By Team ICG® Master Trainer Joan Kent
(Jim Karanas has been travelling on ICG business and hasn”™t been available to supply posts for ICI-Pro for several weeks now. I”™m sure his many followers are disappointed, but I hope this brief post will be of interest and practical use for instructors and students of indoor cycling.)
Over 15 years ago, Frank Day created independent crank arms for bicycles. With independent crank arms, one leg can”™t assist the other in turning the pedals. The cyclist can”™t relax on the upstroke, but must actively raise the pedal, using the hip flexor and hamstring. If the rider does it right, the pedal stroke will be smooth and feel like a “regular” bike. If the pedal stroke is wrong, the entire stoke will be off in timing and simply fall apart. Mastering independent crank arms forces the rider to pedal more efficiently. It”™s said to increase power, as well. Another benefit is that the right and left leg muscles become more balanced, whereas fixed crank arms could perpetuate any strength imbalance between the sides. Finally, the rider gets to train ancillary muscles and coordination.
I never gave much thought to independent crank arms until I started Kranking in 2007. As most of you know, Johnny G created Spinning. (Where would any of us be today without that?) He also created Kranking and put independent crank arms on the Krankcycle.
Johnny knew Spinning would never “go” if he used independent crank arms because cyclists and riders of stationary fitness cycles in the gym were too accustomed to fixed crank arms. (One of my friends, a highly accomplished cyclist and a regular in Jim”™s classes, did a 95-mile ride with independent crank arms, which impressed me no end. He”™s an obvious exception.)
Kranking, however, had no such limitation because there were no expectations about the crank arms. The Krankcycle is a complete departure from the upper body ergometer. Few people like UBEs anyway, so departing in one more way was unlikely to meet with resistance. Enter independent crank arms on the Krankcycle, with all the benefits they provide.
All of that said and out of the way, here”™s the point of this post. Kranking can help you and/or your students develop better pedaling technique on an indoor cycle.
In order to Krank without letting the crank arms “clunk” as they go around the axis, you need to smooth out the basic arm stroke. One of the best ways to do that is to imagine and feel that you”™re making the biggest circle possible by pushing the crank arm around the largest circumference you can.
In Silicon Valley, where I”™ve done a lot of teaching, the engineers think I”™m crazy when I say that (“The crank arms are this long and won”™t change!”), but use your imagination and make the biggest circle possible. Push outward against the edge.
Keeping the crank arms together on the double Krank stroke takes coordination. Keeping them 180 degrees apart for a split rotation, as the legs are positioned on a bike, takes even more work. It will improve your upper body coordination, muscle balance and core strength. Once you”™ve smoothed out the basic stroke and mastered keeping your arms exactly 180 degrees apart for a good 15 minutes or longer, you”™re probably ready to transfer what you”™ve learned to indoor cycling.
I honestly don”™t have any specific training plan for you to follow here and wish I could present one. What happened to me after doing a lot of Kranking is that I noticed my cycling felt different. My pedal stroke on the bike — indoors and out — felt smoother and more even. I found myself pushing to the “outside” of the circumference of the circle as an automatic and natural motion.
It would be great to report that I did pre- and post-Kranking power tests on the bike, but as researchers say, it was a serendipitous finding, and purely anecdotal. Other faithful Krankcycle users did confirm having the same experience on bikes.
Of course, you could — and can — improve your pedaling technique on a bike with PowerCranks. But your students might not have access to one, while many gyms have Krankcycles.
At any rate, if you”™re looking for a way to help your students improve and balance their pedal stroke, this might be the unconventional solution. And it”™s fun. Please let me know how it works.
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When I started using the Krankcycle I felt the same how amazing it can help us to teach our student what is turning in circle using BOTH legs, the feeling also with the Krankcycle is amazing (if you go to fast you lose the control !), …
On a training perspective I see Kranking as an awesome way to train the core and the “cross chain motion” (motion between the shoulder and hip), it is totally transferable on the bike and is a great complement.
I which there would be more Krankcyle class …
Thanks so much for your comment. I agree with you completely that Kranking can teach us to turn the circle with both legs. As you say, it’s a great complement to cycling — and great cross-training for indoor cyclists. Jim wrote a post on it a while back, as you may recall.
I imagine there’s only one way to get more Krankcycle classes in your (or any) facility — ask for them. You might have to do some active recruiting of students, too. Unless people like us make indoor cycling participants aware of the benefits of Kranking, many will never even try it.
When Kranking was introduced there was an effort to combing Kranks and bikes (I think they called it Krank fusion).
Jim did a demo class. Four minutes on the bike Four minutes on the Krank. The core engagement required by Kranking as well as working those smaller muscles of the arm, shoulder and back combined with some climbing efforts on the bike created a great full body workout.
this sort of class never got off the ground as a ‘fee per’ class and instructors were unwilling to incorporated Kranking into their cycle classes.
Thanks so much for reading and commenting on my post.
I know how knowledgeable you are about Kranking; we’ve discussed it. You’re absolutely right about its full-body benefits, not to mention its impressive cross-training benefits.
The first Krank Fusion workout I did was in 2007 or 2008. Jim ran the class as part of an amazing program he created called Performance Max. PMax combines indoor cycling with rowing, but Jim seamlessly added Kranking to that for anyone who needed to modify the training for any reason.
In that Fusion class, the energy was sky-high because Johnny G was there. We did exactly what you describe — 4 minutes of cycling, 4 minutes of Kranking, etc. I reached a HR of 186 (only slightly below my max) and held it for 26 minutes. Obviously, alternating muscle groups made it possible. All the Fusion classes I’ve taken have been fantastic full-body workouts.
As for why instructors are unwilling to incorporate Kranking in their cycle classes, maybe they’re reluctant to learn the material and new ways of running classes. It’s truly a shame because I’m convinced the Krankcycle is the most brilliant piece of exercise equipment in the industry.
I would love to try a Kranking class, but I’ve never seen it offered in any of the gyms in my area. I rode RAGBRAI a few weeks ago & was totally blown away by the guys who were riding the whole week on hand-cranked adaptive recumbents. Certainly puts things into perspective whenever I wanted to complain about anything.
Thanks so much for your comment on my post. It’s a shame that you can’t finding a Kranking class near you. Maybe you (and a bunch of friends) can start asking for one at the gyms in your area — ? Repeated requests might work wonders.
Your mention of the guys on hand-cranked recumbents is actually reminiscent of the origins of Kranking. Johnny G was one of the instructors at a Spinning workshop held in conjunction with the Tour de Cove in La Jolla. After the 5-hour event was over, he asked a man who’d been hand-cycling the entire time if he could try the hand-cycle. After feeling the effects on his own body, Johnny said he knew exactly what his next move in the fitness industry would be. Historic moment, to say the least.
I hope you can find a class. You might need to start smaller, i.e., by asking the gyms to purchase the equipment. Not every club owner recognizes the huge difference between Krankcycles and upper-body ergometers. If you can explain it, they might see the need.