Article

The Effect of Cadence on the Mechanics and Energetics of Constant Power Cycling

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Abstract

At a constant power output, cyclists prefer to use a higher cadence than those that minimize metabolic cost. The neuromuscular mechanism underpinning the preferred higher cadence remains unclear. Purpose: The aim of this study was to investigate the effect of cadence on joint level work and vastus lateralis (VL) fascicle mechanics while cycling at a constant, submaximal, power output. We hypothesized that preferred cycling cadence would enhance the power capacity of the VL muscle when compared with a more economical cadence. Furthermore, we predicted that the most economical cadence would coincide with minimal total electromyographic activity from the leg muscles. Methods: Metabolic cost, lower-limb kinematics, joint level work, VL fascicle mechanics, and muscle activation of the VL, rectus femoris, biceps femoris, gastrocnemius medialis, and soleus muscles were measured during cycling at a constant power output of 2.5 W·kg and cadences of 40, 60, 80, and 100 rpm. A preferred condition was also performed where cadence feedback was hidden from the participant. Results: Metabolic cost was lowest at 60 rpm, but the mean preferred cadence was 81 rpm. The distribution of joint work remained constant across cadences, with the majority of positive work being performed at the knee. The preferred cadence coincided with the highest VL power capacity, without a significant penalty to efficiency, based on fascicle shortening velocity. Conclusions: Cycling at a higher cadence is preferred to ensure that the muscle's ability to produce positive power remains high. Further investigations are required to examine what feedback mechanism could be responsible for the optimization of this motor pattern.

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... For example, when nonseated at 70 rpm, the period of knee extension was so great (59%) that the mean knee extension velocity was actually 5.8% lower than when seated. As supported by the findings of Brennan et al. (34), the reduction in mean knee extension velocity in the nonseated (181°·s −1 ) compared with seated (192°·s −1 ) posture at 70 rpm would bring the fascicle shortening velocity of VL closer to its optimum for both efficiency and force production. Thus, it appears that riders use extra degrees of freedom afforded in the nonseated posture to increase the force-producing capabilities of knee extensor muscles. ...
... Thus, the most likely explanation is other knee flexor muscles were responsible for this increase. Another explanation is the greater mean knee flexion angle when seated compared with nonseated may have shifted the fascicle operating lengths of the knee flexors closer to optimal and hence been more favorable for generating power (34). On the whole, it appears there is a greater reliance on knee flexors to contribute power when seated, and there is a greater reliance on hip flexors to produce power when nonseated at 120 rpm. ...
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Cyclists frequently use a non-seated posture when accelerating, climbing steep hills, and sprinting; yet, the biomechanical difference between seated and non-seated cycling remains unclear. Purpose: To test the effects of posture (seated and non-seated) and cadence (70 rpm and 120 rpm) on joint power contributions, effective mechanical advantage, and muscle activations within the leg during very-high-power output cycling. Methods: Fifteen male participants rode on an instrumented ergometer at 50% of their individualised instantaneous maximal power (10.74 ± 1.99 W⋅kg; above the reported threshold for seated to non-seated transition) in different postures (seated and non-seated) and at different cadences (70 rpm and 120 rpm); whilst leg muscle activity, full body motion capture, and crank radial and tangential forces were recorded. A scaled, full-body model was used to solve inverse kinematics and inverse dynamics to determine joint displacements and net joint moments. Statistical comparisons were made using repeated measure, two-way analyses of variance (posture x cadence). Results: There were significant main effects of posture and cadence on joint power contributions. A key finding was that the non-seated posture increased negative power at the knee, with an associated significant decrease of net power at the knee. The contribution of knee power decreased by 15% at both 70 and 120 rpm (~=0.8 W·kg) when non-seated compared to seated. Subsequently, hip power and ankle power contributions were significantly higher when non-seated compared to seated at both cadences. In both postures, knee power was 9% lower at 120 rpm compared to 70 rpm (~=0.4 W·kg). Conclusion: These results evidenced that the contribution of knee joint power to leg power was reduced by switching from a seated to non-seated posture during very-high-power output cycling, however the size of the reduction is cadence dependent.
