Today’s question focuses on the idea of changing your riding position to work different muscles. But that might not be a good idea…

Ask Levi: Lower My Seat To Work My Quads More?

Hello Coach,

I notice that cycling becomes significantly more difficult whenever my seat post slips down a cm or two. My quads seem to tire much sooner. My question is, will training with the saddle lower build more strength in my quads and therefore make me faster when it’s at the correct height?

Thanks,
Low Lewey

Hi Lewey,

Interesting question. This is something I’ve never tried myself, but I still think I can answer your question. There are really three ways to look at it.

Different Bike = Different Position

First, look at similar situations. A rider will be in a different position on a road bike, mountain bike, and triathlon or Time Trial (TT) bike. Each position then uses your muscles differently (if ever so slightly). I’m not familiar with any studies that show any strength gains transferring between positions nor have I noticed this effect between bikes (and I’ve gone from BMX bikes to mountain bikes, a substantial change in muscle usage).

Specificity

Second, don’t forget my favorite training concept – specificity. You get better at doing something by doing exactly that thing. So lowering your seat will probably make you stronger at riding in that new position, but once you raise your seat back to its normal height, you’ll be right back where you started. It’s like weight training for cycling – you can certainly improve your leg strength that way, but it won’t immediately improve your bike racing performance.

Risk of Injury

Third, and most important, you need to keep your priorities straight. There are some things you don’t want to compromise when searching for improved performance, and proper positioning is one of them! I would never recommend this strategy even if it did work because it could also result in injury.

Your seat position is your seat position for a reason! If it’s at the correct height, then it’s at the correct height! (If you’re not sure, get a professional bike fitting.)

If you want to work your quads some more, stand more often when riding and consider some off-bike work, specifically squats and reverse lunges.

Hopefully that gives you something to think about! 🙂

P.S. Get your bike checked out! Make sure you have the appropriate grease or assembly paste on your seatpost and that it is properly torqued down. It definitely shouldn’t be slipping that much!

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