to accelerate through increasing resistance. In races like the Tour of Flanders, with 16 steep slippery cobblestone climbs, poor pedaling economy results in a spinning rear wheel, followed immediately by a dismount and a run in equally slippery cycling shoes.

    One interesting note: Mountain bike racers were the most biomechanically efficient pedalers in the tests from the US Olympic Training Center. Their efficiency comes from having to apply high force in a 360-degree manner so the rear wheel won't break loose in steep, loose terrain."

    Chris
     
  4. acoggan

    acoggan Member

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    If he's going the same speed at lower power, then he's either more aerodynamic, lighter, or both - but this has nothing to do with how he pedals.

    I believe that one such study (i.e., Coyle's 1991 paper) has already been posted, but you're free to search PubMed for more. ("Give a man a fish, and he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish, on the other hand...")

    You really need to read some of the research that has been published in this area. The Coyle study, for example, which shows no relationship between the pattern of force application on the pedals and efficiency, but a high correlation between fiber type and efficiency, or this study by Asker Jeukendrup and colleagues, which indicates no difference in efficiency between trained cyclists and untrained men:

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/...uids=15241718&query_hl=52&itool=pubmed_DocSum
     
  5. acoggan

    acoggan Member

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    I don't know if his efficiency improved or not (and I suspect that Carmichael doesn't know either). What I do know, though, is that a number of studies have demonstrated that cycling efficiency is related to fiber type, as you would expect based on studies of isolated muscle, e.g.:

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/...uids=15959800&query_hl=63&itool=pubmed_docsum

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/..._uids=8005729&query_hl=57&itool=pubmed_docsum

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/...uids=15923008&query_hl=57&itool=pubmed_docsum

    The same is true during other activities, e.g.:

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/...uids=15959800&query_hl=63&itool=pubmed_docsum

    I dunno...maybe because I've proved to be a reliable source of info in the past?

    Again, while Carmichael may make such claims, that is not evidence.

    Another interesting note: the data Carmichael references were generated by Jeff Broker, Ph.D., who at the time worked at the USOC (now he's at University of Colorado-Colorado Springs). This is the same Jeff Broker who I said would agree with me (based on a conversation we had about this very topic as we drove to the Colorado Springs airport a year or two ago).
     
  6. squidwranglr

    squidwranglr New Member

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    Here you go Cat1RDR - the paper by Dr. Ed Coyle:

    "Physiological and biochemical determinants of elite endurance cycling"

    Take a look at the torque vs crank angular position graphs and see if there's anything that supports the theory that elite cyclists apply force uniformly throughout the entire pedal revolution to improve efficiency.

    Berend
     
  7. squidwranglr

    squidwranglr New Member

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    And one follow up - you appear very eager to assert that Dr. Coggan is wrong based on nebulous/marketing-oriented descriptions of improvements in George Hincapie's cycling by Chris Carmichael, attributing it purely to biomechanical efficiency gains, so you may also be interested in Dr. Coyle's paper on Lance Armstrong's Tour de France career:

    "Improved muscular efficiency displayed as 'Tour de France' champion matures"

    Berend
     
  8. Fday

    Fday New Member

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    You mean where he attributes Lances efficiency improvements to changing fiber type because he doesn't believe it is possible to improve efficiency by changing pedaling type and he had to account for the measured efficiency gains somehow even though he didn't do any muscle biopsies to make the case. This paper is pure supposition and pretty much useless from a cause and effect point of view.
     
  9. WarrenG

    WarrenG New Member

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    Cat1 rdr,

    One of the points that has led to people responding to you in a manner that appears confusing is that you said you think George is using less watts to go the same speed because he has improved his pedaling efficiency via improvements in his mechanics, or mechanical efficiency.

    Watts is not a measure of the effort George is using to go a particular speed. Watts are a measure of (roughly) how much force times cadence he's using to go a particular speed, i.e. how much work is seen in his bike's drivetrain. What I think you meant to say was that George learned how to produce the same watts as before, but at a lower cost of energy, or with less effort on his part, because of how he modified or optimized his pedaling.

    Understand that most formal studies think a 1% improvement for one person among a group is not significant and their study conclusion will say there was no improvement, but as you know, a 1% improvement for a guy like George, where 1% differences can determine the top 3 places, could be very significant.
     
  10. squidwranglr

    squidwranglr New Member

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    Frank,

    When does the PowerCranks sales pitch start? I'm not sure if I can hold my breath much longer.

    It's interesting that you're choosing to discredit Dr. Coyle by attacking the second of the two papers I posted. Then again, this is not surprising, as the force/torque vs crank angle data in the first paper goes directly against the very core of the "pedaling circles" idea and the PowerCranks' method of promised improvements in the "average cyclist."

