Neuromuscular, metabolic, and kinetic adaptations for skilled pedaling performance in cyclists

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The purpose of this study was to clarify the reason for the difference in the preferred cadence between cyclists and noncyclists.


Male cyclists and noncyclists were evaluated in terms of pedal force, neuromuscular activity for lower extremities, and oxygen consumption among the cadence manipulation (45, 60, 75, 90, and 105 rpm) during pedaling at 150 and 200 W. Noncyclists having the same levels of aerobic and anaerobic capacity as cyclists were chosen from athletes of different sports to avoid any confounding effect from similar kinetic properties of cyclists for lower extremities (i.e., high speed contraction and high repetitions in prolonged exercise) on both pedaling performance and preferred cadence.


The peak pedal force significantly decreased with increasing of cadence in both groups, and the value for noncyclists was significantly higher than that for cyclists at each cadence despite the same power output. The normalized iEMG for vastus lateralis and vastus medialis muscles increased in noncyclists with rising cadence; however, cyclists did not show such a significant increase of the normalized iEMG for the muscles. On the other hand, the normalized iEMG for biceps femoris muscle showed a significant increase in cyclists while there was no increase for noncyclists. Oxygen consumption for cyclists was significantly lower than that for noncyclists at 105 rpm for 150 W work and at 75, 90, and 105 rpm for 200 W work.


We conclude that cyclists have a certain pedaling skill regarding the positive utilization for knee flexors up to the higher cadences, which would contribute to a decrease in peak pedal force and which would alleviate muscle activity for the knee extensors. We speculated that pedaling skills that decrease muscle stress influence the preferred cadence selection, contributing to recruitment of ST muscle fibers with fatique resistance and high mechanical efficiency despite increased oxygen consumption caused by increased repetitions of leg movements.

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