Pedaling and doing the "Kick and Pull"?

Hello everyone. I am new to structured training and cycling (3 weeks into TR) and I’ve been trying to follow along with the recommended drills.

I am trying to figure out the “kick and pull” (mainly pull) mentioned in the text by Chad. I am looking for some physical cue help.

Am I pulling back through the balls of my feet or through my heels and feel it in the back of my shoes?


Think scraping crap off the bottom of your shoes! :poop:

I read that all the time, but it’s not a great physical cue for me as I can’t figure out how to “scrape” my foot on the bike as I would the ground. :confused:

Also new to structured training and, well, exercise; 5 weeks into TR. I find the “kick and pull” thing generally confusing.

The instructional text varies a bunch depending on the workout, but sometimes it does explicitly say “feel your heels in the back of your shoes” or similar, so that’s what I go for on the “pull”.

I still don’t know how the “kick” is supposed to work. The cranks just end up knocking around and everything feels weird.

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Not sure if this will work for others, but it worked for me. Try imagining pedalling as being a forward and backward movement instead of up and down. Here the forward is your kick and the backward is your pull.

After getting used to it like that, I was able to do it without focus.


I think the overall goal is to try to apply pressure smoothly throughout the pedal stroke so that you don’t have any “dead spots.” To do that in the pull direction you are mimicking pulling back and/or scraping mud off the sole of your shoe (much easier if you are clipped into your pedals).

I have had some trouble with the kick segment being smooth. It just takes some practice and it eventually comes a little easier. As has been said by others, you are trying to stop mashing the pedals and instead have a smooth rotation. You won’t have the same amount of force/pressure all the way around, but ideally you have some force/pressure throughout the stroke.

Just keep practicing. It’ll get easier.

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Way back in the day, the one drill that made the feelings/sensations obvious and thus instilled them into my muscle memory was one-legged pedaling. You can do this indoors or out. Unclip one leg. Pedal w/the other. Try to make smooth circles. Feel pressure all the way around the pedal stroke. Do it 10x on one leg. Then switch legs. 10x again. Then back to normal while trying to stay smooth all the way around. Do this in a manageable gearing. Too light and you will not feel it sufficiently. Too heavy a gear and you will struggle. This is a drill, not an interval and definitely not about how many watts you can push

As @purgatos said, think of it as forward and backward. Too many people push down left, push down right. This is obvious when you see it out on your group rides, especially if under heavy load. This is wasteful and inefficient.

Hope this helps more than the :poop: drill :smile:


That’s exactly it… As KickrLin mentions, the best method to get used to this type of exercise is the alternating one-legged training. You’ll definitely feel the Pull aspect on the up stroke.


This is hard to get used to. Really hard. But it is important, to try to smooth out the pedal stroke and take some of the work away from the quads. This – using the whole pedal rotation – is a huge part of the benefit of using road / mtb shoes.

So, the system I learnt, when first getting into training indoors is this:
[A] First, focus on the push, at the top of the pedal stroke, with the right foot. You should try to push your foot off the front of the pedals; when you do this, your toes will migrate a little [depending on how tight your shoes are] into the front of the shoe. Try to keep the force horizontal [Of course, there’s downward pressure from the quads too.] . Do it for 30 secs. Go to the left and focus on the push. Give yourself a break from trying to push – say a minute – and then repeat this.
Then focus on the pull, right foot only, for 30 secs. Now, try to pull the shoe back towards you. Your heels will migrate a bit into the heel of the shoe. Again, horizontal pressure. Take a break from pulling. 30 secs on the left foot. Rest and repeat.
On your first serious go at this, stop at this point and focus on the workout and power. [Remember that it is easier to do this when the cadence is low. So find a part of the workout where you can reasonable hold a cadence of 60 rpm, say.]

[B] Next time, repeat these two exercises. Then have a rest from them for a minute. If possible, increase the cadence at which you do the exercise, say by 5 rpm.
After a minute break from push and pull, do the push exercise again, but this time, trying to combine pushing right foot and pushing left foot [alternating, of course]. Do this for 30 secs. Then try to combine the pull right and pull left for 30 secs. Take a break from this focus for a minute and then repeat.

From now on in, you keep repeating these exercises in paragraph [B], each time trying to increase the cadence until you reach your preferred cadence, and gradually raise the length of each drill to one minute.

Then you can go onto the drills that Chad asks for in the workouts. But until you can do a minute at your preferred cadence, of combined right and left push, followed by combined right and left pull, don’t do the exercises that Chad is asking for. Gradually, you will find your pedal stroke becoming smoother, and the left pull / right push becoming synchronised. When it happens on the road: magic.


I think I remember – either in some of the workout text or a podcast – Chad mentioning that the kick and pull was to both a) give your quads a few milliseconds of rest during the “kick” and “pull” phases, but also b) to reduce “coactivation” of muscles, where your muscles are basically “fighting” each other (basically one group of muscles pulling against another in a manner that actively reduced your efficiency).

