Pre-Season is a fun time of year for training. It is the time that we all get to re-focus after a nice break from training. We are all planning our seasons, picking races, and getting back our fitness.
One important part of the pre-season is build form (also called: Speed skills, technique, etc.). Everyone know that technique is important in the pool. Most of us know foot strike is important for running. Only a small percent of us even give any thought to our pedal stroke.
Refining our pedal stroke technique is very important to efficiency on the bike, so that later in the season when we are pushing the big gear we aren’t losing a portion of those watts to an inefficient pedal stroke. Here are three drills I do to help refine my pedal stroke in the pre-season (and throughout the season as well!)
I guess before we get into the WHAT of the drills, we should quickly mention WHEN to do them. I do at least one of these drills in every warm up I do. Even later in the season I will make these a part of the warm up. It’s a case of “use it or lose it.” I will spend a lot of time working on my form in the pre-season period so that it only takes a few minutes each warm up to keep my skills honed for the big workouts.
The other big time I will work on these is in the recovery workouts. I ALWAYS do recovery workouts on the bike. For instance, I will lift weights in the morning, and after dinner I will do 30-45mins on the trainer. These workouts are all low intensity and therefore low stress on my body. Instead of simply soft pedaling for 30 minutes, I do technique drills to keep things interesting.
Single Leg Drills
These have been called different things by different people, but it’s all the same. This need to be done on a trainer inside… don’t try this outside with traffic all around you. Shift to your lowest gear and unclip one foot. I just rest my free leg back on the trainer, but a chair next to the bike works too. Simply pedal with the one leg until you feel it start to get tired. DON’T FORCE IT TOO LONG! This is about form, so when you get tired and your form starts to get sloppy, STOP! I usually go for 30-45 seconds and then clip back in and pedal normally to the start of the next minute and then switch legs. This helps me keep track of time.
You will notice with these that it is hard to get the pedal over the top. That’s normal. That’s what you are working on. You want it to be a smooth stroke all the way around. Either focus on pedaling in circles, or even think about almost kicking your toes forward to get over the top. Smooth and steady is what we are going for.
High cadence is the easiest drill to do in a warm up. Simply select a time interval that works for you and pedal a low gear at 10-20 RPM higher than usual. I normally pedal 90 RPM so I will do my high cadence drills at around 105 RPM for 2 minutes and then rest a minute. Very simple, and it gets your legs use to pedaling faster instead of mashing a big gear.
This is another one that can go by a couple names, but the idea is to slowly increase your cadence over the course of an interval. Start at 10 RPM over your normal cadence and slowly increase that to 20-30 RPM faster than normal. I usually do 2-3 minutes increasing from 100 RPM to 120 RPM and then take a 2-3 minute rest at normal (90 RPM). Again, this helps force your legs to spin faster instead of pushing a big gear with higher torque. It is very effective in a warm up before a tough workout.
What pedal stroke drills do you do? What’s your favorite and why? Let me know in the comments or hit me up on twitter!