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Form & Fitness Q & A
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Fitness questions and answers for March 20, 2005
The Cyclingnews form & fitness panel
Carrie Cheadle, MA (www.carriecheadle.com)
is a Sports Psychology consultant who has dedicated her career to helping
athletes of all ages and abilities perform to their potential. Carrie
specialises in working with cyclists, in disciplines ranging from track
racing to mountain biking. She holds a bachelors degree in Psychology
from Sonoma State University as well as a masters degree in Sport Psychology
from John F. Kennedy University.
Dave Palese (www.davepalese.com)
is a USA Cycling licensed coach and masters' class road racer with 16
years' race experience. He coaches racers and riders of all abilities
from his home in southern Maine, USA, where he lives with his wife Sheryl,
daughter Molly, and two cats, Miranda and Mu-Mu.
Kelby Bethards, MD received a Bachelor of
Science in Electrical Engineering from Iowa State University (1994) before
obtaining an M.D. from the University of Iowa College of Medicine in 2000.
Has been a racing cyclist 'on and off' for 20 years, and when time allows,
he races Cat 3 and 35+. He is a team physician for two local Ft Collins,
CO, teams, and currently works Family Practice in multiple settings: rural,
urgent care, inpatient and the like.
Fiona Lockhart (www.trainright.com)
is a USA Cycling Expert Coach, and holds certifications from USA Weightlifting
(Sports Performance Coach), the National Strength and Conditioning Association
(Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach), and the National Academy
for Sports Nutrition (Primary Sports Nutritionist). She is the Sports
Science Editor for Carmichael Training Systems, and has been working in
the strength and conditioning and endurance sports fields for over 10
years; she's also a competitive mountain biker.
Eddie Monnier (www.velo-fit.com)
is a USA Cycling certified Elite Coach and a Category II racer. He holds
undergraduate degrees in anthropology (with departmental honors) and philosophy
from Emory University and an MBA from The Wharton School of Business.
Eddie is a proponent of training with power. He coaches cyclists (track,
road and mountain bike) of all abilities and with wide ranging goals (with
and without power meters). He uses internet tools to coach riders from
David Fleckenstein, MPT (www.physiopt.com)
is a physical therapist practicing in Boise, ID. His clients have included
World and U.S. champions, Olympic athletes and numerous professional athletes.
He received his B.S. in Biology/Genetics from Penn State and his Master's
degree in Physical Therapy from Emory University. He specializes in manual
medicine treatment and specific retraining of spine and joint stabilization
musculature. He is a former Cat I road racer and Expert mountain biker.
Since 1986 Steve Hogg (www.cyclefitcentre.com)
has owned and operated Pedal Pushers, a cycle shop specialising in rider
positioning and custom bicycles. In that time he has positioned riders
from all cycling disciplines and of all levels of ability with every concievable
cycling problem.They include World and National champions at one end of
the performance spectrum to amputees and people with disabilities at the
Current riders that Steve has positioned include Davitamon-Lotto's Nick
Gates, Discovery's Hayden Roulston, National Road Series champion, Jessica
Ridder and National and State Time Trial champion, Peter Milostic.
Pamela Hinton has a bachelor's degree in Molecular
Biology and a doctoral degree in Nutritional Sciences, both from the University
of Wisconsin-Madison. She did postdoctoral training at Cornell University
and is now an assistant professor of Nutritional Sciences at the University
of Missouri-Columbia where she studies the effects of iron deficiency
on adaptations to endurance training and the consequences of exercise-associated
changes in menstrual function on bone health.
Pam was an All-American in track while at the UW. She started cycling
competitively in 2003 and is the defending Missouri State Road Champion.
Pam writes a nutrition column for Giana Roberge's Team Speed Queen Newsletter.
Dario Fredrick (www.wholeathlete.com)
is an exercise physiologist and head coach for Whole Athlete™. He is a
former category 1 & semi-pro MTB racer. Dario holds a masters degree in
exercise science and a bachelors in sport psychology.
Scott Saifer (www.wenzelcoaching.com)
has a Masters Degree in exercise physiology and sports psychology and
has personally coached over 300 athletes of all levels in his 10 years
of coaching with Wenzel Coaching.
Kendra Wenzel (www.wenzelcoaching.com)
is a head coach with Wenzel Coaching with 17 years of racing and coaching
experience and is coauthor of the book Bike Racing 101.
