Carmichael Training Systems: A glossary of workout terms

You've got to know the lingo. CTS programs contain certain abbreviated terms that pertain to specific training techniques. The list is long, so remember to bookmark this page, or click here for a printable version of this glossary.

Quick jump to terms:
Recovery Ride (RR)
Foundation Miles (FM)
Fixed Gear (FG)
Power Start (PS)
Fast Pedal (FP)
Stomps (S)
Muscle Tension Intervals (MT)
Endurance Miles (EM)
Tempo (T)
Steady State Intervals (SS)
Climbing Repeats (CR)
Power Intervals (PI)
One-Legged Pedaling (OL)
Speed Intervals (SI)
Flat Sprints (FS)
High Speed Sprints (HSS)
Hill Sprints (HS)
Race Simulation (RS)
Hill Accelerations (HA)
Speed Accelerations (SA)
Over Under Intervals (OU)
Descending Intervals (DI)

Recovery Ride (RR)
Goal: To speed the recovery process by riding at an easy pace at low resistance on flat terrain. Benefits include increasing blood flow to the muscles to help remove muscle soreness, reducing free radical build-up that cause muscle stress and damage. Studies have shown that active recovery at an appropriate pace leads to faster recovery than complete rest.

How to do it: Recovery rides should be between 30-120 minutes in length on flat to rolling terrain. Keep your pedal speed slower than normal, staying in a light gear to keep resistance low. Heart rate must also remain low even if you hit any hills, just slow down and use your gears to keep the resistance low. The key to recovery rides is to ride just enough to engage the active recovery process but not long or intense enough to induce a training stress upon yourself.

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Foundation Miles (FM)
Goal: This is the cornerstone workout for your endurance training. FM prepares your aerobic system for continued physical adaptations developed through other forms of more intense training. Expected benefits include:

  • Size and strength gains for slow twitch muscle fibers.
  • Increased capillary development.
  • Increased mitochondria (the structures within the muscle cell that produce adenosine triphosphate, ATP).
  • Decreased resting heart rate.

    How to do it: Expect to do this workout year round. The goal is to ride almost the entire ride without using your anaerobic energy system. You want to stay aerobic at least 95% of the ride. This ensures that you trained your aerobic energy system and didnt accumulate lactate within your muscles. Normally, pedal speeds range between 85-95 RPM during this exercise. At times you may want to use lighter gears and pedal at higher speeds during this workout. This will increase the training load on the aerobic energy system and give you further aerobic benefits.

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    Fixed Gear (FG)
    Goal: Riding a fixed gear has benefits that many elite cyclists enjoy.

  • Smoother and better pedal mechanics
  • Leg speed
  • Leg strength

    How to do it: Setting your bike up as a fixed gear means you have no choice in gearing and pedaling. As you ride, you must pedal.

    This develops a smooth pedal stroke as you spin down hills and increases leg strength as you grind up hills. Generally, gearing for a fixed gear will be light (42-19, 39-16), since this helps balance the gearing for various types of terrain.

    A fixed gear will have you work hard over a shorter period. This means you will spend less time on the bike and reap greater returns. Since this training is normally done during the Foundation Period, you are also lifting weights. CTS believes weight training and cycling are like oil and water they dont mix well. You need to reduce one as you increase another. A fixed gear allows greater aerobic benefits with less time on the bike so you can spend more time in the weight room.

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    Power Start (PS)
    Goal: To increase your muscular power to the pedals.

    How to do it: This workout should be performed on a relatively flat section of road. The gearing should be very large, depending on your level of physical development. The Power Start should begin at a very low speed, at a near stand still. Jump up on the pedals, out of the saddle, driving the pedals down as hard as possible. Pull on the handlebars using the leverage of the handlebars to move your body over each pedal as you drive the pedal downward. The Power Start should not last longer than 8-10 pedal strokes or 8-12 seconds. This is a muscular workout and heart rate will not have time to respond.

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    Fast Pedal (FP)
    Goal: Better and more efficient pedaling mechanics through high speed pedaling.

    How to do it: This workout should be performed on a relatively flat section of road. The gearing should be light with low pedal resistance. Begin slowly working up your pedal speed, starting out with around 15-16 pedal revolutions per 10-second count. This equates to a cadence of 90-96 RPM.

