Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Smart Exercise - Single Leg Squat

The single leg squat is one of the many functional leg exercises that I use to improve my cycling performance.  It translates to cycling really well because the prime movers are the quadriceps and gluteus maximus- the same prime movers used in the pedal stroke.  In addition to improving power output, balance and core strength will improve to increase cycling economy- a variable which has been discovered to be more important than VO2max and Lactic Threshold.  Unfortunately, poor cycling economy is usually mistaken as a VO2max, LT or bike fitting issue.  Here are a few symptoms of poor cycling economy:

  1. Quadricep dominance:  Whenever you push the pace, localized quadricep fatigue almost always limits your performance.
  2. Hip, knee or ankle instability:  Muscle imbalances can cause these key joints to deviate from a position that allows for optimal power production.
While these two symptoms are easy to identify, it's hard to determine the actual cause, especially since determining optimal crank length is still an inaccurate science.  Crank arm length calculators, height, inseam or femur/ tibia measurements have no correlation to optimal crank arm length because muscles, tendons and ligaments ultimately determine the limits of motion at the hip, knee and ankle.  The reason why I specifically mentioned "crank length" is because incorrect crank length can make it impossible to recruit the glutes, no matter the adjustments made to the saddle or reach.  Something in the bike fit will always feel "off."

Regardless of your VO2max, LT or bike fit, incorporating mobility, flexibility and functional exercises like the single leg squat will help to improve your performance significantly.

Vincent is an ACE (American Council on Exercise) certified Sports Conditioning Specialist and Personal Trainer with a degree in Kinesiology.  He specializes in core training for cyclists, injury prevention, motor control training, corrective exercise (rehabilitation) and cycling-specific strength training for improving VO2max, Lactic Threshold and most importantly, Cycling Economy.

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