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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