    Berend
     
  11. Fday

    Fday New Member

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    What sales pitch? I simply pointed out some facts. The first paper was done before PC's so it was not really possible for cyclists to learn to pedal in circles. So, what does it mean if the means to really learn something (circular pedaling) was not there at the time of the study? In fact, if you read the paper carefully there are no conclusions regarding optimum pedaling style, they only commented on the what the data showed. It is only commentators now who claim this paper proved anything about proper pedaling style. Coyle makes no such claim in the paper. Further, PC's have been shown to improve pedaling efficiency in trained cyclists in as little as 6 weeks in a controlled study by Lutrell. What is to say that similar changes could not also occur in an elite cyclist? Do you know that Lance made no effort to "improve" his pedaling style during this time? The second paper has some very interesting data but the "conclusions" to explain the observed improvement in efficiency means nothing as he neither got pedaling force data nor muscle biopsey data to confirm (it could just as well refute) his conjecture. All he knows is the efficiency changed. He doesn't know why.
     
  12. squidwranglr

    squidwranglr New Member

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    Frank,

    I'll back off - I was being abrasive and that wasn't called for.

    I presented the first Coyle paper because Cat1RDR asked for a reference to it and it refutes his original assertion that "trained" cyclists of yesteryear and today pedal differently than "untrained" or "amateur" cyclists. I think even you have admitted in this thread and elsewhere that the benefit of the upstroke is at best a complete unweighting and not a net positive pull for propulsion. It was wrong of me to launch off on your semi-mocking comment on the 2nd Coyle paper and bring PC's into this discussion.

    Berend
     
  13. Fday

    Fday New Member

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    thanks. I believe that PC's do have another benefit beyond causing simple unweighting on the upstroke and that is helping the rider to apply force more tangentially (getting the dog poop off on the bottom for example). Each of these changes have the theoretical potential of increasing pedaling efficiency and neither one alone can account for the size of the improvements we see in some riders, so I think both changes occur in most. However, this has not been studied so I am guessing as to what is going on. Anyhow, PC's is not the topic of the thread but you brought it up and I wanted to correct this common misconception. If you want to discuss this further please email me or start another thread.
     
  14. acoggan

    acoggan Member

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    Correction: because there's no evidence that efficiency is influenced by the pattern of force application...even the Luttrell study you funded doesn't show that.

    No fiber type measurements on Armstrong, true...however, there's plenty of data showing a significant relationship between fiber type and efficiency, so Coyle's interpretation of the data is completely consistent with the published literature (if it weren't, the paper wouldn't have been accepted, at least in the form it appeared).

    Also true, but that 1) doesn't mean that it isn't interesting enough to be published, and 2) more importantly, has nothing to do with why I cited it - I was merely cluing CAT1RDR in to why I said that Coyle would agree with me that efficiency can be important. Again, though, the mistake is in automatically linking efficiency to biomechanics, as when it comes to cycling, it seems to be far more closely related to biochemistry.
     
  15. AmpedCycle

    AmpedCycle New Member

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    On the basis of their structure and function, skeletal muscles are classified as slow oxidative (SO), fast oxidative-glycolytic (FOG), and fast glycolytic fibers (FG). The ratio of fast-twitch and slow-twitch fibers in each muscle is genetically determied and helps account for individual differences in physical performance. For example, people with a higher proportion of FG fibers often excel in activities that require periods of intense activity, such as weight lifting and sprinting. People with higher percentages of SO fibers are better at activities that require endurance, such as cycling. Although the total number of skeletal muscle fibers usually does not increase, the characteristics of thise present can change to some extent. Various types of exercises can induce changes in the fibers of a skeletal muscle. Endurance-type exercises, such as cycling, cause a gradual transformation of some FG fibers into FOG fibers. The transformed muscle fibers show increases in diameter, # of mitochondria, blood supply, and strength. Exercises that require great strength for short periods produce an increase in the size and strength of FG fibers. The overall result of this is muscle hypertrophy.

    As you can see, big muscles come with work... but genetics also plays a role. Some people just have smaller muscles than others. Some people have bigger ones. I think you guys are into the vanity of the whole thing, with the shaving and all. You don't want to be a girlie man, do you?
     
  16. rakkun

    rakkun New Member

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    hello.......

    This is a classic example of a forum thread gone wrong.

    The OP asks if he should be doing calf work, in his topic.

    He then asks two questions :

    1) "Do calf muscles fitness/strength have a lot to do with on bike performance?"

    2) "pro riders usually have great looking calves. Is there a reason for this?"

    This has somehow sparked a whole lot of slinging and slanging with quotes pulled from every hole of every sports physiologist and anatomy textbook.

