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Ernst A. Hansen and Gerald Smith

Cadence choice during cycling has been of considerable interest among cyclists, coaches, and researchers for nearly 100 years. The present review examines and summarizes the current knowledge of factors affecting the freely chosen cadence during submaximal cycling and of the influence of cadence choice on performance. In addition, suggestions for future research are given along with scientifically based, practical recommendations for those involved in cycling. Within the past 10 years, a number of papers have been published that have brought novel insight into the subject. For example, under the influence of spinal central pattern generators, a robust innate voluntary motor rhythm has been suggested as the primary basis for freely chosen cadence in cycling. This might clarify the cadence paradox in which the freely chosen cadence during low-to-moderate submaximal cycling is considerably higher and thereby less economical than the energetically optimal cadence. A number of factors, including age, power output, and road gradient, have been shown to affect the choice of cadence to some extent. During high-intensity cycling, close to the maximal aerobic power output, cyclists choose an energetically economical cadence that is also favorable for performance. In contrast, the choice of a relatively high cadence during cycling at low-to-moderate intensity is uneconomical and could compromise performance during prolonged cycling.

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Ernst A. Hansen and Bent R. Rønnestad

The present article reviews effects of training at low imposed cadences in cycling. The authors performed a systematic literature search of MEDLINE and SPORTDiscus up to April 2016 to identify potentially relevant articles. Based on the titles and abstracts of the identified articles, a subset of articles was selected for evaluation. These articles constituted original-research articles on adaptation to training at different imposed cadences in cycling. Seven articles were selected for evaluation. With regard to the terminology in the present article, low cadences are those below the freely chosen cadence. The rate of 80 rpm can, eg, be considered a low cadence if effort is maximal. On the other hand, the cadence has to be lower than 80 rpm (eg, 40–70 rpm) to be considered low if cycling is performed at low power output. The reason is that the choice of cadence depends on power output. In conclusion, there is presently no strong evidence for a benefit of training at low cadences. It can tentatively be recommended to consider including training bouts of cycling at low cadence at moderate to maximal intensity. The reason for the restrained recommendation is that some of the selected studies indicate no clear performance-enhancing effect of training at low cadence or even indicate a superior effect from training at freely chosen cadence. Furthermore, the selected studies are considerably dissimilar with respect to, eg, participant characteristics and to the applied training regimens.

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Ernst A. Hansen, Bent R. Rønnestad, Geir Vegge and Truls Raastad

The authors tested whether heavy strength training, including hip-flexion exercise, would reduce the extent of the phase in the crank revolution where negative or retarding crank torque occurs. Negative torque normally occurs in the upstroke phase when the leg is lifted by flexing the hip. Eighteen well-trained cyclists either performed 12 wk of heavy strength training in addition to their usual endurance training (E+S; n = 10) or merely continued their usual endurance training during the intervention period (E; n = 8). The strength training consisted of 4 lower body exercises (3 × 4–10 repetition maximum) performed twice a week. E+S enhanced cycling performance by 7%, which was more than in E (P = .02). Performance was determined as average power output in a 5-min all-out trial performed subsequent to 185 min of submaximal cycling. The performance enhancement, which has been reported previously, was here shown to be accompanied by improved pedaling efficacy during the all-out cycling. Thus, E+S shortened the phase where negative crank torque occurs by ~16°, corresponding to ~14%, which was more than in E (P = .002). In conclusion, adding heavy strength training to usual endurance training in well-trained cyclists improves pedaling efficacy during 5-min all-out cycling performed after 185 min of cycling.

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Ernst A. Hansen, Michael Voigt, Uwe G. Kersting and Pascal Madeleine

In the current study we investigated changes in voluntary rhythmic leg movement frequency (freely chosen cycling cadence) and rhythmic movement pattern (tangential pedal force profile) after fatiguing hip flexion and hip extension exercises. Nine healthy individuals performed ergometer cycling at freely chosen cadence and at a cadence of 1 Hz before and after fatiguing hip flexion and hip extension exercises. The freely chosen cadence was not affected after fatiguing exercises. An alteration of key characteristics of the tangential pedal force profile was found during cycling at a cadence of 1 Hz after hip flexion exercise. Thus, minimum tangential pedal force decreased by 12.0 ± 11.3% (p = .006), while maximum tangential pedal force increased by 4.6 ± 4.2% (p = .011), and the phase with negative tangential pedal force increased by 2.6 ± 3.2% (p = .040). In conclusion, novel information was obtained on aspects of rhythmic leg movement behavior in form of pedaling after fatiguing exercise.