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Where does strength/power reside?(14 posts)

Where does strength/power reside?mdehner
Sep 23, 2003 7:42 AM
I have only been a roadie for about 18 months, but something puzzles me: is there a necessary relationship between strength/power and muscle size/definition?

I am mystified over the explosive acceleration and unwavering climbing endurance of guys and gals who,if you saw them off the bike, could never be mistaken for athletes, just skin and bone (witness the Spaniards' pic referenced below). Likewise, I have outridden gym-buffs who seem to be packing useless muscle bulk.

What gives, how exactly can such extreme muscular power and endurance be packed onto those skinny riders?
The engine: Heart and Lungs. Legs are secondary. nmSpunout
Sep 23, 2003 7:55 AM
A short exercise physiology lesson..Dwayne Barry
Sep 23, 2003 8:09 AM
"is there a necessary relationship between strength/power and muscle size/definition?"

Yes, at least between strength and size. Strength is usually defined as the maximum force generating ability of a muscle. Force is proportional to cross sectional area, so if you double the size of a muscle, force will double. Definition is related to how much fat you have, low fat = defined muscle (whether they're big or not).

Now to the part everybody confuses. Strong/powerful muscles do not equal fatigue resistant muscles! Cycling is about producing a relatively low-force many, many times. Largely this is not about how strong the muscle is but how well it resists fatigue (primarily through adaptations to increase its oxidative capacity). Clearly there is a penalty for the added muscle mass that makes a muscle "strong" or else endurance athletes would look like sprinters (who essentially resemble powerlifters/ bodybuilders).

"What gives, how exactly can such extreme muscular power and endurance be packed onto those skinny riders?"

They don't have extreme muscular power. A track sprinter, weightlifters or even many sedentary individuals would probably blow those skinny guys away in a sprint from a fully rested condition. Of course, stick in an effort of even a few minutes and certainly anything longer, and you'd probably be better off putting your money on the endurance athlete in a sprint. Because now it's not about absolute power, but about producing a relatively higher power.
source of continuing power?DougSloan
Sep 23, 2003 8:16 AM
Is the source of sustainable power actually in the cells, mitochondria, etc.? My understanding is that the cardiovascular system adapts to increasing ability of the cells to utilize oxygen, fat, and glycogen, not the other way around.

Yes, bike "power" is largely a function of not only how hard can you press the pedals (strength), but how quickly and frequently. Formula I engines make relatively little torque (ability to twist the crank) but turn 15,000 times a minute.

Actually, there are both...Dwayne Barry
Sep 23, 2003 8:54 AM
peripheral (muscle) and central (cardiovascular) adaptations. The CV system adapts to deliver more oxygen and the muscle adapts to use that oxygen to produce ATP.
often with someone else_rt_
Sep 23, 2003 8:28 AM
at least for me, anyway ;-)

specifically trained muscles. no extra weight to carry up the hills. lungs & hearts the size of my living room with efficiency to die for.

Sep 23, 2003 9:19 AM
Sprints in the leg muscles - Otherwise Everywherebimini
Sep 23, 2003 9:23 AM
The short bursts of speed such as sprints are produced entirely within in the leg muscles. These bursts of speed are produced anaerobically within the muscle and the heart and lung don't play a role except in the recovery afterwards. Longer duration activities are aerobic. All the systems in the body come into play for the long term effort.

If you look at those skinny riders they have some very well defined leg muscles (especially the sprinters). From what I can figure, the main reason racers shave is to show off thier leg muscles, to make the other riders think twice about who is the most powerful rider. The rest of the muscles in the body don't play much of a role other than keeping the rider upright on the bike. Any extra muscles or fat is just extra useless weight to lug up the hill.

This is just theory for me since I am not one of those skinny riders. I rode at races with guys that look like death warmed over. All skin and bones, but when we get to the big hills they always go off the front. I can only try to minimize the damage and hope to catch up on the down side.
In a sense yes, but...Dwayne Barry
Sep 23, 2003 9:34 AM
all the force to propel your bike is produced by the muscles whether that force is produced for 10 second or 10 minutes or 10 hours. Just in the case of a 10 second max effort, very little of the energy to fuel those muscles contractions use oxygen. Beyond that short time the cardiovascular system becomes increasingly important as the supplier of one of the substrates (oxygen) to produce the energy to fuel the muscle. By 2 minutes or so (of a max effort) almost all energy production uses oxygen.

