Do TrainerRoad pedaling drills hurt more than help?

I’ve noticed that in a number of TrainerRoad workouts there are pedaling drills that are intended to promote pulling up on the backstroke. There are also one-legged pedaling drills.

I’ve been reading “The Midlife Cyclist” by Phil Cavell and he devotes a section of his book to dispelling the idea that these drills are helpful (and indeed, he claims that they could be harmful). Here is an except:

There was a fad at the time, and possibly still is in some circles (excuse the pun), that single leg pedal drills would improve your pedalling mechanics. We couldn’t disagree more – single leg pedal drills will likely embed poor motor-patterning by forcing you to overuse weak, postural, flexor muscles during the recovery phase. Even worse are the independently moving cranks, where you’re forced to control every movement of each crank minutely and individually – but to what dividend or benefit? Where is the evidence? It can also destabilise the pelvic/saddle contact.

The book goes into more detail but my question is, why do these drill exist in TrainerRoad workouts when they arguably provide no benefit and potentially could do harm?

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Overall, having been in this sport for too long, pedaling drills are a proven way to improve neuromuscular patterns that help improve pedaling coordination. So, for some they are really important while for others not so much. I’m always surprised riding group rides how out of phase some people are. Just off at the top mostly but, awkward and inefficient.

A bit general but, I do think most benefit from drills.

I never saw TR recommend “pulling” on the upstroke, more “de-weight” the foot, but I haven’t done every workout in the book so IDK. Just a feeling of lightness in the sole of the recovery foot is about all you need. Agree that “pulling up” is pretty bad advice. It’s a subtle but important difference

I think he does say ‘pull’ on the work outs; only having a single sided power meter though I generally ignore them. The TR help says its ‘Kick & Pull’ and pulling across rather than up

  • Kick & Pull (KP) - A balanced pedalstroke is dependent upon consistent tension on your bike’s drivetrain throughout the entire pedalstroke. Reinforce your ability to maintain tension through the weakest portions of the pedalstroke, the top and bottom quadrants.

As your knee approaches top-dead-center, lightly kick your toes into the fronts of your shoes, and as your feet approach bottom-dead-center, lightly pull your heels into the backs of your shoes - kick and pull.

Focus on just the kick for 30-60s, just the pull for 30-60s, then eventually both for 30-60s simultaneously.

Pay particular attention to lightly pulling your foot across the bottom, lifting your knee lightly upward and then softly kicking over the top of each pedalstroke.

They’ve helped me

My $.02….single leg drills are ineffective because they don’t last long enough. Doing 20-40” repeats for a few minutes is not enough to ingrain the neuromuscular pattern.

If your goal is to benefit from single leg drills, you do need independent crank arms and you need to ride them a lot. But is the juice worth the squeeze? Probably not.

I haven’t done single leg drills in years….but I also have been doing this for decades and have a very good spin. Single leg drills aren’t going to teach me anything new at this point.

Like any sort of technique work I think it’s going to be fairly individual- sort of like how some swim drills will work wonders for some people and do nothing or even exacerbate existing flaws with others.
Do them, or don’t, but either way it’s probably going to be a lot more helpful if you do so with what a clear idea of you’re trying to address, rather than based on what someone else says.

The drills where you’re told to unclip a foot and pedal with one leg are complete nonsense imo.

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I found low cadence (50ish) intervals at zone 3 to be very benefitial for “better pedaling”.

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Several studies out there that show pulling up on your pedal stroke isn’t helping you.

Maybe? Maybe not?

https://www.instagram.com/reel/CWTTX9rFyY0/?utm_medium=copy_link

My TP workout instructions today.

When I go for a run today I’ll put some single leg drills in. I’ll hop along on 1 leg for a minute on / 2 minutes off at a cadenece of 50-60 strides per minute on a 3% hill…

I pulled a hamstring (the first and only time) the same week as doing my first 3 TR workouts with pedal drills. The pull-ups seemed uncomfortable (not actually painful) at the time of doing them, then on a run later in the week I was poleaxed with a grade 2 hamstring tear. 12 weeks off all activity.

Coincidence? Quite possibly, but I’ve ignored pedal drills ever since.

I’m not sure if it’s been revised (as I ignore the drills these days) but I seem to remember Chad’s text describing “pulling up” on double and single leg drills to complete the 12-hour clock cycle.