Think you know how to pedal a bike? Most people don’t. They pedal in squares; or worse, they pedal only in one direction—straight down. Yet there is an easy—well, simple may be a more accurate qualifier—there is a simple way to improve your pedaling technique which will make you a better cyclist. It’s called Isolated Leg Training or ILTs. Basically, this exercise teaches all the muscles involved in the pedaling motion how to fire and when. And though we all have genetic limitations which may cap our physical potential, none of us will ever reach our neuromuscular limits as we can always improve our efficiency.
Best performed on a trainer (but a flat section of road will suffice and is actually easier due to momentum), ILTs are performed as follows:
• Warm up for 5mins with easy pedaling
• Then clip the DOMINANT leg out and place it behind you on the trainer and pedal with just the NON-dominant leg. Do this for 1 minute or until your form goes to pot (which may happen very quickly. You'll know your form is suffering if you start to hear an obvious CLUNK during your pedal stroke or you simply cannot move the pedal thru a complete circle).
• Then pedal with both legs for 1 minute (or 1 minute plus whatever was left of the first minute).
• Next, take the non-dominant leg out and pedal with just the dominant leg for 1 minute. Finally, pedal with both legs for 2 minutes.
• Then repeat the whole process 5 times.
Doing the ILT's in the AERO position is very challenging. The easiest is on the tops. Then on the hoods. Then in the drops with AERO being the final and most difficult position. Only hold the AERO position until your form breaks down (i.e. you have lots of problems bringing the pedal over the top and you hear clunking as your stroke gets choppy. Trying to continue will program your neuromuscular system with the “wrong” information. Practice doesn’t make perfect—practice makes permanent…). Then move to the tops until the finish of that ILT interval. On the next one you’ll try the AERO position again, returning to the tops of the bars if/when your form breaks down again.
Don't worry about heart rate or wattage as the goal of this workout has nothing to do with speed--which is ironic as the more efficient you get with the ILTs, the faster you'll go on the bike (and the run, believe it or not). My suggestion is to incorporate this into your training program once/week (at least), building up the duration of the single leg pedaling as proficiency allows. My record is 3 x 20mins for a 2hr trainer session when living in Spain. I think I was a poco loco...