    While staying in the saddle, increase the your pedal speed, keeping your hips smooth with no rocking.

    Concentrate on pulling through the bottom of the pedal stroke and over the top. After two minutes of Fast Pedal, you should be maintaining 18-20 pedal revolutions per 10-second count, or a cadence of 108-120 RPM for the entire amount of time prescribed for the workout.

    Your heart rate will climb while doing this workout, but don't use it to judge your training intensity. It is important that you try to ride the entire length of the Fast Pedal workout with as few interruptions as possible, since it should consist of consecutive riding at the prescribed training intensity.

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    Stomps (S)
    Goal: To increase muscular power in the saddle.

    How to do it: This workout should be performed on a relatively flat section of road with a slight tailwind. The gearing should be large, 53-12 (depending on your level of physical development).

    The effort should begin at a moderate speed (typically 15-20 mph), then while seated in the saddle begin STOMPING the pedals as hard as possible!

    Concentrate on pulling though the bottom of the pedal stroke and smoothly stomping down during the down stroke. Keep your upper body as still as possible and let your legs drive the pedals. The Stomps should last 15-20 seconds, with at least 5 minutes recovery between efforts. This is a muscular workout and heart rate may not have time to respond.

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    Muscle Tension Intervals (MT)
    Goal: Develop cycling specific strength. High muscle tension during the interval assists in the recruitment of fast twitch muscle fibers, which are important during intense efforts.

    How to do it: This workout should be performed on a long, moderate (5-8%) climb or on a trainer with your front wheel set on a slight incline, 4-6 inches above the normal horizontal plane to simulate your climbing position.

    Pedal cadence must be low (50-55 RPM) and the heart rate intensity is not important (because your legs are moving slow your heart rate will be low). Large gears (such as 53x12-15) are required to produce the low cadence and high muscle tension.

    Correct form must be strictly maintained during these intervals. Strong concentration is needed to keep your upper body absolutely smooth yet relaxed while concentrating on correct pedaling form (over the top & through the bottom of the pedal stroke).

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    Endurance Miles (EM)
    Goal: This is the next step toward building an aerobic energy system that will increase your endurance capabilities. Expected benefits include:

  • Slow-twitch muscle fibers gain size and strength.
  • Increase capillary development.
  • Increases mitochondria, structures within the muscle cells that produce ATP.
  • Increased stroke volume from your heart.
  • Improved temperature regulation.
  • Increased respiratory endurance.

    How to do it: The pace during the EM workout is quicker than during the Foundation Miles (FM) workout. It is performed at a moderate pace, but at a higher heart rate than the FM workout.

    Use your gearing as you hit the hills to remain in the saddle as you climb. Expect to keep your pedal speed up into the 85-95 RPM range.

    As with the FM workout, your goal is to ride at least 95% of the ride using your aerobic system for energy. Even though the intensity is greater the closer you get to your lactate threshold, you are still using aerobic energy to power your cycling.

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    Tempo (T)
    Goal: Strategically placing tempo workouts into your training program has many advantages:

  • Greater comfort while cruising on rolling terrain.
  • Better fuel utilization during long races or rides.
  • Increased capacity for more intense workouts.
  • Better power at moderate intensities.
  • Increased muscle glycogen storage capacity.
  • Improved free fatty acid oxidation, which spares muscle glycogen.
  • Increased mitochondrial development, structures within the muscle cells that produce energy.
  • Improved aerobic efficiency.

    How to Do It: Pedal speed should be low. Try a 70-75 RPM range while staying at the prescribed heart rate intensity. This helps increase pedal resistance and strengthens leg muscles. Also try to stay in the saddle when you hit hills during your tempo workouts. This adds more pedal resistance and readies the connective tissues and supporting muscle groups before training heads into more explosive workouts.

    It is important that you try to ride the entire length of the tempo workout with as few interruptions as possible - tempo workouts should consist of consecutive riding at the prescribed intensity to achieve maximum benefit.

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    Steady State Intervals (SS)
    Goal: Increase your lactate threshold by training at the edge of your aerobic/anaerobic threshold.

