Innovations in Power Training
By Coach Hunter Allen, founder of Peaks Coaching Group
New Pedaling Analytics
GPR, GPA, Power Phase, Torque effectiveness, Torque efficiency, Pedaling smoothness, Net Power, Platform
Center offset, tangential and radial forces...
Current Measuring Challenges
- Current power meters only have ability to measure one complete side at a time.
- All data points from Left leg are averaged and this is “Left Leg” power.
- This gives the user a false sense of individual leg contribution.
- Current Power Balance measures the Left and Right legs and then calculates the percentage each contribute to the total and calls this “Balance.”
- For example if LEFT leg power is 150Watts and RIGHT leg power is 120Watts, the total is 270Watts with 55% coming from LEFT leg and 45% coming from the RIGHT leg.
- Left Power is average of all forces from left leg.
- Right Power is the average of all forces from the right leg.
- Each is measured independently.
What is this? How is it calculated?
Pavg/Pmax = Pedal Smoothness.
A LOWER number means the rider has a larger Pmax in relation to the Pavg. For example: Pv = 200W, Pmax = 1500, so PS = 13%. Big PEAKS of power in relation to a small average. An opposite would be: Pavg = 350W, Pmax = 700W, so PS = 50%.
Is it important? Does it tell us anything?
Helps to tell how much of a “Stomper” or a “Smoother” the rider is. Might be possible to use as a teaching tool to teach an athlete to become more even in their pedaling stroke.
Can we change it? Does it matter?
Change is possible with awareness of the issue. The hardest part about this kind of change is to prevent the rider from doing too much work to smooth the pedaling motion and overcorrecting.
Calculating Pedal Smoothness
Pavg is the mean power averaged across 1 crank cycle and Pmax is the peak power applied during that cycle, as shown in Figure 11-2. These values can be used to calculate pedal smoothness, as defined as in Equation 10.
The shape of the power curve and the resulting value of pedal smoothness will vary depending on the style of riding, and on whether the power is measured per crank arm (i.e. in left-right systems) or for the whole system.
Figure 11-2. Values used to calculate Pedal Smoothness
Pedal smoothness =
What is this? How is it calculated?
The sum of the positive power and the negative power over a single stroke divided by the positive power.
P+ = 150W, P- = 30W.
TE = 100*(150+-30)/150 = 100*(120/150) = 80%
P+ = 200W, P- = 60W. TE = 100*(140/200) = 70%
Does it mean anything?
Can you do anything about it?
Irrelevant, bad math implementation.
Calculating Torque Effectiveness
The Torque Effectiveness is calculated for each crank arm based on the positive (clockwise) and negative (anti-clockwise) torque applied to the crank over each revolution.
Figure 11-1 shows a typical torque curve, where P+ represents the positive power applied to the bike and is the sum of the instantaneous power measurements. Similarly, P- is the sum of the negative instantaneous power measurements (i.e. power lost from the bike as negative torque is applied to the pedals).
Figure 11-1. Instantaneous Power vs. Crank Angle
Equation 9 derives Torque Effectiveness in terms of P+ and P- (note that P- will be a negative value)
Torque Effectiveness = 100 * ( P+ = P- ) / P+
Reflects the net effect of the positive and negative tangential (i.e., 90 deg to the crank arm) torques. Any radial torque (i.e., tending to stretch or compress the crank) is ignored. The assumption is that minimizing negative torque is a good thing.
More Measuring Challenges
- Most power meters do not have the ability to know when the crank arm is at TDC (top dead center) and BDC (bottom dead center).
- As we know, each leg opposes the other throughout the 360 degree circle. While the Left leg is moving forward and down the Right leg is moving backward and upward.
How Balance is Actually Produced
The actual way we pedal is in a “Phase”. The legs do not act independently. The LEFT Positive is opposed by the right Negative forces. And Vice Versa.
Real World "Balance" 50-50
127W left (blue), 128W right (yellow)
We Have Solved a Significant Challenge
Because of the challenges this creates, it is better to analyze L/R pedaling metrics not within the current metrics of pedaling smoothness and torque effectiveness or Power balance.
New WKO4 Pedaling Metrics
GPR, GPA, and KI During a Trainer Ride
New Pedaling / Think Different
- Ways to chart these and what they mean.
- NET POWER?
- Left Leg GPR-Right leg GPA = Net Power Released for Left Leg Phase.
- Right Leg GPR-Left Leg GPA = Net Power Released for Right Leg Phase.
Should Negative Forces Be Minimized?
- Power/Torque/Force is the sum of muscular, gravitational and inertial components.
- Need to know mass of limbs and position in space to isolate negative forces.
- Higher cadences, muscular component is rarely negative.
- Negative power/force/torque means the cyclist is not pulling their foot up rapidly enough to get it completely out of the way of the rising pedal.
Three Studies Have Shown That:
- Elite cyclists actually pull up slightly less than non-elite cyclists.
(Coyle et al,. Med Sci Sports Exerc 1991;23:93-107),2)
- Metabolic efficiency is negatively correlated with minimum power/torque/force generated during the pedal cycle, i.e., across cyclists those who pulled up more were less efficient.
(Edwards et al., J Sports Sci 2009; 15:319-325)
- Deliberately modifying the pattern of force application during pedaling to emphasize pulling up reduces metabolic efficiency.
(Korff et al., Med Sci Sports Exerc 2007; 39:991-995)
Uses for Left/Right Measurement
- Incorrect or inefficient body positioning on the bicycle.
- Diagnose imbalances in muscular in-balances. – For example, the hamstring on left leg could be weaker than the hamstring on the right.
- How power is released and absorbed in Standing vs. seated?
- Bike fit – Poor bike fit can be diagnosed and corrected. Javier Sola case study.
