Monday, February 23, 2009

The Benefits of Powercranks for Weightlifters

My name is Frey, and I was a blogger on the original powercranks blog at the website. I am transferring some of my older posts to this updated, blogger-version of the powercranks blog. This post was originally published on 12/11/08.

I have a few very important points to make in regards to the benefits of Powercranks for weightlifters:

1) First, the facts. Since beginning Powercranks, my Front Squat has improved from 155lbs to 205lbs (a 32% improvement). My Deadlift has gone from 305lbs to 355lbs (16% improvement). My box squat has gone from 175lbs to 215lbs (a 23% improvement). During the same time frame, my bench press has gone from 205lbs to 225lbs (a 10% improvement), and my chinup has gone from doing bodyweight plus 25lbs to bodyweight plus 40lbs (a 16% improvement). In conclusion, the average improvement for my lower body exercises has been 24%, and average improvement for upper body exercises is 13%. This is over a 2 month period.

2) There has been a tremendous amount of internet discussion about the Powercranks, and this discussion usually focuses on 'proving' whether Powercranks are more effective for cycling training than is training on regular cranks. Proponents of the PC's say that they've experienced big gains in their cycling while using the cranks. Opponents of the PC's say that these gains don't prove anything. The reason these people have improved, say the opponents, is because they've been training, and any training leads to improvement.

3) The powercranks train the posterior chain like no other training technique. They also hit the hipflexors hard. There's no debating this. Also, big, heavy, barbell lower body exercises (such as the deadlift, front squat, and box squat) demand a strong posterior chain.

4) During a two month period, the average improvement in my lowerbody lifts was 24%, and the average improvement in my upper body lifts was 13%.

My case study suggests that weightlifting with supplemental powercranking can lead to bigger gains in the weightroom than weightlifting without supplemental powercranking. Were the powercranking not doing anything special, it would seem that my lowerbody improvements would be similar to my upper body improvements.

Even if you don't this my data supports my conclusion, you have to admit that a 26% improvement in lowerbody lifts over a 2 month period is f-ing awesome work.

My case study does not prove anything about cycling improvements, however.

On the anecdotal side, I can feel a significant relative strength improvement in my posterior chain compared to my quadriceps. For example, when I sit into a squat, I can feel my glutes and hamstrings firing atleast as hard (or perhaps harder) than my quads, whereas before using the PC's, I felt little action in the glute/hamstring complex.

Basically, if you're a weightlifter interested in becoming less of a wuss, you need a stronger posterior chain. The PC's will kick that chain into gear and make you less of wuss.

Frey is a triathlon author, athlete, and coach. A former NCAA basketball player, swimmer, and cyclist, he competes at the highest level of triathlon, and he coaches beginners, weekend warriors, and elite athletes. He is 24 years old. Check out his blog at

Winter 2009 Baseline Numbers

Ok, so after many months of trying to get myself untracked, I think I have accomplished that. Where to start - I am unfit and I am overweight - both are true statements. Here is the skinny:
I had a body fat test done with Craig at Boulder Muscles Max last week - using calipers - these aren't my favorite ways of measuring body fat but as long as the measuring technique is consistent, I am ok with that. I do prefer a water based test or a DEXA Machine - both of which I've done in the past. Craig measured me at 23% which is a lifetime high, I am sure. The highest I've ever been with a caliper test is 17% or so. With the water based test, I've been as high as 14% and in September I did the Dexa test - and I came in at 18%. I weigh about 174 which is about 6 pounds over race weight. Not really a big deal in terms of pounds, but it's not about the pounds as much as its about what type of pounds they are. When I was very fit - mid 7's for body fat, I had about 11 pounds of body fat. Right now, let's say the body fat is approaching my age! So, lots of fat to lose and lots of muscle to put on.

Speaking of, my weight training sessions have been going awesome. I bumped up again last week on my dead lifts - I'm over 200# now and I am feeling stronger.

I did a CT Step Test last week and my results were good for February. A step test is where you raise the watts every 2 minutes (by 20 watts). I thought I would bottom out at 240 watts, but I managed to make it to 280 watts, which was surprising.

I also did a swim test today which was 15:33 - about 1:33 per 100 - about as slow as I've seen in many years. Going back to 2002, I can't find anything over 14:45, so I have some work to do in the pool.

Running - I'll leave that test to this week. Yesterday I did my hellacious Sanitas, North Cedar Brook run in 1:29.09 - only a minute off my best ever. Quite crazy to see that time, but I was working hard and I feel it today. My legs are sore for sure.

Last week I also rode the PCs twice - once before warm up for the CT Step Test and again before I rode my Tabata intervals - 8x20" as hard as you can, 10" recovery. I averaged just under 300 (299) for the 4 minutes. My 20" efforts averaged around 360 so not a total loss of power. I am giving the credit to the weight training. I'll be on the PCs again today and then I'll hit the 8x20" on/10" off again - hopefully I'll break 300 watts for the 4 minutes. :)

I'll keep updating on my nutrition progress as well as my 2009 fitness - I have a long way to go, but this is actually fun. I haven't been this out of shape before and it's a good challenge to try and get back to 165# and 6:15 a mile off the bike for OLY distance.