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Home Cycling Tips 4: The importance of neuromuscular coordination

While training power in cycling is certainly important, neuromuscular coordination is equally important: training power means improving cadence and overall performance on the saddle. Performance on the bike is determined by several factors, but predominantly by metabolic factors, VO2max and the anaerobic threshold. The VO2max expresses the maximum amount of oxygen expressed in ml per kg of body weight that you are able to consume in one minute. The anaerobic threshold instead indicates the maximum intensity (generally expressed in Watts or heart rate) at which the cyclist can sustain a sustained effort (between 30 and 60 minutes) without incurring early phenomena of fatigue due to the production of lactic acid that the body can’t dispose of.

Obviously, imagining two cyclists with the same VO2max, the one with the highest threshold will be more performing, the one that will therefore have the highest fraction of use of the VO2max.

Technogym - Training in neuromuscular coordination leads to improved cadence

Assessing the anaerobic threshold to improve neuromuscular coordination

It is also true, however, that if two cyclists have the same VO2max and use the same fraction of it, they therefore have the same anaerobic threshold (for example at 88% of their VO2max) they could have substantially different performances. What matters is in fact the final capacity to transmit oxygen to the muscles, this capacity can be expressed as the amount of watts that can be produced for each litre of oxygen of aerobic capacity.

Efficiency at the same oxygen level

There are in fact very efficient professional athletes on the bike, who can produce 85-87 watts per litre of oxygen; consider a normal person produces about 64 watts per litre of oxygen. What matters, then, is the transmission system.

If we took an isolated muscle cell by doing a biopsy we could measure the content of aerobic fibers (slow or twitch fibers or type 1), present in endurance athletes and fast fibers (fast twitch or type 2) and see how they react to a stimulus, but this would only give us a partial measure of the athlete's capabilities because what really makes the difference is the neuromuscular system and the ability to recruit.

Neuromuscular coordination is also very useful in mountain bike training

Slow fibers, fast fibers

Two athletes could therefore have the same percentage of slow and fast fibers but one could be more efficient than the other because they are more able to activate the fibers in the correct way. It is therefore important to control the nerves of the fibers for optimal recruitment in the push phase and, at the same time, it is necessary to relax the muscles of the antagonists. There are athletes, for example, who exert a strong push but do a kind of contraction of the rear muscles, push the pedal but are at the same time contracting for a certain part the flexors of the thigh, and it's like having the handbrake pulled. The cadence, trains with the neuromuscular training and is essential for a climb in speed.
Cadence, trains with neuromuscular coordination and is essential for a climb in speed

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