Muscle force adaptation to changes in upper body position during seated sprint cycling Academic Article uri icon


  • Sprint cycling performance depends upon the balance between muscle and drag forces. This study assessed the influence of upper body position on muscle forces and aerodynamics during seated sprint cycling. Thirteen competitive cyclists attended two sessions. The first session was used to determine handlebar positions to achieve pre-determined hip flexion angles (70-110° in 10° increments) using dynamic bicycle fitting. In the second session, full body kinematics and pedal forces were recorded throughout 2x6-s seated sprints at the pre-determined handlebar positions, and frontal plane images were used to determine the projected frontal area. Leg work, joint work, muscle forces and frontal area were compared at three upper body positions, being optimum (maximum leg work), optimal+10° and optimal-10° of hip flexion. Larger hip (p = 0.01-0.02) and reduced knee (p = 0.02-0.03) contribution to leg work were observed at the optimal+10° position without changes at the ankle joint (p = 0.39). No differences were observed in peak muscle forces across the three body positions (p = 0.06-0.48). Frontal area was reduced at optimum+10° of hip flexion when compared to optimum (p = 0.02) and optimum-10° (p < 0.01). These findings suggest that large changes in upper body position can influence aerodynamics and alter contributions from the knee and hip joints, without influencing peak muscle forces.

publication date

  • 2019