This month begins the first in our series, “Ask the Coach”, where Coach Henoch answers your questions about cycling, fitness and training.
I have a question about pedal stroke. When I ride, is it more efficient to have a rounded stroke (pushing down on one side while pulling up on the other) – or should I be focusing on pushing down hard on the pedals with very little upstroke?
Do you pedal in a circle or a square? How you pedal can make a difference in how fast and comfortable and efficiently you ride.
It sounds strange, but if you only push down (or, pedal “in squares”) when riding, your quads do all the work, while your hamstrings and gluts are simply along for the ride. Pedaling in squares not only results in faster fatigue to your quads, but also an imbalance in strength that can also result in injury to your weaker hamstrings and even overuse issues with your knees.
The solution? Pedal in circles, or “pull” when you pedal.
Think of your pedal stroke as a complete circle, pushing and pulling equally. To get a physical sense of this, place your foot on the pedal in a position as if you’re scraping mud off the bottom of your shoes, and then pull as your foot rotates to the top.
The best way to know if you’re pedaling correctly is experiment with pedaling one foot at a time. You can also relax one leg while the other works to get a bit of a feel for it. You’ll see a big difference! By using muscles on both sides of your legs, your legs will be less fatigued and able to go faster and longer.
So, start pedaling in circles and leave the squares behind!