Cadence (and Stretching)


*before you get ‘lost’ in this post, the objective is to just share with you ONE of the many training skills that you can use to learn to pedal faster . To discuss how to cycle STRONGER, is ANOTHER topic that can be discussed on its own as it involves more force and strength. I also am NOT implying that this is THE technique to use for a tri event.  I’m just saying this is 1 of the workouts that you can do to improve your cycling  APART from other important types of cycling training.So do have patience when reading through and do click on the links provided below or watch the videos which I’ve attached in this post. I have cited some sources and authors from which I got the information. THANK YOU

Did a mini Paddle Pop brick yesterday; 20km bike followed by easy 2km run. Been doing this loop for 4 times already now for the past 1 month mostly at night . For the bike, the menu was just to spin, and maintained a sub 100 RPM cadence. (90++). This is generally on the lower end of a typical ‘high’ spin work out. 107 – 130 RPM is the optimal cadence for spinning work out.  Unless you’re already adapted to this level, increase it gradually. That explains why the 90++RPM is already high in my current fitness level. In other words, I’m unfit ! So start small and avoid any sudden increment in your workout be it intensity, speed , cadence, mileage or duration. I, or any of us who does this can increase the risk of injury.The idea of the spinning is to condition the muscles for high speed pedaling and develop neuromuscular response. If you’re a regular on the Kesas highway exiting towards the MSN, you might have seen the national cycling squad spinning in a pack. Must be maintaining a 120 RPM. Another key word here is to maintain the cadence. According to an article which I read, the entire workout is 45 minutes. Avoid free wheeling as much as you can (that is when you decide to ‘rest’ and not stop pedaling for a few seconds to rest). Another tip; maintain your breathing ! Make sure its not too rapid. Practice deep breathing 🙂 Rapid breathing => shallow breathing => less air into your nosetril => less oxygen to your lungs , arteries and ultimately your muscle.

The workout is ‘stored’ in the muscle memory basically, so the next time need the fast pedaling, I can easily switch from a low to high cadence easily. Same concept applied for running. You need to do cadence drill for running as well. Cadence for cycling : RPM. Cadence for running : the measure of how many foot strikes either the right or left foot makes in one minute.

Note : this approach of low gear and high cadence help you pedal faster (Dallam & John,2008) (those with too low a cadence can surely benefit from this 🙂 ).  For higher intensity and power workout, you still need to do other forms of training as you can’t rely purely on high cadence as it will definitely tire you out.  One of them is by doing specific muscle training. Furthermore, a high cadence low gear training is most suitable when done within the range of 45 minutes. But what I do for my longer rides, i do some spinning the 1st 15-20 minutes just to warm up the muscles. I don’t jump on the bike and start cranking up for sure. After that 15 minutes, I bring up a gear(heavier) and continue a smooth but slightly lower cadence. For triathlon itself, you will benefit from this approach during the start and end of your bike leg , and of course your cycling in general . Cycling on the same crank/gear, between a person doing a 65 and 70-75 RPM for example, does make a difference. It takes time to build this skill 🙂 Remember, practice makes perfect. Cycling cadence is more individual and one needs to experiment with what you are best with on the bike (Kerry Sullivan, full link at the end of this post)- Kerry Sullivan is a certified USAT, USACII, CSCS, NLP Practitioner). Do play around with the gears, cadence as well as your position on the bike (whether holding the bar, drop bar or on your aerobar) . And do remember to always read up for some depth and breadth in your training KNOWLEDGE. You can’t avoid some science when talking about training. You can go by feel but  it doesn’t mean it will be good for you on the long run. We can have another discussion on these related matter. Why do i stress on the word ‘training’ here is that, what you do in your training you can or will benefit in your race. That includes other things like your sports nutrition ! Individual differences of course occur and it is our responsibility to learn and know what is best for us.

Back to my workout yesterday : Cycled for 15 mins (warm up) before stopping on the road side for some stretching.Pictured below.  And then continued for another 30 mins of the main workout. That is, a low intensity work out, as force was not applied. Maintained an easy gear but shift a gear heavier once I find my upper body + shoulders moving too much or my bum bumping on the saddle ! And maintaining that high cadence through out the ride. After that,a quick transition, popped the bike into the car and off for a 2km run. This Saturday I’ll be doing the Energizer Run. Since I haven’t been training as I am really tied up with other priorities at the moment, I’m doing the 10km. Some fotos of me stretching :

Calf stretch. This is my favourite calf stretch especially when I have my cyling shoes on. The same position like the hamstring stretch (below) except that I lift my toes up until I feel that yummy pull on my calf muscle. Make sure you don't over stretch too. And make sure you don't stretch cold muscles. They need to be warmed up first before being stretched. Hold for 20s, and switch legs.