To that end, I really try and minimize the kick and pull phases – lots of pro cyclists “just push down” and do just fine, but I do find that at high cadences trying to scrape something off of the ball of my feet is better. I just had a fitting where I was told that your foot angle at the bottom of your pedal stroke should not be completely flat – there should still be a small toe-down angle.


I know this was an old post, but I thought it best I read it first before posting my question (just in case it answered my question!)…

I’m new to TR and have been on for about 4.5 weeks and it has truly been a humbling, yet learning and totally enjoyable grind. The one thing (of many) that I’ve been paying attention to is my pedal stoke. I’d like to think I’m doing it right, but I’m not sure if it’s efficient, as it relates to the kick/pull. I’ll start with the pull.

At around 7, I generally feel my mid and lower hamstrings working on the pull til somewhere about 10, then I don’t feel a push again until 3-4 o’clock position. During the kick/pull, I’m not understanding how I’m supposed to start the “kick” around the 10.

  1. How is my foot positioned? It’s not pointed upwards is it? Is the kick more like a push??
  2. Should I feel the kick in any particular muscle group?

I’m sorry for the questions, but I’m lost with how to facilitate this movement.

Try this - sit on a high chair or high bench, pull your legs up so they’re parallel with the ground and hold that position for about 1 minute. You should feel your quads engage - for me, it’s the inner quad that engages more so than the outer part in this movement. This is the muscle in which I feel the kick. Google says it’s the ‘vastus medialis’.

Now, actively dangle your legs (like you’re a kid again :grin:). As you kick with one foot, you’ll find that you instinctively pull back your other foot.

  • Every time you kick with a foot, say ‘kick’. Try this for about half a minute.
  • Switch your attention to the pull - every time you pull back a foot, say ‘pull’. Focus on feeling your foot pull back (it may help to actively pull your foot back to feel the movement), and try this for about half a minute.
  • Repeat the kick, then the pull, as many times as you want.

When you feel comfortable switching your attention in this way, try kicking 4 times then switching focus and pulling 4 times, and then switching again, i.e. kick, kick, kick, kick, pull, pull, pull, pull, kick, kick, kick, kick, pull, pull, pull, pull and so on.
Doing it slowly helps with the switching of attention, from kick to pull.

Over time, try to notice that these kicks and pulls are horizontal movements (i.e forward and backward). So when you’re next time on the bike, try switching your attention from kick to pull in this way. It helped me to really exaggerate the kick and pull until I got used to switching my attention back and forth. It also helped me to not think about which muscles were being engaged, but rather the forward and backward motion.

Translating the movements to the quadrants:

  • 10am - 12pm: I think, “kick!”
  • 12pm - 3pm: Brain turns off, and the instinctual downward pedal motion guides my stroke
  • 4 - 6pm: I think, “pull!”
  • 6pm - 9pm: I think, “up!”
  • 3-4pm and 9-10pm are blank - the mental break from thinking about pedal stroke helps me retain focus

Over time, the movements will start to come together in a seamless and intuitive way.
Keep on at it! Once you know, you know :slightly_smiling_face:.


I’m gonna try this… thank you very much for responding!

Just wanted to let you know, I tried your suggestion today while doing Pettit during the last half of the session… I think I got it, but definitely need more practice… one of the things I caught onto that makes me think I was doing it was my cadence increased, while my legs (particularly my quads) didn’t feel like they were working… I dunno if that was the right feeling or not, but I did feel like my pedaling was smoother/rhythmic than before… I hope that’s it… thank you again for responding!!


When I’m working on smooth pedaling and it feels right, I’m focused on power-effort coming from my hips and don’t think about feet-ankles-knees-legs. This (for me) relaxes & loosens up everything below and seems to take care of evening out all the quadrants through the pedal stroke. I seem to do better focusing on specific body parts & muscle groups than using metaphors.

While not nearly as experienced as most here, I’ve always received complements on the smoothness of my pedaling (during fittings, etc…). I attribute that to time spent on rollers long, long ago. Thinking about cycling from the hips goes back to those days when trying to keep the bike from bouncing all over the rollers. I also focus on the hips during hill climbs.

Of course all that goes out the window often on my MTB while mashing through a tough spot…

Nice job working through it Cyco! What a great forum this is.


That’s awesome news. It sounds like you’re almost there, and I’m chuffed to hear it’s starting to come together for you!

One last point - the smoother pedal stroke also helps me relax my upper body. @jchapin is absolutely right about the power effort coming from the hips (for me it’s the core). When I ‘got it’ and turned off the exaggerated focus, I realised that power came from my core and translated into a relaxed upper body. Whenever the in-ride text reminders popped up to relax my face/shoulders/arms, I found I was already pretty relaxed.

Having relaxed upper body is a big priority for me. I broke my collarbone very recently on a tricky descent - and now tense up whenever I go downhill. Keeping a good pedal stroke during my outdoor rides have helped me keep my shoulders and arms relaxed so my body isn’t rigid when I hit the descents.

Well done on your efforts! Once you know, you know :wink:.

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