Richard Stern (www.cyclecoach.com)
is Head Coach of Richard Stern Training, a Level 3 Coach with the Association
of British Cycling Coaches, a Sports Scientist, and a writer. He has been
professionally coaching cyclists and triathletes since 1998 at all levels
from professional to recreational. He is a leading expert in coaching
with power output and all power meters. Richard has been a competitive
cyclist for 20 years
Andy Bloomer (www.cyclecoach.com)
is an Associate Coach and sport scientist with Richard Stern Training.
He is a member of the Association of British Cycling Coaches (ABCC) and
a member of the British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences (BASES).
In his role as Exercise Physiologist at Staffordshire University Sports
Performance Centre, he has conducted physiological testing and offered
training and coaching advice to athletes from all sports for the past
4 years. Andy has been a competitive cyclist for many years.
Kim Morrow (www.elitefitcoach.com)
has competed as a Professional Cyclist and Triathlete, is a certified
USA Cycling Elite Coach, a 4-time U.S. Masters National Road Race Champion,
and a Fitness Professional.
Her coaching group, eliteFITcoach, is based out of the Southeastern United
States, although they coach athletes across North America. Kim also owns
a resource for cyclists, multisport athletes & endurance coaches around
the globe, specializing in helping cycling and multisport athletes find
Advice presented in Cyclingnews' fitness pages is provided for educational
purposes only and is not intended to be specific advice for individual
athletes. If you follow the educational information found on Cyclingnews,
you do so at your own risk. You should consult with your physician before
beginning any exercise program.
Longer left leg
Torque versus power
I was wondering why frame size is so important. I think if you get all the
aspects in the right place (lowering the saddle with spacers, etc) the size
of the frame doesn't matter because all the "body-contact" points are placed
in the right place, as if they were on a right size frame.
Another question - I'm experiencing lower back pain when racing and climbing
really step hills in mtb. I'm 177 cm, have a 15" frame (c-c), 84 cm inseam,
the saddle height is 74 cm. I think I'm pretty flexible; I've done some back
exercises like back extensions and others for the last 3-4 months.
Will a change of frame ease the pain? What others things could I do to improve
Steve Hogg replies
Regarding frame size; in terms of position, what you suggest can often be
achieved. That doesn't mean that it's necessarily good practice. A large rider
with a stack of seatpost showing on a too small frame is likely to have more
than ideal toe overlap, a possibly dangerously flexible fork steerer tube
if a mile of spacers are used on a carbon steerer tube fork, a seat jacked
out over the rear wheel, and a long stem that when the rider is off the seat
sprinting may place his weight far enough forward in relation to the shorter
top tube of a too small frame to momentarily cause the rear tyre to lose contact
with the road when really nailing it in a sprint.
A small rider on too large a frame may have issues with standover height
and if the stem is ridiculously the short the steering of the bike quickens
as the shorter stem means that the bars have to be moved in a smaller arc
for the same degree of movement at the axis of steering. To use myself as
an (atypical?) example: 182cm tall, 860mm inseam, above average flexibility
and largish feet. Ideally I use a 530mm c to c frame with a 575 top tube and
a 71.7 degree seat tube angle. Why is the frame so small relative to leg length.
Because if it was any larger I would not be able to get my bars low enough.
If I ride a production 530mm c to c frame, I have significant toe overlap,
a really long stem which feels insecure when sprinting and a seat that is
almost over the back axle which makes the front end feel very light and wander
in the fast corners.
If I ride a larger production frame, then no overlap but I must sacrifice
ability to jump hard in the sprint because my bars are too high. Regarding
your back pain - a change of frame is unlikely to make a difference unless
there is a change of position as well. If the relative placement of seat,
bars and feet on the pedal is unchanged, then the back pain will still be
In broad terms your back is hurting because of either:
a. the way you function on a bike,
b. the way you sit on a bike, or
c. a combination of both. You need to establish which is the case. To offer
any help, I need much more info.
Longer left leg
I have had a bio-mechanical problem and would like your opinion if possible.
In a nutshell my right leg moves inwards then outwards on the upstroke. I have
had both legs measured and have had different results, as it is difficult to
pinpoint reference points any part of the pelvis. With my index finger placed
on the anterior-superior region of each side of the pelvis the right side seems
lower, however when I am lying supine and have a measurement taken, the difference
I've built up my right shoe and am using a crank length difference of 2.5mm.
What do you think the problem is?
Steve Hogg replies
I assume from what you say that you have a long left leg? The only definitive
way to measure leg length is with CT scan or similar. Measuring from bony
landmarks is prone to a large error factor. If this is the case, a common
result from a long leg is an anterior iliac crest on the long legged side
(left?) as a result of the extra torque developed over a lifetime of activity
by a long leg. Often this can be the case without any difference in leg length
for a variety of reasons. If the left iliac crest is forward, then the sacro
iliac joint on the left side is restricted to a greater or lesser degree as
the left ilium moving forward at the crest is pivoting on the sacro iliac
joint. This in turn means that the left hip, left ilium and the lower spine
have to move more or less as a unit rather than independently.
