Social media offers athletes thousands of ways to constantly improve their fitness. I want to go back to the basics, and review an often overlooked product that has been around for a long time.
As a High Performance coach, I am always looking for ways to optimize what tools we have and how they can make the athlete better. I have determined that rollers give you the biggest bang for your buck. Their apparent simplicity actually undermines their perceived effectiveness, but I will review the benefits here:
Balance- Whether you riding alone, or in big groups, it is essential to be able to “hold your line” and ride within inches of traffic. It is easier than it sounds, and our assumption is that everyone can do it. However, the truth is it takes a lot of work. Riding rollers forces you to focus on staying in a small area on a moving drum. Learning balance skills on rollers helps your focus and coordination while in a big group or in a race when we are in sensory overload. There is nothing better in the world for improving balance and bike handling skills than riding rollers.
Engage the core- Riding on the road requires a fairly low level of engagement. You softly pedal along with low level emotional and neuro-logic engagement until you start doing work. With rollers, you are constantly challenged by balance and movement so that you must be focused and aware. For this reason even a 30-minute ride has huge value. Because you are seeking stability on rollers, you are forced to stabilize the hips and body, so you don’t drift left and right. Rollers are similar to using a bosu ball to do ordinary things like lunging that are “easy”. The bosu ball makes very simple things far more complex, but achievable with practice.
Pedaling Efficiency- Most of us don’t realize how poorly we pedal, but we all need work. Yes, pedaling is easy, like running right..? Well, yes and no. Doing it is easy, doing it well is difficult. Rollers force you to pedal complete circles constantly. It’s the perfect tool to perfect pedaling but it takes time and effort. Not effort to pedal to well, that’s free, it takes time to get the rollers out and commitment to actually do it. Of course you could spend $1500.00 on cranks
that allow the left and right leg to pedal independently of each other, which is very unnatural, or you can simply get on rollers and you WILL pedal better.
Top end speed- Well-made rollers are smooth and allow for very low resistance, allowing you to get your speed and cadence rolling. In much the same way that motor pacing gives you the feel of speed, the rollers give you ultra-high end turnover and speed. It’s a true sense of going fast, and little by little the brain and body begin to apply that new learned behavior to the road. It is a paradox that pedaling is much easier on rollers but, you are getting more work done… just try it!
Activation- We have all done some sort of event where we were required to warm up and we find ourselves pedaling slowly around the block trying to find the mojo to get moving. All the while knowing that in order to have a good race we have to activate the mind, body, and specific muscle firing patterns to prepare for the intensity of the race or workout. There is no better way than using rollers to truly warm up for an event. It activates the muscles you need to ride hard. Remember the whole time you are riding you are:
Using the core
Pedaling efficiently, quickly and smoothly
Using the muscle in the correct firing sequence
These are otherwise known as activation.
In closing, I believe that the effectiveness of rollers is overlooked due to their simplicity. Rollers are very lightweight and easy to travel with. They are great for activation and also great for recovery. Post-race or as an easy morning ride, they are highly effective at flushing toxins out of the muscles. It is hard to believe that something so simply is so effective. You don’t need a plan or a workout you simply need to commit to riding the rollers three times a week for four weeks and I guarantee that you will see improvements in every area I discussed. Enjoy the ride!
Greg Mueller, Head Coach
Innovative Endurance Multisport Coaching