Building a Better Pedal Stroke

This post originally appeared on last week and covers some ideas about using strength training to improve your pedal stroke. Most riders are told that a powerful, efficient pedal stroke means that you need to spin circles or pull through the top of your pedal stroke. However, some recent studies are calling that advice into question. Based on this new understanding of the pedal stroke several top coaches now call for a powerful down stroke with the lead leg while minimizing the interference from the trail leg–a controlled “mash” in effect.

In this video I go over what science is now telling us about a powerful and efficient pedal stroke and demonstrate three exercises to help improve yours:

1. Single Leg Roman Dead Lift

2. Bulgarian Split Squat

3. Reverse Lunge with High Knee

Do these exercises a couple of times a week and you’ll be on your way to building a more powerful, efficient pedal stroke.

-James Wilson-

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WordPress Comments:

  1. Dan says:

    Hey James
    Now that I’m riding with flats I have been experimenting with my pedal stroke. For sure I mash but lately I have been amazed at how my pedal stroke seems to even out when I take a slight bit of weight off of my trailing foot. By evening out I mean it just seems smoother and way more efficient. I can notice that when I remember to unweight climbing up hills it becomes easier and I feel like I have more power. I have been doing your core workouts as well as bulgarian split squats and one legged dead lifts for some time now. I know this is helping. Thanks again for an awesome vidio.

    Reply • September 19 at 3:29 pm
    • bikejames says:

      Funny you should mention that because I wrote an article yesterday going over why you do need to pull through the top some but don’t want to emphasize it after a certain point. Great observation, let me know what you think to the article, it will run tomorrow…

      Reply • September 20 at 8:46 am
  2. scott says:

    Does this idea of finishing off the pedal stroke from the hip apply to standing pedaling, seated pedaling, or both?

    Reply • September 19 at 4:53 pm
    • bikejames says:

      Both – I look at it this way…

      There is an optimal way to power lower body locomotion, be it running, jogging, seated pedaling or standing pedaling. The principles remain the same, however the exact methods may change a bit. Seated pedaling is going to look and feel a bit different but the fact that you want to use your hips to push through the bottom of the stroke vs. curling the hamstring remains the same.

      Reply • September 20 at 8:45 am
  3. ryan says:

    Also try all these while standing on a bosu or as a bonus round flip the bosu upside-down so you’re standing on the flat part and balancing on the round part. Great for balance and control on the bike in rocky and uneven terrain. Feel the burn! 🙂

    Reply • September 19 at 8:31 pm
  4. WAKi says:

    I noticed recently that driving the foot a bit longer at the bottom of the stroke makes it next to natural to unweigh the foot when it goes up, but if you try to pull there’s no bloody way to put max available power while pushing over the top. Actualy LeeMcCormacks tip about dropping the heel just before the push over the top made a lot of difference. There’s just not enough time after eventual “pulling” to drop the heel slightly and push. If you pull it simply means just before the max power your foot is tipping down not up.

    Reply • September 21 at 12:10 am
  5. lynda says:

    I just read these articles and have not tried this new method for efficient pedal stroke but my first thought is imbalance in muscle strength between your lead leg and your trailing leg. The exercises above to improve this pedal stroke – are they intended to be done for just the lead leg or both legs?

    Reply • September 24 at 4:26 am
    • bikejames says:

      The “lead leg” is whatever leg is pressing down during the pedal stroke and you would want to do these exercises on both legs.

      Reply • September 26 at 12:47 pm

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James Wilson