Want to ride faster? Start pedaling a little harder! But what about improving your pressure application technique? Is it worthwhile to make an effort to enhance your technique?
And if so, how can we do that?
In this article, I will describe to you my top 10 tips for mastering your pedal stroke. These things should be taken care of; the first is to get a good fit and then practice resistance on the bike.
Next up - learn when to push down hard and when not to press too much into the saddle. Then finally, work on getting more power out of each leg and learning how to use all muscles in your legs during every phase of the pedal cycle. Let's go!
1) Pedaling position
When riding on flat ground or even uphill, the most important thing is to keep your feet close together. This will allow for more power transfer from one leg to another. It also helps with balance because of this closer proximity between legs.
However, keeping your feet further apart when cycling downhill allows for greater leverage, which means less work needed by each leg. So how do we know where our foot should be placed? Well, ideally, your toes point forward slightly so that they touch the front wheel.
Your heel should always be pointed straight down towards the back tire. You may find yourself having to adjust these positions depending on terrain type, speed, etc.
2) Pressure Application Technique
To apply maximum force onto the rear tire, you need to have good contact with both tires. You must use two different techniques: toe-in/toe-out and heel lift/heel drop to achieve this.
These terms refer to whether you push off with your toes pointing toward the outside edge of the bike or inside edge, respectively. For example, if you were pushing off with your right foot, you would place your left foot behind the right and vice versa.
As far as technique goes, it's best to practice using either method first without looking at what your other foot is doing. That way, you'll learn proper form and get used to applying pressure evenly across all four wheels.
3) Foot Positioning
While maintaining an upright posture, your knees should be bent 90 degrees. At this angle, your weight transfers naturally into your pedals. Keep your heels up high enough to avoid hitting them against the seat post. Also, remember not to lean too heavily on your hands. They provide support only, not stability.
4) Arm Movement
One of the biggest mistakes new cyclists make is overusing their arms during the initial part of the pedal stroke. Instead of pulling through with your upper arm, let your elbow follow your forearm. By moving your elbows instead of your wrists, you’ll increase efficiency and reduce fatigue.
5) Breathing Pattern
During intense efforts, breathing becomes very shallow. This causes oxygen levels to decrease and carbon dioxide levels to rise. Because of this, you need to take deep breaths every 30 seconds or so. Deep inhales mean that air enters your lungs fully, whereas shallow exhales cause little air volume to enter your system.
6) Relaxation Techniques
Cycling requires focus and energy. But sometimes, focusing on something else besides the task at hand can hinder progress. Take advantage of meditation, yoga, or guided imagery to relax and clear your mind.
7) Nutrition & Hydration
Eating a balanced diet before training ensures that you are fueled properly for exercise. Drinking plenty of water throughout the day keeps muscles hydrated and prevents cramps.
If you feel like you're getting low on fluids, drink some sports drinks such as Gatorade or Powerade. Avoid caffeine in any form. Caffeine increases heart rate and blood pressure, making it harder to perform well while exercising.
8) Proper Equipment Selection
There are many types of bikes available today. Some people prefer road bikes, others mountain bikes, but there are countless options. Before purchasing anything, consider frame size, number of gears, suspension quality, comfort level, durability, price, and maintenance requirements.
9) Warm-Up & Cool Down
A warm-up routine prepares your body for physical activity. Stretching exercise loosens tight muscle fibers and increases flexibility. It also reduces soreness after exercising. Stretches can be done anywhere, anytime.
For example, if you want to stretch your calf muscles, simply bend your knee slightly and pull back on your toes until they touch behind your heel. Hold this position for 10 seconds, then release. Repeat three times.
Another option would be to lie flat on your stomach and raise your leg straight upwards. Then slowly lower your foot back onto the floor. Once you’ve stretched properly, you shouldn’t feel any discomfort afterward.
10) Recovery Time
Sleep deprivation leads to decreased performance and concentration. When you sleep poorly, you tend to eat more junk food and overeat. Your body needs time to repair itself, especially after a hard workout. Try getting at least 7 hours of quality sleep per night.
Other things to consider
- Rest Days - Sometimes, rest days aren't necessary. However, if you notice signs of injury, illness, or dehydration, don't ignore them. Schedule regular breaks and try to stay active.
- Training Frequency - How often you train depends largely upon personal preference.
The above list isn't exhaustive by any means. There's no doubt there are many other things you could focus on improving as a cyclist. However, these nine tips cover most of the basics.
They're easy enough to implement into your routine without having to spend countless hours researching new techniques. The best part is that you’ll see results immediately once you incorporate them into your training regimen. So go ahead and give it a shot!
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