What is the exact role of form with respect to power?

Of course Trainer Road has an emphasis on form (e.g. the different quadrants, emphasis on first quadrant, lack of hip rocking). Clearly this is backed by many coaches (e.g. Coach Chad) and obviously the pros utilize it. I can’t seem to find empirical studies on cycling form other than related to aerodynamics. That’s not a reason to distrust it, but I am wondering what exactly is the relationship between form and power? About how much effect does it have on power, would you estimate? Is it really something that is more relevant for training? For example, does it just have an indirect effect on power by isolating muscles during training and therefore strengthening them? Does it have a direct effect on power? For example, if you keep proper form during a race you will actually push out more watts than without?

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I don’t have data to throw at you, but with any sport, proper form equates to maximum efficiency in performance. Proper form will typically minimize strain on the moving parts of a bio mechanical motion. To prevent injury, maximize power transfer, and create longevity proper form is crucial. Applies to pretty much any sport under the sun. There will always be oddities that go against conventional wisdom, golfers with funky swings playing on the PGA Tour is a great example, however with cycling aero tends to be everything. Thus, proper form ensures aero boxes are checked, as well as maximum power transfer capability. If your form isn’t proper, muscles, tendons, ligaments may be put under strain, that actually works against the motion your making. Over the course of a long ride that can sure as heck add up quick, and race you quicker to fatigue, than the finish line. Not sure if I helped answer your question, good luck.

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I have mixed feelings about quadrant exercises. It sounds good: smoother strokes, milliseconds of rest, etc. Same time, during previous “wild” ie unstructured year of riding with powermeter my usual Left/Right balance have been ~48/52%. Over this winter always followed all exercises prescribed during workouts. Because indoor trainer doesn’t measure L/R balance, don’t know how it evolved but once started doing workouts outdoors during this spring, discovered imbalance has changed to 40/60. Felt nothing unusual (pains, irritations but skin at right foot instep has slightly rougher and thicker). Now, couple months later with outdoor workouts mostly it is gone back to usual 48/52 ballpark. Apart from this balance change, can’t tell if anything else (like efficiency) has changed.

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So I’ve also wondered how this might help me. I try to do the form exceices but also wondering how to measure my form. I have assioma pedals which actually exposes some data, but I have no idea if I’m good or if I need to do some more work.

This is from my outdoor workout yesterday

Is this good form? What would be worth investing in? I know that the L/R balance is a little off, but I think that’s naturally for my body :sweat_smile:

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This is an interesting topic for me. Froome is my aesthetic hero. Such grace and suplesse; I can only dream of. I have always looked like a body poppin giraffe on the bike. Still when I started out way back in the dim mists of the 80’s ankling was all the rage and I naturally did that anyway… even back then it was higher cadence is better… Merckx and his “Spin big gears”. So I stopped ankling and gradually I ran my natural cadence up to 95 to 100 rpm. The amount of crap I take from my buddies when I do that Billy Whizz hill attack thing where you rev up to 150 to punch up a rise.

I started TR a couple of years ago and thought I was reasonably (key word there) smooth around the stroke. Doing the quadrant drills proved I wasn’t at all: It really fell apart under load. So the drills really helped… not just as a distraction during the intervals but they did smooth the spin under heavy load. This became really clear to me last year when I rode the Flandrian cobbles… there is no way to survive with your junk intact other than powering smoothly over them.

But the wisdom now says it doesn’t matter the smoothness thing is overrated. It is all about personal capacity to put the power down. So whatever works for you basically. Same as it ever was.

I am not sure that I buy that. Here’s the thing the bit that kills me is the variability… As Ali noted its not the big hits that get to you but the sand in your shoe. So pushing X watts for an hour on the trainer is a lot easier than trying to do the same into a head wind. That brings me to the power spin polar chart: I never used one before the lockdown. There was one on the WIn10 Tacx trainer app. Building a peanut shape was a real distraction for me. It also helped me with the fatigue. If you have a peanut you have less variability around the stroke -> less fatigue… at least I found that. It is translating onto the road for me now.

