Revisiting Episode 8: The Importance of Neuromuscular Training

Originally titled “Stop Your Legs from Fighting (Themselves),” we look back at episode 8 to see how our views—and the science—has changed regarding neuromuscular work.

FTL EP 326 Website Photo with Grant Holicky

Coach Trevor Connor has expressed many times that he’d like to go back and redo the first 10 episodes of Fast Talk. But he still remembers an early episode on the importance of neuromuscular training as the episode where Fast Talk really found its stride. So, it was a surprise to the whole team that it was only the 8th episode, and the first with now regular host, Grant Holicky, as a guest.  

RELATED: Neuromuscular Power-Up Workout 

On the original recording with host Caley Fretz, the team discussed what is meant by neuromuscular training, how it can give you “free watts,” and how to include neuromuscular training in a weekly plan. Eight years later, our current team of Coach Connor, Coach Holicky, Coach Rob Pickels, and Dr. Griffin McMath weigh in on just how well it has held up. 

Coach Pickels questions the main premise of the show—that cadence work is beneficial—and he and Coach Connor also debate how to define economy and efficiency (no, they’re not the same thing, but even most physiologists have a hard time defining them). Our hosts also espouse the benefits of training on rollers, but most importantly, they discuss whether Fretz’s claim that Holicky is a top expert on neuromuscular training still holds up.  

So, let’s hop in the Wayback Machine for a trip to 2016, and let’s make you fast! 

CORRECTION: During this episode, Connor refers to another episode of Fast Talk explaining the difference between economy and efficiency. It wasn’t actually an episode—it was an article he had written for VeloNews in 2017. 


​​(Candotti et al., 2009; Chapman, Vicenzino, Blanch, & Hodges, 2008; Lucía, Hoyos, Pardo, & Chicharro, 2004; MYER, FO, PALUO, & HEWETT, 2005; Paton, Hopkins, & Cook, 2009; Rønnestad, Hansen, Hollan, & Ellefsen, 2015)​ 

Episode Transcript

Trevor Connor  00:04

Hello and welcome to Fast Talk, your source for the science of endurance performance. I’m your host, Trevor Connor here with the whole squad. We got Grant Holicky. We have Griffin McMath. We have Rob Pickels and we’re about to do a throwback to an episode where we also have Caley Fretz and a first time guest on the episode, a guy named Grant Holicky and I’m going to say that Grant, this episode is kind of a Disney moment for me. It’s those wonderful innocent years when you and I respected one another.

Grant Holicky  00:37

Oh, stop it. I respect you now, as far as you know.

Trevor Connor  00:42

As far as I know?

Grant Holicky  00:44

I was really blown away at how mature I sounded in this episode. This was, what, six years ago?

Trevor Connor  00:52

  1. Eight years ago.

Grant Holicky  00:53

Eight years ago. I’ve regressed.

Trevor Connor  00:58

Wonderful years when you were 42 years old?

Grant Holicky  01:01

Yeah, I blame you guys.

Rob Pickels  01:03

Your hair got longer.

Grant Holicky  01:04

My hair is longer now. One thing in this episode that I will push back rather hard on is Caley introduced me as an expert on this topic.

Trevor Connor  01:13

I found that interesting.

Grant Holicky  01:14

And I remember when he said that. I still remember when he said that and I didn’t really know enough to go, ‘no, I’m not an expert in anything’.

Rob Pickels  01:25

You said some pretty smart things though, I will say. The myelination as a little preview. I was proud of you.

Grant Holicky  01:33

Yeah, you were impressed because you didn’t know me as anything other than just that random guy walking in to the center.

Trevor Connor  01:42

So here’s the thing I’m going to say before we play this episode. I have said multiple times, I would like to take the first 20 episodes of Fast Talk and burn them because we did not know what we were doing. The audio quality was awful.

Rob Pickels  01:53

It sounded like you were in a different room. Were you in a different room.

Grant Holicky  01:57


Trevor Connor  01:58

No, I was not. We just had no idea how to set up the audio gear whatsoever.

Grant Holicky  02:02

I sounded good and you guys sounded pretty bad.

Trevor Connor  02:04

Yeah, no, it was bad and we did not know what we were doing at all. So that was one issue, but I just I think back in those episodes and I hate them. I shouldn’t say hate them, but I just cringe. I was surprised to discover this was episode eight because I remember this episode and I remember this being in my opinion, one of the best if not the best of our early episodes, first 100 episodes. I thought this one had great content and I love doing the research for it and when I saw as part of those first 20, I kind of went ‘wow’ and when your listening to it, I still think it’s a good episode.

Grant Holicky  02:37

I was shocked that it was only episode eight. I didn’t realize I came on that early in the process.

Rob Pickels  02:44

I think my first episode was episode nine.

Griffin McMath  02:47

Ohh. Woo!

Trevor Connor  02:47

Oh. Both in the first ten.

Grant Holicky  02:49

Got ya!

Griffin McMath  02:51

You got to start somewhere, though.

Rob Pickels  02:53

I’m looking through all the episodes right now. I’m trying to find one older than nine.

Grant Holicky  02:57

Well, here’s the thing though, that’s kind of comic because you are far more of an expert in anything than me.

Rob Pickels  03:04

That’s not true. Your expertise is overwhelming.

Grant Holicky  03:07

Well, what I was trying to say earlier was Trevor only found out a year ago that I had a biology degree.

Trevor Connor  03:12

Sure. This is true.

Grant Holicky  03:15

So I do come across sometimes not as the science guy in a coaching scenario, but I do really enjoy it and I did like some aspects of this episode that came out and went specifically to the myelinzation of the pathways and how we can speed those things up and how we can create really good efficiency at the wrong pathways too. I thought that was something that we could have expanded on a little bit more.

Trevor Connor  03:44

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Fast Talk Team begins Reviewing Episode Eight

Trevor Connor  04:28

So let’s do this. We’re going to play the episode because I think we need everybody to hear it before we can talk about it.

Grant Holicky  04:33

Yeah, that’s fair.

Trevor Connor  04:34

And then when the episode is over, we’re gonna come back in and add to it. Talk about what we liked, what we didn’t like. Things that we didn’t cover. So let’s go the episode now.

Caley Fretz  04:45

Hello, and welcome to Fast Talk the VeloNews training podcast I’m Kaylee Fretts and in today’s episode, we’ll explain how to ‘teach your legs to stop fighting themselves’. We spent a lot of time focusing on VO2 Max, lactate threshold and bodyweight, but there’s a way to get better on a bike that doesn’t show up on tests. How? By training proper muscle firing patterns. It’s called neuromuscular training and it is vitally important, but often misunderstood. With me today is Coach Trevor Connor, as always and a special guest Grant Holicky, a coach at Apex coaching, an expert in neuromuscular training. Let’s make you fast.

Defining Neuromuscular Training

Caley Fretz  05:25

Alright, so in my in my usual role as village idiot, I’m going to be particularly idiotic today because this is a subject matter that flies way, way over my head and my understanding of physiology. So we’re going to be leaning heavily on Trevor and Grant for this particular episode and we’re going to start with the basics. So Grant, let’s turn to you first. Can you provide a definition that I will understand of neuromuscular training?

