leg muscles and standing up to pedal- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    leg muscles and standing up to pedal

    Is it just me or do you work different muscles when you stand to pedal vs sitting to pedal? Standing to pedal exhausts me quicker it seems and I want to sit back on the saddle to pedal cause i get tired of standing. I am not talking of 2-3 minutes of standing either. I mean if I stand and mash hard for 30 seconds my legs get exhausted and I want to sit and pedal for a bit. For the record I know I need to get in better shape.

    I also think I would rather climb short bursts than longer shallower grades. The longer grades are more tiresome than the shorter steeper ones.

  2. #2
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    there's hills in Iowa?

    standing is a full body effort. back, arms, abs, calves...etc. sitting is more exclusively legs. takes more oxygen/exertion to do full body efforts.

    there is a point on medium grade climbs where standing continuously at a proper cadence is easier though, imho.

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  4. #4
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    Lol try riding over at waubonsie state park. Steep bluffs and deep gorges.
    http://forums.mtbr.com/passion/waubo...-a-961644.html

  5. #5
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    definitely different muscle group, and harder in general, that's what makes SSers stronger riders than most. (not always obviously, but in my opinion frequently)

    30 seconds of standing 100% full body effort is a workout, and will make anyone breath hard. what your able to do immediately afterwards and how fast you recover is a function of how good of shape your in.

    depending on grade and gearing, I am able to sustain a standing climb for 8-12 minutes without needing a break. a newly acquired skill i started working on mid summer last year. I feel like i have 3 levels of effort. 1 is easiest just using body weight and sustainable for extended periods, 2 is medium effort, and 3 is max effort pulling on the bars and mashing the pedals for all i'm worth.

    there are a few rides in my area that are 800-1200ft climbs. (with gears) i find being able to switch from sitting to standing gives my legs a break, it's nice to have that option and i am able to maintain a better pace over a longer distance than only doing one or the other.

    when i first started riding SS i was in pretty good shape, better than i've been in 15 years, but i did not have the ability to do standing climbs like i can now. just another eye opening experience thanks to riding SS.
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  6. #6
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    I have noticed that sitting to pedal for too long kills my knees. like it ends a ride prematurely with crippling pain. if you can't stand and mash through your climbs, get an easier gear, get a derailleur, or get stronger. Rule # 5.

  7. #7
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    Going to work on standing more myself this year. Easier on the hips. Been doing a lot of planks. Even considering flats again to see if I can make my pedal stroke more naturally efficient and powerful.

  8. #8
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    You'll get there iowa!
    Do pushups and planks to build your upper body and core.
    You got wide bars on your bike? Bar ends? They help too. (Not everyone is a fan of bar ends but I like them).

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by mack turtle
    I have noticed that sitting to pedal for too long kills my knees. like it ends a ride prematurely with crippling pain. if you can't stand and mash through your climbs, get an easier gear, get a derailleur, or get stronger. Rule # 5.



    Maybe I should have been more clear lol. I can stand and mash and get where I want to go. I was just saying that after the fact I felt more fatigued than if I was sitting and pedaling. I imagine that is because when your legs get fatigued the first thing you want to do naturally is sit down. So when I get exhausted after a climb and mashing I want to plop my skinny ass down on my seat to rest a bit and continue pedaling? I am not that out of shape but I do need to get better. My upper body has always been strong. I carry 70 lb ladders and 35 lb satellite dishes up them ladders on my shoulders every day. Plus I run up and down stairs going from customers basements to the upstairs a lot. I get a lot of exercise on my job lol. But as with everything different things you do uses a separate muscle group. I used to shoot a lot of archery (bowhunting) especially back in high school. Back then I was 6 foot tall and maybe 135 (skinny as hell) and I was shooting a 70 lb pull compound bow back in the day (late 80's). I had some friends who were athletic and muscular that did not shoot and it was all they could do to try and pull my bows back. My back muscles were conditioned. Funny how those things happen......

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by SeaBass_ View Post
    You'll get there iowa!
    Do pushups and planks to build your upper body and core.
    You got wide bars on your bike? Bar ends? They help too. (Not everyone is a fan of bar ends but I like them).
    Yea Sea Bass I got 740 bars. That may not be super wide but it is slightly more than shoulder width for me and I like the way they handle so I am keeping them.

