Look, No Hands!

Hey we’ve all done it right …. you take a bit of a breather in the odd ‘recovery’ gaps: you release the bars and you’re bolt upright on the trainer giving the old hands a break.

So sure, there I was on Friday catching a cheeky break during Team Scream and then my mind started to wander. As it does. Not so far my eye left the cadence target you understand, but before I knew it I’d been upright for all of the recovery and right thru the next threshold piece, so around 5 or 6 mins in total. Doh!

Dutifully, I returned to a more prone position (after a brief talking to) and my hands once again grasped hold of the hoods.

Now I noticed a few things during this temporarily period of disobedience:

Firstly, the demand on my rectus femoris muscle (the upper quad which occupies the middle thigh, covering most of the other three quadriceps) was like nothing I’d experienced on a smart trainer before. It felt like my glutes had been stood down and the power generation had switched to the rectus femoris.

Second, I noticed my HR had ticked up a touch and was averaging a few beats higher that normal for those power levels.

Finally, returning to the drops after a sustained upright period was a real struggle - it seemed like all the power demands: across the three glutes, three hamstrings and the four quad muscles were being completely redistributed … like a shuffled pack. Could even feel my eyes rolling as I had to push thru the reordering.

Overall my impression was that my unintended dalliance had been a useful exercise from a training perspective, calling as it did on a new combination of power demands amongst the ten muscle groups.

And that got me thinking whether this form of ‘bolt upright’ training might actually be beneficial in some way (and if so might even warrant its own SUF session of its own ~ hands free) ….

Maybe not? What do we think?


You’re right that different positions activate different muscles. I don’t know if that’s helpful or not, but it is true.

It’s also true that heart rate while upright is higher than heart rate while bent over. That’s one of the reasons why max heart rate while running is almost always higher than max heart rate while cycling. I doubt that has any fitness benefit—just something that is true about how the human body works.


Hmm, upright Team Scream? Maybe a “full vertical” option for ToS? The “Penny-farthing” challenge?


Huge glutes and lots of sacrum and back pain. :wink:


You’d generally want to train in the position that you want to ride/race in, so I’m not sure training in an unusual position would be beneficial?


@TTDragon I think the point, from OP’s perspective, and as pointed out by @AkaPete, from solely a WORKOUT (vice race) perspective different positions on the bike engage and target different muscles.

In this case, positioning upright shifts your center of mass - and therefore your lever - to decrease your “push” power stroke and require more “pull” effort on the upstroke, placing more work onto your hamstrings, glutes and lower back. Probably too much work, frankly.

But again from a workout perspective, there’s something to be said for limited positional shift to target those “pull” muscles.

Just thoughts, not a physiologist.


I have found myself doing that, with similar muscle recruitment changes. One thing very different for me however, is my heart rate decreases by that same few beats when I go hands free and sit up. I do agree though that you train like you race, so I try to keep it to a minimum.


Actually, my heart rate drops when I sit up. Of course, I’m an odd-ball with several spinal injuries and a possible compressed abdomen.

Can’t say if it has any training purpose or real world application but no hands Violator is a thing from some distant past when stoopid things were done just for the fun of it. Sit up and hold hands above head Davis Phinney style for the duration of each sprint. Do whatever the heck you like for the recovery sections. Bonus points for each killerWatt :grin:


You mean like Mike Cotty (@michael.cotty) removing his jacket while riding in, I think, Across the Mountains?


My HR also drops when I sit up, goes up a bit more when on the hoods, and a bit more again on the TT bars.

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A great training tip and homage for Cash Register. :wink:

@Heretic …or every other @michael.cotty video?







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I always wondered why my heart rate went up during that manoeuvre, well now I know! :joy: