Cycling movement quality and using the Leomo Type-R to assess it with Sebastian Weber | EP#180
Sebastian Weber is a sports scientist and highly successful coach, in both professional sports (having worked with athletes like Peter Sagan, Tony Martin, and André Greipel) and with age-group endurance athletes. He is also the co-founder of the physiological performance software INSCYD. In this episode we discuss cycling technique, quality of movement, and holding a good (aerodynamic) position, and how the LEOMO Type-R device can be used to improve these important but easily forgotten aspects of cycling and triathlon cycling.
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In this Episode you'll learn about:
- The importance of quality of movement in cycling, and how it has become somewhat forgotten in a world obsessed with power.
- The LEOMO Type-R device, and how it can measure quality of movement in a large variety of ways to help assess and inform training.
- Examples of common issues regarding quality of movement and how to correct them.
- How to use the LEOMO Type-R to improve aerodynamics.
- How much should triathletes and time trialists train in the TT position.
- Is the LEOMO Type-R a good investment for age-group triathletes?
Sebastian Weber's previous episode
Quality of movement in cycling
- On a high level, there is a lot going on with quality in movement - you could call it technique - and coaching in movement.
- In triathlon, the most obvious discipline in swimming.
A lot of your swimming training may be centred around technique training - e.g. developing a better position in the water, working on a strong arm stroke.
- The same is true for many other sports - including running and cycling.
- With cycling, everything has become centred around power, heart rate, time and maybe cadence.
I would say that 90% of the time, this is where the training programme ends.
- With all the great technology out there and the possibilities, I think we'e lost the focus on technique in cycling, and quality of movement.
Being more efficient, preventing injuries and other similar areas have been more dominant years back, but have lost a little now.
- In the professional sport it's still there, and when coaches follow cyclists in the car during races they're still looking for quality of movement, and correcting any issues.
Benefits of good quality movement
- There are different benefits involved, for example efficiency in terms of total energy expenditure.
- The pure leg movement and the transformation from metabolic energy into mechanical energy cannot be significantly changed or trainer.
However, efficiency in terms of other movement that needs energy, or stabilising your body on the bike, that is something you can work on.
- Aerodynamics is a big part of technique on the bike.
- You also have the pure technical abilities - being able to corner faster, descend faster etc.
- In the past few years we've seen triathletes such as Cameron Wurf who comes from a professional cycling background and has better skills on the bike than other professional triathletes.
- I've been using the LEOMO Type-R in coaching athletes for approximately a year.
- The LEOMO Type-R is like a bike computer, but additionally it connects to motion centres that you put on specific parts of the rider.
These sensors will track the movement of the athlete on the bike.
- I have done a lot of close coaching in training - following in a car or a scooter, but even in professional sports you cannot do this everyday.
I now do a lot of remote coaching.
- I started using the LEOMO to be know what the athlete is doing in training in terms of quality of movement on the bike, without having to be with them.
It tracks all other normal measurements too, just with the movement added as well.
- The device is widely used in the area of bike fitters and mechanics, but for me I use it in coaching athletes, which I think is a growing market.
- It's also sneaking its way into professional cycling, and it is used unofficially in training a lot to have better control and feedback on quality of movement.
Hunter Allen and the Peak Training Group have used this a lot.
- There are standard features built into the device:
E.g. smoothness of pedal stroke, foot and leg angle and movement, position of upper body and hip angles.
The latter is particularly helpful in triathlon as it can track hip rotation, but also hip angle and torso angle.
- You don't have to make it too over-complicated, if you are an amateur triathlete and you understand that aerodynamics are important, the biggest influencer of aerodynamics are position and being able to stay in this position.
- I use LEOMO you can track if you're using the aero position.
You can have the best aero wheels, or helmet, or even the faster aero position, but if you're not able to ride it then it's worth nothing.
- When I ask people how much time they stayed in their training zone/what their average power output was/what was their energy expenditure, everyone knows this and can look it up on their computer.
If I ask you how many minutes you spent actually in your aero position, there's no monitoring of this.
This is how I use the LEOMO in coaching. I'm able to analyse percentage of time the athlete spent in the aero position.
- With athletes such a Tony Martin I prescribe specific TT sessions and then I can assess if the athlete stayed in the position for the efforts.
In the more advanced case you can look at how stable the athlete was as he accumulated fatigue, was he sitting in an aero position but not a good quality one - did he start having more hip movement and becoming more unstable?
From a physiological/metabolic point of view you want the athlete to do 6x6 minute intervals, but because he's losing quality of movement I may next time want him to do 5x5 minutes.
- This is the same thing you'd do in swimming: if you're fatigued and the quality of the arm stroke isn't good, you wouldn't add in paddles and make it more difficult.
