Ask a Pro — Diane Stibbard
– Coach, Personal Trainer, and Two-Time Canadian Duathlete of the Year
Question: “How Can I Balance My Leg Strength?”
Answer: Imbalances in leg strength are quite common among cyclists. Sometimes it’s caused by an injury to one leg that may not have regained its strength. Other times it can be from pushing or pulling with the dominant leg, resulting in the non-dominant leg becoming weaker. Either way, the pedal stroke is inefficient, which as well as generating a lower amount of power to each pedal stroke, can lead to other injuries. The proper way to balance leg strength is actually quite simple on a bike: work on pedal technique using a trainer or a spin bike.
The pedal stroke involves both a downward push and an upward pull during the full pedal rotation. The push primarily uses the quadriceps (thighs) and the pull primarily engages the glutes (butt) and the hamstrings (back of the thighs). Those who haven’t been injured will find the imbalance comes from being stronger on the down stroke of the pedal movement, and weaker on the up stroke. However, for those who have sustained a thigh injury the hamstrings and glutes will be stronger, making the up-pull motion of the pedal stronger.
The workout below addresses both parts of the pedal stroke. I recommend adding one of these pedal technique workouts per week for at least 4 weeks. After this once every other week is sufficient until you get outside on the bike. Once you have done this workout over 4 weeks you’ll have gained the ability to focus on both parts of the pedal stroke, resulting in a more balanced and powerful stroke.
• 15 minute warm-up with both feet in the pedals
• Then place a chair beside the bike on the trainer or on the spin bike to place the non-working leg.
• Keeping the bike in an easy to moderate gear focusing on the down ward push part of the pedal stroke for 1 minute only.
• Then for 1 minute focus on the upward pull movement of the pedal.
• Repeat this 3 times for a total of 6 minutes
• Unclip the foot and repeat on the other leg
Once you have done 6 minutes on each leg then clip both feet into the pedals and ride for 5 minutes with the focus on both the push and the pull of the pedal stroke. After the 5 minutes is up, repeat the 6 minutes on each leg and the 5 minutes with both feet to complete a second set.
Finish the workout with 10 minutes of easy spinning to cool down.
Same as week one
Increase the sets of push and pull from 1 minute to 2 minutes for a total of 12 minutes
Same as week three
After the month is complete, continue with one workout every other week until you get outside. If you don’t have the time to allow for a separate pedal technique workout, then I recommend extending one of your regular bike workouts by simply doing the one legged work just before you are ready to cool down.
Start this workout as soon as you can and you will reap the benefits this summer with a smoother more efficient pedal stroke moving you quicker on the roads and away from imbalance injuries.
Diane provides training programs for recreational and competitive cyclists, duathletes and triathletes, including nutritional counseling and personal training. Does your company need a fitness consultant? Get in touch with Diane to discuss fitness seminars for corporations
Check out Diane’s e-programs: Keeping Fit in the Off-Season and Training For a Two-Day Charity Event For the Time-Starved Cyclist.