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  1. #1
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    Muscle strength vs. cardio

    Being a cyclist I've learned some of the rudimentary ideas about general fitness. One of the things I've learned about is the idea of heart rate zones. Below a certain heart rate most of the energy you get comes from burning fat, above that is the so-called aerobic zone. This implies in this range that most of the energy comes from your lungs taking in oxygen and processing that with your food to generate energy (I think, roughly). Above that is the anaerobic zone, where you can't take in enough oxygen to meet your energy requirements and you get lactic acid build-up. There's one thing that doesn't make sense to me though, aren't there localized effects when you're working certain muscles only?

    Anyway, it may be because it's the beginning of the season, but on my ride the other day I was below my aerobic zone but my legs were burning and I just didn't have energy. I know the body is complex, but I'm thinking that because I'm working primarily my thighs I was anaerobic in my legs, even though my heart rate didn't get into the aerobic zone. Is this possible? I read a book once that talked about this but I don't have it anymore. I suppose the answer is to strengthen my legs, maybe do intervals or hills and just get out cycling more. That also happened when I first started cycling, any other ideas?

  2. #2
    Senior Member late's Avatar
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    Hehe, welcome to Spring.

    Just keep riding for now. Takes a while to get used to it after being cooped up
    in the house.

    It's still too cold here, I am hoping to start riding in a couple weeks.
    We are as gods, we might as well get good at it.
    Stewart Brand

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by late View Post
    Hehe, welcome to Spring.
    No doubt, my ITBS (iliotibial band syndrome) is acting up like never before as well.

  4. #4
    POWERCRANK addict markhr's Avatar
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    I can usually gain muscle mass easily (when my waist-line isn't rapidly expanding, that is) and I find that if I concentrate on stamina, strength will follow. Something that works for me is HRM rides in the 70-80% zone and high intensity circuit training (body mass, not free weights) once a week.

    With the ITBS have you tried increasing strength and flexibility in your hip flexors and hamstrings?
    shameless POWERCRANK plug
    Recommended reading for all cyclists - Cyclecraft - Effective Cycling
    Condor Cycles - quite possibly the best bike shop in London
    Don't run red lights, wear a helmet, use hand signals, get some cycle lights(front and rear) and, FFS, don't run red lights!

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by markhr View Post
    With the ITBS have you tried increasing strength and flexibility in your hip flexors and hamstrings?
    I haven't tried too much. I went to my doctor when I got the initial diagnosis. She just told me to look up some stretches online. The problem is really one of TOO MUCH information online. I've read of dozens of different stretches and approaches. I am stretching it now fairly regularly, I think it's the best stretch around, but I'm not sure. As far as strengthening the area thats one area where there seems to be even more disparate sources of information, I'm more confused than anything. I suppose I should just pick something and try it.

    It usually doesn't bother me cycling, it's only been bad when I've been hiking or backpacking. Also when I run it can be a problem. Ice usually helps, but that's not an option in the backcountry. I've moved since the initial diagnosis so I think I'll see a doctor again and see if I can't get some better information from a physical therapist or something.

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    I had IT band issues after I started running once I started stretching better it stopped. In a seated position I grab each foot in turn (sitting legs crossed style) and pull it gently too my face and hold for a few counts. I do a couple of other IT stretches too, just pick a coup[le and try them out.
    1982 Peugeot PH10
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  7. #7
    POWERCRANK addict markhr's Avatar
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    Eric - well good luck. It's important that you strengthen and stretch as too much flexibility can be just as bad as too little, i.e., joint flexibility without stability.

    Some people use powercranks for acl and itbs rehab. but I'd strongly recommend you demo a set first to see if they'll work for you. There's a little chatter on this subject at the runnersworld forums (sorry dude, more research).

    http://www.powercranks.com/v4pages/support-contact.htm
    shameless POWERCRANK plug
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    Condor Cycles - quite possibly the best bike shop in London
    Don't run red lights, wear a helmet, use hand signals, get some cycle lights(front and rear) and, FFS, don't run red lights!

  8. #8
    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cooleric1234 View Post
    Being a cyclist I've learned some of the rudimentary ideas about general fitness. One of the things I've learned about is the idea of heart rate zones. Below a certain heart rate most of the energy you get comes from burning fat, above that is the so-called aerobic zone. This implies in this range that most of the energy comes from your lungs taking in oxygen and processing that with your food to generate energy (I think, roughly). Above that is the anaerobic zone, where you can't take in enough oxygen to meet your energy requirements and you get lactic acid build-up. There's one thing that doesn't make sense to me though, aren't there localized effects when you're working certain muscles only?

    Anyway, it may be because it's the beginning of the season, but on my ride the other day I was below my aerobic zone but my legs were burning and I just didn't have energy. I know the body is complex, but I'm thinking that because I'm working primarily my thighs I was anaerobic in my legs, even though my heart rate didn't get into the aerobic zone. Is this possible? I read a book once that talked about this but I don't have it anymore. I suppose the answer is to strengthen my legs, maybe do intervals or hills and just get out cycling more. That also happened when I first started cycling, any other ideas
    ?
    First off, anaerobic refers to processes that last only a very short time. In cycling this might be starting your bike from a stop in a hard gear, and starting a sprint or climb full-out. There is usually very little anaerobic involved in cycling. That's why you can keep doing it for so long.

