Oh my quad.
It may be that you aren’t pedaling “full circle.”
Do you ever take the time to think about what your legs and muscles are doing on the bike during one revolution? There is more to it then you may realize.
We live in a quad dominated world. Squats, squats, squats. What about the hamstrings? It’s important to both strengthen and stretch antagonistic muscles and we need to train your legs to use all muscle groups while you are on the bike.
During spin class I like to spend the second half of warm up practicing isolation drills and pedal strokes. It helps to get a feel for the whole pedal stroke and gets the mind to think about what you are doing and what you want to achieve throughout the entire class.
Think about the one full pedal stroke as a clock. Twelve o’clock is the top of your pedal stroke and six o’clock is at the bottom. Efficiency and power throughout the pedal stroke is our goal, so how are we going to achieve that?
Push. Scrape. Pull.
The first phase of the pedal stroke is the PUSH. Related to the clock, this would be from twelve o’clock to three o’clock. During the push phase, your quads are doing the majority of the work.
Up next is the SCRAPE phase from three o’clock to eight o’clock. The scrape serves as the transition phase activating your calf muscles and is very important to completing the circle. One very common mistake is pointing your toes while riding. You may be doing just that if your calf muscles cramp up mid-class. During the scrape, imagine you have gum stuck on the bottom of your shoe that you need to get off. Lead with the heel, flat feet as you are at the bottom and push off with the ball of your foot. This leads to the third and final phase of our pedal stroke.
[Related Post: Calf Cramps & Spin Class]
From eight o’clock back up to twelve o’clock is the PULL phase. This is all about the hamstrings! Focus on pulling up the pedals and creating high knees back to the top of our pedal stroke. The flywheel on a spin bike helps with this phase but we need to put in some work so we don’t lose any of our power. When we start to get tired, our form gets sloppy, and we start to focus solely on the push. One good thing about using clip in bike shoes is that they force you to ride with efficiency and generate power throughout the whole pedal stroke.
Use the momentum from the push to scrape the bottom and pull up with high knees. Simple right?
Another way to look at the pedal strokes is “drawing a circle” with the pedal. It’s important to have even power throughout the whole pedal stroke. The more you practice form drills, the more muscle memory takes over and you won’t even have to think about how your riding.
See you in class!