Question: You’ve said studies show that calves don’t contribute much to the pedal stroke. They’re merely a “cable” that connects muscles in the quads and glutes with the lever arm of the foot. While that may be true, wouldn’t a cyclist want that cable to be taut so it could provide a firm, stable platform through the ankle joint? Then the power produced by the quads and glutes would be efficiently transferred to the pedal. When I put together strength-training programs for cyclists, I always include calf-strengthening exercises. I believe that although the calf muscles do not produce power to the pedal, they help power get to the pedal. — Jim T.
Coach Fred Matheny Replies: In my discussion with the biomechanist who did a study, he said the calf’s normal strength from walking and other activities of daily life more than sufficed for cycling. The reason is the lack of movement in calf muscles during the pedal stroke.
But I agree with you in this respect: Adding strengthening exercises can’t hurt your pedaling and may help. Even more important is retaining muscular balance and strength in general.
My view on weight training is based on the idea of “functional strength.” I do it not to become a better rider but rather to enable me to ride at all (and get out of my chair!) in another 20 or 30 years.