Optimal pedaling rate estimated from neuromuscular fatigue for cyclists

Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1996 Dec;28(12):1492-7. doi: 10.1097/00005768-199612000-00008.


This study was designed to examine the optimal pedaling rate for pedaling exercise at a given work intensity for cyclists. Six college-aged cyclists each performed six sessions of heavy pedaling exercise at individually selected work rates based on their aerobic capacity. The optimal pedaling rate was evaluated on the basis of minimal neuromuscular fatigue as evidenced by the integrated electromyogram (iEMG) slope defined by the changes in iEMG as a function of time. The means of the iEMG slope demonstrated a quadratic curve versus pedaling rate. The mean values at 80 rpm (0.53 (SD 0.20) microV.min-1) and 90 rpm (0.67 (SD 0.23) microV.min-1) were significantly smaller than those values at any other pedaling rate. On the other hand, the mean value of oxygen uptake (VO2) expressed as a percent of the subject's maximal VO2 (% VO2max) at each pedaling rate also showed a quadratic curve with minimal values at about 60 or 70 rpm. VO2 at 70 rpm (84.0 (SD 5.0) % VO2max) was significantly smaller than those values at 80 rpm (86.3 (SD 3.5) % VO2max), 90 rpm (87.4 (SD 3.8) % VO2max), and 100 rpm (90.1 (SD 3.8) % VO2max). These data strongly suggest that the optimal pedaling rate estimated from neuromuscular fatigue in working muscles is not coincident with the pedaling rate at which the smallest VO2 was obtained, but with the preferred pedaling rate of the subjects. Our findings also suggest that the reason that cyclists prefer a higher pedaling rate is closely related to the development of neuromuscular fatigue in the working muscles.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Bicycling / physiology*
  • Electromyography
  • Exercise / physiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motor Skills / physiology
  • Muscle Fatigue*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*
  • Oxygen Consumption