Oops ! Where's my foot gone ?

Quads stretch. Don't lock that hind/rear leg, slightly bend it. Lift the right leg up. Try to bring the heel to your buttocks. Gently + don't force it if your quads can't take it. Hold for 20 secs, and repeat the stretch for the other leg.

The articles I was referring to earlier  :

The High Spin Workout

This workout is a low intensity workout suitable for use over the entire season. The goal is to provide an adaptation to high speed pedaling and develop coordination through neuromuscular response. Use easy gears to provide high leg speed without creating muscle resistance overload. During this workout, your legs should not feel like they are “heavy” or “loading.”

An efficient pedal stroke is the hallmark of an experienced cyclist. Your body can learn to perform an action very efficiently simply by being asked to repeat the motion many times over. As you perform the workout, your neuromuscular system is sorting out the most efficient pedaling pattern and storing it away in memory, without any help from your higher faculties. The key to the neuromuscular response, however, is to keep a high cadence.

The entire workout should last about 45 minutes. Start with an easy 15 minute warm-up (in Zone 1), followed by a 20 minute interval of high spin (in Zone 2). Use the last 10 minutes for the cooldown. During the high spin, maintain a cadence of 115 to 130 rpm. To measure rpm, use the cadence sensor on your S510, or count how many times your left foot reaches the top of the pedal stroke in one minute. This cadence may be difficult to maintain at first, and your heart rate may soar well above Zone 2. The challenge is to get to the point where you can maintain that cadence for the full 20 minutes without getting out of the zone. This requires a low resistance, so ride on a flat road (or a trainer) and choose an easy gear.

Pedaling with a higher cadence is inherently more efficient than pushing a heavy gear, so learning to be comfortable at a higher cadence will allow you to select an easier gear on other rides too, and soon you’ll be spinning away to a whole new level of performance!

Source

And another article, this 1 is good 🙂

Cadence is the next factor in your quest for efficiency. Practicing and implementing a higher cadence during your cycling will give you a deadly double edged sword: First, the higher your cadence, the less force you must apply at the pedals to generate the same power. Less force applied to the pedals means less stress applied to the musculature of your legs, leaving you more reserves for the run. You can, of course, apply the same force with a higher cadence to achieve a higher speed as well. Second, the higher speed at which your feet move through a pedal cycle results in a smaller time interval during which you have to apply this force. Basically you have less time to apply the force during each crank revolution since you are getting through the cycle faster. The effectiveness of this one-two punch can also be better understood if we think about some physics here. Power is defined as the product of force and velocity. A higher cadence diminishes the force and the length of time you apply this force per pedal stroke. The result is less power produced per pedal stroke. This is what saves your musculature. Just ask Professor Armstrong about that equation. You can use high cadence drills to teach your nervous system to operate in this more efficient manner. Use a low gear that keeps you well in your aerobic HR zones and do 5-10 minute intervals at a cadence between 107 and 130. Relax your upper body and feet, be smooth and supple with your legs. No bouncing in the saddle! Remember that you are specifically stressing foot speed here, not force, so the force you apply to the pedals should be very low. Recover for the same amount of time at a lower cadence of 90 to 100. Use various hand positions during these drills to make sure you can use a fast cadence no matter how your body is positioned on your machine. You can also stress using correct cadence while fatigued by doing these intervals at the end of a long ride. Recovery rides provide another opportunity to do these drills since the muscular stress is so low. The ultimate goal of this drill is that you engrain this fast cadence into your neuromuscular system and employ it in all your rides.

Source<< a must read !

Again, we are not Armstrongs and the concept of 1 rule applies for all is an ancient one. Utterly vital is our holistic if not basic knowledge on training, and knowing that each one of us need to customize and adjust our workout so that it’ll benefit each individual. That explains why ‘blind following’ sometimes doesn’t work for some of us. UNLESS you know what you’re doing of course. 🙂 -missjewelz-


My secret weapon, a 1 gear.(ya right!) Some more got basket at the front and umbrella at the back. Rain, sunshine or halilintar I will ride !