... In cycling, an example of a combined use of biomechanics and neurophysiology is presented in [7]. Here, the authors have studied the effect of cadence on joint work level and vastus lateralis mechanics through a multifactorial analysis based on motion capture techniques, electromyography and using musculoskeletal digital models (i.e., OpenSim, Stanford University, USA [8]). ...
... IV and Tab. V) as well as the muscular activation data (i.e., RMS and synergy activation coefficients), the values for the biomechanical indices β, δ and are computed according to (5)- (7). The results are reported in Tab. ...
... For example, when nonseated at 70 rpm, the period of knee extension was so great (59%) that the mean knee extension velocity was actually 5.8% lower than when seated. As supported by the findings of Brennan et al. (34), the reduction in mean knee extension velocity in the nonseated (181°·s −1 ) compared with seated (192°·s −1 ) posture at 70 rpm would bring the fascicle shortening velocity of VL closer to its optimum for both efficiency and force production. Thus, it appears that riders use extra degrees of freedom afforded in the nonseated posture to increase the force-producing capabilities of knee extensor muscles. ...
... Thus, the most likely explanation is other knee flexor muscles were responsible for this increase. Another explanation is the greater mean knee flexion angle when seated compared with nonseated may have shifted the fascicle operating lengths of the knee flexors closer to optimal and hence been more favorable for generating power (34). On the whole, it appears there is a greater reliance on knee flexors to contribute power when seated, and there is a greater reliance on hip flexors to produce power when nonseated at 120 rpm. ...
Preprint
Riding a bicycle out of the saddle allows cyclists to generate higher peak power and improve uphill time trial performance, yet the mechanisms underpinning these performance advantages remain unclear. PURPOSE: To test the effects of posture (seated and non-seated) and cadence (70 rpm and 120 rpm) on the distribution of joint power, effective mechanical advantage and muscle activation within the lower limb during high-power output bicycling. METHODS: Fifteen male subjects rode on an instrumented ergometer at 50% of their individualised peak power (above the reported threshold for seated to non-seated transition) in different postures (seated and non-seated), and at different cadences (70 rpm and 120 rpm), whilst electromyography (EMG) from lower limb muscles, full body motion capture and crank radial and tangential forces were recorded. A scaled, full-body OpenSim™ model was used to solve inverse kinematics and inverse dynamics to determine joint motion and net joint moments. Statistical comparisons were made using a repeated measure, two-way ANOVA (posture x cadence). RESULTS: There were significant main effects of posture and cadence on the distribution of joint power within the lower limb. Subjects produced 15% less power at the knee, 10% more power at the hip and 5% more power at the ankle in the non-seated compared to seated posture. In both postures, subjects produced 9% less power at the knee, 18% more power at the hip and 9% less power at the ankle at 120 rpm compared to 70 rpm. CONCLUSION: These results provide evidence for the theory that the non-seated posture decreases mechanical requirements at the knee when bicycling at high power outputs, however this effect is cadence dependent.
... Only the two more recent studies measured cadence (CA) during XCO competition [4,5] ( Table 2). The results showed that the CA selected by the riders was higher than these reported in the laboratory tests considered most effective [10,11], mainly when time spent not pedaling was excluded. Unlike laboratory tests where the PO is constant, the XCO circuits are extremely complex, which include technical sections such as rolling over obstacles, requiring a high CA and PO variation according to the demands of each section, limiting the ability to identify an optimal cadence [12]. ...
