The word “technique” intrigues some and makes others yawn. But there”™s much to be said for technique. It”™s the foundation for all athletic performance features.
Technique involves improved skills. In the broadest, most general terms, that means eliminating unnecessary movement; making movements in the correct directions; applying the necessary power, but no more than that; using the right muscles for the activity; and using optimal speed if time isn”™t a factor.
Okay, that”™s a dry list. Still, the benefits of good technique — and the consequences of bad — affect training and performance. The last thing I”™m going to do is describe cycling technique; vastly superior riders have done that in too many venues. (Check out the excellent videos here on ICI-PRO.) Instead, I”™d like to list some benefits of good technique.
The main benefit of good technique is efficiency. Efficiency is the ratio of work output to expended energy. If work output increases OR energy expenditure decreases, efficiency has improved. Efficiency and technique are closely related because principles of efficiency are so similar to principles of technique.
Many activities have an optimal rate. Rates above and below that cost more energy. The mechanism behind that is stored muscle elasticity, which requires the shortest time between muscle relaxation and contraction to prevent the loss of energy as heat.
Good technique reduces the energy required for the pedal stroke, reduces energy lost as body heat, and retains more mechanical energy for the next pedal stroke. Strength goes up — functional-type strength.
Practice reinforces cycling technique, so it improves efficiency.
Consistent velocity also affects technique. Unintentionally accelerating or decelerating due to poor technique wastes energy. Obviously, holding a single cadence throughout a cycling class isn”™t usually part of the workout plan.
But staying consistent during a song or segment — an important technical skill — can increase efficiency. Beatmatch is an excellent teaching tool for helping students develop consistency.
What else affects efficiency?
Efficiency may involve factors other than technique. For example, it may depend on the contractile properties of the muscle: slow-twitch is more efficient than fast-twitch. It may depend on training, which can increase strength and endurance by increasing muscle efficiency. Big-gear training, for example, can improve efficiency in fast-twitch fibers.
Other benefits of good technique
Doing something with correct technique feels good, probably because the body is being used the right way.
Correct technique makes the student look good. In my master”™s thesis, I compared the principles of technique and efficiency to principles of movement aesthetics. It turns out that what makes a movement correct and efficient is also what makes it beautiful.
So technique leads to efficiency, and that wastes less energy. The less we waste, the more energy is left for the demanding parts of the class when it really counts. And the better we look and feel cycling.
You”™d like your students to look and feel good while taking your class, complete it successfully, and want to come back for more, right?
Jim Karanas always said, “Endurance athletes don”™t mind expending energy, but they never want to waste it.”
Good cycling technique is the key.
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