Cycling: Improving Sprinting Power

BY IN Exercise Institute News On December 26, 2019

Peak Sprinting power involves high amounts of two factors: Cadence + Torque

  • Cadence meaning how fast you can turn the cranks over
  • Torque meaning how much force you can apply to the cranks

These two factors work similarly with each other, but each can also be trained specifically.

In general terms we have seen athletes capable of producing large amounts of torque to produce high power, and others who use high amounts of cadence to produce high power. Each athlete is unique and can create their own torque/cadence and power curve.

This is of interest to any individual as it shows HOW you produce power, and WHAT can be done to improve YOUR power output.

Further to this, if an individual creates large amounts of torque, then we could focus further on their strengths by increasing how much torque they can produce (Heavy GYM weights, or big gear work on the bike), or alternatively we could focus on their weaknesses by increasing how fast they can move the crank (lighter rapid GYM based movements, or small gear acceleration work on the bike).

As each individual is unique, we prefer to take a baseline assessment of peak power, look at the torque and cadence data, then create a program of how we should improve either torque/cadence, or both, and monitor increases in power consummate to adaptation. The end result is a program that looks and GYM-based and cycling based training to improve the individual.

It should also be noted that increase in peak sprinting power can also be correlated with increases in cycling efficiency, or how much power you produce per oxygen consumption, see here for some research of this association. This has benefits for cycling endurance, not just sprinting power. So not only can we improve sprinting power, through a tailored approach to training, we may also improve the efficiency of your cycling too.

CASE STUDY EXAMPLE

Athlete A is a female athlete with good sustained sprinting power, or ‘Anaerobic Capacity’. Athlete A’s data is outlined below:

Peak Sprinting Power during an all out sprint in a Race and in Training

The above table outlines a baseline from racing (first row), a baseline from training (second row) and then subsequent training sessions. Each row is the average of between 6-10 intervals, not just one.

Owing to this athletes incredible ability to produce large amounts of torque at really low cadences (peak sprinting cadence was 85rpm!!!) we focused exclusively on improving her cadence to improve power output.

You can see her cadence has improved from 85-89rpm at baseline to around 112-113rpm at week 3-4. This is a 31% improvement in cadence and for a 1% improvement in peak power…. 1% isn’t much, but when you look at how much power Athlete A is produce per torque it has improved from around 9.33 (watts/torque) to 11.8 (watts/torque) by week 4. This is a 22% improvement in power at a given torque.

End Peak Power Result:

If we use the baseline cadence of 89rpm and multiply this by the new watts/torque value of 11.8 (baseline was 9.33), we see peak power improve to 1050 watts.

A similar relationship was also seen in average sprinting power, cadence and torque.

Average Sprinting Power during an all out sprint in a Race and in Training

The above table outlines the baseline 20 second average power in racing and training (first and second row) and in subsequent training weeks changed with specific training exercises. Each row is the average of between 6-10 intervals, not just one.

Again average cadence in racing and training is low, around 86-88rpm, so training focused on learning to create high amounts of power through cadence drills.

Baseline cadence went from around 87 rpm to around 102 rpm over the 3 week period, this also led to power dropping from 613 – 556w, around 10%. However, the watts produced through a function of torque (20s watts/torque) went from around 9.1 at baseline to 10,9 by week 3, a 20% improvement in power at a given torque.

End Average Power Result:

If we use the baseline cadence of 87rpm and multiply this by the new watts/torque value of 10.9 (baseline was 9.08), we see average power improve to 989 watts for a 20 second sprint.

This case serves as exemplar to how working on a particular aspect of sprinting fitness can improve peak and average sprinting power in an individual who produces high power through torque: we focused on improving cadence through on-road and potentially GYM-based programming. These improvements in peak sprinting power can also transfer across to improvements in cycling efficiency too, which have not been measured directly here.

Brad Hall
B.Sc. (Psy & Sport Sc.); B.Psy (Hons)
Assoc.MAPS


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