Dear Fun and Fit: I had a quick gym question and I thought you would be good sources to ask! Today when I was at the gym I was on a low, seated bike, and my friend was on the one next to me. During the workout I felt it all in my glutes and upper quads; however she felt it only in her calves. I was wondering, am I doing it wrong? Should I be feeling it in my calves?
Thanks! Cycle Princess in CA
Kymberly: Not liking to stab in the dark–poke, poke, scream of pain!– I will say I must guess into the wilderness as to the reasons for the different effects. One guess as to what happened was you powered your downstroke of the bike with your quads and your upstroke with your glutes and hamstrings. Most likely you also had your toes closer to your body than your heel (flexed foot or dorsiflexion), especially on the downstroke. That means your calf was not involved that much as it was in slight extension. Your friend most likely had her toes pointed away from her (plantarflexion) throughout the work, which is very common, though not ideal. Therefore her calf was in slight contraction. Is one way wrong? Depends on your goal. But generally it is considered good form and far more powerful to work as you did and NOT to put the load into the calf.
Alexandra: I’m not sure if you’re saying it was a recumbent bike or if you just like to lower the heck out of your seat on the indoor cycle, but we’ll start at recumbent;
Was your friend’s seat farther back than yours, relative to leg length? Because if her seat was way back, she might have had to point her toes a lot (back to plantarflexion) to reach the pedals, which would put her into a calf contraction – and not the kind that leads to cute little baby moos.
If you were on an upright bike with a really low seat, that could also contribute to the different results, depending on whether your toes were up or down.
Were you a good witch or a bad witch? But then, if your seat was too low, your knees will hurt soon anyway, so who cares about the calf ache?
What has been your experience with indoor cycles and your muscles? How pointy are your toes when you cycle?
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