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Caleb Ewan's Sprint Position - Revealed through Kinesiology

Caleb Ewan's Sprint Position - Revealed through Kinesiology

Caleb Ewan has been disrupting the sprint scene with a "new" sprinting technique that combines the aerodynamic benefits of a super tuck with a modified pedal stroke.  Below is a still grabbed from the video (at end of post):
Sprinting in a low position isn't new; in fact, some of the riders that followed (off screen) were in a lower position than Caleb Ewan.  What's different is that whenever he assumes this position, the six O'clock position of his pedal stroke shifts backwards to seven O' clock.  This only happens if he primarily uses hip extension (gluteal muscles) to move the pedals.  Being able to continue using the strongest muscles of the body in an extremely aero position is the secret to his success.

WHY THE 7 O'CLOCK SPRINT TECHNIQUE IS THE FASTEST

There are two things that matter in a sprint:
  1. Power
  2. Mass
Sprinters have the problem of having more power than mass.  When you have more power than mass, the power you send to the pedals will also affect your body position.  This problem becomes more prominent the lighter you are.  When performed correctly, the seven o'clock sprint technique allows lighter cyclists to overcome the mass problem.

With a seven o'clock position, the power from the hips and lower body will propel you forward, forcing the arms to push back.  This counteracting force effectively increases body weight; similar idea to standing on a weighing scale and pushing upwards on a ceiling to trick the scale into thinking you're heavier than you are.

The counteracting force at seven o'clock also increases the compressive force on the spine and reduces the rotational (torque) forces on the spine.  Since the spine is more adept at handling compressive forces, the core will have a lot less work to do.  Think of how much easier it is to rest a 150lb barbell on your back than performing a single arm row with a 75lb dumbbell in a hinged position- that's the difference between compression and torque.  

In contrast, the six o'clock target will have the opposite effect on the spine (decreased compressive force and increased torque).  This means that you'll need substantially more core strength; a tough task considering the work it takes to get into a good position for a bunch sprint.  This largely explains why Caleb Ewan sometimes appears to have a huge advantage over other sprinters.

In summary, here are the key advantages to the seven o'clock sprint technique:
  • Actively increases mass; allows sprinters to apply more power to the pedals without negatively affecting body position.
  • Reduces workload on the core.
  • More aerodynamic.
  • Harder to draft.
  • Sprint and breakaway easier.
Now here are the disadvantages:
  • Requires gluteal dominance.  This is a trained motor skill that many cyclists (Pros and beginners) struggle to acquire.
  • Requires more upper body strength.
  • Requires more coordination.
  • Requires more time spent at the gym to develop the motor patterns for this technique.
  • Requires patience, dedication and discipline.  Training away bad habits is harder psychologically than it is physically.  The coach and athlete must be prepared to put the work in.
The reward for acquiring the strength and motor skills to sprint at seven o'clock is the ability to sprint faster than everyone else who didn't want to -or know how to train for this position.  Of all the Pro cyclists, I think Peter Sagan could likely learn the seven o'clock technique just by reading this post; although I would be willing to sign a contract to train him if needed!  If you're Peter Sagan or a competitive cyclist looking to learn the seven o'clock sprint technique, contact me at VincentVergaraFitness@gmail.com 


Vincent Vergara has been offering Virtual Personal Training since 2011 and operates out of Fishers, Indiana.  Vincent is also the Personal Training Manager at the Riviera Club in Indianapolis, Indiana- a facility home to over 8000 members.

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