Not a lot of people do this in cycling, but I think there's a lot of potential to become a better and faster cyclist through this.
- Training wise, it's basically free speed!
If you have 8 hours a week, you want it to be as efficient as possible. This does not just include training zone, but also your movement efficiency.
Improving quality of movement
- If someone is struggling to hold the desired position, the first thing is to understand if it's a general issue, or is it linked to either fatigue or intensity.
- If it's a general instability when riding in the TT position, one of the first things would be to look at the bike fit.
- There is a good company called gebioMized who educate bike fitters, and they know a lot about bike fits!
- If it's happening with intensity or fatigue, you may still make it a bit better with a bike fit but then will need a deeper dive into where it is coming from.
Maybe there is a decrease in cadence, therefore an increase in torque and the athlete lifts himself more out the saddle.
- There will be some applications you can work on with specific core exercises.
- You may also temporarily change the training programme - do less intensity or less repetition.
- If you need a quick fix, a lot of people know the Tony Martin story with grip tape on the saddle!
However spray glue also works well as a quick fix for instability on the saddle.
How much TT training is recommended?
- It firstly depends whether you're training for a drafting or non-drafting race.
If you're doing an Olympic distance drafting race, there's not much point training several hours in the TT position.
However it changes massively when you're talking about Ironman.
- There is no upper limit to how much time you should train in the TT position.
You should be able to ride the majority, if not all of your bike training in the TT position without having pain, seating problems or loss of quality of movement.
- This is similar to time trialling - when Tony Martin prepares for his World Championships he would ride 5 hour sessions on his TT bike.
- One indicator besides quality of movement would be if your power output on the road bike is higher than on the TT bike, you definitely need to train more on the TT bike.
When you are really adapted to it, it shouldn't be lower.
Different intensities in the TT position
- In general, you want to do your specific exercises in your specific position - which is the same for other sports too.
- In triathlon, your race intensity may be well below the high intensity intervals you complete in training, so it's not as clear.
It's one of the most demanding scenarios of training, so you should ideally be able to do all of those in your TT position.
- If you struggle doing this, you need to try and analyse why that is.
As a coach I would either jump on the scooter and follow my athlete, or use the LEOMO to track and analyse it.
Using the LEOMO also then means you can monitor the progress as you improve with training.
- I do this with the pro riders during the seasons as there are parts when they use the TT bike a lot, and others when they don't use it at all.
When you transition from one to the other it's helpful to understand how the adaptation to the TT position is coming along.
- We are doing tests for the quality of movement:
We talked about instability on the saddle, which can come from fatigue or high intensity.
You can actually test this easily - go out and do 4-5 steps starting at 50% of FTP and step up the intensity gradually.
It doesn't have to be super precise, but you ride each intensity step for 3-5 minutes and you basically monitor what is happening and identify at what intensity things change.
You can look at what intensity your torso starts to move, or your pedal stroke becomes less smooth.
- At a higher intensity, your torso angle will not be the same.
- When you go for a bike fit, it's known that at low intensity your position is different, particularly the upper body angle.
You should test and monitor this, because it's again free speed.
If a change in body angle costs you 10-20 watts, you need to know how to train this to improve your aerodynamic position.
Pedalling metrics on the LEOMO
- Pedal smoothness is the speed within one revolution - is it a constant speed, or do you have a change in speed at one of the dead spots.
- There is great value in it being measured, but you don't necessarily use it to train around pedalling.
- It can be used for understanding something about a poor bike fit, injury prevention and the effects of fatigue.
- Some power metres have pedal smoothness - such as Garmin - but it can be difficult to know what a good reference number is for this metric.
In terms of biomechanics and cycling we're not far enough down the road to understand this because it is very individual.
- To give an example of how you can and should use it:
What you get from the LEOMO software is the pedal smoothness at different intensities, and different RPM's.
When we tested Cameron Wurf last year on a bike course as part of an Ironman, we found that his pedal smoothness had the best score at exactly his race power, and his race RPMs.
This is the way to go here - maybe you have a great pedal smoothness but only at 100 watts at 40 RPM. This doesn't help if you race an Ironman at 250 watts and 75 RPM.
- If you're a time trialist and in training you have a great (low) dead spot score but maybe it is intensity you're interested in and that is very high.
This is your comparison, or your bench mark.
- In general if you are able to have a smoother pedal stroke in certain circumstances, that is your reference point and the goal you can use to train for.
Application of movement quality work
- We've talked about the standard application, but if you want to talk about the more in depth details of the device you basically have the following:
Motion sensors, accelerometers gyroscopes in those sensors and you put them on the thighs, hip, torso etc.
I would also glue one (with double sided tape) in the TT hemet.
- I can then sit at home and establish if someone moves their head when they're in the TT position - how often and how much.