Grant Holicky  05:50

So in neuromuscular training, what we’re trying to do is increase the economy, or for lack of a better way to say at the efficiency of your legs and how they’re pedaling bike. So this is one of those things that’s going to show up year after year, despite how you’re training in that particular season, the ability to turn the lights over well with high economy quickly and all those things on the bike are going to be able to give you an opportunity to increase power output and hold that power for a longer period of time.

Trevor Connor  06:26

So we covered this very first podcast, we talked about what separates an amateur from a pro and if you’ve listened to that or if you remember back to that podcast, we pointed out that things like VO2 Max don’t really improve, you don’t really see that big an improvement in max power, but one of the places where you really saw pros differentiate themselves from amateurs is in this neuromuscular recruitment. As Grant said, if you become more economical or efficient, we’re going to use them interchangeably here.

Grant Holicky  07:01

Which apparently we shouldn’t.

Caley Fretz  07:06

There was some off mic debate before this podcast again, well not really debate, just Trevor being Trevor.

Trevor Connor  07:15

There not the same!

Caley Fretz  07:17

Economy and efficiency are not the same thing, Trevor, if it’ll make you feel better, why don’t you tell us what the difference is, before we continue on.

Trevor Connor  07:24

And we will cut this out.

Difference between Efficiency and Economy

Caley Fretz  07:26

No, we’re not cutting this out, Trevor explain to us what the difference is so that we can then use them interchangeably.

Trevor Connor  07:33

Specifically, efficiency is the degree to which internal energy is converted to external energy. So we only use about 25% of the energy we actually generate, where only about 25% of it goes into the bike. The more of it that you can put into the bike, the less that you lose as heat, the more efficient you are. Economy is the actual movement itself. Being able to do the work with a movement pattern that requires less energy. So if any of you are big Monty Python fans like me, you might have seen that skit where they had the ‘Center for Unusual Walking’ and you watch them do all these crazy walks to move across the floor, those are very uneconomical walks. Where if you watch people who are much older who say have a hip injury, they actually learned to become very economical and kind of slide their feets in their movement because they’ve lost a lot of strength, so they really don’t have a lot of energy to put into their walks. So that’s economy. When we’re talking about neuromuscular training, using your muscles better actually improving your your pedal stroke, there is some efficiency involved there, but it’s actually more economy improving your economy.

Caley Fretz  08:50

Okay with that behind us, we will continue to use them mostly interchangeably. For the purposes of this discussion…

Trevor Connor  09:11

We will use them interchangeably.

Caley Fretz  09:13

We will use them interchangeably. I hope that doesn’t bother any of the, you know, PhD physiologists out there too much.

Trevor Connor  09:16

But the key point here is when they compare amateurs and pros, one of the biggest things to differentiate pros is far, far better neuromuscular recruitment patterns.

Caley Fretz  09:21

Can you expand on that? Did you look for a study?

Trevor Connor  09:25

I’m the analyable retentive around here.

Grant Holicky  09:28

I might sort of… It makes me feel comfortable because that’s Neil’s role in apex and when he’s not here, I feel kind of lost. If somebody’s not lecturing me on efficiency versus economy.

Trevor Connor  09:42

So don’t tell Neil this, but when I was managing Reo, three of our athletes were being coached by Neil and they nicknamed me ‘Neil with heartrate’. They were like “you are just like, Neil, except he gives everything and why did you give everything in heartrate?”

Grant Holicky  09:57

That’s fantastic.

Caley Fretz  09:59

This is all going into the podcast.

Grant Holicky  10:00

Oh, God, I hope so. I hope so.

Importance of Neuromuscular Training

Caley Fretz  10:03

Okay, so we know what it is. Can you guys explain to me as to the village idiot as you do, why this is important?

Grant Holicky  10:11

For what I do and especially in the season that we’re in, talking about cyclocross and talking about cycling training, the ability to have that smooth, quick-reacting pedal stroke, the ability to bring the cadence up quickly, and the ability to pedal at a high cadence. One of the big things that I tend to notice as a coach is that newer cyclists tend to pedal in that lower cadence range. They’re mashing the pedals a little bit. It feels like you’re putting more power out, it feels like there’s more resistance on your legs, but the fatigue in your legs is high. So riding that higher cadence allows us to react quicker to what goes on around, us accelerate faster, things along those lines and having that ability in high economy of neuromuscular recruitment allows us to pedal a little bit of that higher cadence and it’s going to really help our writing dramatically.

Co-Activation: When our Muscles Fight Themselves

Trevor Connor  11:08

So looking at it from a physiological standpoint and this is actually one of my favorite analogies to give because people really like this one. The way I like to think of it is picture doing a bicep curl because this is really simple motion, there’s really just one muscle involved. Imagine you have a bicep that is strong enough to curl 40 pounds. Now imagine every time you try to curl a weight, your triceps activate and basically fight that motion. So you might be strong enough to curl 40, but your max lift is only going to be 20 pounds because your triceps is actually fighting you. That fighting, when muscles fight one another, that effect is called ‘co-activation’. In a simple motion like that, that sounds ridiculous and that isn’t going to happen. When you’re thinking about the pedal stroke on a bike, we have over a dozen muscles that are involved, often having to fire more than once through the the the full circle of the pedal stroke, you have a lot of co-activation. So you have a lot of your muscles actually fighting one another and one really interesting study that they did a few years ago, they compared the level of co-activation in amateur cyclists to professional cyclists and you actually saw six times as much coactivation or six times longer coactivation in amateurs than in pros. So essentially, their own muscles are fighting themselves and they’re losing probably 20, 30 watts, just from all that co-activation. If you can train your muscles to fire in a better pattern and not fight each other, you don’t have to get any stronger and your wattage is going to go up. That’s why it’s so valuable.

Caley Fretz  12:45

This is what I was referring to in the intro when I said your legs fighting themselves, basically.

Grant Holicky  12:50

Yeah, and and not only that ability to produce more watts, your ability to hold that wattage for longer and that may even come into it as a bigger effect. The more you’re fighting against yourself and that co-activation is going on, the quicker we’re going to break down because we’re just not going to be able to hold that for as long.

Trevor Connor  13:09

Right. That’s a really good point because when you have two muscles fighting one another, one is being forcefully lengthened and you start getting tearing and that’s going to cause you to fatigue very rapidly.

Caley Fretz  13:20

Is that the source of well, for example, if I do my one annual run and I go and I run three miles and I can’t move for like a week and a half afterwards. Is that some of the source of that pain that my legs are essentially not particularly economical?

Neuromuscular Training vs Just Riding More

Grant Holicky  13:37

Well, you definitely have some of that going on. You know, it might be that offseason 10 to 15 pounds you gained as well, a lot of those things. Yeah, well anytime you’re not doing a movement with regularity, you’re going to lose that muscle economy and especially for somebody who hasn’t ever run a lot, say. Somebody’s background is triathlon or they grew up running, they’re going to be able to go out for a run and have less of that soreness less of that breakdown than somebody who doesn’t run very often and never did and this one of the great things about neuromuscular training that I’m sure we’ll touch on more, is that it is something you can retain from year to year. It’s funny, coaches will and athletes especially get into this mindset, if they take two weeks off, they’ve lost everything, but at the same time, they’re going to turn and look at the seasoned athlete and go, “Well, they’ve got all that years of base, years of base, years of base.” Years of base doesn’t really exist. If you lose your fitness, you lose your fitness, but you can retain the efficiency of movement, the economy of movement and that pedal stroke and that ability to have the pedal stroke is going to serve you year after year after year, especially early season.