Article
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Mountain biking (MTB) is a cycling modality performed on a variety of unpaved terrain. Although the cross-country Olympic race is the most popular cross-country (XC) format, other XC events have gained increased attention. XC-MTB has repeatedly modified its rules and race format. Moreover, bikes have been modified throughout the years in order to improve riding performance. Therefore, the aim of this review was to present the most relevant studies and discuss the main results on the XC-MTB. Limited evidence on the topic suggests that the XC-MTB events present a variation in exercise intensity, demanding cardiovascular fitness and high power output. Nonetheless, these responses and demands seem to change according to each event. The characteristics of the cyclists differ according to the performance level, suggesting that these parameters may be important to achieve superior performance in XC-MTB. Moreover, factors such as pacing and ability to perform technical sections of the circuit might influence general performance. Bicycles equipped with front and rear suspension (i.e., full suspension) and 29” wheels have been shown to be effective on the XC circuit. Lastly, strategies such as protective equipment, bike fit, resistance training and accident prevention measures can reduce the severity and the number of injuries.
... min −1 ) (Fuentes et al. 2013). As the rate of metabolic energy expenditure is increased at a given power output at higher pedalling cadences (Umberger et al. 2006;Brennan et al. 2019), it is possible the higher cadences achieved during laboratory trials may be necessary to fully deplete work above MMSS in the initial period of a 3MT, and therefore for end-test power to produce a valid estimate of the MMSS. This may explain why other studies have reported lower end-test power output during laboratory-based 3MTs performed at higher than preferred cadences (Wright et al. 2019), and that critical power is greater when cycling at 60 vs.100 revs . ...
Article
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Purpose: The three-minute all-out test (3MT), when performed on a laboratory ergometer in a linear mode, can be used to estimate the heavy-severe-intensity transition, or maximum metabolic steady state (MMSS), using the end-test power output. As the 3MT only requires accurate measurement of power output and time, it is possible the 3MT could be used in remote settings using personal equipment without supervision for quantification of MMSS. Methods: The aim of the present investigation was to determine the reliability and validity of remotely performed 3MTs (3MTR) for estimation of MMSS. Accordingly, 53 trained cyclists and triathletes were recruited to perform one familiarisation and two experimental 3MTR trials to determine its reliability. A sub-group (N = 10) was recruited to perform three-to-five 30 min laboratory-based constant-work rate trials following completion of one familiarisation and two experimental 3MTR trials. Expired gases were collected throughout constant-work rate trials and blood lactate concentration was measured at 10 and 30 min to determine the highest power output at which steady-state [Formula: see text] (MMSS-[Formula: see text]) and blood lactate (MMSS-[La-]) were achieved. Results: The 3MTR end-test power (EPremote) was reliable (coefficient of variation, 4.5% [95% confidence limits, 3.7, 5.5%]), but overestimated MMSS (EPremote, 283 ± 51 W; MMSS-[Formula: see text], 241 ± 46 W, P = 0.0003; MMSS-[La-], 237 ± 47 W, P = 0.0003). This may have been due to failure to deplete the finite work capacity above MMSS during the 3MTR. Conclusion: These results suggest that the 3MTR should not be used to estimate MMSS in endurance-trained cyclists.
... (iii) At least in some locomotor tasks, we tend to choose a cadence that is suboptimum from an energetics perspective (e.g. we may transition from walking to running and vice versa despite incurring an increased energetic cost (Hreljac, 1993;Tseh et al., 2002)), which in some cases may allow the major propulsive muscles to work at shortening speeds commensurate with peak power production (e.g. in bicycling (Brennan et al., 2018)), or we might choose to optimise gait stability at the expense of energetic cost (e.g. when walking downhill (Hunter et al., 2010)), or choose to locomote under conditions of lower total muscle activation, and presumably sense of effort (crouched walking), rather than conditions requiring higher energetic cost (e.g. walking uphill) (McDonald et al., 2022). ...