    How to do it: This workout can either be performed on the road with a long steady climb, hills or flat terrain.

    The training intensity is at your individual lactate threshold (LT) and it is critical that you maintain this intensity for the length of the SS Interval. Interruptions during the interval limits the adaptations from this workout.

    Pedal cadence for SS intervals while climbing should be 70-80 RPM, and flat terrain cadence should be 85-95 RPM. Maintaining the training zone intensity is the most important factor, not pedal cadence. Focus on continuous riding for the length of the prescribed interval.

    Steady State intervals are meant to be slightly below your individual time trial pace, so dont make the mistake of riding at your time trial pace during the SteadyState intervals.

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    Climbing Repeats (CR)
    Goal: Increase your climbing lactate threshold by training at the edge of your aerobic/anaerobic threshold.

    How to do it: This workout should be performed on the road with a long steady climb. The training intensity is at your climbing individual lactate threshold (LT) and it is critical that you maintain this intensity for the length of the CR.

    Your climbing lactate threshold heart rate is slightly higher than your individual lactate threshold heart rate on flat terrain, since you are involving more muscles while climbing than on flat terrain. Since more muscles are being used, more blood is required for these muscles, hence a higher heart rate. Pedal cadence for CR intervals while climbing should be 70-85 RPM.

    Maintaining the training intensity is the most important factor, not pedal cadence. It is very important to avoid interruptions while doing these intervals. Focus on continuous riding for the length of the prescribed interval. Recovery time between the CR is normally 5-15 minutes.

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    Power Intervals (PI)
    Goal: To increase power output during short intense efforts.

    How to do it: This workout should be performed on an indoor trainer because of the controlled environment allowing for a better comparison from one session to another. It can also be performed on a relatively flat section of road.

    The gearing should be moderate, but pedal cadence must be high (110 or higher). Take one minute to build up to the desired training zone, then maintain this intensity for the remaining interval.

    It will be during the last two minutes of each interval that will develop your maximum aerobic capacity. If you have to, shift into a lighter gear to maintain the cadence, but dont let the intensity of the interval drop.

    With a high cadence, your heart rate will remain extremely high and you will train your bodys ability to deliver oxygen to the muscles. Recovery between intervals is easy spinning.

    Among the athletes who use this interval session are Lance Armstrong and George Hincapie. Since the addition of this workout to Lance and Georges training programs, CTS has seen them further develop their extraordinary ability to attack on steep hills late in races when everyone else is gasping for air.

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    One-Legged Pedaling (OL)
    Goal: Better pedaling mechanics are developed with this interval. Expect increased power over top dead center and through bottom dead center of the pedal stroke.

    How to do it: This workout is best performed on an indoor trainer. The length of each interval is the amount of time spent pedaling per leg. This workout should be performed at a moderate intensity level dont try to pedal too hard while doing this interval, because injury could occur.

    While pedaling, visualize scraping your toes through the bottom of the pedal stroke, like you are trying to rub mud off your shoes. Over the top of the pedal stroke, push your pedal forward just before you reach top dead-center.

    You will begin to adapt to better pedaling slowly, but you will need to continue to focus on correct pedaling throughout the entire year. One interval of One-Legged pedaling is typically 30-60 seconds, and you can expect to perform 3 intervals per leg before having a rest period of 5-10 minutes. Normally, there will be 2-4 sets during one workout.

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    Speed Intervals (SI)
    Goal: To develop speed and power for repeatability.

    How to do it: This workout should be performed on a relatively flat section of road with a slight tailwind to enhance your top speed during the efforts.

    The gearing should be moderate but pedal cadence must be high (110 or higher). Speed, power and accelerations are the key elements, not heart rate. This workout builds up high levels of lactic acid, lactate tolerance trains your body to dissipate and buffer lactate.

    Normally, CTS limits the length of this interval to one minute or less. Speed training is very stressful on the body and needs to be performed with great care. During weeks you perform speed intervals you should reduce your overall training hours to encourage recovery from the speed intervals.

    If you have to, shift into a lighter gear to maintain the cadence, but dont let the intensity of the interval drop. With a high cadence, you will train your bodys adaptation to high speed efforts. Recovery between intervals is easy spinning. Recovery time between SI is limited in order to build repeatability and recovery.