Trevor Connor  14:52

So really important thing though, with the neuromuscular side is a lot of people just think, Okay well, if I do a lot of riding, I’m going to learn that that firing pattern, I’m going to improve the neuromuscular side. So back in 2008, there was this great study out of Brazil, where they address that question. So they took high level elite or even pro level cyclists and compare them to triathletes. So they found very high level triathletes who are putting in about the same number of hours per week on the bike as the these high level cyclists. The difference is, you don’t see a ton of neuromuscular training in a lot of triathletes, it’s just not something they focus on because they have so many other things they work on. Where all these cyclists, we’re doing a lot of neuromuscular work, specific neuromuscular work and then compare them again for the co-activation and what you saw was, yes, the cyclists look very much like the pros from the study I told you about a couple minutes ago. The triathletes looked like the amateur cyclists. They had very high levels of co-activation, you really saw poor neuromuscular recruitment patterns. So just doing time on the bike, didn’t teach it.

Grant Holicky  16:03

Yeah, it’s similar to technical ability. You know, that’s been something we’ve talked about, not to disparage the triathletes out there.

Caley Fretz  16:10

We don’t really mind.

Grant Holicky  16:13

Well, I coach them I don’t want, but you know, triathletes do spend a lot of time in the aero bars and they they spend a ton of time on the bike. Time on the bike doesn’t make you necessarily technically sound, it doesn’t make your ability to accelerate quickly inherent, those are the things that you have to focus on, put effort and time into and consistently train.

Pedal Stroke vs High Cadence Exercises

Caley Fretz  16:34

So my, I have an old school bike racing dad and when he was teaching me how to ride when I was, you know, 10, 11, 12 years old and starting to race a little bit. He would always tell me, you kick over the top of the stroke and you pretend that you’re scraping mud off your shoe across the bottom. Is that the sort of thing that we’re talking about here or is this a little bit more specific work and more than just thinking about a good pedal stroke?

Grant Holicky  17:02

We definitely, we’re going to talk about pedal stroke with our athletes, but at a period of time, if somebody’s been doing this for 10 to 15 years, that gets a little redundant, they’re gonna tune you out on that. A lot of what we end up doing is specific workouts and training, in order to develop that neuromuscular recruitment, in order to lay down those patterns. You know, the studies that are out on how our nerves work and how those things go on is, the more that we use the pathway, the more myelin we lay over those neuron sheets, and the faster that signal is going to travel to the muscle musculature and this goes back even to what Trevor was saying before about just time on the bike. If you’re doing the wrong thing over and over again, you’re gonna lay a really efficient pathway through that neuromuscular system the wrong way. So we have to really go out and get out of what we’re used to, for some people and create workouts and create sessions that are built around specifically training this from a physiological standpoint, not just from a mental standpoint.

Trevor Connor  18:05

So I’ll just quickly add to that, one of the ways I actually identify somebody who has really bad neuromuscular recruitment patterns is not so much trying to look at where they’re applying the power through the pedal stroke, but I especially look at when they try to do high cadence. So I was running a trainer session last winter and I had a lot of athletes at very different levels come in and I would do cadence drills with them and I would see the the people had the bad neuromuscular recruitment. A: they couldn’t hit very high cadences and even just that 110 hundred and 20 RPM, you just see them bouncing all over their bike because that’s basically the neuromuscular system saying I can’t keep up with this. I can’t fire the muscles in a good pattern even at this low cadence, so when I started having them do a lot of cadence work, really try to hit those higher cadences and do it will stay smooth on the bike not bouncing all over the saddle, they actually started seeing a lot of improvements.

Identifying your Neuromuscular Recruitment Level

Grant Holicky  19:06

Yeah and one of the things you can look at that single leg, especially on the trainer inside, you know at Rally Sport where our studios, we have the Wahoo kickers in there and we’ll do single leg stuff at a at a certain wattage and you just hear the clunk clunk, clunk clunk, clunk, clunk, clunk around the pedal stroke or we get 10 seconds of smooth and then there’s just sound all over of people ramming an edge of the pedal stroke. So it’s quite simple to identify that whether in yourself or in an athlete, as Trevor said, look at your power meter, see where your cadence is, how much trouble you’re having 120 cadence? How much trouble are you having with 30 seconds, single leg drill. These are great identifiers of where your neuromuscular patterns are and how economical you are on the bike.

Caley Fretz  19:51

I mean, how high should a sort of a normal road athlete I mean, we’re not talking track race stars, how fast should a normal road athlete be able to pedal? I mean, are we talking like if you can’t comfortably pedal 125 rpm and you probably have an issue?

Grant Holicky  20:09

Well, great trackies can hit over 200.

Caley Fretz  20:13

No problem.

Grant Holicky  20:14

That ain’t happening in this room. Well, actually, maybe it is. I don’t know how you two pedal. We tend to look at trying, you know, for some of the workouts we’re doing, we’re looking at sustained cadences for a minute to a minute and a half at 120 or over and that to me, 120 RPMs is a bit of a magic number. Can you sustain that for a period of time? We can all hit it, but like Trevor said, we’re bouncing all over the bike and your legs can’t keep up. We look with a lot of our, I’d say our high level elites not even really in the pros looking for cadence builds up into the 150 to 160 range. That’s what we’re trying to find and sustain cadences in 110 to 120.

Starting your Season Strong with Neuromuscular Training

Trevor Connor  20:58

I think this is a fantastic thing to do at the beginning of the year. I think this is true with all cyclists, one of the things you’re always trying to prevent is injuries later on, overuse injury, knee problems and I think neuromuscular work, which is training the muscles to fire right combined with some off the bike work like some core work and some weight work is a really great way right at the start of the season to get your legs ready for the harder work you’re going to do later and prevent you from developing injuries.

Grant Holicky  21:25

A lot of how we tend to look at this is almost to an extent and Trevor and I spoke about this a year ago, a reverse periodization and how you look at your season. So many riders early season, just gotta get in the miles, just got to get in the miles, just got to get in the miles and as we talked about earlier, just getting in the miles doesn’t increase economy, it doesn’t help efficiency. So if we can create something that began the season, where we’re forced to be at high cadence, forced to be at high effort, forced to be at high power, even if it’s for short periods of time, we’re raising that ceiling of what we’re going to be capable of from a cadence point of view, from strength point of view, and from a power point of view and always having that in the training, I think and we believe is going to develop the threshold, it’s going to develop VO2 Max and develop all those things because as we discussed at the beginning, you’re going to be able to hold that longer. You’re going to be able to reach at 20 or 30 watt higher threshold and you’re going to be able to maintain that threshold for a longer period of time.

