Today I’ll share with you 4 of my favorite drills.

1.  Spin-ups — The purpose of spin-ups is to improve the neuromuscular connection.  Basically, you learn how to pedal quickly and smoothly while your upper body is still.  Pedaling fast while avoiding hip rocking and bouncing is the main goal.  There are a variety of ways to perform spin-up drills:

  • While riding in a small gear, accelerate to as fast a cadence as possible while keeping smooth for 1 minute.  Spin easily to recover for 3-4 minutes, then repeat.  This drill can be performed 6-10 times during the course of your workout, until fatigue sets in and pedal technique begins to deteriorate.
  • It can also be performed in a more controlled manner.  For example, ride the first spin-up at 100 rpm for 1 minute.  Recover as above, then ride the next interval at 110 rpm.  Recover, then ride the next one at 120.  Recover, then ride the next interval at 115, then 105.  Continue this undulating pyramid until again, technique begins to suffer.  This drill can also be performed with smaller graduations as well.  For example, the cadence changes could be 5 rpm instead of the 10 noted above.
  • Spin-up drills may be performed either indoors or out.

Learn about my other favorites here:

2.  “Back and Forth” drills — These drills can be performed on any ride, and actually should be.  The can be done as part of the warmup or in the main set of the ride.  These drills are more a “mindset” drill than anything else.  Many riders get in the habit of pedaling in a very distinct up-and-down, or “piston” motion.  Back and forth pedal drills are nothing more than focusing on moving the pedals in a “back and forth” motion than an “up and down”motion.

  • Cadence can remain at the upper end of your comfort zone, but the goal is to really “feel” the pedals as they go back and forth.  Concentrate on pushing over the top and pulling at the bottom.
  • Back and Forth drills are best done in short intervals, such as starting with 1 minute, then increasing the time as you become familiar with the drill.  As with spin-ups, these can be performed indoors or out.

3.  Endurance Spinning Drills — This drill simply involves spinning at a cadence at the upper end of your comfort zone for an extended period of time.  For a beginning cyclist this may be 10 minutes, while an experienced rider may ride 1-2 intervals of up to 1 hour or more.  “Upper end of your comfort zone” will mean something different to every rider.  For example, if your normal self-selected cadence is 92, you might ride the drill at 100 – 105 rpm.

  • The main goal of this drill is to improve the endurance capability of the intermediate muscle fibers (not the slow-twitch and not the fast-twitch), which are trainable to a certain extent to act more like slow twitch fibers.  Heart rate/power of this drill should be in the rider’s “endurance” zone.  While a ride at this level is typically pretty easy, you’ll find yourself quite fatigued after a period of time riding at this unusually high cadence.

4.  Isolated Leg Training — These are often called “ILT” drills.  They are most effectively performed indoors, but can be adapted to outdoor rides.

  • And ILT is nothing more than riding with 1 leg.  The ideal setup is to ride indoors, where 1 leg can be unclipped and placed on a chair or stool.  The leg that remains clipped in is then forced to do 100% of the work.
  • The goal of riding with 1 leg is to highlight and isolate weaknesses in the rider’s pedal stroke, then work to correct it by engaging the proper muscles in the proper sequence to push and pull the pedal thought the complete 360 degree rotation.  It quickly becomes apparent how difficult it is to keep the leg engaged throughout the entire pedal stroke.
  • These drills can be performed at a variety of cadences and gears, depending on the goal of the ride.  Often the rider maintains a relatively high cadence (90) and rides for 1 minute at a time with each leg.  Gearing will be light in order to maintain this high cadence, and fatigue will likely set in after very few intervals.  As with spin-ups, all movement should come from the legs, and the upper body should remain very still.
  • Make sure to end the intervals when technique suffers.
  • ILT drills can also be performed in a bigger gear and at a lower cadence to improve single leg strength.  Pushing a very big gear at a low cadence (50-60) for 30-60 seconds will not only smooth out the pedal stroke, but will also build strength.  After each interval, recover with easy spinning for 2-3 minutes before beginning the next one.
  • Finally, ILT drills can be performed outdoors on the bike.  Obviously, you must keep both feet clipped in at all times.  And while both legs will always be making some contribution to the pedals turning, the goal should be to force the active leg to perform 90% of the work.  It will take a fair amount of concentration to make this happen, but it can be done.
  • So while ILT drills can be done on your bike outdoors, the controlled environment indoors on your trainer is the best way to perform these drills.

Pedaling drills should be a consistent part of your riding regiment and should never be ignored.  Smooth and quick pedal strokes with a still yet relaxed upper body will help your efficiency on the bike, your speed and your energy conservation.  You’ll also look good!

Share your comments below, practice these drills and GET OUT AND RIDE!