Preprint
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Elastic strain energy is stored and released from long, distal tendons such as the Achilles during locomotion, reducing locomotor energy cost by minimising muscle shortening distance and speed, and thus activation. However, numerous additional, often unrecognised, advantages of long tendons may speculatively be of greater evolutionary advantage, including the reduced limb inertia afforded by shorter and lighter muscles (reducing proximal muscle force requirement); reduced energy dissipation during the foot-ground collision; capacity to store and reuse the muscle work done to dampen the vibrations triggered by foot-ground collisions; and attenuation of work-induced muscle damage. Cumulatively, these effects should reduce both neuromotor fatigue and sense of locomotor effort, allowing humans to choose to move at faster speeds for longer. As these benefits are greater at faster locomotor speeds, they are consistent with the hypothesis that running gaits used by our ancestors exerted substantial evolutionary pressure on Achilles tendon length.
... Of note is that rest periods of 5 min are commonly applied in cycling studies where several consecutive bouts are performed (Brennan et al., 2019;Chavarren & Calbet, 1999;Marsh & Martin, 1998 Therefore, the purpose of the present study was to test whether history-dependent freely chosen pedalling rhythmicity occurred in a second pedalling bout, performed at a freely chosen cadence when a 5-min rest period was incorporated between that bout and an initial bout, which was performed at preset target cadence. In the case that history dependence (as it has been reported previously) indeed was averted by the incorporated rest, it could support the interpretation that a brief rest period effectively can eliminate the described phenomenon of motor behavioural history dependence. ...
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Background: It was recently reported that the freely chosen cadence at the end of a bout of pedalling depended on relatively high and low preset cadences applied at the beginning of the bout. This was denoted as a phenomenon of motor behavioural history dependence. Objective: The present study aimed at expanding that recent finding by testing whether the described history dependence occurred if 5-min rest was incorporated between the initial pedalling at preset cadence and the final pedalling at freely chosen cadence. Methods: Twenty-six participants performed three separate sequences of submaximal ergometer pedalling. In sequence A, pedalling at 50 rpm was followed by 5-min rest and pedalling at freely chosen cadence. In sequence B, pedalling at 90 rpm was followed by 5-min rest and pedalling at freely chosen cadence. In sequence C (denoted reference), the cadence was freely chosen throughout all pedalling. Behavioural (cadence), biomechanical (tangential pedal force), and physiological (heart rate) responses were measured. Results: Initial pedalling at 90 rpm caused the subsequent freely chosen cadence (74.5 ± 3.3 rpm) to be about 6% higher (p = 0.001) than the reference freely chosen cadence at the end of sequence C (70.8 ± 3.2 rpm). A similar difference did not occur between sequences A and C. Conclusions: These divergent findings, combined with previous reports of clear history dependence in pedalling sequences (performed similarly to here, only without incorporated rest periods), overall suggest that the present observations reflected a borderland of motor behavioural history dependence. Further, the 5-min incorporated rest apparently weakened the history dependence phenomenon.
... Curiously, the relationships between cycling torque and single-joint torque-generating capacities of the various muscle groups have never been investigated while considering this standing position. While the higher power during standing sprint cycling could be related to the use of athlete body mass , it was also suggested that changes in lower-limb kinematics (i.e., joint angles) could lead some muscles to operate closer to their optimal length and thus to enhance their force production (Brennan et al., 2019;. Hence, it would be interesting to determine whether more specific torque-angle configurations allowed by this standing position potentially modify the relationships observed in the seated condition. ...
Article
This study aimed to determine the relationship between the torque-generating capacity in sprint cycling and the strength capacity of the six lower-limb muscle groups in male and female world-class sprint cyclists. Eleven female and fifteen male top-elite cyclists performed 5-s sprints at maximal power in seated and standing positions. They also performed a set of maximal voluntary ankle, knee and hip flexions and extensions to assess single-joint isometric and isokinetic torques. Isokinetic torques presented stronger correlations with cycling torque than isometric torques for both body positions, regardless of the group. In the female group, knee extension and hip flexion torques accounted for 81.2% of the variance in cycling torque, while the ability to predict cycling torque was less evident in males (i.e., 59% of variance explained by the plantarflexion torque only). The standing condition showed higher correlations than seated and a better predictive model in males (R² = 0.88). In addition to the knee extensors and flexors and hip extensors, main power producers, the strength capacity of lower-limb distal plantarflexor (and to a lesser extent dorsiflexor) muscles, as well as other non-measured qualities (e.g., the upper body), might be determinants to produce such extremely high cycling torque in males.