As to why cyclists shave their legs? It's because it identifies them as a "serious" cyclist and somebody who should be admitted to the "club". IMHO, vanity, road rash cleaning, massage, aero benefits are all far behind that reason as to why, ultimately, most roadies, shave their legs.
There is no Aero benifit to shavingHAL9010
Sep 23, 2003 10:27 AM
That is the benifit is percevied not actuall. All in your head unless you were genetically blessed with a true hair suit. But let's not discount the enormous value of psycological advantage.
If anything leg hair will aid in better laminar flow but air is not nearly as viscious as water at the velocities we bikers nominaly operate at. So why do swimmers shave? For the same mental reasons. (The high zuit speed suits make the laminar flow of the water better, more uniform than natural body hair, in most cases)

So shave if you wish. Road rash cleanup will be easier but you will not be any faster. you'll just use more of your life time doing something you just don't need to do but want to do.
I realize that...Dwayne Barry
Sep 23, 2003 3:24 PM
nonetheless every once in a while you'll hear someone say that's why they shave. Although more often it is the reason non-cyclists think cyclists shave their legs.
it's all about power/weight ratiovelocity
Sep 23, 2003 9:35 AM
Lean, strong muscles trained specifically for cycling will outride overmuscled gym buffs on bikes every time. And those same people will do reps with weights you or I couldn't lift once.

Having just resumed strength training (designing a program out of various books like CYCLIST'S TRAINING BIBLE with help from a personal trainer), right away I feel like a fish out of water. On the road, if I want to, I can pass just about any cyclist. In the gym, compared to some, I'm a bit of a weakling. But you're right, a lot of folk add "useless muscle bulk." In most cases they lay it on not to facilitate excelling in a particular sport but for cosmetic reasons.
Feel the same way about strength training...Spunout
Sep 23, 2003 9:48 AM
First go at it last year: Great all winter and for my first two weeks cycling outside. After ramping up the miles, my legs reverted to cyclists legs. Any power gains must be learned on the bicycle, not in a squat rack.

Want power in your quads? Do hill reps in 53x12.
Not true............CARBON110
Sep 23, 2003 7:18 PM
Im hesitant to say anything but here is more accurate info. Your goal should be to become a better cyclist all around ie meaning at sprinting, climbing, and TTing. How do you do that? Well, for most if this is what you want make the commitment. Secondly, bike riders do possess different natural abilities BUT anyone can become a great bike rider but some have to work harder then others at it.
Create a large aerobic base by cycling outside as much as possible in zones 1 and 2 from Oct-Feb/March. During this time lift weights religously 3x a week. When riding your bike add some 53x12 force intervals once/twice a week. Eat well and rest well. Also practice your cadence and pushing bigger gears faster but below 150HR during your off season but DONT fatigue yourself. Continue to lift weights all year at least once a week EXCEPT a week before your peak races. But moderate weights to a "maintain level""
Plan your year and your peaks and use specific workouts to increase your power/LT/VO2 max at the CORRECT times of the year. Pace yourself. Keep the commitment and have fun on the side with group rides and annual fun rides. Cat up asap if you have good bike handling skills which you will if you built a really good base over the winter.
Now you know your body and your bike and how to ride better then you ever expected, you have worked harder at cycling then anything else in your life since it has occupied your time, your mind, you have planned everything from what you eat to how you manage your weekends and your time... your stronger then ever and the benefits?
Well you start winning races and keeping up with group rides is no problem, your never nervous at a race and there are few questions you cant answer when it comes to biking. Pushing yourself happens at hard crits or when you ride the local paceline in the ""A"" group with the cat1 and 2s and finish with them as well. Sex gets better too and you love your bike as much as the day you bought it because your better at riding it then most people are at any one thing in thier life..... just my experince