Roller Workout for Handcyclists

Will Groulx, World Championship Time Trial 2013

Roller Workout for Handcyclists

by Mike Durner | Coach, Military and Veteran Cycling - U.S. Olympic Committee


Rollers… maybe the best thing for reclined handcycles.

This year I introduced SportCrafters handcycle rollers to National Team Handcyclists as a new tool for their warm up arsenal. The athletes responded with either love or hate, there was no in between. When I inquired for the why behind their answer though I received only one answer: I can feel the dead spot in my pedal stroke! 

This was not surprising, some athletes like to have feedback on what needs to improve and some do not. What was surprising to me though was that in a cycling discipline where athletes have a smaller muscle mass to utilize and often have thermoregulatory limitations as well, some of our elite athletes were not interested in maximizing their efficiency. 

For decades, upright cyclists have used rollers to improve fitness and skills (bike handling, pedal stroke efficiency and improving their range of optimal cadence) in the off season. Admittedly, riding a handcycle on rollers is not as close to a natural feeling as riding an upright on rollers but adding in Sportcrafters' Rhythm makes it much closer than using a trainer. 

For training on handcycle rollers athletes can utilize workouts to focus on fitness while at the same time receiving passive feedback on the efficiency of their pedal stroke. The simplest way to do so is to work variations in cadence into both your warm up and efforts. Riding at prescribed wattages or perceived efforts utilizing a wide cadence variety is not only more specific to racing efforts but also sets the ground work for reducing your dead spot. Here is a sample workout for the rollers (this could also be done on a trainer but it may not be as affective).

5 min easy spinning

1 min at 80 RPM

1 min at 85 RPM

1 min at 90 RPM

1 min at 95 RPM

1 min at 100 RPM

3 x 10 min efforts (at your prescribed wattage/heart rate/effort level), 2 min @ 90 – 100 RPM, 2 min @ 80 – 90 RPM, 2 min @ 100 – 110 RPM, 2 min @ 90 – 100 RPM, 2 min @ 95 – 105 RPM

5 min recovery between efforts

Many upright cyclists utilize rollers to warm up for races because doing so results in more activation of the core and stabilizing muscles of the hips and shoulders and proprioception than riders use while riding when compared to warming up on a stationary trainer. This holds true for athletes using Sportcrafters Handcycle Rollers as well. While handcycles cannot ride off the side of the rollers, athletes still must engage the stabilizing muscles in their shoulders and any abdominal muscles they may have to keep their machine straight on the rollers. An additional benefit of warming up on rollers versus a trainer is that on rollers there is no need to adjust or remove your leg rests, meaning you can extend your warm up a few more moments and not be concerned whether or not that leg rest is in exactly the right place.  (See Handcycle Trainer Demo Video)

Please note that the above workout is only an example and you should consult with your personal coach about the best way to utilize rollers and cadence work in your training.

**Currently, I have not had enough experience to recommend that kneeling handcyclists utilize rollers. If you are a kneeler please use caution when attempting rollers.

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