Specific Neuromuscular Workouts and How Often to do Them

Caley Fretz  22:25

That 20 or 30 watts, is that sort of assuming that a rider is coming off pretty poor economy or do you think most riders if they’ve never done work like this before and they’re not track racers or something, could probably expect that kind of range?

Grant Holicky  22:40

Well listen, I mean the simple fact that we have professional cyclocross athletes that we coach at Apex that are in the top 10 in the country that are doing this neuromuscular workout in November mid cyclocross season because we expect to see some sort of gain from them now. Yeah, this is something that all the population could gain from and you know, I don’t know that any of us are ever going to target “well yes, you’ll get 20 watts.” That sounds like an infomercial and the only thing that might guarantee you 20 watts is you’re in bike motor, but this is one of those things definitely that you’re going to see return on this investment, especially if it’s regular and focused.

Trevor Connor  23:28

So back in 2015, in the spring VeloNews had me review a bike trainer that had this nice screen that showed your spin scan, how smooth your pedal stroke is and I was sitting there thinking I focus on all this stuff, I raced in the pro ranks for God knows how long. I’m going to crush this. So I got on it, I launched that spin scan for my first workout and I had this great figure eight. I’m like, ooh, what does that mean and then looked at the instruction manual just to see what the different shapes mean. It went figure eight: ‘amateur rider just getting on’. I didn’t like that at all. So now, forget the review for VeloNews, I was dedicated. I’m now going to get that nice doughnut shape and I really worked on it and did a lot of neuromuscular work. So this is after 20 plus years of racing, got that doughnut shape and I had the best spring I had had in years and I hadn’t changed anything else about my training, it was that. So even after 20 years, I could still see gains.

Caley Fretz  24:32

I think Trevor, that’s a pretty perfect little transition into how do we learn these things? What are things that people can be doing on a weekly basis or a daily basis? Is this the type of thing you can do at the end of every ride? What do these workouts look like?

Trevor Connor  24:48

I’m not gonna lie to you here. I spoke to grant about this a year ago and he gave me a whole ton of workouts that I’m now giving to my athletes. So I’m just gonna say, Grant, you had the best workouts I’ve ever heard. So please.

Grant Holicky  25:00

Fair enough. So you know, when we’re approaching this, we’ve talked a lot about the high cadence work and it’s easy to focus on the high cadence work. There’s two pieces to this. One of the pieces to this is how do we put power into the pedals? So what we tend to do at Apex and a lot of these to be, you know, completely forthright our Neil Henderson’s workouts, he’s the mad scientist, the Geek in the apex team. I won’t say he taught me everything I know because I don’t want to sound like Kaylee and the village idiot, but so the workouts we tend to put out there early and I’d say early season, but especially right now in cross when we get a weekend break and we’re not racing, cadence drills, power drills, all these things. So we’re building from both sides, we want to look at how we can get power into the pedal stroke. So one of the workouts we do are bigger sprints, something that track riders are absolutely fluent in, putting the bike and you’re 53 in the front and you’re 11, 12 or 13 in the back on a flat road and start from almost a standstill. As slow as you can be. You’re probably not gonna bust out a track stand, but what you’re doing there is you’re pulling and pushing with the arms on the bike, you’re pulling and pushing on the pedals with the bike and driving that cadence from super low and high power all the way up to that high cadence pedal stroke up at 100 to 110 that we’re looking for. We’ll do a little workout with six to eight of those sprints. It’s one of those workouts that people walk out of afterwards and go well it was you know, it was kind of hard, but wasn’t really that hard and then they go try to go upstairs later and they can’t really walk up the stairs. So, theres those sneaky hard workouts. On the other side of the coin is high cadence stuff. So what Trevor was talking about what some of the cadence pyramids and one of my favorite sessions to do is to go 30 seconds with the right leg only, 30 seconds easy riding, 30 seconds with the left leg only. Repeat that two to three times. So, six 30 second effort single leg and then immediately into a high cadence hold, one minute at 120 RPM.

Caley Fretz  27:08

Are those single legs done at 90, 100 RPM, what’s the?

Grant Holicky  27:11

Well by nature, you’re going to be fairly high cadence with those in order to have a smooth pedal stroke. If you’re at you know, 80 RPM, the load on it’s probably so high, you’re gonna break down, you’re not gonna make it through 30 seconds anyway. This is one of those beautiful sweet spot things. When you find the right load and typically that load on the high cadence holds his tempo probably 70 to 80%, maybe even up to 90% of LT, we want a little bit of pressure off the pedals so that we can continue to spin. So yeah, you’ll tend to be at 90 to 100, that sweet spot and again, maintaining through the tail end of that 32nd effort. Another one that we do with a lot of athletes is just straight up one minute cadence buids. Starting at whatever your self selected cadence is and then building that cadence up to as high as you can possibly get it over the course of a minute and having an eye on the clock so that we know that it’s not 100 for 30 seconds, 110 for the next 15, 112 for the next 10 and we blast five seconds of 160. How do we slowly, but surely over the sweep of the clock, lift that up and hold each next segment as we go up?

Caley Fretz  28:28

How often are we doing this?

Grant Holicky  28:30

Early season we’re tend to be doing some sort of neuromuscular work two days a week. Tuesdays tend to be more of a session based, less drill based, neuromuscular effort, high gear Sprint’s, short sharp 10 seconds to 15 seconds high cadence sprints, cresting hills 30 seconds just big huge efforts with tons of rest and then Fridays often we’re doing drill work. Single leg cadence work, cadence builds. Things of that nature on Friday.

Caley Fretz  29:02

Is the kind of thing you can throw into the end of a normal ride?

Grant Holicky  29:05

Yeah, I think it is. I mean, I think it’s just like anything. It’s one of those things that, to me though, it’s best done a little bit fresh. If you’ve already broken down at the end of the ride, this is one of those things that maybe you can do a little bit at the end of the ride to remind yourself and your body of what this is supposed to feel like, but if you have fresher legs, you’re going to be able to move through the workout with a little bit better progress and probably get a higher return out of it.

Trevor Connor  29:32

One of the workouts I really love to give athletes to both identify issues and to help them improve is exactly work in that sort of sustained cadences. So anybody, almost anybody can hop on a bike and hit 150 RPM, which they don’t care about form and you just don’t want to watch them because it looks like they’re gonna hit the ground, but it’s all about that control. So I love doing what are called cadence pyramids, where you started either 90 or 100 RPM and you do a minute at exactly that cadence, then you go up to 110 and do a minute trying to hold that exact cadence. Initially I’ll start with athletes going up to 120, but as they get better and better go up to 130, 140 because you really have to learn those neuromuscular firing patterns to be able to hold that exact cadence.

Placing this Regiment into the Season for Racers

Trevor Connor  30:20

When it comes to neuromuscular training, there’s a lot of ways to skin that cat. So we caught up with Carter Jones, a recently retired pro tour rider who has a physiology degree from the University of Colorado and asked him some of the things he does to train the neuromuscular side. Forgive the quality of the audio, we had to talk with Carter while he was training over in Europe.