... 1,20,21 In addition, previous investigators have demonstrated that a pedaling rate of 80 rpm elicits observable muscle shortening velocities that were favorable for both power production as well as efficiency. 22,23 Importantly, the chainrings on the cycle ergometer was veiled such that participants were visually blinded to the condition but could sometimes perceive differences in the pedaling action. Schematic of an ellipse with eccentricity defined as the ratio of major-to-minor axes, where a is the length of the major axis and b is the length of the minor axis. ...
Article
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Pedal speed and mechanical power output account for 99% of metabolic cost during submaximal cycling. Noncircular chainrings can alter instantaneous crank angular velocity and thereby pedal speed. Reducing pedal speed during the portion of the cycle in which most power is produced could reduce metabolic cost and increase metabolic efficiency. Purpose: To determine the separate contributions of pedal speed and chainring shape/eccentricity to the metabolic cost of producing power and evaluate joint-specific kinematics and kinetics during submaximal cycling across 3 chainring eccentricities (CON = 1.0; LOW = 1.13; HIGH = 1.24). Methods: Eight cyclists performed submaximal cycling at power outputs eliciting 30%, 60%, and 90% of their individual lactate threshold at pedaling rates of 80 rpm under each chainring condition (CON80rpm; LOW80rpm; HIGH80rpm) and at pedaling rates for the CON chainring chosen to match pedal speeds of the noncircular chainrings (CON78rpm to LOW80rpm; CON75rpm to HIGH80rpm). Physiological measures, metabolic cost, and gross efficiency were determined by indirect calorimetry. Pedal and joint-specific powers were determined using pedal forces and limb kinematics. Results: Physiological and metabolic measures were not influenced by eccentricity and pedal speed (all Ps > .05). Angular velocities produced during knee and hip extension were lower with the HIGH80rpm condition compared with the CON80rpm condition (all Ps < .05), while angular velocity produced during ankle plantar flexion remained unchanged. Conclusions: Despite the noncircular chainrings imposing their eccentricity on joint angular kinematics, they did not reduce metabolic cost or increase gross efficiency. Our results suggest that noncircular chainrings neither improve nor compromise submaximal cycling performance in trained cyclists.
... A combination of the two mentioned possibilities could also have occurred. Other researchers have focused their research on characteristics of muscle mechanics and suggested that the freely chosen cadence is the one that maximises the capacity for muscle power production (Brennan et al. 2019). Still, future work has to reveal how initial cycling at relatively low and high cadences, as, in the present study, may affect the capacity for muscle power production. ...
Article
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Purpose History dependence can refer to the fact that parts of the human physiology (e.g., one or a group of muscles, or the nervous system) as well as functional aspects of the human (e.g., motor behaviour, or performance) depend on prior muscle activation. In the present study, it was investigated whether initial cycling at relatively low and high preset target cadences affected a subsequent freely chosen cadence at the end of the same bout of submaximal ergometer cycling. Methods Twenty-two participants performed a single test session, which consisted of separate bouts of submaximal ergometer cycling. In one bout, cycling at 50 rpm was followed by cycling at freely chosen cadence. In another bout, cycling at 90 rpm was followed by cycling at freely chosen cadence. In yet another bout (denoted reference), the cadence was freely chosen throughout. Behavioural (cadence), biomechanical (tangential pedal force), and physiological (heart rate) responses were measured. Results Increased cadence resulted in decreased maximal tangential pedal force in accordance with existing knowledge. Initial cycling at 50 and 90 rpm caused freely chosen cadence to be about 5% lower and higher, respectively, than the freely chosen cadence (72.4 ± 2.4 rpm) at the end of the reference bout. These differences in cadence were not accompanied by statistically significant differences in heart rate. Conclusion The freely chosen cadence depended on the preset cadence applied at the beginning of the bout. This was denoted a phenomenon of motor behavioural history dependence.
