Power Meters DON’T Measure Power, Part II

Our bodies are meant to be support structures which allow us to function. Functional training exercise programs are designed to maximize neuromuscular efficiency, or optimize the way muscles work together to move bones.

“Everyone needs power to move either in the athletic arena or in the real world, functional training will give you that power, “ says Juan Carlos Santana Med, CSCS in his book The Essence of Band and Pulley Training Companion Guide. “To optimally enhance movement patterns, people need to practice a movement, then use progressive overload during the movement.” This is the basis of functional training.

Very often, riders who do workout engage in seated body builder type muscle isolation programs. Great if you are building bulk to flex on stage, but not beneficial if you are trying to go faster up Old La Honda.
I’ve always found it funny how cycling strength workouts look just like old school body builder routines: sit down and press, sit down and curl, sit down and extend. Sitting on a solid surface as you exercise, with a machine dictating the way you move can potentially increase the pressure in your lumbar disc region (low back) up to 90%, as stated by Dr. Mel Siff in his book Supertraining.

“Seated exercises always impose a greater load on the lumbar spinal discs than equivalent standing exercise,” says Siff. “Even without an added load, sitting with the back maintaining its neutral curvatures increases the lumbar disc pressure by about 40%. This is why standing exercise is a superior approach.”

One of the biggest reasons for the increase in disc pressure is the body’s inability to absorb any of the shock from a weight bearing load. This comes from the knees, hips or ankles not being able to help your spine distribute force evenly throughout your body. There is a reason we don’t have these machines at the studio.

“The desk worker has a tough job. She sits constantly from early morning to early evening, removing herself from her desk a few times a day for an occasional trip to the restroom, filing cabinet, or water fountain,” says John Izzo in his article Pointing Out Gluteal Atrophy. “The seated position exacerbates the inactivity of the gluteals and reinforces the degeneration of this muscle.”


Riding a bike takes place in a supported seated environment in only one plane of motion like these exercise machines do. It is critical to do “anti-cycling” workouts to open up the hips while you drive force/power with a single leg work.

Turkish Get Ups, single leg squats, Bulgarian Split Squats, etc are all examples of great ways to do this.

We have seen 100’s of riders at INTEGRATE Performance Fitness since we opened in 2008. Out of that population, it is safe to say over 50% of them lacked the proper muscle firing sequences to take full advantage of their hips when they ride (not too mention causing joint pain of every variety). They all had one thing in common: their hip flexors had gotten way too tight, and that had shut their glutes from functioning properly affecting their ability to move correctly.

“Combining sitting down for long periods of time with sitting down to exercise, and we’ve begun to see a huge lack of movement skill in the population at large,” says Paul Chek, HHP, NMT, in his book “Movement that Matters”. This helps explain why such a large number of the above mentioned people had joint pain, particularly in the low back and knees.

This will will drastically impact the number of watts you put out on your “stability meters” (as they should be called). Want to drive these numbers up? Stand up when you exercise.


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Never attempt any new exercises mentioned in the Fitness411 blog without a thorough evaluation from a physician, personal trainer, strength coach, athletic trainer, physical therapist or sports chiropractor.