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Pedal Power: How to Maximize Your Stroke

One thing I like about biking is that it feels easy — you know "just like riding a bike." Even though it seems pretty simple there is technique to riding. Pedaling for instance should feel like you are making smooth circles through out the entire revolution of the pedal. Most of us, myself included, tend to just focus on pushing the pedal down, which is where the majority of your pedal power comes from. This works the quads, the muscle on the front of the thigh. Using clipless pedals, cycling shoes that clip into the pedals, you can maximize your pedal stroke and distribute the work through out your leg.

It helps to think of the circular pedaling motion being broken into four parts. To find out what they are,


  1. First, you push the pedal down, working your quad. Here, your heel should be lower than your toes to get the most power out of your legs.
  2. At the bottom of your stroke, actively pull your foot back like you're scraping muck off your shoe. This phase engages your hamstring, the muscle on the back of your thigh.
  3. Next, pull the pedal up working your hip flexors.
  4. The last part of the circular stroke is the top; you want to kick your foot forward and feel like you're pushing the pedal, which sets up your down stroke, or the first phase.

This dissection of your pedal stroke is great to practice in a spin class when you don't have the distraction of the road, and it helps fight the mind numbing boredom that can accompany exercising indoors.


Join The Conversation
DeviousMuse DeviousMuse 8 years
I love spinning - it's a great workout that I always feel like I can give it my all in. Unfortunately, I haven't been in some time, so my spinning shoes need some love! As soon as my neck/shoulders start feeling better, I'm going to head back to the classes.
delightfairy delightfairy 8 years
Thanks for the tip!
Fitness Fitness 8 years
Renee3, The lingo is confusing, but that's biking. Pedals used to have "toe clips" which external cages at the front of the pedal. So clipless pedals have a "cleat" the fits directly into the pedal.
katie225 katie225 8 years
i don't find indoor cycling boring! working out to fun music with the lights off so no one can see you secretly dancing to the beat? waaaay fun!! (i'm an instructor, so i'm biased)
Renees3 Renees3 8 years
wait I'm confused. "clipless pedals, cycling shoes that clip into the pedals" doesn't that contradict itself? Anyway, good tip, since I just ride a regular bike with no strap I always push
aimeeb aimeeb 8 years
Thanks Fit!
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