Member Question: One Leg Drills (OLDs)

author : mikericci
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Do you have jerky one leg drills? Learn about this drill along with several tips and workouts to start improving your pedaling technique.

Member Question

I borrowed a Spinervals technique DVD to improve my pedal stroke. My one leg drills are very jerky and the bloke doing the session keeps saying 'smooth it out' but does not tell me how to do that! The 12-2 part of my pedal stroke seems to have little tension - hence the jerky motion - what's the secret to getting the smooth stroke that my "teacher" keeps harping on about?




What are OLD's?

OLDs are a great drills that can be done either with a trainer or on the road. The concept is as easy as the title indicates. Take one foot off the pedal and maintain your forward momentum with the other leg. If you are using a trainer, you might get a box or chair to place you loose foot on. The goal of this exercise is to maintain a smooth constant cadence. Change legs every 10 to 15 revolutions.

While pedaling with one leg, focus on moving the pedal in a complete circle and not just pushing only down on each pedal stroke. By forcing yourself to lift your leg through the dead zone of the pedal stroke, you end up engaging a wider set of muscles. Specifically, focus on the hip flexors. The hip flexors are one of the muscles used to raise your leg toward your upper body. If you have done sit-ups where you raise your upper body more than 20 or 30 degrees from the ground, you were engaging the hip flexors.

2 - What is a typical OLD workout?
A. WU: 10'. After WU, alternate 20-60" with one leg off the pedals and up on a chair. Get a total of 7-10' of ILT on each leg in workout. Alternate legs as you feel like it. Work this at 95-100 rpms, and focus on eliminating the dead spot at the top of the stroke by pushing your toes forward in your shoes at the top. CD: 10'

B. WU: 10' After WU, 1' spin with each leg. One foot is clipped in, the other foot is unclipped, not pedaling. Then spin for 30" easy. Do this cycle 6x, or for 15 minutes. After the 6th cycle, spin high RPMS (100+) for 5', then repeat with 6 more cycles. After 6th cycle, 10' CD.

C. WU: 7' After WU, spin for 30" right leg, then spin at 100 PRM with both legs for 30", then spin for 30" left leg, then spin at 100 RPMs with both legs for 30". That is one repetition. Do 8x. Next is 5' at 100 RPMs, then 2.5' at 110, RPMs, then 1' at 120 RPMs. Then you will spin 4x MAX spin out. Go until you can't spin any higher, spin easy for 1', repeat. CD 5’.


*You may start out being able to only hold 75-80 RPMS, but over time your cadence will increase.

3 - Bad technique and how it will detract from performance
A good example of bad pedaling technique is the common example of knees flailing at the top of the pedal stroke. Another example falling into this category is the rocking back and forth of the hips—usually caused by incorrect seat height. Both of these examples will cause dramatic loss in dynamic power output throughout, burning extra energy which could be saved for the run portion of triathlon. By having a proper fit and solid pedaling technique, these inefficiencies will lessen.


4 - How do OLDs help?

By using OLDs, one can help smooth out the pedal stroke and learn to work through the rough spots. If a cyclist is not able to bring the pedal through the top of the pedal stroke, this is usually indicative of weak hip flexors. There are exercises to do in the gym that will help strengthen these muscles. An example would be a slide board lunge, forward, to the rear, and to the side. Another would be rockers, where the athlete assumes a lunge position and moves the knee off the ground by two inches while keeping the front shin at 90 degrees to the ground.

5 - How do I get the feel of OLDs? How do I know that I am doing them correctly?
Once you have been able to spin the pedals over the top of the pedal stroke and you don’t have any skipping, then you are doing the drill correctly. You can gauge your improvement by the feel of the bike’s movement on the road or the sound of your trainer indoors. The more efficient you become, the less yo-yoing or surging you will feel. On a trainer, you would hear less of the whirl…whirl…whirl, and instead hear a more consistent spinning of the fan or resistance unit.

6 - How to incorporate OLDs into a weekly/monthly training plan.
Doing the drills described in #2, doing them 1-2x per week during warm up is sufficient. Once the season starts, adding them in 1x per week is enough to maintain proper cycling technique. Use them during your warm up and cool down to a get a feel of pedaling technique.

On a weekly basis, in the off-season and in the early season (now), incorporate these drills into your weekly program one time per week as solo workouts. Try to set a goal of pedaling for 5 minutes with one leg. Once you can do that, set a goal of 10 minutes of one-leg cycling for each leg. As the season progresses, you can add these drills to warm-ups and cool downs. Continue to think about smooth pedaling while you are doing hard workouts as well as easy workouts. The more efficient your pedal stroke becomes, the more power you’ll apply to the pedals and the faster you will go.

Good luck improving your cycling efficiency this season!


Michael Ricci is a USAT Level III certified coach. He can be reached for personal coaching at [email protected]. Please visit his website at


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date: April 21, 2008