If you're like most cyclists, you want to get faster on the bike. Whether that means setting a new personal record on your next century ride or hanging on the back of the peloton on your weekend group ride, the only way you can push your performance to new levels is to produce more power on the bike.
While you can get pretty scientific about your training by incorporating lactate threshold numbers or by measuring the watts you generate during training with a power meter, there are a few simple tried-and-true training methods that have been used by cyclists for years to develop a more powerful pedal stroke.
By using larger gears for short amounts of time, you can build the strength in your legs and core that's necessary to get faster. These intervals won't feel terrific while you're doing them, but after 2 to 3 months, you should start to notice a difference in your power and speed on the bike.
*Please note that if you've had an injury to your knee, use caution when training with larger gear ratios, as it can worsen symptoms.
Interval #1: Stop Sign Drill
What it's for: Developing your top-end speed.
The workout: Find a quiet road with multiple stop signs every 100 or 200 yards.
1. Pedal to the first stop sign and come to as complete a stop as possible. Try to avoid unclipping from your pedals.
2. From a standing start, sprint as hard as you can for 10 seconds. Keep your hands in the drops and stay off the saddle. Try to engage your core as much as possible as you pedal.
3. Recover for 60 seconds, pedaling easy to the next stop sign.
4. Complete 5 to 10 efforts, depending on your level of fitness.
Tip: Include this workout in a ride of no more than one hour, pedaling easy before and after the interval set. If you can't find a road with a few stop signs in a straight line, do this workout on your indoor trainer.
Interval #2: Sustained Power
What it's for: Building your VO2 max and the ability to ride faster for longer amounts of time.
The workout: Find a road with a slight incline for about 2 to 3 miles for this set. If you can't find a road like this in your area, do this workout on your indoor trainer.
1. Using a 53x15 or larger gear ratio, ride for as hard as you can for 5 minutes.
2. Try to keep your effort as even as possible for the entire 5 minutes, avoiding spikes in your power. This will take some practice to get right.
3. Concentrate on pedaling in smooth circles. Stay seated during the entire interval, and use your core for power.
4. At the end of the first 5 minutes, pedal easy for 5 minutes. Use a cadence above 100 revolutions per minute (rpm).
5. Complete 3 to 6 sets depending on your current fitness. Increase repetitions as these intervals become easier.
Interval #3: Minimizing Recovery
What it's for: Building power by minimizing your recovery time.
The workout: These intervals can be done on the road or on the trainer. The first few will feel easy, but as you progress through the intervals, you should notice that your breathing rate increases and you'll have a heavy feeling in your legs due to lactic acid build up.
1. For 30 seconds, pedal in a gear ratio that lets you spin between 60 to 75 rpms. The effort should be hard but not all out.
2. Stay seated during each interval and concentrate on engaging each muscle group throughout the revolution of the pedal stroke.
3. At the end of the 30 seconds, lower your gear and spin at 100 rpms for another 30 seconds. This is the off phase of the interval, but the shortened time won't allow you to fully recover.
4. Complete 10 repetitions of the on/off phase of the interval. As your fitness improves, try two sets with a 5-minute break in between each set of 10 repetitions.
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