Carter Jones  30:41

Yeah, and I’d always do that and kind of peppered in my rides throughout the year. You know, endurance drives, apparently it’s like a lipid metabolism and it just kind of gets you feeling fresh again. If you have been riding its a nice endurance for all day, you kind of get a dull feeling in your legs, but you become to start feel good again. So yeah, it is definetly something I enjoy.

Trevor Connor  31:11

How big are your spreads? Is it just a quick effort or do you kill yourself?


Carter Jones  31:16

No. Usually when I work on my turning, I actually just work on really high cadence stuff. So like starting with like 110 RPM and seeing how high I can get up to, you know, 5, 10 seconds. It’s just really working on the legs speed or if I do like a full max sprint, no more than 10 seconds. It’s more just as you said, activation rather than fatigue. Yeah, something Brad has showed me last year, I really struggle with quick acceleration. So if I can work on, like high cadence, getting that jump, that could really benefit me. Sprinting is not important for a climber, until it’s really important. Sprinting doesn’t matter until you find yourself, you know, at the top of the climb in a group of three sprinting for the win of the stage is really important. So it’s definitely something to keep in mind. It’s like, obviously, you have to be able to climb to get there, but then being able to sprint is definetly still good to have. It can really make the difference in results. I know I’ve missed out on results in the past or haven’t done as well as I liked to because I had a poor sprint.

Trevor Connor  32:44

Are there any other tricks are things that you do for neurological training and stability?

Carter Jones  32:51

Carter Jones  32:54

No, for me it’s all just about keeping it as simple as possible. I really like lunges, like bodyweight exercises. Even the extra step of going to a gym like that for the winner. If I could just do it at home in 10 minutes before I ride, that’s the key. It’s all about motivation for me and that’s when I’ll actually do something.

Trevor Connor  33:22

What about during the season?

Grant Holicky  33:23

As I noted before, this is something that we go through mid season a lot. With our athletes, we tend to look at the big picture and what their schedule looks like. If we have a weekend we’re not racing, I love the three day block of a neuromuscular training day onn day one. Some sort of a VO2 Max or sprinty sort of day onn day two and then into threshold day or tempo day on day three. Those blocks moving from high intensity to lower intensity and often, also shorter duration, a longer duration have proven a we get nice return on that, the muscles can handle that and so it’s a great thing to work in throughout your season. If you race Saturday, you know Sunday tends to be a down day, maybe some neuromuscular work Monday, some sprint work Tuesday, wednesday your into your hard session of the week. If those three day blocks tend to seem too big and for a lot of amateur races they are. We race Saturday, we race Sunday, Monday is an easy day, spin day.Tuesday becomes a neuromuscular day, Wednesday becomes our hard session. Thursday we rest, Friday we pre race, Saturday we get at it again and bang our heads against our friends.

Final Questions from Trevor

Trevor Connor  34:34

So Grant two other questions for atleast in the research they’ve shown that you do get some neuromuscular gains on the bike from both weightlifting and also from doing some big gear work like those five minute low cadence up a climb type work. Do you agree with that and do you feel they’re useful?

Grant Holicky  34:51

Yeah, we often do workouts called ‘over unders’, five minute threshold or tempo efforts a minute below self-selected cadence and self-selected cadence, you’re gonna hear us say this a lot. So this is what you tend to ride at. If I asked you a five minute threshold effort, if you look down to three minutes and this would be where your cadences. Ideally, we want to see that 90 to 100, but different people are different places. So if this workout in an over under session, that first minute might be low cadence work 60 RPMs, that’s hard. That’s a big load and then having that shift for the second minute to be at it and above 100 to 105 RPMs and again, still holding that same wattage. So under, over, under, over under over we’d like to do a lot of those. The three minute big gear threshold efforts, just above threshold efforts are a great early season staple for us. 60 to 70 RPMs again, really over geared, sport specific strength on the bike really, really again broadening that strength base for what you’re doing on the bike. Off the bike, our athletes are doing some sort of a strength session, usually once a week, all throughout the season, often twice a week. We have riders that really have responded, saying they feel stronger, they feel more in contact with the bike, they feel better structured. All of those things. A simple way to look at what we’re trying to do there, our strength specialists we use Erin Carson at Rally Sport and Erin takes us through lots of single leg work.

Caley Fretz  36:34

That’s Jimmy here in Boulder for everyone listening.

Grant Holicky  36:37

Yes and it was where our Apex offices are based out of. So single leg work, her mindset behind it is mobility, strength, flexibility, having that ability to load single leg works and allow us to activate the musculature and really find it in our bodies.

Recap of Neuromuscular Training and its Benefit

Caley Fretz  36:58

Well, even this village idiot is now I think, quite convinced of this. This is not work that I have done in quite a long time, but even for the semi racer like myself, sounds like the kind of thing that could make my bike life little bit easier. Trevor, can you just run us through just to remind everybody why we care about this?

Trevor Connor  37:17

Okay, so try not to sound like that infomercial and saying you’re gonna instantly gain 20 watts. We’re really looking at at five benefits that I think Grant is explained really well to neuromuscular training, just to quickly sum them up. The first is you improve your economy and efficiency. You’re going to last longer on the bike because you’re going to have less muscle tearing and other issues that are associated with the co-activation we talked about. So the third one is because you have your muscles firing in the right patterns, you’re going to see less overuse injury and that’s going to allow you to do bigger work later on and the last one, which we touched on, but this is a really great point that Grant has made in the past is if the neuromuscular firing patterns aren’t there, you’re going to be very unstable on the bike and that’s going to lead to a real, what you call the leak of power, which I love that term.

Grant Holicky  38:13

Yeah, and I am just to expand on that a tiny little bit here as we finish up. So much of what we’re doing when we’re riding is, is benefited by riding with a bit of a higher cadence and holding that higher cadence, you know, the old expression of spin to win and all those things. Higher cadence is going to allow you to respond quicker to attacks, change speeds faster, get in and out of corners with more explosiveness and neuromuscular training does so much in order to benefit that high cadence riding. It sets you up to ride at that place, much, much easier and that leak of power that Trevor just mentioned, tends to diminish. We can get on the pedals quicker, we can turn them faster, we can respond to attacks, we can go then attack. That’s what we’re looking for on the bike is that ability to change speeds on a dime. That’s what makes great racers.

Trevor Connor  39:14

The other really important takeaway here is time on the bike is not going to do it. You have to do dedicated work to improve that neuromuscular side and that’s a combination of single leg work, cadence work, both high cadence and trying to control that high cadence and some low cadence work and just some short sprint work and the really nice thing about the neuromuscular work is with a few exceptions, it’s generally not fatiguing. It doesn’t beat you up the way a VO2 workouts gonna beat you up. So here’s a way of improving without having to worry about burning yourself out.

Grant Holicky  39:48

As every coach will tell every athlete remember that just because it doesn’t beat you up, doesn’t mean it’s not helping you. So this is a great way to get a big return without destroying you and a great way to piggyback on a hard session maybe the next day and really increase your return on your investment.

Caley Fretz  40:08

This is sort of the rough equivalent of Rocky chasing the chickens versus going for a run right?

