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Acta Physiol Scand. 2002 Nov;176(3):185-94.

Muscle fibre type, efficiency, and mechanical optima affect freely chosen pedal rate during cycling.

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  • 1Institute of Sports Science and Clinical Biomechanics, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Southern Denmark.


This study investigated the variation in freely chosen pedal rate between subjects and its possible dependence on percentage myosin heavy chain I (%MHC I) in m. vastus lateralis, maximum leg strength and power, as well as efficiency. Additionally, the hypothesis was tested that a positive correlation exists between percentage MHC I and efficiency at pre-set pedal rates but not at freely chosen pedal rate. Twenty males performed cycling at low and high submaximal power output ( approximately 40 and 70% of the power output at which maximum oxygen uptake (VO(2max)) was attained at 80 r.p.m.) with freely chosen and pre-set pedal rates (61, 88, and 115 r.p.m.). Percentage MHC I as well as leg strength and power were determined. Freely chosen pedal rate varied considerably between subjects: 56-88 r.p.m. at low and 61-102 r.p.m. at high submaximal power output. This variation was only partly explained by percentage MHC I (21-97%) as well as by leg strength and power. Interestingly, %MHC I correlated significantly with the pedal rate at which maximum peak crank power occurred (r = -0.81). As hypothesized, %MHC I and efficiency were unrelated at freely chosen pedal rate, which was in contrast to a significant correlation found at pre-set pedal rates (r = 0.61 and r = 0.57 at low and high power output, respectively).


Subjects with high percentage MHC I chose high pedal rates close to the pedal rates at which maximum peak crank power occurred, while subjects with low percentage MHC I tended to choose lower pedal rates, favouring high efficiency. Nevertheless, the considerable variation in freely chosen pedal rate between subjects was neither fully accounted for by percentage MHC I nor by leg strength and power. Previously recognized relationships between percentage Type I ( approximately %MHC I) and efficiency as well as between pedal rate and efficiency were confirmed for pre-set pedal rates, but for freely chosen pedal rate, these variables were unrelated.

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