1 of the Putrajaya Night Rides which I hosted last year.

High cadence training as PART of triathlon training

Other related sources :

Cycling Cadence and Pedaling Economy

Championship Triathlon Training (Dallam & John, 2008 )

Cycling Cadence (beginnertriathletes.com)

Cadence and Triathlon Performance

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9 comments

  1. this is great info, thanks for sharing. i always thought that you need to cycle on heavy gears to improve your performance.

    • Ur welcome. Yes, u need2train with heavy gears also for some intensity and force. But for spinning, u don’t need heavy gears. And another factor that is linked to heavy gears is that you are continuously doing specific strength training for ur legs (think- stronger muscle,stronger force–> more efficient cycling with heavy gears). So, u still need to train with heavy gears also. Spinning is 1 of the many workouts which can help improve cycling in terms of increasing the cadence. Other type of workouts will also have their different but specific objectives as well.

  2. I disagree about the high cadence training for cycling; For triathletes at least. Triathlon cadence should roughly be high on the swim, low on the bike and high on the run. A high cadence on the swim knackers the arms but leaves your core and aerobic strength untouched (ish). That’s ok because you don’t need your arms again. On the bike you use a low cadence and BIG gears to drive you round the race again leaving your aerobic system untouched. You also knacker your quads. On the run you have a high cadence – 95+ – with very small steps. This is because with knackered leg muscles you have to drive yourself round the course with a relatively untouched aerobic system. That in turns means that in the last 8 miles you don’t burn out.

    A high cadence is great for pure cyclists because they don’t have to do anything with their legs after they stop cycling. In contrast tritahlon is very much swimbikerun. NOT swim. bike. run. You have to see the race as a whole.

    So for my training – and I know that several podium places at IMMY follow the same approach – the key thing is to be strong enough to push big gears for a long time. A 55-11 is what I use. Generally at 60-70 with efforts to push the cadence in this gear up over 90. Very hard work – but the huge development of leg strength means that you really don’t have to worry about most race hills 🙂

    Hope that this is useful

    • Good points Denis.Thank you. This post is meant for cycling TRAINING , and cycling itself in general. If we were to combine training with more distance, then of course, there are more suitable training programs for it. I am not saying that DO high cadence all the way for a race. NO. that is not what I am saying. Just that to build a higher cadence, this is one of the drills or training that we can do.This is based on my own experience in training, racing as well as through some of the reference which I’ve sourced from for the purpose of this post. Sorry if i got you confused but I think I already made it pretty clear that this post is for training purpose and the benefit of it you can use during your longer rides , for example cycling on a high cadence and low gear when u bike uphill. or during a race when you need to sprint or warm up the muscles before cranking it up.for Ironman itself, I did not rely on high cadence at all as that time I didn’t have this knowledge yet. but on the run, I had high cadence because that is what I’ve been practicing all this while and it works for me.

  3. Hmm… I think in the end of the day, it’s still depends on each individual, and even that can change over time. When I first started cycling, heavier gears work better as I don’t have to pedal so much. But I find I’m more prone to cramps in the run after that.

    I’ve now gotten used to high cadence on the bike. After reading up some of Lance Armstrong’s and Cherie Gruenfeld’s, who are both proponents of high cadence. But I did find that after pro-longed periods of high cadence, your heart rate tends to go up and you may burn out. Exactly why Chrissie Wellington uses heavier gears and lower cadence. I was actually thankful for the hills in Langkawi, to lower my cadence and lower my heart rate.

    I’m sticking to my relatively high cadence though (about 90rpm). I think it does help preserve the legs for the run. Heart rate can go up and down, and can be controlled with breathing. Whereas tight muscles are more difficult to counter.

  4. Hey Kev. I agree with you. And i did mention its all (in the end) is individual. same thing which i did for Ironman. low cadence on the bike and high on the run. plus that time didnt know much pasal cadencing. even if i did know, i wud still stick 2d same strategy. and high cadence is not suitable for a long period of time. use is sparing on the bike e.g. during hill climb, start, or end of a race. efficient + economy !

  5. This Q is for Denis..
    ..u mentioned that a high cadence on the swim leaves the aerobic strength untouched(ish)…
    ..I don’t get it..wouldn’t a high cadence work out your heart more? How can this leave your aerobic strength untouched?

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