  11. #11
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    I seem to remember reading somewhere (although I might have seen it on GCN) that up to something like 70% of maximum exertion, sitting is more efficient (as the other guys say - less muscle groups are being used = less oxygen required) and then from 70-100% exertion standing and mashing is more efficient.

    I'm pretty sure it was Global Cycling Network on Youtube that taught me that...

    Oh, and mack_turtle - if seated pedalling hurts that much after a while then I would seriously recommend getting your seat height / layback adjusted. You would be amazed by the difference just 5mm difference in the seat position makes...

  12. #12
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    yes, you're right about seat height. I borrowed an actual Fit Kit to see what they recommended for my body dimensions. after measuring my actual inseam, thigh, torso, etc, it recommended that I raise my saddle over a centimeter. that's a lot, and it has made a huge difference!

  13. #13
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    I don't have a science set for where I put my seat. I can lower it for some big drops and then raise it back up later and I don't know if I'm in the same spot or not lol. But I don't really have problems with my knees at this point so they don't seem to be too bothered anyways. but I generally try to keep my C to where I have a slight bend in my knee when the pedal was at 6 o'clock. what's the best way to mark a black seatpost so you can put it back to the same place every time? Maybe take a file and make a scratch in it?

  14. #14
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    A silver sharpie works. And one if the reasons standing makes you feel more tired is you use more core muscles to stabilize yourself on the bike when standing and mashing
    What goes up must come down.

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  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by iowamtb View Post
    Maybe I should have been more clear lol. I can stand and mash and get where I want to go. I was just saying that after the fact I felt more fatigued than if I was sitting and pedaling. I imagine that is because when your legs get fatigued the first thing you want to do naturally is sit down. So when I get exhausted after a climb and mashing I want to plop my skinny ass down on my seat to rest a bit and continue pedaling? I am not that out of shape but I do need to get better. My upper body has always been strong. I carry 70 lb ladders and 35 lb satellite dishes up them ladders on my shoulders every day. Plus I run up and down stairs going from customers basements to the upstairs a lot. I get a lot of exercise on my job lol. But as with everything different things you do uses a separate muscle group. I used to shoot a lot of archery (bowhunting) especially back in high school. Back then I was 6 foot tall and maybe 135 (skinny as hell) and I was shooting a 70 lb pull compound bow back in the day (late 80's). I had some friends who were athletic and muscular that did not shoot and it was all they could do to try and pull my bows back. My back muscles were conditioned. Funny how those things happen......

    You are getting too tired because you are running a hard gear, so your whole body is getting tired.

    Try putting an easier gear on....you won't get as tired, and sitting and pedaling won't be such a strain on your joints.
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  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by iowamtb View Post
    Yea Sea Bass I got 740 bars. That may not be super wide but it is slightly more than shoulder width for me and I like the way they handle so I am keeping them.
    Wish I could run 740's! Too many trees on my trails so 710's it is for me.
    mtnbikej is correct about the gear too. An extra tooth in the rear makes a big difference.

  17. #17
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    I had 32 by 20 and although it peddles like a dream I felt like I could go down to 18 so I didn't spin quite so much but maybe I should throw the 20 back on and play around. I went to the 18 after one day on a relatively flat track and I thought 32 by 20 was too low. but since then I have written some extremely steep bluffs and trails over in the Lost Hills and I'm wondering if I shouldn't throw the 20 back on and go have fun

  18. #18
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    2 teeth is a big jump as you're going from a 1.6 gear ratio to a 1.77. Maybe try a 19t? that'll put you at 1.68.

  19. #19
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    yeah I just decided to give it a try because that seems to be one of the most common gear ratios that single speeders are running. And I could sit here and ask questions on the forms all day long but until I actually tried it myself I knew I would never know for sure how I liked it. and honestly I kind of do like it but I kinda liked the twenty tooth cog on the rear to. I probably have not rode enough yet on this new bike to know exactly what I prefer 99% of the time. I'm just going to have to keep playing with it. I may buy a 19 to cog I don't know.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by iowamtb View Post
    Is it just me or do you work different muscles when you stand to pedal vs sitting to pedal? Standing to pedal exhausts me quicker it seems and I want to sit back on the saddle to pedal cause i get tired of standing. I am not talking of 2-3 minutes of standing either. I mean if I stand and mash hard for 30 seconds my legs get exhausted and I want to sit and pedal for a bit. For the record I know I need to get in better shape.

