Riding into the wind, slowing down on the uphills, pushing too big of gear and wrestling with your bars are all indicative of a clunky pedal stroke. When you start pushing squares rather than circles your efficiency drops dramatically.
For this Workout Wednesday I’ve comprised some of my favourite drills you can include in in every workout to smooth your pedal stroke and improve your cycling form.
1. Lighten your toes, flex your toes and then find the sweet spot! This pattern of very light contact with your toes and then applying a flexed hardy push on the pedals will heighten the neuromuscular stimulation from your foot muscles to your brain. Simply by alternating a pattern of lifting your toes, then flexing and finally finding a light press will maximize your pressure on the pedal. The goal is to find the optimal pressure to ensure a smooth yet powerful pedal stroke. Here’s how you do it:
Try 5 revolutions/pedal strokes lifting your toes off the insole.
Then try 5 revolutions with your toes flexed into the sole.
Finally try the sweet spot with a light pressure but enough to smooth the stroke.
Repeat this pattern 4 times: 5 pedal strokes concentrating on lifting, 5 pedal strokes concentrating on a heavy push and the last 5 pedal strokes finding your sweet spot! Take a break of at least 5 minutes and repeat this drill 2 more times during your workout.
2. Master Proper Ankle Movement. The first drill combines finding your sweet spot with finding the proper ankle angle. Once you’ve found the sweet spot, move onto this drill that will help you discover an even greater improvements in your pedal stroke. For this drill imagine your pedal stroke is spinning around the face of a clock. The goal is to find the proper ankle movement once the pressure is applied from 3 to 6 o’clock position on your pedal stroke.
Take a look at your right ankle and drop your heel to it is locked in a dorsi-flexed position at 3 to 4 o’clock position in the clock face revolution. Try this for 10 pedal strokes.
This heel drop will bring the heel below the pedal spindle and this is a very extreme movement. That’s the point!
Go to the maximum position of your heel drop to feel the pressure on your foot, calves, quads and gluteals. The gluteals will not work with this movement and feeling the position is paramount to make the proper change.
Next, try 10 revolutions with another extreme position by plantar flexing your foot (toes pointed downwards). This will feel crazy as well and note the load or lack of on the muscles noted in the first drill where your heel is dropped.
Now try to firm up the ankle with a slight plantar flexion and don’t allow an excessive heel drop or massive toe point throughout the entire pedal stroke.
Finding this sweet spot will maximally fire the muscles and increase your power.
Keep repeating this pattern by changing the three positions: Ankle flexed, toes pointed and your sweet spot. Repeat for 90 sec and do this again for 2 to 3 times during the workout.
The two most common problems with most athletes’ pedal strokes are either too much dorsi or plantar flexion that takes the power muscle – the gluteals out of the pedal stroke. This drill will help your muscle memory to maintain the sweet spot in your pedal stroke and help you not fall back into bad form.
3. Focus On One Leg. Often athletes have a dominant leg in their pedal stroke. This drill helps address the disparity in power with each leg. Start the drill byconcentrating on one leg. Imagine your foot is like a feather at the 5 to 6 o’clock range of your pedal stroke. You’re not doing a leg press so be light and fluid at the bottom—this should be a similar feeling as the first drill. Here’s how to incorporate this drill into your workout:
Try 5 smooth strokes thinking about your right foot then 5 with your left, 4 right, 4 left, down to 1 and 1 and go back up.
Take a break and come back to this drill later on in your ride. Try this three times within your bike workout and spread these intervals out with at least 5 min between drills. The pattern can be repeated in succession up to ninety seconds in total.
These three drills should increase overall pedaling symmetry, rhythm at all cadences and ultimately cycling economy. The combination of these benefits equals is improved speed on the bike!
Try these drills throughout your year at different intensities in your workout. You’ll find that it’s easy to become one leg dominant or clunky in your pedal stroke. Proper practice is the key!