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    Flat Sprints (FS)
    Goal: Sprints develop acceleration, pure and simple. Sprinting improves the effectiveness of your fast-twitch muscle fibers and improves your bodys ability to use the high-energy (ATP) stored in your muscle tissues.

    How to do it: Sprints are always performed at 100% maximum output. On flat terrain, you should be rolling along at a moderate speed (15-22 mph depending on your stage of development) in a light gear. Jump out of the saddle, accelerating the entire time, then return to the saddle after a few seconds, focusing on maintaining high pedal speed with smooth and efficient form for the entire sprint.

    These sprints should be 8-10 seconds in length. Full recovery between sprints is very important to allow for rebuilding of ATP in the muscles and to ensure a quality sprint workout. Normally, 5-10 minutes allows for enough recovery before adding another sprint to your workout.

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    High Speed Sprints (HSS)
    Goal: HSS sprints develop your top-end power and speed. This type of sprinting improves your maximum peak power. Since it is performed slightly downhill at high speed and pedal cadence, the power demands will be huge due to the aerodynamic drag associated with beginning sprints at high speed.

    How to do it: Sprints are always performed at 100% maximum output. On a slight downhill, you should be rolling along at a high speed (30-35 mph depending on your stage of development) in a large gear.

    Jump out of the saddle, and accelerate. Upon reaching top speed, return to the saddle and focus on holding your top speed the entire length of the sprint interval. Maintain good form, and focus on maintaining high pedal speed in a smooth and efficient form for the entire sprint.

    These sprints should be 8-12 seconds in length, and full recovery between sprints is very important to allow for rebuilding of ATP in the muscles and to ensure a quality sprint workout. Normally, 10-20 minutes allows for enough recovery before adding another sprint to your workout. Pedal speed is high for these sprints, 110+ RPM.

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    Hill Sprints (HS)
    Goal: These sprints develop strength and power for uphill accelerations. This type of sprinting improves your maximum peak torque and leg strength. Since this sprint is performed uphill, speed and pedal speed remain lower than normal.

    How to do it: Sprints are always performed at 100% maximum output. On a flat road leading into a steeply pitched uphill, you should be rolling along at a moderate speed (15-20 mph depending on your stage of development) in a moderate-to-light gear.

    As you hit the hill, jump out of the saddle, stomping on the pedals as hard as possible. The resistance will be increasing as you head up the hill. Stay out of the saddle for the entire sprint, which will increase the stress on your lower back, butt muscles and triceps.

    Focus on holding this top speed for the entire length of the interval. These sprints should be 8-12 seconds in length, and full recovery between sprints is very important to allow for rebuilding of ATP in the muscles and to ensure a quality sprint workout. Normally, 10-20 minutes allows for enough recovery before adding another sprint to your workout.

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    Race Simulation (RS)
    Goal: This workout simulates the demands that occur in races. You will be bouncing between using all energy systems to maintain the intensity of the workout.

    How to do it: This workout is best performed during a club/group ride. Riding with a group tends to push you to new heights of intensity and simulates the same demands of racing.

    During the ride, there should be a series of various lengths of accelerations followed by slower riding, sudden attacks, increasing tempo on climbs and random attacks and counterattacks.

    Generally, CTS will not prescribe a large volume of RS training. Since this simulates a race situation, you will need plenty of recovery time following one of these workouts. This type of training is prescribed year round, not just during the specialization period.

    During the preparation period, expect the length of the RS training to be short, 15-60 minutes. Pedal cadence should match those of a race, 80-110 RPM depending on the terrain and intensity.

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    Hill Accelerations (HA)
    Goal: This workout simulates the acceleration demands that occur in hilly races. This workout builds power and climbing speed while riding at your individual lactate threshold.

    How to do it: This workout is best performed on a long, moderate climb. When using a trainer, you can achieve the same climbing position by raised your bikes front wheel 4-6 inches above the normal horizontal position. This position simulates your climbing position so that you will use the same muscle groups as when you are climbing.

    Begin a long climb and slowly increase the training intensity until you reach your lactate threshold, then maintain this effort for the prescribed time. As you approach the top of the climb, attack out of the saddle with a hard but controlled effort, increasing your acceleration the closer you get to the top of the hill.