    I also think I would rather climb short bursts than longer shallower grades. The longer grades are more tiresome than the shorter steeper ones.
    Weird, I feel like im the opposite. I always want to stand, like i have to resist the urge to stand and pedal.
    If im going at a medium effort/pace, not trying too hard, then yes, sitting seems easier because you're sitting. but in terms of making it up over something, a long hard climb, anything that requires big bursts of power or lots of sustained power, i prefer standing.

    maybe its from riding around bmx bikes as a kid or something. hell up until 4-5 years ago i'd go on entire rides with the seat slammed down cause i always wanted to stand and just wanted the seat out of my way. it wasnt until i got my first full suspension bike that i started sitting most the time.

  21. #21
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    If your having to stand too much your overgeared, if your spinning too much your undergeared. Standing and mashing hard for 30 seconds will make your legs burn regaurdless if your climbing or on flats if your effort is high enough. Standing vs seated riding utilize different muscle groups. Both need trained like anything else.

    Knee pain/ back pain are usually lack of flexibility paired with lack of fitness. Adjust your fit, ie seat height, to compliment your flexibility and pick gearing relative to your fitness.

    If your overgeared for your fitness and your fit isn't right, your going to hurt regaurdless if your climbing or not.

  22. #22
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    A couple of weeks of standing and mashing and you'll be fine.

    I consider sitting vs standing my two "gears", it almost feels like cheating compared to my geared friend who's always sitting and spinning - I'll sit and spin until one set of muscles in my legs needs a breather, then use a different set of muscles while standing and mashing, then sitting down and going back to the first set of muscles again and so on. It kinda feels like I have two pair of legs and get to swap between them, while my geared buddy only uses one pair.

  23. #23
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    That's pretty much the way I look at it as well. It is almost two totally different work loads--like curls vs. tricep extensions. I have been trying to raise my saddle by about 1/8." Seems like I can generate a lot of power where it is, but that I get tired bringing the pedal up over the top of the stroke with my knee coming up so far. I also turn a smaller cog for the steep climbs I do, and I can get through the brush and tight technical trails seated if I have to. It's funny how SS makes you aware of all those variables!

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sandrenseren View Post
    A couple of weeks of standing and mashing and you'll be fine.

    I consider sitting vs standing my two "gears", it almost feels like cheating compared to my geared friend who's always sitting and spinning - I'll sit and spin until one set of muscles in my legs needs a breather, then use a different set of muscles while standing and mashing, then sitting down and going back to the first set of muscles again and so on. It kinda feels like I have two pair of legs and get to swap between them, while my geared buddy only uses one pair.
    Exactly, having the ability to stand up and mash on climbs makes a huge difference. I can sit and spin and be at the same pace as my buddies, then stand up and mash for awhile and leave them well behind. Then sit and spin to recover. Translates to being minutes faster by the end of longer climbs.

    It seems like some people completely lack the ability to stand and pedal, like their glued to their seat. I just don't get it, feels completely unnatural for me to stay seated for any longer than about 5 minutes.

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by iowamtb View Post
    .....I want to plop my skinny ass down on my seat to rest a bit and continue pedaling? I am not that out of shape but I do need to get better.
    There's your answer.

    Glutes.

    Gluteus maximus and Gluteous medius. You need to build them. You have an imbalance and probably have strong quads and IT bands but you have to work on your glutes. Endurance while standing will eventually come along after building.

  26. #26
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    - snip -

    Glutes.

    Gluteus maximus and Gluteous medius. You need to build them. You have an imbalance and probably have strong quads and IT bands but you have to work on your glutes. Endurance while standing will eventually come along after building.
    - snip -

    This.

    The seated riding position engages the glutes, whereas the standing position minimizes their contribution.

    The imbalance can manifest itself as lower back pain. There needs to be balance between the strength of the quads and glutes.
    -- let's ride

  27. #27
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    Even on touring bikes I try to stand for a slight hill just to change the muscle group and to take the pressure off my ass. It usually helps dry any sweating that is tearing up gentle precious tissues.
    I don't think it's possible to ride SS without a good deal of standing, especially MTB. I like the aerobic workout as well. A good climb can max out my HR. It's a different workout for sure.