- Rehabilitation for injury- Clearly demonstrates when one leg is different than the other.
Pedaling Asymmetry Test
Each day you will complete three five-minute intervals at your VO2Max power (roughly 113-115% of your FTP).
The first interval will be standing the entire time, the second will be seated the entire time, and the third interval will be alternating standing and seated: stand when you want to and sit when you want to.
Pedaling Asymmetry Hill Climbing Test
- Day 1: Complete the test with no emphasis on either leg. Just climb naturally.
- Day 2: Emphasize the leg that releases less power to see if you can balance out the GPR/GPA.
- Day 3: Emphasize the left leg only for all efforts.
- Day 4: Emphasize the right leg only for all efforts.
Case Study: Bike Fit
In the following images, we can see this cyclist is working with an imbalance of 46/54 percent. There is a net power of 73 watts from the left leg and 94 watts from the right.
Scatter Plot of ANT+ Balance
The scatter plot shows the pedaling balance at different watts and in most cases the right leg is above the left.
Gross Power Released (GPR) for the right leg is higher than GPR for the left. We also can see that Gross Power Absorbed (GPA) for the left is sometimes higher than GPA for the right.
All of this is a consequence of the asymmetry. This cyclist experienced pain in the pyramidalis and left hamstring muscles because they were so tight.
Changes to Fit Made
- Corrected saddle height and setback
- Adjusted cleat position
- Used insoles to provide stability to the feet
- Switched to a new saddle that stabilizes the pelvis
- Prescribed some exercises to strengthen the psoas muscles
The power balance improved from 46/54 to 48/52, and the net power completely changed to the opposite side!
GPR left and right were now almost symmetrical. There was still more GPA on the left than the right, which can be explained by the motor pattern; the cyclist tends to pull up more with the left leg because of his previous asymmetry. Our next task is to improve his pedaling technique to pull more equally with both legs.
Interesting Ideas That Need Further Exploration
- Holding one leg in reserve.
It appears that some riders “hold” or “rest” one leg during lower intensities. This leg releases less power during lower intensities, but then when in higher intensities, it releases more.
- Smooth leg vs. the stomper leg.
Most of us appear to have a leg that “smooths” the power throughout the stroke and one leg that is more “peaky,” with more distinct pulses.
- Each person has a “sub-optimal” power and cadence “location.”
Do Some "Rest" - One Leg Exploration
Smooth vs. Stomp
GPA with Power and Cadence
Bi-Lateral PD Curve
- Show which leg is smooth or stomper?
- Is there a different “phenotype” between legs?
- Which leg is stronger at short durations?
- Which leg should you start your sprint with?
- Which leg is the leg that is better at FTP?
Unique Cycling Metrics
- Ability to view pedaling circle with tangential, radial and resultant forces.
- The PowerTap app on a iPhone connects via BlueTooth to the P1 pedals to giving live streaming data of your pedaling “print.”
- Tangential and Radial forces displayed on the left.
- On the right, displays the resultant forces in colors to display where the range throughout the circle in which you create more or less power.
- This view displays the resultant shape of your power production.
- Notice in this screenshot the right leg creates more force sooner at the top of the pedal stroke versus the left leg.
Garmin Cycling Dynamics
Seated vs. Standing Uses:
- Demands of event vs. training- Often we think we stand more than we actually do in races.
- When Climbing, how many times do you stand and for how long? Compare to races vs. training.
- When standing how does “Power Phase” change between legs?
- Where the driving forces begin and end within the pedal stroke.
- Peak Fraction: the crank angle location and the distance in crank travel where this percentage of work is completed in the shortest crank rotation distance.
- Shorter peak fraction = More distinct pulse in pedal stroke, greater “Ppeak” in the torque curve.
- Longer peak fraction = smoother application of positive forces in pedal stroke.
Power Phase Uses
- When correlated with pedaling smoothness, this could help a rider to initiate the release of power sooner on the pedal stroke.
- If Pedaling Smoothness is less than 20% AND Power Phase is less than 30%, this would be a strong indicator of a “stomper.”
Platform Center Offset Explanation and Uses
- Determines the precise axial location of the applied force throughout each pedal stroke.
- Measured in mm from the CENTER of pedal platform.
- Negative is closer to frame.
- Positive is farther away from frame.
- Indicator of need for custom insoles.
- A regular metric on one side or other indicates a need for a more centered application of power through the foot. A custom insole would allow a more even distribution of power across the foot.
- Indicator of need for bike fit or cleat adjustment.
- Poor bike fit does not allow for the proper “stacking” of bones and joints above the pedal axle, resulting in poor economy in translation of muscular strength to axle.
- 12 measurements per rpm.
- Measures tangential and radial forces.
- Calculates pedaling efficiency and pedaling smoothness.
Fi: Resultant vector of force in the tangential direction and the radial direction
Fxi: Force in tangential direction
Fyi: Force in radial direction
i: Direction from 0 to 11 o’clock
Pioneer Pedaling Efficiency
- Pioneer’s pedaling efficiency calculates “mechanical efficiency.”
- Compares the tangential and radial torques. The assumption here is that minimizing the radial torque is a good thing. However, much of the radial torque is actually due to gravity and inertia, and not due to active muscle contraction. Calculate the efficiency for entire stroke.
- It applies same equation down stroke and up stroke. The power applies backwards when on the upstroke.
- If you emphasize upstroke on purpose, Pioneer’s pedaling efficiency displays improvement!
Bi-Lateral Power meters add value.
- Clear understanding of data allows for changes.
- Testing protocols needed.
- Capture of “Normal” and hard riding data needed.
- GPR/GPA and KI help to better understand how the rider releases power.
Training typically rewards commitment and suffering. However, a mindset of finishing what you planned may not always be the best approach.