Article
Near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) provides a simple and reliable measure of skeletal muscle oxidative capacity; however, its relationship to aerobic fitness and sex are unclear. We hypothesized that NIRS-derived oxidative capacity in the vastus lateralis (VL) and medial gastrocnemius (MG) would be correlated to indices of aerobic fitness and independent of sex. Twenty-six participants (13 males, 13 females) performed ramp- and step-incremental tests to volitional exhaustion on separate days to establish maximal oxygen uptake (V̇O 2 max), peak power output (PPO), lactate threshold (LT), gas exchange threshold (GET), respiratory compensation point (RCP), and maximal fat oxidation (MFO). Data were normalized to lean body mass to account for sex-based differences in body composition. Exercise tests were preceded by duplicate measurements of NIRS-derived oxidative capacity on the VL and MG muscles (i.e., repeated arterial occlusions following a brief set of muscle contractions). Skeletal muscle oxidative capacity for the VL (mean±SD: 21.9±4.6s) and MG (22.5±6.1s) were similar but unrelated (r ² =0.03, p=0.39). Skeletal muscle oxidative capacity for the VL, but not the MG (p>0.05 for all variables), was significantly correlated with V̇O 2 max (r ² =0.24; p=0.01), PPO (r ² =0.23; p=0.01), LT (r ² =0.23; p=0.01), GET (r ² =0.23; p=0.01), and RCP (r ² =0.27; p=0.006). MFO was not correlated with VL or MG skeletal muscle oxidative capacity (p>0.05). Females (54.9±4.5mL/kg LBM/min) and males (56.0±6.2mL/kg LBM/min), matched for V̇O 2 max (p=0.62), had similar NIRS-derived oxidative capacities for VL (20.7±4.4s vs. 23.2±4.6s; p=0.18) and MG (24.4±6.8s vs. 20.5±4.8; p=0.10). Overall, NIRS-derived skeletal muscle oxidative capacity in VL is indicative of aerobic fitness and independent of sex in humans.
Article
Purpose: The physiological consequences of freely chosen cadence (FCC) during cycling remains poorly understood. We sought to determine the effect of cadence on the respiratory and hemodynamic response to cycling exercise. Methods: Eleven cyclists (10M:1F; age=27±6yr; V[Combining Dot Above]O2max=60.8±3.7ml·kg·min) completed four, 6-min constant-load cycling trials at 10% below their previously determined gas exchange threshold (i.e., 63±5% peak power) while pedaling at 60, 90, and 120rpm, and a FCC (94.3±6.9rpm), in randomized order. Standard cardiorespiratory parameters were measured and an esophageal electrode balloon catheter was used to assess electromyography of the diaphragm (EMGdi) and the work of breathing (Wb). Leg blood flow index (BFI) was determined on four muscles using near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) with indocyanine green dye injections. Results: Oxygen uptake (V[Combining Dot Above]O2) increased as a function of increasing cadence (all pairwise comparisons, p<0.05). EMGdi and Wb were significantly greater at 120rpm compared to all other conditions (all p<0.01). Vastus medialis and semitendinosus BFI were significantly greater at 120rpm compared to 60 rpm and 90 rpm (all p<0.05). Gastrocnemius BFI was higher at 120 rpm compared to all other cadences (all p<0.01). No difference in BFI was found in the vastus lateralis (p=0.06). BFI was significantly correlated with the increase in V[Combining Dot Above]O2 with increasing cadence in the medial gastrocnemius (p<0.001) and approached significance in the vastus lateralis (p=0.09), vastus medialis (p=0.06), and semitendinosus (p=0.09). There was no effect of cadence on Borg 0-10 breathing or leg discomfort ratings (p>0.05). Conclusions: High cadence cycling at submaximal exercise intensities is metabolically inefficient and increases EMGdi, Wb, and leg muscle blood flow relative to slower cadences.
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