Caley Fretz  40:14

Sure, sure. Doesn’t beat you up, but it’s very important. Speak for the chicken.

Back to Episode 326 — What Has Changed Since Episode 8?

Trevor Connor  40:23

So that was episode eight of Fast Talk and as I said, here’s what kind of surprised me because I just have this bad memory of those first few episodes. I think this is a good episode. I didn’t listen to any of it and go, ‘Oh, my God, did we say that? We need to adjust that’. Apart from maybe how we define efficiency and economy. We did do a whole episode on that later that I’d recommend listening to, where we got it right, Rob. Despite what you think.

Griffin McMath  40:49

There was an eye roll there?

Trevor Connor  40:50

Yeah he didn’t even…

Grant Holicky  40:52

There wasn’t even a roll, just an evil look.

Trevor Connor  40:54

That was that was actually a really evil look, but here’s something that I want to start with and then you guys can talk about what you want to add to the episode. At one point, Grant, you said, ‘you don’t really lose this. It continues year to year.’ I’m going to say sort of.

Grant Holicky  41:13

Yeah, I agree with that.

Trevor Connor  41:14

Because here’s the thing, I had completely forgotten about this. I had talked about an example with me, where I was testing that one bike, the spin scan and had a really good season because I was working so hard on the neuromuscular side. So here’s my update since then. I don’t have as much time to train, I have let the whole neuromuscular side completely fall apart. I don’t do it. I used to after the end of every ride, I would hop on rollers and do my pyramids. I was doing the cadence pyramids six times a week and I was doing neuromuscular work all the time. I don’t do any of that anymore and I listen to this episode and after my ride yesterday, I hopped on the rollers and I won’t lie to you, I couldn’t hit 110. I was bouncing all over the rollers and I used to go to like 140, 150 on the rollers, I couldn’t do 110. So I have lost a lot of that neuromuscular side and I do think it’s a big part of why I have lost significant performance.

Grant Holicky  42:09

Well and I would agree with that. I think that statement was a little too blanket. I think what I was trying to say and what I would clarify that as, is you lose it a little bit slower than you lose something like fitness and the technical ability of being able to sprint because there is a lot of technical pieces to sprinting. You give a sprinter a bike and it could be four years, they can still sprint. Can they sprint at the level that they were sprinting out when they’re in the world tournament, no, but they can still sprint. There’s a technical aspect that can be learned, movement patterns, learn behavior that you’re going to retain and you’re going to retain it longer than you’re going retain the fitness, but I do think that’s an important clarification.

Corrections to Pedal Stroke

Rob Pickels  42:49

You bring up spin scan Trevor and it’s funny, you were chasing the donut instead of the figure eight and as much as I love donuts, I will say I don’t think that the donut is the best spin scan, right and I think for a long time companies like Racer Mate making the compu-trainer, they were really looking at a mechanical efficiency and that doughnut shape, what they were trying to achieve was a very perfectly even average pedal stroke 360 degrees and we know now that that is not necessarily the most efficient, physiological way to pedal your bike because it’s very reliant on muscles that really aren’t the best for putting for us into a pedal. So it is okay to be pushing a little harder on the downstroke, you should be lifting up just enough to help clear your foot up the backside, not putting mechanical energy down for most of your pedaling. Now, a hard attack, a sprint, something like that, sure it’ll be really mechanically efficient applying all the way, but I’m okay that people aren’t like 360 degrees of applying force to the pedal and Mr. Power cranks.

Trevor Connor  43:59

Look they’ve shown that’s not the benefit of power cranks, so I agree 100% with you and Caley asked that, when we’re talking about neuromuscular training, is it about pulling over the top of the pedal stroke and you immediately said ‘no, that’s not really what I focus on with athletes’. It’s about doing high cadence work, low cadence work, single leg work, where your neuromuscular system is learning how to do proper muscle recruitment.

Grant’s Neuromuscular Training for Athletes Today

Grant Holicky  44:21

Right, and I think one of the biggest things and I still do this, it was funny when you gave us the two options and I said, not mine, not mine, not mine, not mine because I was terrified to go back and listen to that for fear of what was said eight years ago, but I still do almost all those same things now in the training plan with with athletes. I like the cadence work. I like what it does for co-activation, I like their ability to stay smooth around the pedals and I love what it allows them to do from a technical aspect of responding in sprinting and surging and I hope this doesn’t sound oversimplified, but I think it’s a workout of engagement and so workout of helping athletes feel like they’re doing something moving forward without an overwhelming amount of intensity or load and I like that about this.

Rob Pickels  45:08

Because otherwise, they’re just a pootling along at 200 watts or whatever, it’s not a very engaging thing, but if they have to be at 70 RPM, 80 RPM, 90, working up to 120 and then it gives them something to sort of latch on which I wouldn’t think about.

Grant Holicky  45:22

Yeah and I think I said this in the episode, the cadence work that I tend to do with my athletes, I want all that power below threshold because it’s really easy or easier, it’s not easy, but it’s a heck of a lot easier to apply regular pressure to the pedals when we’re going 350 Watts. I mean, even in Episode 315, the one on cadence, he talks about self selecting cadences as we go up in power, that cadence tends to rise up with it and so when we do high cadence at lower power, the clunking does come into the equation and a lot of that is not being able to turn muscles off fast enough, more than not being able to pedal correctly.

Griffin McMath  46:06

You talked about this as an engaging workout and for me, it’s about rather than engaging, I guess, to me, it feels really articulate. That’s kind of how my focus is able to be honed in nd interestingly, before Trevor, you had mentioned, these are the episodes we’re looking at, I started seeing online more and more recently, a lot on single leg work and then you happen to mention this episode and then I found workouts from you, online through a variety of organizations on single leg workout and I think this, in particular, when it comes to neuromuscular training, I keep coming back to the word really articulate and so it’s less about this intensity and overwhelming nature that I think sometimes I have to plan my entire week around, but something that’s so articulate kind of uses a different part of my brain and how to bring it full circle, how I’m engaging with my body.

Grant Holicky  46:53

The other thing I really like about this, is you can see progression in it as you take athletes through these workouts you can see them getting better and they can feel themselves getting better and it’s a way, again, a little bit lower load, a little bit lower intensity, a little bit lower of an ask in terms of the general power output of the week, but they’re gaining knowledge. They’re gaining proficiency and they can feel themselves gaining proficiency on the bike and that translates to confidence. I know that’s kind of a touchy feely thing, but it I think it becomes really relevant.

Grant Holicky  47:25

Well, there’s gratification to it if the target is a little bit more specific because you can see the progress there.

Why Rob Doesn’t Recommend Cadence Workouts for his Athletes

Rob Pickels  47:31

Grant I’m on the opposite end of the spectrum I think with this and if people do go back and listen to episode 315, it’s pretty clear in there, I don’t really prescribe cadence work. Big gear sprints that are talked about, where you’re in middle of a base ride, you’re dropping your cadence down, shift into a hard gear and then you’re like err, you’re like trying to accelerate, I do do that. There has been shown to be performance benefits with that sort of training, but I very rarely will recommend that people go out and pedal at x cadence, build up through this cadence, so on and so forth and for me, a lot of it is the research. Yeah, hey, if you’re a habituated cyclist, you tend to pedal faster, beginner cyclists tend to pedal slower. I personally don’t do this correlation causation thing where it’s like, hey because you’re more neuromuscularly efficient, that’s why you’re the better. I think that that stuff kind of happens as you become more proficient in cycling in general.

