Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Contraindications Part III

Continued from Contraindications Part 1 and 2...

Super fast cadences: you might think it helps leg-speed, but that 38-42 lb flywheel does most of the work for you at high cadences, so there's little to no benefit from having your legs go around at roadrunner-like speeds. Unless you're a categoried racer, or someone with a very high power-to-resistance ratio (and a beautifully trained smooth pedal stroke), if you're going faster than 110 rpm for any length of time, you won't see any improvement in your own leg speed. It's very different on a bike outdoors. Plus, there's high risk for less conditioned or skilled riders and makes HR control difficult. If you're going that fast, you'd be better off adding resistance and slowing down, and then you'll most likely see far more results. No benefit: High risk, little to no skill transfer.

ONe-legged pedaling: being a fixed-gear bike with a heavy flywheel, this does nothing for you on a stationary bike. Yes, it's ok to do this on your road bike on a trainer - it's a very difficult and effective training technique to train the neuromuscular firing patterns of your pedaling leg. But when you try it on any indoor stationary bike, it's so easy! The flywheel is doing the work. There's no transfer of skill, no adaptations that take place to improve your efficiency or legspeed. And if you're contorting your body to hold the other leg out of the way (either out to the side or resting it in the middle), you can't pedal with good form so you've lost that benefit. If the pedal hits your other leg (a pretty good probability, especially a novice student who gets distracted), it doesn't stop like your free-wheel road bike pedal will (ouch). I know an instructor who opened up her calf requiring numerous stitches because the fast moving pedal slammed into the back of her leg. No benefit: high risk, no skill transfer.

Super high resistances: if you can't climb that hill at 60 rpm (one pedal revolution per second) you have too much resistance. If there's any kind of body-contorting just to turn the pedals, it's too high. Cycling isn't about "pure strength", it's about muscular endurance. The ability to repeatedly contract against a resistance. People get injured from this, especially straining the low back. And really, it doesn't impress anyone. It's an ego move...

Holding your abs in: cyclists need to breathe, and we need to breathe from the abdomen. Holding the abs tight in the name of "core conditioning" hinders breathing, and hence, 02 transport. You can maintain your core without sucking in the abs. Tour de France cyclists learn to breathe with extended bellies - so should we if we want increase oxygenation! [But cyclists do need lots of off-the-bike core training because riding a bike doesn't help us much there, just don't do it on the bike].

Jump Starts: there's lots of names for this, but it's starting at a high resistance from a total stand still, and then sprinting as hard as you can go. This could potentially be helpful for racers and power riders on your expensive road bike, but not for your general Spin class. The problem is these indoor bikes aren't designed for this kind of use. With excessive torque as in this move, those crank arms can break. True story: an instructor I know told me of a large guy in class who was powering on his pedals, the crank broke, and it ended up embedded IN his calf.... ugh! I had a chain break on me one time while in a standing climb and I thank my lucky stars I wasn't injured...imagine doing something high powered like this and "crack"!

That's all for now. Remember, people are making up new moves in indoor cycling classes every minute! Just use your common sense and analyze the risk:benefit ratio of each move you are considering, as discussed in part 1 of contraindicated moves. Basically, if it hurts, don't do it!

One final thought:
Just ride the bike!

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