Purpose: Maximal cycling exercise has been widely used to describe the power-velocity characteristics of lower-limb extensor muscles. This study investigated the contribution of each functional sector (i.e., extension, flexion, and transitions sectors) on the total force produced over a complete pedaling cycle. We also examined the ratio of effective force to the total pedal force, termed index of mechanical effectiveness (IE), in explaining differences in power between subjects.
Methods: Two-dimensional pedal forces and crank angles were measured during a cycling force-velocity test performed by 14 active men. Mean values of forces, power output, and IE over four functional angular sectors were assessed: top = 330°-30°, downstroke = 30°-150°, bottom = 150°-210°, and upstroke = 210°-330°.
Results: Linear and quadratic force-velocity and power-velocity relationships were obtained for downstroke and upstroke. Maximal power output (Pmax) generated over these two sectors represented, respectively, 73.6% ± 2.6% and 10.3% ± 1.8% of Pmax assessed over the entire cycle. In the whole group, Pmax over the complete cycle was significantly related to Pmax during the downstroke and upstroke. IE significantly decreased with pedaling rate, especially in bottom and upstroke. There were significant relationships between power output and IE for top and upstroke when the pedaling rate was below or around the optimal value and in all the sectors at very high cadences.
Conclusions: Although data from force-velocity test primarily characterize the muscular function involved in the downstroke phase, they also reflect the flexor muscles' ability to actively pull on the pedal during the upstroke. IE influences the power output in the upstroke phase and near the top dead center, and IE accounts for differences in power between subjects at high pedaling rates.