    Normally, these accelerations are performed during the last 500 meters of the climb. Every 100 meters of this effort your intensity should be growing until you are nearly at your maximum heart rate during the last few meters of the hill.

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    Speed Accelerations (SA)
    Goal: This workout simulates the acceleration demands through various power output levels that occur in races. By increasing your gearing for each sprint, you are also increasing the resistance for each sprint and gaining greater power output.

    How to do it: The workout should be performed on flat terrain with a tailwind, or it can also be performed on a indoor trainer. You will do 3 sprints in one set followed by 3-5 minutes of easy spinning for recovery between each sprint and 10 minutes of easy spinning between each set. Each sprint in the set should be 15 seconds in length. Plan on doing 3-4 sets total.

    Sprint 1: Start off in your small chain ring and the 17- or 16-tooth cog in the rear. While rolling along at a moderate pace (below 15 mph), jump up out of the saddle, using your arms to pull hard on the handlebars and focus on pulling up on the pedals with your hamstrings. Quickly you will have spun out the gear, then return to the saddle focusing on maintaining high pedal speed. Keep your upper body smooth, your hips shouldnt rock, and keep your head up as you drive to the end of the sprint.

    Sprint 2: The same as sprint 1 but increase your gearing to your big chain ring and 17- or 16-tooth cog.

    Sprint 3: The same as sprint 2 but increase your gearing to your big chain ring and 15- or 14-tooth cog.

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    Over Under Intervals (OU)
    Goal: To develop lactate tolerance and buffering capability in order to build power at intensities just above lactate threshold.

    How to do it: This workout should be performed on a relatively flat section road or on an indoor trainer. The gearing should be moderate and pedal cadence should be high (100 RPM or higher).

    Slowly bring your intensity up to lactate threshold heart rate. Maintain this heart rate intensity for 5 minutes then increase your heart rate intensity to the level prescribed. Hold this intensity for the prescribed interval then drop your intensity back to your lactate threshold heart rate. You will continue this pattern of riding at your lactate threshold, increasing to above lactate threshold and returning to lactate threshold, for as many times as listed.

    This workout builds up high levels of lactic acid. Working in this way trains your body to dissipate and buffer lactate, also known as increasing your lactate tolerance. Normally the limit of the length of the interval above your lactate threshold to 2 to 3 minutes, while the intervals at your lactate threshold are normally 5 to 10 minutes long. Lactate threshold training is very stressful on the body and needs to be performed with great care.

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    Descending Intervals (DI)
    Goal: To increase anaerobic power, lactate tolerance and repeatability during short intense efforts.

    How to do it: This workout should be performed on an indoor trainer because of the controlled environment, and to offer a better comparison from one session to another. It can also be performed on a relatively flat section of road.

    The gearing should be moderate but pedal cadence must be high (110 or higher) during each interval. Attack each interval as hard as possible. Jump out of the saddle as you begin the interval and build speed as the interval continues. If you have to, shift into a lighter gear to maintain the cadence, but dont let the intensity of the interval drop.

    With a high cadence, your heart rate will remain extremely high and you will train your muscles for high power and repeatability. Recovery between intervals is easy spinning. Recovery time between efforts is limited so that you will never fully recover between intervals.

    Heart rate intensity is not prescribed because the interval is a maximal effort. There are seven intervals in one set and the recovery time between intervals is the same length as the maximal effort of the interval. Recovery time between DI sets is 10 minutes. Normally expect to do 2-3 sets total.

    The following DI workout is only an example of how a DI workout is structured.

    One set consists of the following efforts with 120 seconds between each interval.

  • 120 seconds maximal effort followed by 120 seconds recovery spinning
  • 105 seconds maximal effort followed by 105 seconds recovery spinning
  • 90 seconds maximal effort followed by 90 seconds recovery spinning
  • 75 seconds maximal effort followed by 75 seconds recovery spinning
  • 60 seconds maximal effort followed by 60 seconds recovery spinning
  • 45 seconds maximal effort followed by 45 seconds recovery spinning
  • 30 seconds maximal effort followed by 30 seconds recovery spinning

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