Trevor Connor  48:27

So thats why.

Rob Pickels  48:28


Trevor Connor  48:28

That study that I talked about … vs. cyclists. You asked me to send that to you this morning.

Rob Pickels  48:33

I wanted to read it.

Trevor Connor  48:34

You want to point out the flaws.

Rob Pickels  48:36

And I will, when I get a chance to read it.

Grant Holicky  48:42

I do, I agree with all that and listening to that episode myself, but you know, we all of us do this and we use a lot of information to kind of confirm what we already believe, but what I heard in there over and over again was self-select cadence, especially at lower powers, lower cadence can be more economical and lower powers. I don’t have any problem with that and I think all that’s really relevant and I definitely walked out of that episode and spent less time at base worrying about where my cadence was. When I’m talking about cadence work, I’m talking about six one minute effort spread throughout the ride and the rest of the ride itself selected cadence. I’m looking at very specific technical aspects of the pedal stroke or of sprinting or of things of that nature. One of the things that I think is really, really missed higher level competing cyclists, is the ability to push very, very high watts, seated at very, very high cadence. I don’t think those two things go together vor a lot of people. I think a lot of people are really good at pushing high cadence, but not a lot of watts or they’re really good at pushing a lot of watts at a really low cadence.

Grant Holicky  49:48

They’re climbing. They’re kind of grinding.

Grant Holicky  49:52

One of those two things and the suppleness and it’s one of those the souplesse that Howes talks about, but that is an art that allows somebody to react to the course in a cyclocross course or to the field in a road race and I think there is something to and I don’t have the research to back it up, it’s anecdotal, but that ability to respond and pedal really high cadence at really high watts and I see that missing in a lot of athletes. So I like building the ability to do a high cadence because most of my athletes at that level are really good at being strong.

Trevor Connor  50:31

The other anecdotal evidence I’m going to give you is that ability to change speed is absolutely critical in track cycling. That’s what track cycling is all about and look how much time track cyclists spend focusing on that neuromuscular side.

Rob Pickels  50:46

Well, it’s because they only have one gear and if they want to go fast, they gotta pedal fast.

Trevor Connor  50:51

Which is fair as well.

Grant Holicky  50:52

I think that’s relevant and always. You can’t shift effectively to a higher, harder gear, when you’re already pedaling slow.

Rob Pickels  51:01

Correct because there’s so much tension on the chain. It’s not like you’re shifting to an easier gear. Yeah, yeah.

Grant Holicky  51:06

So there are relevant pieces to the ability to pedal at high cadence and I will say that listening to that episode, I thought that episode was fantastic and I think what Hanson brought to the table was really eye opening in a lot of respects and I think that it warrants a lot of things, but he did also say that high cadence is important to being able to respond in a group.

Rob Pickels  51:27

So here’s something that’s worth pointing out and we’ve talked about this before ,there is a difference between physiology and performance and I will say, I don’t know that there is a physiological adaptation to varying cadences and Trevor, I think you hold maybe a slightly different opinion. That’s okay, but when it comes to performance and it comes to executing, accelerating, breaking away from the group, accelerating without shifting because you can’t possibly shift in that moment, then there are implications on the performance side, without question.

Grant Holicky  52:03

That’s a really, really good distinction and that’s a distinction I was really poorly trying to make and you put it into focus very, very well. I would agree with that wholeheartedly.

Benefit of Rollers in Neuromuscular Training

Trevor Connor  52:14

So there is one thing that we didn’t cover in the episode that I wish we had covered. So I’m going to bring it up now and Rob, you might very well agree with this. I know you don’t agree with the cadence work, but you might agree with this. I think we should have talked about the value of rollers more, if you see a value in training the neuromuscular side by a set of rollers because when you’re out in the road and I’m not using the correct biomechanical term here, but you have movement inertia. No matter how you’re pedaling because once you got the bike moving, it’s going to keep rolling for a bit and that inertia can hide a lot of the neuromuscular issues in your pedal stroke. When you’re on rollers, you have none of that inertia and if your pedal stroke is bad, you’re gonna bounce all over. If it’s really bad, you’re not gonna be able to stay up on the rollers and so getting on the rollers and doing this neuromuscular work, you might not even have to do the cadence work, just being on the rollers and having to keep your balance, you’re going to learn a better neuromuscular recruitment pattern.

Rob Pickels  53:13

I mean, it’s certainly an effective form of biofeedback, instead of instrumenting up your bike and looking at these polar graphs of where, you can feel it, you can hear because it’s like [whirring noise] you know, like wow, there’s a dead spot in that pedal stroke.

Grant Holicky  53:31

It’s a really inexpensive way to test yourself and then the side benefits are expansive. I think your your bike control goes up through the roof spending time on rollers and this goes back to, I used to ride rollers two or three times a week just when I was working on my ability to ride a bike well and I think it did wonders for how well I could handle my bike in cross because I was always manipulating the bike on rollers.

Rob Pickels  53:55

Griffin don’t buy rollers.

Griffin McMath  53:56

No, I saw a video of an eight year old, a couple of days ago on rollers and the thing that she was doing was trying to see how long she could go with no hands and he just watched him like looking at this little beings core as they’re trying to navigate this. The other part of me is there’s no one around the small child as they’re on rollers and I’m just waiting for them to just like, you know that treadmill video where they fly off.

Trevor Connor  54:24

You just fall over because again you have inertia, but I was gonna go there one of the most impressive things I ever saw, you don’t realize how impressive this is until you ride rollers was a track rider sit up, take his jersey off while on the roll.

Grant Holicky  54:40

There’s a great video of a woman making breakfast on the rollers.

Rob Pickels  54:43

Yeah, but this is the benefit of rollers. You get to do cool roller tricks. You did that? You know yep, yep. This is like that guy that’s manualing like all the way down the road, you’re just showing off.

Trevor Connor  54:56

I finally understand Rob this morning. So I know he listened to this episode this morning

Rob Pickels  55:00

You finally understand me?

Trevor Connor  55:02

He just sat there for 30 minutes going…

Grant Holicky  55:03

That’s why you’re right. That’s what put him in his surly mood.

Trevor Connor  55:08

Then he honks at an old lady and then he comes in here and just he’s surly.

Rob Pickels  55:12

It’s not actually, but I was looking forward to this episode in baited anticipation.

Trevor Connor  55:18

Rob, what do you want to correct in this episode?

Revisiting Efficiency and Economy with Rob

Rob Pickels  55:21

What I want to correct? I don’t know if I don’t want to correct anything, but I do want to point out a distinction. You guys talked about the distinction between efficiency and economy.

Trevor Connor  55:30

We’ll put it in the show notes, we have a whole episode where we made the distinction.