    Second, ALL effects of respiration are essentially "localized." It is the individual cells that produce and use energy. The cells that are working the hardest (leg muscle cells and heart muscle cells) are the ones that use the most food and oxygen. BTW, I think that if you're working your legs hard enough to feel sore, your heart rate is probably in the so called "aerobic zone."

    Third, the lactic acid theory has been disproved by researchers. It sure is taking athletes and even trainers a long time to understand this! Muscle fatigue is probably related to intracellular levels of potassium and calcium, rather than lactic acid, IIRC.


    "Think Outside the Cage"

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    In fact lactic acid is now believed to be a super fuel of sorts for your muscles

  10. #10
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    Last thing I read about the new developments in lactic research is that it is probably utilized as a high efficiency fuel during anaerobic exertion. It is the compound that is responsible for the burning sensation when you are pushing really hard. But because bellow threshold the body will utilize it relatively rapidly it is almost certainly not responsible for soreness after workouts.

  11. #11
    Senior Member RoaringMad Mac's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roody View Post
    First off, anaerobic refers to processes that last only a very short time. In cycling this might be starting your bike from a stop in a hard gear, and starting a sprint or climb full-out. There is usually very little anaerobic involved in cycling. That's why you can keep doing it for so long.

    Second, ALL effects of respiration are essentially "localized." It is the individual cells that produce and use energy. The cells that are working the hardest (leg muscle cells and heart muscle cells) are the ones that use the most food and oxygen. BTW, I think that if you're working your legs hard enough to feel sore, your heart rate is probably in the so called "aerobic zone."

    Third, the lactic acid theory has been disproved by researchers. It sure is taking athletes and even trainers a long time to understand this! Muscle fatigue is probably related to intracellular levels of potassium and calcium, rather than lactic acid, IIRC.
    Participation in aerobic exercise (e.g., bicycling, running) necessitates the utilization of both glycogen and fat stores for energy. At the onset of cardiovascular activity, your body will rely primarily on glycogen stores for energy. Carbohydrates are the body's preferred source of fuel. Depending on your cardiovascular fitness, your body will burn its glycogen for energy for the first 5-25 minutes. This is why it is important to have a glycogen deficient state prior to beginning your cardiovascular exercise. (I.e., 1st thing in the morning empty or post weights).

    Your body will begin to burn the most amount of fat when it enters the second stage of cardiovascular activity. While in this second stage, you will not only burn the greatest amount of fat, but you will continue to utilize your glycogen (i.e., sugar) stores. It is not possible to burn fat alone without the presence of glycogen (i.e., stored glucose). One other step in this process is the utilization of monitoring your heart rate. Fat burning is best accomplished at low intensity and long duration. Yes it is proven that high intensity Cardio will burn significantly more calories (with the possibility of muscle loss) but also proven that low intensity, longer duration sessions burns a higher percentage of fat! Calculating your target heart rate is essential in being a fat burner not a muscle burner.

  12. #12
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    Great posts here. This is an interesting topic that I'd like to learn more about. I know the body is complex and I'm afraid this is an area where many over-simplifications have creeped in. Being the engineer that I am I'm curious as to how things REALLY work, I'll probably have to find a book on the topic when I get some free time (whenever that happens...next winter maybe, unless I take up snowshoeing :-)

  13. #13
    Senior Mumbler steve2k's Avatar
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    This is a really interesting thread for me, and something I've been puzzling over since the "best time to ride for weightloss" thread.

    Let me see if I understand this; this is mostly questions and my understanding rather than statements of fact.

    Most of cycling is aerobic exercise where you use glucose and oxygen. It's aerobic because it's low intensity on your muscles. Oxygen comes from your bloodstream and glucose comes from your fat stores/muscles? (question, not a statement) There is a certain level of activity that means you are burning the best % of glucose from your fat stores.

    If you have to push hard up a hill, or sprint, then you burn glycogen in your muscles. This is anerobic (no oxygen) because it's high intensity on your muscles, like lifting weights. You have 5-25 minutes of this before you're bonked and your body falls back to using glucose and oxygen from your bloodstream. This means you'll see a drop in your ability to sprint/climb hills etc. I read somewhere that your muscles can't swap glycogen stores, simply put, if your legs are out of glycogen your body can't ship glycogen from your arms to your legs. So you will feel the effects of this locally.

    So, in order to cycle for the longest period of time, and to lose the most weight, you need to keep in the aerobic zone and protect your precious 25 minutes of glycogen. This is why people say to ride with a high cadence and spin up hills instead of getting out of the saddle and grinding.

    OK, I realise this is very simplistic, but at least it makes sense to me. The question is, is it true or have I misunderstood the whole thing?

  14. #14
    Senior Member RoaringMad Mac's Avatar
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    I think you have it dead on.

    On a side note and you make a good analogy with the hill referance. I live in Birmingham Alabama in a residential area that is extremely hilly.

    It seems I can ride for 3 or 4 minutes and I am going up some major hill again. I have really taught myself to get it in the lowest (easiest) gear and spinn it but my problem is I burn out at some point (reason I am getting in shape aerobically).

    Getting out of you saddles will grind it out and mimick like doing lunges or a movement that resembles an anarobic activity.

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