Peak sprint power is a combination of fitness and technique. Just because you wouldn’t label yourself as a sprinter, doesn’t mean you can’t have a powerful snap. These training tips will help you increase your peak sprint power.
For more information on sprint training check out Ask a Cycling Coach Ep 262.
Analyze Your Sprint Power
Every cyclist has strengths and weaknesses. One of the best ways to discover yours is to take a look at your power curve. Your power curve shows the work you’ve done plotted against time. On the TrainerRoad Personal Records page, you can view your power PRs on three different levels. Let’s look at an example.
This is my colleague Nathan’s power curve set to the sprint level (1-30 seconds). His all-time peak one second power is just above 1000w and falls to about 900w at ten seconds. Typically when discussing peak sprint power, we look at the one-second mark.
What is Peak Power Output
Peak Power Output is more than just pushing hard on the pedals. Yes, the amount of torque applied to the pedals is important, but another important component of power is cadence. Simply put, power is torque x cadence.
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To increase your peak power output, you’ll need to train the amount of torque and your rate of cadence change. In terms of sprint power, it’s helpful to think of torque as how you recruit all your available fast-twitch muscle fibers and cadence as the speed that you apply it. The good news for anyone who wants to increase their maximum sprint power is that both of these things are highly trainable.
Training Cadence for Sprint Power
Developing your ability to apply torque quickly requires plenty of practice. When you practice rapid cadence changes, you are establishing and strengthening neuromuscular pathways, leading to increased coordination and effective torque application.
One of the best ways to practice on the bike is by completing jumps or form sprints. This low power drill is simple to do. Just pick a mid-range to light gear and then wind your cadence up as quickly as possible. Your goal is to go from a normal cadence to your max cadence in as little time as possible and then hold it for about ten seconds. Practice them seating and standing.
Training Torque for Sprint Power
Training for peak torque is best done with strength training and drills on the bike. Strength training helps develop muscle capacity, while the drills will help you apply it to the pedals.
There are three different approaches to strength training for sprint power. The first is the classic use of heavy weights. This would include lifts like the squat or deadlift for 3-5 reps in 3-5 sets at 85-95% of your one-rep maximum. You can do this 2-3 times per week.
Another form of strength training is plyometric exercises. These are explosive bodyweight movements. The classic box jump is a great example. However, if you are new to plyometric exercises, start slowly until you have mastered the movement to avoid injury.
Finally, you can combine traditional strength training with plyometrics. Ballistic training adds light weights to explosive movement. A good place to start is with jump squats. Use 30% of your one-rep max and focus on the velocity in which you can lift the load.
High force stomps are the best drill for applying your gym strength onto the bike. These standing-start sprints consist of slowly turning over a big gear as forcefully as possible to recruit as many muscle fibers as you can. Done from a near stop, pick the hardest gear you can turn over without exceeding 90rpm in 12 pedal strokes.
Aim for five stomp efforts during your ride. These should last 10-12 seconds with plenty of rest in between. You can complete these drills sitting or standing. While standing, hold onto your handlebar drops and drive each foot down as hard as you can while retaining excellent form. When seated, try to stabilize any lateral movement.
Putting It All Together
Unleashing a great sprint is more than just power and acceleration. Body position and rhythm play a critical role. Sprint technique is something that requires consistent practice to master. And if you are racing against others, the right strategy is just as important. Here is a list of resources for improving your sprinting.
- Sprinting 101: How to Be Explosive
- Sprint Faster – Tips from a Pro
- How to Accelerate Past Someone in a Sprint
- Pro Tips for Sprinting When Your Breakaway Fails
- How to Find the Right Wheel in a Sprint
- How to Safely Fight for Position in the Final Laps of a Race
For more cycling training knowledge, listen to Ask a Cycling Coach — the only podcast dedicated to making you a faster cyclist. New episodes are released weekly.
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