Test and Usage Based Observations
Our testing efforts as well as long term usage of LPP shows that a properly executed LPP techniques (exerting pedaling force only by pulling from the 6 O’clock to the 12:30 O’clock position) promotes full adaptation of the “lifting” muscles. All other pedaling techniques do not use the lifting muscles to their full potential. To the extent that those muscles are not used, a considerable source of muscle power can be left untapped. The reason relates to muscle count. Nine muscles are directly engaged and four core muscles indirectly support the lifting effort. That is a total of Thirteen muscles. Hardly any of those muscles are being used by pure pedal pushers, who rely solely on seven muscles to do the pushing job. The sheer lack of muscle power makes push pedaling harder. In addition, those hooked on pure pedal pushing also have to overcome the weight and motion opposition of an ascending leg that is basically useless and just going for the ride during the pushing technique. That ascending leg adds weight and due to the force of gravity does not want to bend upward. Please bear in this in mind when you are temped to just push down on pedals. It is a passable technique when you are descending or have a tail wind helping you. It is a lousy pedaling technique when you face head and cross wind or you have to do climbing. It is also lousy for promoting high rpm pedaling, which is more efficient in generating power during cycling because it relies more on your cardio system and in doing so, it saves critical muscle power necessary for better long range performance.
In contrast, a reasonable percentage of the total force generated by the lifting muscles is used by Elite and Pro level cyclists. You can notice that seemingly effortless pedaling with a very stable upper body in the large majority of those Pro cyclists. You can also notice that they do pedal at a high rpm rate consistent with the reliance on their aerobic system to produce power via their techniques. Elite and Pro cyclists lift approximately within 75% of the arc depending on the specific technique of the individual. Once they get to that point, they stop lifting and start pushing with the descending leg and sweep back through the bottom and up to that 75% of the arc. That complex actions is done without hesitation yet it takes a heck of a lot of time and effort to get that delicate timing right. For some people it takes years to perfect that technique. Yet in doing so, as we have demonstrated with out testing,\ they leave 25% of the lifting power potential untapped.
The reason for that untapped lifting potential is that in order to achieve 100% adaptation of the lifting muscles, you have to train those muscles to lift effectively to their maximum limit. That is not done while combining lifting with pushing, no matter how efficient you are in doing so. Only when you commit exclusively to lifting will you be able to ultimately achieve that 100% lifting adaptation. That will take some mental rewiring to achieve in order to overcome old pedaling habits. It takes three to four weeks to achieve reasonable adaptation with LPP yet its much easier than adapting to pulling and pushing. It will be easier to do LPP on wind assisted flats and on descents. Having said that, your past muscle memory will fight you when you are asked to continue lifting while overcoming a headwind on a flat or as the climbing gets tougher!
It is surprising to see how much power can be efficiently produced by fully adapted lifting muscles. Power enough to not to have to use those Quads unless it is absolutely necessary to engage them in support of the lifting muscles to perform very high power generation as the Pro cyclists do. Stephan can generate over 800 watts while sitting and over 900 Watts standing. Consider how much will it mean for a triathlete to have those Quads fully rested for the marathon phase and how beneficial will it be for a road cyclist to have the Quads fully rested to engage them on an attack or a final sprint.
Testing across a fairly terrain diverse and demanding 20 mile test track clearly demonstrated that at 51 minutes and 9 seconds Stephane was able to improve 1 minute 9 seconds from his previous best time using his pro cycling technique, by using 99.9% pure lifting on the track with only some minor pulling/pushing on the standing starts. He did this improvement while spending 18 kilojoules less than during his previous best time effort. Both tests were performed on days that were extremely consistent relative to wind direction and calm wind conditions. In addition, the average temperature for the track varied by only 4 degrees between two test days and being in the 60’s it promoted a strong performance on both days. Stephane performed yet another 100% LPP test where he notched 50 minutes and 57 seconds on the track further lowering his best time. It is also interesting to see that he produced higher maximum wattage numbers in his pure LPP runs (814 Watts on the 51:09 run and 708 Watts on his 50:57 run on the saddle) when compared to the 620 Watts max on his 52:15 pro technique run.
There is a fair amount of Physics that explains LPP lifting efficiency. We have hard empirical data that we would like to complement with some hard math. That is going to be definitively too “geeky” for this blog yet it may be a great topic for a future training website. For now, I will leave you with these thoughts:
Thought #1 – In my mind, there is no doubt that Lift Propulsive Pedaling (LPP) should be the pedaling technique of choice for the rest of us! Stephan’s case does makes a point that LPP can also provide real benefits to an Elite or Pro cyclist. However, setting that exalted class aside, every regular person that aspires to ride efficiently on a bike on the road, mountains or the Gym should learn how to use LPP. This technique that will definitively make you faster. Depending on your goals and efforts it can give you a competitive edge! As a matter of fact, Tyler Johns (visit LPP Philosophy for more detail on Tyler) learned LPP in my 24 Hour Fitness classes and was able to notch a 161st time on the bike on a very hard full Iron Man triathlon. His first triathlon performance ranked among the Elite/Pro level cycling times out of 2,200 entries. The case of Tyler’s truly amazing performance is unique, however, it points out to the fact that LPP can do good things for you too. The bottom line is that in the case of triathlons competition, this technique applies for all levels of competition, including Elite and Pro.
Thought #2 – As long as you can generate the pedaling power required for your cycling needs and goals with LPP, that is all you really need relative to pedaling. It is more efficient to lift than to push down or pull and push. I personally have no need for any other technique because my power performance envelope (up to 500 plus Watts on the saddle) more than adequately met my cycling performance needs with LPP, even when I was competing in Time Trials. It certainly was more than enough for Tyler Johns too!
Thought #3 – Elite or Pro level cyclists like Stephane, can use the technique to achieve 100% adaptation of their pulling technique, generate efficiently more power without overtaxing the QUADS throughout the race. They can use the pushing support of the QUADS in combination with the 100% lifting to generate max power when such power cannot be accomplished by pure and efficient lifting. In other words, they can do tactical and strategic use of LPP as required. However, for them it is always a choice dictated by their circumstances.
Thought #4 – There is more to LPP than meets the eye. There is a technique to be learned and adjustments that have to be done to the bike to get max performance from it. By contacting me for coaching or by going to my 24 Hour Fitness classes like Tyler did or by contacting me for help and details related to the LPP technique. Use the firstname.lastname@example.org email addresses to contact me. Meanwhile, have a great ride!
San Diego, CA