Beginner and intermediate athletes should cycle at cadences below 90 revolutions per minute (RPM), according to a new study in the International Journal of Sports Medicine.
When your legs are spinning at 90 RPM, they’re working both to pedal and to help you maintain stability in the saddle, explains study author Federico Formenti, Ph.D., physiologist and sports scientist at King’s College London. At higher speeds, it could be that the muscles are trying to fire in so many directions that the timing of their contractions is off. As a result, the leg muscles don’t get enough oxygen, reducing efficiency and making you tire out more quickly.
The good news: You’ll get a better workout by lowering your RPM and upping your resistance anyway, says Rachel Vaziralli, senior manager of group fitness cycling at Equinox in New York City.
In general, increase wattage (a measure of both RPM and force), for an ideal ride. Intermediate cyclists should aim to stay between 60 and 90 RPM most of the time while advanced riders can go up to 99, Vaziralli says. Add resistance to your dial until it’s challenging yet sustainable for that leg of the ride.
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