POSE IN PRESS A collection of articles about Pose Method and Dr.Romanov in various publications.
FLORIDA SPORTS (US)
Just What the Doctor Ordered
An interview by John Robson
Dr.Nichlas Romanov, noted for his Pose Method of Running, now turns his sights on cycling, with a new prescription for improved cycling speed and efficiency.
If you enjoy riding your bicycle fast, you’d probably enjoy it even more if you could ride it even faster. It’s a simple enough premise, and one that’s given rise to 400+ mile training weeks, aerobars, celebrity cycling fitness gurus (Chris Carmichael, Joe Friel et al) and a litany of training devices including power meters, heart-rate monitors, computer simulators and various combinations of all the above, not to mention the global sporting crisis known as doping.
Pedal more. Pedal harder. Pedal faster. And then pedal some more. But wait, don’t pedal too much! Do that and you’ll wind up a crispy critter, so utterly burned out on cycling that the sheets will win out over the streets and you’ll happily revert to a well-deserved coach potato status.
How about pedaling better? Those who believe that cycling speed equates to aerodynamics + pedaling effort = speed, might find this slight alternation to the formula illuminating: aerodynamics + pedaling efficiency = speed.
That’s the theory put forth by Coral Gables-based exercise physiologist Dr. Nicholas Romanov, a globe-trotting running and triathlon coach who has previously concentrated on running technique with his Pose Method® of Running book and videos. While he has developed his reputation revamping the running styles of top triathletes like Britain’s world #3 Andrew Johns, he has quietly been expanding the science of the Pose Method® to include all forms of athletic locomotion.
Now, for the first time, the good doctor publicly discusses the Pose Method® as applied to cycling and shares with Florida Sports readers the concepts that can lead to a revolution in your cycling style.
Florida Sports: You have said that a certain percentage of runners run with the technique described as the Pose Method® with no training, simply by natural selection. What percentage of cyclists would you estimate pedal their bikes properly with no specific training in technique?
Dr. Romanov: It’s very few. I see it in the elite level mostly. You can see by body position on the bike. Just understanding biomechanics, you can see this. I would estimate less than five percent have proper technique. It’s a subtle thing and because most people never understand the subtleties, most never develop proper technique.
FS: So, in effect, probably 95 percent of cyclists could improve their cycling performance simply by improving their cycling form, with no additional training mileage.
DR: That’s correct. I have no doubt about this number…and it’s probably even higher.
FS: For those unfamiliar with the concept, perhaps we should explain that a “pose” in cycling does not mean dressing up in brand new U.S. Postal kit and riding your Lance Armstrong model Trek down to the coffee shop on Sunday afternoon.
DR: Right. In cycling, as in all sports, there are key positions, or poses, that must be repeated — perfectly — over and over again, for maximum success. Master these poses and you can master your sport.
FS: When you first introduced the Pose Method® of Running it seems that triathletes were more willing to experiment with the technique than “pure” runners. Do you think that situation will be repeated, with triathletes once again the leaders and “pure” cyclists hesitant to try Pose Cycling?
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DR: I guess it would be the same thing in cycling, because I found triathletes more perceptive and receptive regarding technique. Still, I have had some pure cyclists who have been receptive to the Pose Method® as a way of improving their cycling.
FS: Pose Method® of Running depends on harnessing the power of gravity to propel the runner forward. Is gravity a factor in the Pose Method® of Cycling as well?
DR: Absolutely. It doesn’t matter how we move. Gravity is the dominating factor regarding movement. It is everywhere around us. It determines our behavior, it determines our physiology, it determines our neuromuscular patterns…and it determines our mechanics as well, because mechanics are a direct manifestation of gravitational pull.
FS: That’s a little tougher to explain, isn’t it? In running, you directly interact with ground forces, but cycling seems to be more of a weightless exercise, almost like swimming.
DR: It only looks that way on the surface, because in cycling we have no direct impact on the ground like in running. But if we will take a logical picture of the interaction with gravity on the bike, we will see the profound influence gravity has on our movement on the bike.
FS: How so?
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DR: Try and imagine that you are biking in a non-gravitational environment…in space. You can see that there are no possibilities to apply any effort to move forward. In the second that we touch the wheel of the bike to the ground, it will bounce right back up.
FS: So in other words, without gravity and interaction with the ground, we could never get the bike to go forward.
DR: Correct, unless we are hooked up to something to pull us, without gravity there is no forward movement.
FS: In running, the foot can land anywhere from the heel to the toe, stride length can vary, you can even bounce, so it’s easy to see how technique can be modified. In cycling, though, you’re locked into the pedal and your foot is turning the same circle every time. How much can you really change your pedaling technique?
DR: In the way our efforts are applied to the pedal stroke, which by mechanical studies are concentrated between one o’clock and four o’clock, with the peak at three o’clock. Maximum efforts can be done only in this very short range, just 90 degrees of the full pedaling cycle. Because this is an application of rotational force, this is called torque. The improvement of pedaling from this point of view goes to two things. Apply maximum effort to this range in combination with higher cadence. Each time when we pedal we must concentrate maximum effort in this range, no matter whether we get tired or whether we lower our cadence.
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FS: Do I understand this to mean that the range between one and four o’clock is where we get the greatest assistance from gravity in the pedaling stroke?
DR: Correct, but we must not confuse putting your weight on the pedal with pushing down on the pedal with the leg.
FS: You better explain that. You mean that there is a difference between using your weight and using your leg?
DR: That’s absolutely the correct question. This is the difference. From a mechanical point of view, in order to push something, you have to have support. If you have no support, you cannot push.
