Is Training the Upstroke A Valid Training Approach?

Where’s the rationale for training the upstroke of the cycling action? Is there any scientific evidence to back it up?

In Jeffrey P. Broker’s chapter 5 article on Cycling Biomechanics: Road and Mountain in the second edition of Edmund R. Burke’s book High-Tech Cycling he states on page 133:

Cyclists of all abilities exhibit negative effective forces (i.e., forces applied to the pedal perpendicular to the crank, but in opposition to crank rotation) during the upstroke (180-360 degrees) in steady state cycling. As we have recognised at the Olympic training centre, cyclists correctly sense that they lift or pull the leg up during recovery, but do not lift the leg as fast as the pedal is rising. Thus, the pedal actually helps lift the leg.

Compared to recreational cyclists, elite cyclists generally have reduced negative force effectiveness during the upstroke, and typically, the region of the upstroke during which they exhibit these negative effective forces is reduced.

This final statement gives the rational for training the upstroke musculature. It is possible to improve cycling efficiency by reducing the negative effective forces on the upstroke by using training techniques that train the upstroke musculature.

This can include single leg drills, single leg hill climbing, over gear training, and my personal favourite, and possibly the most effective, over gear training with powercranks.

In my opinion, if you use powercranks at normal crank lengths, this is the only time you should really be using them in your training.



  1. says

    Servus Courtney,
    thanks for your article concerning the pros and cons of pulling.
    Obvious that I disagree ;-).
    I claim that apart from lifting the upcoming leg nothing is required – at least when you work with a foot in bio-mxc² (mid foot)) position..
    Personally I ride my bike to work every day – in BIRKENSTOCKs. No fear as after a short while you’ll get used to this and learn that it will help a lot for pushing all kinds of bikes like mtb,, race bike and triathlon.
    The cranks you mention in my experiencewith riders who have been using them turned out to have a detrimental effect on a smooth spin.
    Because they add a new muscle group to the chain which is comparatively weak and fragile. Like in every chain when it comes to endurance its the w e a k e s t link which decides on your overall performance so I’d be careful to put the burden of premature exhaustion on a tiny group…. .

    • says

      Absolutely agree with you Gotz.
      However, there is some benefit in improving the oxidative capacity of the upstroke musculature. You just don’t want to overdo this type of training in detriment to the prime mover muscles.

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