Purpose: Crank torque (CT) application and rate of CT development (RCTD) are important considerations in sprint cycling. The stiffness of the musculotendinous unit is related to the isometric rate of torque development (RTD); however, this relationship has yet to be examined in sprint cycling.
Methods: Maximal isometric torque (MIT) and isometric RTD of the quadriceps were assessed in 21 trained male cyclists (28.7 ± 9.5 yr, 1.74 ± 0.08 m, and 67.5 ± 7.2 kg). Unilateral musculoarticular (MA) stiffness of the quadriceps was quantified using an oscillation test. Further, the participants performed a maximal 6-s sprint to assess peak power output (POpeak), peak CT (CTpeak), peak RCTD (RCTDpeak), and the crank angles associated with CTpeak and RCTDpeak. Participants were ranked on MA stiffness properties and were divided into a relatively stiff group (SG) and a relatively compliant group (CG).
Results: The SG displayed a significantly higher MA stiffness than the CG (P < 0.05). Furthermore, the SG reported significantly elevated MIT (27%), RTD (26%), and RCTDpeak (16%) when compared with the CG (P < 0.05), along with trends for increased POpeak (7%) and CTpeak (8%). The angles at CTpeak and RCTDpeak were 7% and 12% lower for the SG, respectively (P < 0.05). MA stiffness was significantly correlated with RCTDpeak, MIT, RTD, and POpeak.
Conclusions: Higher stiffness is related to superior RCTDpeak in trained cyclists during a single sprint. A significant proportion of the variance in RCTDpeak was attributed to MA stiffness (37%), which was of greater magnitude than the relationship between RCTDpeak and MIT. Furthermore, the lower CTpeak angle and RCTDpeak angle may contribute to a more rapid development of CT. Accordingly, MA stiffness seems to be an important consideration for sprint cycling.