FS: That takes us back to the question of gravity.
DR: Right, when we are staying on the pedals, the only support we have is our body weight and we cannot push more than our body weight down to the pedals. Our legs do not push, per se, they are just transmitters of our body weight to the pedals.
FS: So translate this into practical application. How does the knowledge that our body weight is the key factor in pedaling efficiency affect our pedaling style?
DR: First of all, we have to keep our body weight directly above the pedals in a vertical line, so correct body position is vital. The second factor is that when we are on the saddle our body weight must not move either up and down or back and forth. It must only move from side to side. You can see this clearly when a cyclist comes out of the saddle to make an attack. You can see them effectively increase their body weight by shifting the bike from side to side. Most cyclists believe that lack of leg strength is what prevents them from cycling faster. In reality, it is a lack of skill. They don’t have the ability to shift their body weight from side to side with the proper timing.
FS: Do you have any examples of how this comes into play?
DR: Let’s look at boxing for a comparison. You can have a lightweight boxer who, by using his whole body as an integrated system, can deliver a tremendous punch. Conversely, you can have a heavyweight without the same skill who punches using only his arm strength. He’ll never match the power of the lighter boxer who uses all of his body weight to deliver the blow.
FS: And how does a cyclist use all of his weight to pedal properly?
DR: In the same way. You have to integrate you entire body into a single system. You have to apply all your weight to the pedal in a very short time at exactly the right place.
FS: So when we see the sprinters flailing their bikes back and forth in the Tour de France, they’re not trying to knock their competitors into the barricades, they’re just getting the bike out of the way so they can get as much of their body weight as possible directly over the pedal on the down stroke?
DR: Exactly! Moving the bike off to the side creates the pose of maximum power, with the body weight directly over the pedals.
FS: This seems to call into question the wisdom of what has always been called a complete cycling stroke, where as much attention is paid to pulling up on the pedals as it is to pushing down.
DR: So many times I have heard this. (Laughs.) It is a typical misinterpretation, an improper mixing of two major structures in our approach to movement, which are biomechanical and psychological. When we think about what we are supposed to do, it is a psychological key, not biomechanical. The pushing down will happen by itself. But to make sure it is most effective, we have to have the right mental framework. The proper thought is not to pull up on the pedals, but to unweigh the pedal in the six o’clock position. By taking the weight off the bottom pedal, it automatically transfers the weight to the pedal in the 12 o’clock position and applies maximum force as it moves down through three o’clock.
FS: The old theory was that running was more of an exercise for the hamstrings and cycling was all quads. If I understand what you’re saying, then the old myth about it being bad for cyclists to run during the racing season doesn’t really make sense.
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DR: Of course not. Quads just serve our contact with support, whether it’s with the pedal (in cycling) or with the ground (in running.) Hamstrings actively break contact with support. In both sports, the hamstrings are fundamental in unweighing, in breaking contact with support.
Imagine that you are on a stationary trainer standing out of the saddle with your legs at three o’clock and nine o’clock, perfectly still, your body weight even distributed on the pedals. How are you going to get going? It’s simple. You first have to unweigh the leg at nine o’clock to allow the leg at three o’clock to begin moving. Keep your weight on the nine o’clock pedal and you simply can’t push the three o’clock pedal down. Actively unweighing the recovering leg is the key to increasing cadence and delivering the full force of your body weight to the down stroke.
FS: So, if I feel resistance on the upstroke, I’m either in too big a gear or I’m not effectively applying my weight to the pedal on the down stroke?
DR: Right. Here’s another example that should clarify it for you. Ride your bike up a very steep hill. There will come a point where the resistance created by gravity combined with the gear that you are riding is greater than your body weight. At that point, you stop dead. The only way to keep going is to find a lower gear that effectively reduces the resistance created by gravity.
FS: Which explains why Lance Armstrong has so much success riding smaller gears at higher cadences going up the major climbs. He’s able to keep his torque up and not trash his legs.
DR: That’s it exactly.
FS: Which brings up the million-dollar question. What cadence do you recommend for maximum cycling efficiency?
DR: Of course, that’s a question of your age and ability, but it’s really a process of adaptation. You don’t just jump from your current cadence to what I recommend as most efficient. Andrew Johns, when I started working on his cycling, rode 80-90 rpm and had great difficulty with a cadence of over 100. Now, he rides with a cadence of 110 — and has a lower heart rate.
You have to adjust your training to adapt to higher, more efficient cadences. For example, as an older rider, you might do three or four 10-second efforts in a gearing of 53x13 at a cadence of 100-110. For an effort of 500 meters, you might do several repeats in a 53x15 at the same cadence. Even going uphill, you might train in a 39x17, but again maintain a cadence over 100.
FS: Wow. That’s going to take a lot of work. So what you’re saying is that after a mere 46 years of riding a bicycle, it’s time that I learned to do it right.
DR: I don’t know…for you, it may be too late. (Chuckles again) No, seriously, anyone can benefit and increase their cycling enjoyment and efficiency by learning how to pedal correctly. Anytime you learn to do something properly, it becomes more enjoyable.
FS: So, we can assume that the Pose Method of Swimming is not far behind?
DR: It’s on the way.
FS: What about golf?
DR: Don’t get your hopes up!
John Robson, who conducted this interview for Florida Sports, co-authored Dr. Romanov’s Pose Method® of Running book, which was published in December 2002 and has now been sold in 33 countries.
To see the original article printed in Florida Sports magazine please click here. To read more articles by John Robson please visit Florida Sports' website www.floridasports.com
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