A proper pedal stroke can make you a more efficient and faster bike rider but it also can help reduce the potential for knee or ankle pain. The majority of your power comes from pushing over the top of your pedal stroke, then down until you reach the bottom of your stroke. By implementing pedal drills into your workout, you can make your pedaling smooth and powerful.
Imagine that your pedal stroke forms a square and divide this so there is a top and bottom section and a front and back section. As you pedal along the top of the square, push your foot forward. As you are going down the front side of the square, have your heel leading and push down with your foot. Through the bottom of the square, angle your foot as if you were scrapping mud off the bottom of your shoe and pull backwards. Finally, pull up as you go through the back of the square. As you are pedaling, do not allow your heel to move excessively to the side.
Your position of the bike affects the force you produce during your pedal stroke. The most power comes from the muscles in your upper legs. As you engage your hamstrings and quadriceps, keep your knees in the same line, otherwise you can lose power. This line runs from your hip down to your foot. Additionally, try to keep a straight back, which helps your body produce more power than a rounded back.
Proper bike fit is essential for a smooth pedal stroke. Todd Carver, a biomechanist at Colorado’s Boulder Center for Sports Medicine, explains that proper seat height is a requirement for an efficient pedal stroke. If the seat is too high, you will not be able to push your heel down as you pedal down the front of the square, and if it is too low, you will eventual experience knee pain. The proper seat height is achieved when your knee is in front of the ball of your foot as your push through the front of the square; the knee should only be slightly bent when you reach the bottom of your stroke.
Bicycling Magazine and Paul Laursen, Ph.D. of the University of Queensland in Australia designed a workout to improve pedaling efficiency. This drill will help you achieve a more efficient and smooth stroke. Begin with a 10-minute warmup and then pedal as hard as you can in a medium gear for 10 seconds. You should aim to have a cadence between 90 and 110 revolutions per minute. Your cadence is how many times one leg does a full pedal stroke per minute. To calculate this, count how many times your right leg does a full stroke in 10 seconds, then multiply this number by six. Follow each 10-second sprint interval with 20 seconds of easy pedaling. Aim to do this for 10 to 15 minutes, then rest for five minutes. Try to do two sets total.
Fitzalan Gorman has more than 10 years of academic and commercial experience in research and writing. She has written speeches and text for CEOs, company presidents and leaders of major nonprofit organizations. Gorman has published for professional cycling teams and various health and fitness websites. She has a Master of Arts from Virginia Tech in political science and is a NASM certified personal trainer.