You can then take this a level deeper and see if it changes with intensity or speed etc.
- There's a lot of decisions to make when buying a helmet - e.g. long tail versus short tail.
Long tail is generally considered not as good as it sticks up when you move your head a lot.
- In general it is part of quality of movement, it's about how well you're riding in the TT position.
Maybe you're riding the position really well, but it's resulting in compensatory movement in your head.
These are the things I can measure as a coach, or even as a self-coached athlete.
- In professional cycling, the most spoken thing through the radio is 'keep your head down' because it's so aerodynamically important.
Now you can just stick a sensor in there and see what's happening - even seeing on the map when the athlete has to move (e.g. a corner).
- There is basically no limit on the application!
- We've tried using it on the shoulders to try and make the shoulder shrug more aero.
- I even glued one on a water bottle before!
Every time the athlete drinks the accelerometer would recognise it so I could see how much he was using the bottle in terms of hydration.
How many athletes dehydrate in races - and as a coach you have very little knowledge of how much the athlete drinks, so this really helps.
- You could put the sensors everywhere, and it can be so helpful.
- I can ask an athlete how much time they spent in their training zone and their computer can tell me, but how much time they spent drinking, or with their head in the correct position, they're unlikely to know.
These sensors give us this information.
Using LEOMO Type-R in a self-coaching context
- Putting a sensor on a water bottle and being able to read the water bottle might be too difficult for the general population.
However, looking at the hip angles, torso angles, or the hack with the helmet I think are very well presented in the software and easy to understand.
- I know that it's mostly currently used in bike fitting, but for me it's really a coaching tool.
- In my personal opinion, I would consider for every athlete to have one, but it depends how technical you are as an athlete.
- If you look at all your Garmin data, like numbers and try to be precise with your training, then it's something I would consider.
- There is some learning curve, but there was also a learning curve with power metres and we got around that!
New aero sensors for real time aerodynamic measurements
- I've been following it closely and there have been some connections years ago with early prototypes.
- It's a great technology which should be helpful to use.
- I see it in terms of triathlon or TT training as a connection point between the power metre and some kind of quality movement control like the LEOMO.
- It tells you your CDA (mark of aerodynamics), and it computes your CRI.
- If your CDA goes up and down you might not know why this happens, and this is where the LEOMO comes in, to try and explain the changes.
- I used the LEOMO with running recently, and there's a new technology called LVS out there which may expand this too.
- I think running will be the next big thing with analysing.
- I also work with some swimming federations, and obviously the movement is highly important, but there's currently an issue transmitting data through the water.
Triton and FinSense are two examples that are currently used in swimming.
- There are some links between Triton and INSYD. Triton monitors swimming times, stroke rate, gliding time, speed etc.
Think about it as your swim computer, similar to your Garmin watch.
- The FinSense tool is a really good piece of technology that can analyse arm stroke and other things in a highly precise way.
At this moment it's more of a diagnostic tool that a daily tracker, but there's a potential for it to become more of a training tool in the future.
Updates with INSYD
- There are some exciting things coming up looking more deeply at what you're doing in training.
- There's also things to do with pacing, particularly in Ironman, but I can't give too many more details!
- We do have a new version of our power only testing coming out very soon.
It's much more versatile in terms of obtaining the data, and it's starting to morph the lactate testing with the power only testing.
You want to understand how critical power is composed and how WPrime is composed.
- Changes are mainly coming from our users in the world of triathlon - a lot of people are doing testing with INSCYD for pacing and fuelling strategies.
In one publication about Cameron Wurf last year they were tackling the questions of how much energy do you spend on the bike and run, how much you need to eat, how fast you can run etc.
A lot of triathlon coaches and testing centres use INSCYD for this sort of prescription, however it's not a feature of its own.
There might be something where we take a deeper dive into this to be more precise and realistic, and be able to give the athlete advice on how to pace and what to eat etc.
- It is not as much about whether you use the LEOMO Type-R or not, it's about movement quality.
Do not ignore how important movement quality is.
- Movement quality, technique and position haven't been considered as much as they need to be, and the triathlon world has become power centric.
Considering movement quality can make you the best cyclist you can be - with or without the LEOMO!
- A simple and free start to this could be buddying up with a fellow cyclist and watching each other out on a long ride - see if there are any easy fixes from that.
Links, resources and contact
Links and resources mentioned
Connect with Sebastian Weber
Connect with host Mikael Eriksson
Hi! I'm your host Mikael,
I am a full-time triathlon coach and an ambitious age-group triathlete. My goal is podium at the Finnish national championships within the next few years.
I first started the website Scientific Triathlon in autumn 2015 as a passion project to share my learnings with a larger triathlon audience. Later on, in early 2017 I started the podcast That Triathlon Show.
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