Set your bike up on a trainer. Ride with your jersey off and an observer
standing behind and above you. On a chair is ideal. If as I suspect, you are
dropping the left side on every left pedal downstroke, then that forces the
knee movement you describe on the right side upstroke. Let me know what you
Kieran then responded:
Thanks for the reply. The right side is the one that seems short. Last year
I built up the right pedal by 5mm and used a 2.5mm shorter crank. This more
or less positioned me square on the saddle, but did nothing for the wobble.
This year I'm trying to make the pelvis more flexible by doing some stretches.
Have found now that my left knee (long side) is suffering from patellar pain
on the bike.
Your reply although quite informative still leaves me wondering what to do.
Is hard to know if I should be attempting to strengthen up the short side, build
up everyday shoes, use Lemond Wedges. What do you mean by an anterior crest?
Do you mean that the pelvis on the short side has rotated backwards? Thanks
for your help.
Steve Hogg replies
Assuming as you say that the right leg is short and the left leg is long,
then the knee pain you describe on the left side and the lateral motion of
the right knee at the top of the stroke is probably because of the following
Long left leg develops more torque at the hip over a lifetime. When walking
we push back with our legs to propel ourselves forward. The differing torque
development at the hip between differing leg lengths often causes the top
of the pelvis ( iliac crest ) of the long legged side to end up semi permanently
further forward than that of the short leg. Often this is associated with
tighter glutes, hamstrings and hip flexors on the long legged side. Often
too, it is associated with a noticeably varus forefoot on one side; usually
but not always the long legged side.
This leaves the rider with the following situation - dropping and rotating
forward of the hip on the long legged side means that the long leg reaches
a lesser distance to the pedals than the short legged side. For many this
twisted hip drop sitting and pedalling style causes a lateral motion of the
knee on the other side. As the hip drops on the downstroke of the long legged
side, the other leg on the upstroke must accommodate this somehow and a lateral
movement of the knee is one reasonably common way, though not the only one.
You don't indicate how much difference there is in leg length or whether
it is in upper or lower leg or indeed whether it is certain that there is
a measurable difference. CT scans and similar are definitive. Measuring between
bony landmarks isn't necessarily definitive.
A suggested plan of action is this - get some Lemond wedges and fit two for
starters to your left (long legged side) shoe with the thick side of the wedge
closest to the crank arm. Also try a shim or packer under the left cleat to
accommodate the leg length difference if there is one. The patellar pain could
be because you are sitting too low on the long legged side to minimise extension
on the shorter side or it could be because you have a varus forefoot on that
side which is likely but by no means certain. Let me know how you get on.
Can you define the term "zones" i.e. 1 through 6 as used numerously in these
Ric Stern replies
Many coaches use different training zones/levels, which can be set from different
variables. Not everyone uses 6 zones - some use more, and some use less.
Some coaches will define training zones based on the average heart rate of
e.g. a ~1-hour TT (or shorter) which seems to be a popular way to do things
in the USA. Others may define based on maximum heart rate, which seems to
be more popular in the UK and Europe (e.g., this is how British Cycling defines
their training levels).
On the other hand some coaches define zones based on a specific metric of
power output, e.g., about 1 hour TT power; or maximal aerobic power - which
is how we define our training ranges - see http://www.cyclingnews.com/fitness/?id=powerstern.
Our articles explain some of the physiological responses to exercise at each
If you're looking at different articles or answers which mention zones or
levels, you'd most likely have to see which coach or sports scientist was
answering as each one may have a different meaning for each zone.
Torque versus power
I recently started training with a PowerMeter and am wondering what the difference
between Torque and Power is. Plotting the two variables on the same axis shows
that (for me) they lines lie on top of each other for the most part, but sometimes
they diverge. What do these numbers really signify?
Scott Saifer replies
Thanks for lobbing a softball. Torque is effective force times lever arm
length. Since your crank length is fixed, torque is an indicator of the force
you are applying to the pedal in the direction perpendicular to the crank.
Power is, among other things, torque times rotational velocity or force times
speed, again only considering the force perpendicular to the crank.
If pedalling cadence is invariant, torque and power track each other. If
cadence changes, the ratio of torque to power changes. If you are pushing
hard on the pedals but not moving fast, you get a high torque but low power.
If you are pedalling a higher cadence, you can get a higher power with a much
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