    To everyone concerned in this discussion thus far, I appreciate the effort that you all have put into this debate even the minorest of points. I'm guessing you all can take this to another thread soon, because to have a long discussion under the wrong thread title just runs contrary to what you might really want : the attention of people looking for what you're posting.

    I'll summarise what I've gleaned from all of the above, for the benefit of whoever's wondering about the answers to the Original Post :

    1) Calf fitness / strength and on-bike performance.

    Calf muscle strength does not play much of a role in on-bike performance. For all the roles that the calf muscles play, the strength required certainly does not compare with a simple heel-raise (tiptoe) done on flat ground off the bike. Each calf in this case needs to lift half your body weight up its full range of motion. I can't do 100 heel-raises without my calves starting to tire, but i can pedal a cadence of 100 per minute for hours on end.

    Hence, the strength required in the pedal stroke certainly doesn't rival what the average person can do with his calves and thus probably doesn't need to be worked on.

    Calf muscle fitness certainly plays a role in on-bike performance. Evidenced by the role of the calf muscle in the pedal stroke, which is to stabilise the mobile ankle on the downstroke, as well as in acting almost isometrically as the leg pulls backward during the shoe-scraping movement. For anklers, plantarflexion of the foot also contributes somewhat to power output in the downstroke. It has also been cited that the fact that calf muscles do cramp in the not-so-fit cyclist, that there is an obvious role that they play in the pedal stroke.

    The best way to develop calf muscle performance, thus? Certainly not weights in the gym (as we can see, strength is not the issue). Just ride more.

    2) Pro riders and nice calves

    Pro riders ride many hours a day, daily, many many weeks a year.

    As a consequence, they repeat the same motion as described above millions of times a year. As a consequence, their calf muscles do develop a good tone.

    Also, having an extremely low body fat (4% being the lowest out there as compared to your average 12-20% in a sedentary non-obese person), sinews are much more obvious through a thin layer of skin and subcutaneous tissue. It's that elementary. It's like how the best way to get visible abs isn't to do crunches, but to drop the gut with lots of cardio exercise.


    And so back to the original question, is it worth working on calf muscles. The answer is a yes, but not in the gym doing weights, but rather on the bike riding more, with the right pedalling action.

    What's the right pedalling action? I'll leave you to the pull up push down thread :D
     
  17. frenchyge

    frenchyge New Member

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    Good summary. Hopefully, anyone looking at this thread later will have the sense to read from the beginning rather than the end, in which case they'll learn the things you outlined above in the first page or two of posts. The rest is still good for entertainment. :)

    Since many protracted threads end up this way, I'd definitely suggest reading from the beginning if the reader is interested in the subject line of the thread.
     
  18. Billsworld

    Billsworld New Member

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    Its a valid point,, but whenever someone is feeling up to going head to head with Andy, it makes a good read. Damn the topic the Dr. is in!!
     
  19. Fday

    Fday New Member

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    Didn't realize I funded that study. But, I guess you know. Anyhow, there may not be any experimental evidence but there is plenty of theoretical evidence that the pattern of force application should influence efficiency. Then, we have the problem of the Luttrell study. Something has to account for the efficiency improvements observed. It seems unlikely that fiber type was changed in 6 weeks so that leaves another explanation. While he did not measure pedal forces to be able to prove the efficiency changes occurred as a result of this change, do you have another potential explanation? It is the only thing I can think of.



    Oh phooeey. Lots of papers get accepted with crazy interpretations. The fact that a paper gets published does not make it, or the conclusions it draws, true. At least you agree that no fibre type measurements were made so the conclusion is pure conjecture.



    I didn't say the paper wasn't interesting and I agree it deserved to be published. I just stated that the conclusions regarding the basis of the efficiency improvements seen in Lance over this time were pure conjecture. I am glad you agree with me on that point. I am also glad you have finally, seemingly, come around to the viewpoint that increasing efficiency is important, however it is obtained.
     
  20. squidwranglr

    squidwranglr New Member

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    Why do you keep harping on this point?

    First, you seem to find the idea of theoretical evidence (as opposed to experimental or investigative results, such as biopsies), acceptable for making your point about PowerCranks, but not acceptable for the Coyle paper.

    Second, you make it sound like Coyle is hiding the fact that no biopsies were made and that Andy agreeing with you is confirmation of some secret that only you knew of. Did you actually read the paper? Coyle indicates very clearly:

    "Muscle samples were not surgically obtained from this athlete to directly test the hypothesis that muscle fiber-type conversion contributed to the large increases in mechanical or muscular efficiency when cycling."

    and goes on to offer conclusions based on theoretical evidence as to why a muscle fiber conversion may account for the gains in Armstrong's efficiency.

    Berend
     
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