Rob Pickels  55:34

Real quick, I don’t know if this agrees with what the show notes are gonna say, but efficiency is an energetic to energetic situation. Economy is very simply how much oxygen it takes to do work. That’s it, nothing more, nothing less. Trevor’s jaw is clenching right now.

Trevor Connor  55:52

No, actually I agree. It really works, but remember, work requires movement.

Rob Pickels  55:59

Yeah, that’s fine. I understand that.

Grant Holicky  56:01

It’s just a very nice succinct way to put it.

Rob Pickels  56:03

But the thing I want to point out is that there was also a interchangeability of the neuro muscular coordination and neuromuscular recruitment with efficiency and economy and I very much feel that those things need to be talked about differently because you can’t necessarily measure them the same. On the neuromuscular side, we’re talking like EMG. On the economy side, we’re talking oxygen cost and granted, they are components of each other, but when we do talk about things like economy and efficiency, there are other hugely confounding factors, like type one fiber composition is hugely important in determining somebody’s efficiency.

Rob Pickels  56:43

Yeah, so in that episode, where we talked completely about efficiency and economy, let me give the analogy was… No, you weren’t on, that was with Chris, but let me give the analogy that we use in that one because it was a better analogy than what we use in this episode.

Rob Pickels  56:57

Go for it.

Trevor Connor  56:57

So we talked about a car in a car. You use fuel, you burn fuel to run the engine. Some of that energy that’s released when you burn the fuel goes into power in the engine, a lot is lost as heat. The more that goes into the engine, the less that’s lost as heat, the more efficient the engine. That is efficiency. That affects economy, but economy is so much more. So for example, if you put a giant sail or parachute behind that car, that slows the car down. You’re not impacting efficiency, but you are impacting the economy. So economy, the best way to describe economy in a car is miles per gallon and so you can have an incredibly efficient car or engine, but if you have a horribly built car that just takes a ton of wind, it’s not going to be economical.

Rob Pickels  57:48

Correct and in that situation, the parachute doesn’t affect the efficiency of the engine and the how much is converted from heat to mechanical energy that turns the drive shaft, but the parachute does affect how far you’re able to go per given gallon of gasoline.

Trevor Connor  58:06

So likewise, take it to cycling, you have a certain level of efficiency in your own internal engine in your muscles.

Rob Pickels  58:14

You said 25%. You’re really, you’re optimistic.

Trevor Connor  58:16

Yeah, I was optimistic. It’s lower than that. Put you on a time trial bike, efficiency hasn’t been affected, but you are now more economical.

Rob Pickels  58:25

Well, but oftentimes…

Grant Holicky  58:26

Oh my god, this is the wrong episode.

Rob Pickels  58:30

Oftentimes, we measure it in Watts per liter and so your Watts don’t necessarily change, but I will agree that your speed and your distance changes.

Grant Holicky  58:39

All I’m saying is, I think it’s time to revisit the economy versus efficiency episode and let this one go off.

Trevor Connor  58:45


Grant Holicky  58:46

Meanwhile, I think we did a really nice job with this one.

Rob Pickels  58:49

No, you want to say this because you were the main guest!

Trevor Connor  58:53

No, let’s finish here.

Grant Holicky  58:56

That had nothing to do with the episode.


Trevor Connor  58:58

Let’s do a brand new take home. This is your first episode with you as a guest. Now do you really listen to…

Rob Pickels  59:04

And this is your last episode with you as a guest? Oh, wait, we didn’t tell you.

Trevor Connor  59:08

What is your new take home? What’s the most important thing you…

Grant Holicky  59:12

I’m taking all my stuff and going home.

Trevor Connor  59:15

He has literally been packing while Rob and I were arguing.

Grant Holicky  59:18

I think my take home is that I like big gear work. I do understand the physiological benefits of big gear work and I do understand that there may be limited physiological benefits to high cadence work, but I feel what we get from a technical standpoint and from a performance standpoint in racing from high cadence work is monumentally beneficial and I have watched it with my athletes, my athletes tend to enjoy it and I do really stand by that idea that it is a way to do ‘work’, that’s in quotations. Do work on the bike without overloading the system and I do think it does a really nice job of priming the system, especially if you’re coming off a rest day, priming the system because it does drive heart rate up to be ready to do workouts the following subsequent days.

Rob Pickels  1:00:13

Are you still in based zone?

Grant Holicky  1:00:16

No, because I wouldn’t say you get out of it long enough to really drive you.

Rob Pickels  1:00:20

It was just a throwback joke.

Trevor Connor  1:00:21

We need a forum question for this episode and Rob, I can throw this one to you. Here’s the forum question. If you’re interested, please come to our forum and give your response to this, but we will put in the forum question that study that Rob has not read yet that he wants to tear apart, that shows much better neuromuscular recruitment in cyclists because they do cadence work versus triathletes. Rob, I know you want to read it and tear it apart. So our question is, do you agree or disagree and Rob, I want you to be the first answer to this after you’ve read the study.

Rob Pickels  1:00:54

Can I answer it now?

Trevor Connor  1:00:55

You haven’t read the study yet.

Rob Pickels  1:00:56

It doesn’t matter. I know the answer.

Trevor Connor  1:00:57

What’s your answer?

Rob Pickels  1:00:58

My answer is this. How do we know that the cyclists did cadence work and how do we know that that is the reason that their neuromuscular control is better? This was not investigational study where they were doing this purposefully.

Trevor Connor  1:01:14

You wouldn’t know because you haven’t read it.

Rob Pickels  1:01:15

It was it was two different groups, triathletes and cyclists. The other side of it is this. All of these people were testing on an ergometer. How was that or domitor set up? Cyclists are tending to ride in their particular cycling position, I’m willing to bet that that’s how they set up the ergometer. Triathletes on the other hand, probably more habituated to riding in a time trial position and now they’re being asked to ride in a position that they’re not habituated to, which is very much going to affect their efficiency, economy, their gesticulation, whatever you want to call it.

Trevor Connor  1:01:43

These are a lot of assumptions about a study you haven’t read yet.

Rob Pickels  1:01:45

It’s true, but I’m right on all of them, I bet. The other side of it too, is what does training for multiple sports do and the neuromuscular recruitment patterns that these people are reinforcing because they’re also running, they’re also swimming and there’s probably patterns that are built that are beneficial to that, that might be taking away from their recruitment efficiency in a purely cycling.

Trevor Connor  1:02:10

Which is fair. Go to the forum, go to the forum.

Rob Pickels  1:02:12

I’ll read the study and then I’ll see and then I’ll more, more, more, more, more [laughs meniacally].

Trevor Connor  1:02:19

This episode with Rob turning more into a verb.

Rob Pickels  1:02:22

I will more. I will forever more.

Trevor Connor  1:02:25

That was another episode of Fast Talk. The thoughts and opinions expressed in Fast Talk are those of the individual. Subscribe to Fast Talk wherever you prefer to find your favorite podcast. Be sure to leave us a rating and a review. As always, we’d love your feedback. Tweet us at @fasttalklabs. Join the conversation at our forum at or learn from our experts at our website For Grant Holicky, Dr. Griffin McMath, Rob Pickels and Caley Fretz, I’m Trevor Connor. Thanks for listening.