Fifty Watts for Free

Impediments to rotating the pelvis correctly in the saddle are a lack of flexibility and diminished muscular endurance in key muscle groups. As coaches and fitters, it is important to understand pelvic rotation in order to help our teams and clients achieve their FULL potential.

Proper Pelvic Positioning Prevents Poor Performance

Attention given to posture pays huge dividends on the road and track.

Riding posture and associated pelvic rotation have a direct effect on riding efficiency. The topic has seen academic study from a number of researchers, specifically JM Mayor (University de Almeria, Spain) from a biomechanics perspective and Nathan Barry (University Clayton, Australia) approaching the issue from the mechanical engineering vantage point both publishing a number of relevant articles in recent years.

According to MC Hunter Allen of Peaks Coaching Group, the benefits of practice are tremendous, adding a value to improved posture: “there’s 50 extra watts there.” Since typical gains in wattage are measured in single digits, a 50-watt improvement is huge.

Analysis

An illustrative example of a less efficient posture can be seen in the freeze frame on the right:

  • Notice the pelvic angle; the position of the rider’s pelvis is vertical, as if he was out walking.
  • With the pelvis vertical, the rider accommodates by rounding his upper back to reach the handlebars.
  • By not rotating the pelvis, he is increasing his hip closure angle and squeezing his diaphragm, reducing the maximum amount of air he can take in.

Post-race analysis of rider posture by BMC Racing highlights khphotic posture. Significant benefits to efficiency have been found both in study and practice when adjustments are made to riding posture.

The correct rotation of the pelvis opens up the hip-flexors, but most importantly, reduces the compression of the diaphragm, opening up the chest/lungs.

Kyphotic and Lordotic posture

Impediments to rotating the pelvis correctly in the saddle are a lack of flexibility and diminished muscular endurance in key muscle groups. Lack of flexibility and strength in the hamstrings, quadriceps, lumbar musculature, core, glutes, and hip flexors all contribute to poor posture on the bike.

Up top, overly tight pectorals coupled with weak upper back musculature can contribute to the rounded-over hunch, or kyphotic posture which decreases lung capacity while riding. Similarly, a lordotic posture constrains the diaphragm while also putting strain on the upper back latissimus musculature. As coaches and fitters, it is important to understand pelvic rotation in order to help our teams and clients achieve their FULL potential.

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