The effect of locally braking crank rotation during pedaling on the pedaling force and activation of lower limb muscles.

Soya Iwata


Introduction: In competitive cycling, pedaling efficiency is one of the key factors and it can be improved by the smooth pushing, pulling back and pulling up movements. Considering the mechanisms of human adaptive movements, we devised an approach to improving pedaling efficiency (fig. 1). This study aimed to clarify the effect of locally braking crank rotation during the pull up phase on the pedaling force and activation of lower limb muscles.

Methods: Ten male experienced cyclists (age: 21.3 ± 0.8 year, height: 171.5 ± 3.2 cm, mass: 66.7 ± 6.2 kg, VO2peak: 66.7 ± 3.6 ml/min/kg) and ten untrained males (age: 21.4 ± 0.5 year, height: 172.2 ± 2.6 cm, mass: 62.0 ± 3.8kg) participated in this study. Upper vertical position of the crank was defined as 0˚, and one rotation was divided into four pedaling sections [push phase (300˚ to 30˚), push-down phase (30˚ to 120˚), pull-back phase (120˚ to 210˚), pull-up phase (210˚ to 300˚)]. Subjects cycled for 5 min with the locally braking (by adding resistance) from 210˚ to 240˚ of the right leg (the left leg) (from 30˚ to 60˚ for the left (the right)) as an intervention. Before and after the intervention, the subject performed 2-minute normal (without locally braking) pedaling while tangential pedaling force and surface electromyography (sEMG) of lower limb muscles (right: tibialis anterior (TA), medial gastrocnemius (MG), biceps femoris (BF), left: semitendinosus (ST) left: vastus medialis (VM), vastus lateralis (VL), rectus femoris (RF)) were measured. Pedaling efficiency was calculated as follows.

Results: After the intervention, tangential force of experienced cyclists increased significantly from 150Ëš to 270Ëš (i.e. pull-back phase) and decreased significantly from 30Ëš to 90Ëš, (i.e. push phase) (Fig. 2). The tangential force of untrained men increased significantly from 180Ëš to 240Ëš (i.e., pull-back to up phases) (Fig. 3). The pedaling efficiency of experienced cyclists increased significantly from 60Ëš to 240Ëš (Fig. 4) while in untrained men the pedaling efficiency increased significantly from 90Ëš to 120Ëš and 180Ëš to 210Ëš (Fig. 5). In experienced cyclists, muscle activity of ST increased significantly in the 120Ëš to 240Ëš, while it was decreased from 300Ëš to 330Ëš, VM activity increased significantly from 30Ëš to 60Ëš and 300Ëš to 330Ëš, and MG increased significantly from 240Ëš to 270Ëš (Fig. 6). In untrained men, activity of lower limb muscles did not change significantly.

Discussion: Results suggest that experienced cyclists increased the tangential force and muscle activity of ST as preparatory actions before the locally braking and it lasted after the intervention. Pedaling efficiency also increased in the pull-down and pull-back phases. Increased muscle activity of ST in the pull-back phases is in line with a previous study showing that muscle volume of STwas signiï¬cantly greater in experienced cyclists than in untrained men (Ema et al.,2015). Increased muscle activity of VM in experienced cyclists in the push phase indicates the effect of local braking intervention on the performance of this phase. No change in muscle activities or tangential forces in the locally braked section in untrained men may reflect the fact that untrained men did not improved preparatory actions for this phase after the intervention. Collectively, it was suggested that the present local braking is more effective for experienced cyclists than untrained men. It is noteworthy that the local braking intervention is effective even in experienced cyclists.


Cycling, Pedaling force, Pedaling technique, Biomechanics

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