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Agree, visualization would help to maximize gains from such exercises and helps to pass the time more efficiently. While rowed some time ago, Concept2 computer showed power graph during each stroke, it really helped keeping good form while fatigued.

What kind of hardware/software one would need to get this peanut shape visualizer? Currently I’m using for indoor Wahoo Kickr 18 with bike with no separate powermeter. Some pedal-based powermeters with accompanied software?

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There has to be some stuff out there using the smart trainers that can do this. I am using a 1st gen Tacx Neo. The Tacx trainer app on the Ipad didn’t have it but the PC one did. According to Tacx unsupport desk it should not have worked with the Neo 1 as it only has virtual cadence and no dedicate cadence sensor. Apparently the Neo 2 has one. This chart was only supposed to work with that unit. It worked ok for me on the old Neo. The only problem was the polarity shifted sometimes; so Left side of the spin data was reported on the right hand side of the chart. I guess it was down to where on the stroke I started a given ride. I have no idea if a Wahoo unit would work the same way. There is a free trail for the app so you can always experiment. Remember it is just the PC version that has the chart.

[Edit] It also rotated the data a bit so that it was a horizontal peanut. Again I think that this was due to the lack of a time stamp on the stroke. It just put the minimum points on the Y axis. So that bit of data, your dead zone location, was lost.

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Sorry Froome? Wait… what? Have… wha? Lol! I need some time off the internet.

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I think you are over thinking all of this. In general, form follows fitness IMO. Having a smooth and supple stroke under relatively high power for long durations comes with fitness and being able to apply power over the top relentlessly. That in turn affects the power portion of the stroke.

I’m so glad someone else picked up on that. I hope that the poster was being sarcastic! For good form you can’t look much past people like Tom Boonen, Niki Terpstra, Brad Wiggins or Tom Dumoulin. That’s souplesse!

Going back to the OP. I don’t know what, scientifically, constitutes good form in cycling. As in, i don’t know what the metrics are that create good form. That said, to me, the reason for wanting good form is to minimise excess energy expenditure. Ideally, you want as much energy expended as possible to end up propelling you forward. Rocking the upper body = using energy that could be better used elsewhere. Knees moving out and in, the same. A pedal stroke that emphasises too much power production at a certain point in the stroke, in my mind, is a bit like smashing a nail into a piece of wood with massive swings. Yeah, it’ll generate a lot of power and get the nail in nice and quickly, but it’s much more likely to bend the nail (wasted energy), not hit the nail square on (wasted energy), and not put the nail in straight (wasted energy).

As we know, power is a measure of speed and torque. Increase those numbers and power goes up. I think that bad form, when looking at pedalling, is when there’s too much reliance on torque to generate ongoing power.

I’d simply say that anyone who has ever had a nagging injury in sport knows that good form is what keeps us from injury and what prevents injuries from recurring. While I’m sure it helps, I’ve never thought of cycling form drills as a way to increase power (with the exception of sprints). Instead, I think of it as a way to prevent fatigue, injury, and time off the bike.

It’s all relative; you ain’t seen me on a bike yet… Froome is all grace and poise compared to me. I can but hope, that one day I shall reach that promised land.

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http://www.velominati.com/tradition/riding-ugly-the-spider/
“it’s an affront to my sense of aesthetics to see him hunched up like a spider humping a lightbulb,”

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Considering all the varying responses, it seems some thinking here is helpful…

Thanks for your contribution!

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This really makes sense to me. Energy can be wasted on too much torque. Form helps balance this with speed.

This seems to be against what others are saying, but sometimes I feel like this too. The questions I guess can be put much simpler: if I am going max heart rate with good form or bad form, will the power be higher with the former? Hard to say no there…

So it’s more about injury prevention than power? Makes sense that it helps with injury prevention.