Boost your Efficiency and Power
Whether hitting the cycling studio or hopping on the indoor bike at home, you’re likely in for a challenging workout that will push your limits and test your stamina – all while having fun. Indoor cycling sessions are meant to make you sweat, and many classes use power data to help direct just how hard to push and for how long. Power, at its simplest, is how hard or how much effort you put into the bike to make the pedals move at different resistance levels, and this energy or power is transferred from our body to the bike where our feet contact the pedals.
When we ride, we recruit different muscles as our legs spin through the full circular motion of a single pedal stroke. When pushing down on the pedals, we primarily use quad muscles. When we pull the pedal backward at the bottom of the pedal stroke or push forward at the top, different muscles must engage, which can help us build a wide range of strength during an indoor class. Ideally, both legs will be engaged throughout the entire pedal stroke in a smooth circular motion, linking together and strengthening various muscle groups.
One easy way to recruit more muscles and transfer the power or effort more efficiently as you ride is to use cycling shoes that clip into the pedals, like Shimano’s IC5 shoes. These help riders push and pull on the pedals to create a smooth circular pedaling motion.
Cycling shoes are designed to fit snugly and, like the IC5 shoes, have a full-length reinforced plate at the shoe's sole. This stiff plate helps transfer your power from foot to shoe to pedal, so little energy is wasted on the shoe flexing or your foot moving around. All that effort you're putting into the workout gets translated to your bike and ride metrics, whether that's distance or power level.
One great way to practice efficient and strong power transfer is to try a one-leg pedaling drill. As you are warming up on the bike, unclip one foot from your pedal and hold it out to the side. With the other foot still clipped in, focus on pedaling in a smooth circle. Once this leg fatigues, after about 30 seconds, switch legs. The goal is to complete a smooth pedal stroke without any clanking noise from the bike.
After warming up both legs with a single-leg drill, pedal faster and slower and think about maintaining the same engagement with both legs at different speeds. Engaging our legs in this way activates our core and many stabilizing leg muscles, giving us a better workout and building our overall strength.
As you ride and practice pedaling smoothly, engage your core and keep your upper body still. While seated in the saddle, your upper body should be still as your legs move. A strong core and smooth pedal stroke will provide the best power transfer into the pedals and build the strength and endurance you are looking for. Have fun out there!