  28. #28
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    I've been SS-ing a few months now and am still trying to find the right balance of sitting vs. standing. Until recently I'd been overly worried about my knees, so I think I'd been standing too much. Lately I've been staying seated longer and grinding a little more with no ill effects(as far as I can tell). My quads are getting stronger since I've been SS-ing, but getting my glutes into the game a bit more is making my rides more enjoyable. Still have to hike-a-bike more than I would like though. I've also decided the stock 32x18 on my Kona Unit is just too much for me right now, so I switched it to 32x20 today. Haven't had a chance to give it a try yet, but I'm really looking forward to it.

  29. #29
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    I went to 34x20 since I had both gears lying around. I discovered that 34x20 and 32x19 are nearly identical. I got the best of both worlds between 32x18 and 32x20. As far as muscle groups on the last ride i fpocused on what in particular was getting tired/sore. When sitting and grinding it burns my quads more but when standing and mashing it burns the muscles on the outside of my thighs below my hips? Not sure what muscles those are.

  30. #30
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    The key for me is to alternate often. Most of my local climbs are short, punchy efforts with steep sections of 10 or 15 feet long and less steep sections between them. I will stand and punch the steep sections, sometimes for just a couple pedal strokes, sit for the less steep section, and then stand and punch for the next steep one.

    That short seated bit between the steeper parts (even if it's just 10 seconds) gives me enough rest so my quads aren't screaming as loudly.

    Most other SS'ers I ride with, however, will stand for the whole climb. I'm just not at that level of fitness yet. But these guys are VERY strong riders...constantly fighting for KOMs on the most popular climbs on our local trails. Where they are in the top 10 out of 2000 riders, I'm usually fighting to get to the top 200.

  31. #31
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    yeah I hear you there lol. I got a friend down in St Joe that young not married and has no kids and he rides 3 to 4 times a week if not more. I'm talking 20 to 30 mile cross-country rides and single tracks everything. I know cuz I see all this strava activity lol. Me I might get 2 10 mile rides in this week and not even ride at all next week. between family and work and busy schedules I just don't have the time or the energy to ride as often as I wish I could. If only I could go back to when I was in my early twenties and a bachelor and take up the sport then I would have been one of those guys. But hindsight is 2020 as they say.

  32. #32
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    Quote Originally Posted by iowamtb View Post
    I went to 34x20 since I had both gears lying around. I discovered that 34x20 and 32x19 are nearly identical. I got the best of both worlds between 32x18 and 32x20. As far as muscle groups on the last ride i fpocused on what in particular was getting tired/sore. When sitting and grinding it burns my quads more but when standing and mashing it burns the muscles on the outside of my thighs below my hips? Not sure what muscles those are.
    Sounds like you engaged your I-T band.

    That is a running muscle. When I do trail runs, I can really feel that muscle getting worked. It definitely helps build it up for standing and mashing on the SS.

    Also, I've noticed the more I stand and pedal hard on the SS, the more I pull on the bars. When I do that, I can feel my core (ie back and mid section) getting a good solid workout.

  33. #33
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    Different muscles. Mash sitting down and standing both. I find my cardio can handle more than just my legs sitting down cranking.

  34. #34
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    Quote Originally Posted by wjphillips View Post
    Sounds like you engaged your I-T band.

    That is a running muscle...
    Seriously not trying to be a d*ck (though I've probably succeeded...) The IT band is actually a tendon, though it does attach to the glutes and another muscle that's important for lateral hip movement.

    A search for IT Band will net a lot of interesting results, including a number of exercises to address the kinds of imbalances we've been discussing.
    -- let's ride

  35. #35
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    Flat Pedals, Shorter Stem (60mm), bikejames.com and lots of foam rolling

    These have all worked for me.
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  36. #36
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    IMO you need to first find a gear to match your local trail to your strength. If your legs are weak then you can could them. You don't want to forget to do your core exercises like planks. I'm 52 years old,ride my SS 3x a week and teach a spin class 2x a week. I've been riding my SS daily and have never had a knee problem. I focus on full body fitness and one of my favorite exercises is variations of the wood chopper and planks with light weights. Riding Mtb bikes for me is about having fun and sometimes I like to challenge myself. Training at the gym is a nessesary tool but it's just that training either to build or recover after a long ride. Get fit and switch gears,saddle position,stem length and bar width as needed to get a good feel on your SS. IMO my SS is my favorite bike and mine is fully rigid. It's also a lot more work than my geared full suspension bikes. I hope this helps
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