One legged drills

Aim of Session

A turbo session with one legged-pedalling for fixed intervals 

Session description

WARM UP: 15 minutes zone 2 included in session duration

MAIN SET: Low intensity interval of 30s right and 30s left legs (i.e. 60s). Repeat this 3 times, and perform 5 sets in a session (5 mins between sets).  End session with 10 x 1 fast pedal intervals (1 min of easy pedalling in between)

COOL DOWN: 15 minutes zone 2 included in session duration


This session is more about skill acquisition than developing a given physiological system. However, the rider might have a few considerations to think about:

  • using only one leg at a time means there is twice as much blood flow (and therefore oxygen) available to the single leg. For a given power, you might experience lower HR (as cardiac output is maintained by 'more' stroke volume).
  • because the rider cannot use the counter-weight of the non-contracting leg, the hamstrings will have to be recruited to 'pull up' on the pedal stroke. This has been suggested as a way to improve pedalling efficiency
  • akin to weight training theory, if we develop a single limb at a time, we are less likely to develop assymetries if the body is not compensating for the weaker side.

Application for the Rider

A coach might deliver this session in a plan if a rider appears to be particularly inefficient, or has sufferred an injury through asymmetry. However, it needs to be applied with care. An unfocused session can lead to improper pedalling technique rather than improvement. It should be used as part of a specific block addressing pedalling / cadence issues, and the rider must think of the session in terms of skill development, not as a training session for fitness.

Practicalities and tips!

  • Some riders find it helpful to rest the non-working leg on a stool during the drills. Remember, you will need one for each side of the bike!
  • Focus on maintaining form - it might help to do this session in front of a mirror, tracking the knee so it runs straight ahead, parallel to the top tube
  • This is a session highly appropriate for visualisation e.g. thinking about how the hamstrings can be used to pull up the pedal while you actually do this within each pedal cycle
  • Make a note of which leg you start on, as you might be able to see differences in your power, cadence and heart rate profile according to the leg used

Evaluation of the session

  • Did each leg feel similar, or different?
  • Can you ascertain any differences between legs in the power, cadence and heart rate profile? It might not be possible if differences are small
  • How did the fast pedals feel after the drills work?
More in this category: « Hill revs Tension intervals »