Lack of Low-Cadence Training in TrainerRoad

In a couple of the training books I’ve read - The Well-Built Triathlete (by Matt Dixon) and The Triathlete’s Training Bible (by Joe Friel), they reference doing a decent amount of low-cadence work in pre-season:

From The Well-Built Triathlete, in context of the pre-season phase:

“For both developing and experienced athletes, there is heavy emphasis on muscular recruitment and strength in this phase, with low-cadence, medium-effort intervals included once or twice in weekly training.”

Joe Friel also recommends a focus on low-cadence training for improving muscular force.

In TR I’ve noticed there doesn’t seem to be many workouts that incorporate low-cadence training (from the plans I’ve viewed). Is there a specific reason for leaving this out?

It’d be interesting to hear the thoughts of @chad on this.


I like to do sessions like ‘Carson’ with some low 60RPM sweet spot efforts. Say every other interval? Seems to work quite nicely.

I’ve started doing these in the hope that it gives me MASSIVE QUADZZZ…



I like workouts like Black, Homer’s Nose and Baxter for cadence work. Endurance work at a range of %s that you can self select cadence. I.e. 2-3 minutes at 55% at 110prm then 2-3 at your normal, then an interval at 65-75rpm. Good for out of the saddle intervals too.

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On the podcast recently, @chad made a comment but didnt expand on it regarding his thoughts on low cadence work on the bike… would like to hear his thoughts on this. Would be a good podcast topic with so many of us going into the off season.


What’s preventing you from doing any of the current workouts at lower cadence? I know a lot of workouts have workout text that recommend a cadence range (often in the 85 - 95) range, but it’s just a recommendation, alter your training to suit your individual needs. The reverse is true for track cyclists, I haven’t seen any workouts that recommend a cadence of 150 either!


It’s been covered on a number of podcasts… his opinion is that strength work is best done in the gym. (I agree)

Nothing is stopping anyone from doing slow force repetitions during a TR workout.


I obviously must have missed those podcasts… Do you remember which podcasts they were?

The basis of the point was:

Imagine doing strength building lifts in the gym. You are doing 1 - 20 reps at most, over a long period of time. On the bike, riding at 50 or 60 revolutions (reps) PER MINUTE is nothing like the established method of strength training (low reps, big resistance/weight vs. high reps, low resistance).

I was more curious why the low cadence work had been left out. Yes I could perform some of the workouts at a low cadence, but I’ve got less experience than the TR coaches, so I was wondering if they’ve been left out for any particular reason (risk or injury, or something like that).

I’m guessing a large amount of TR users aren’t doing work in the gym, so by not doing any low cadence work either, would be missing out on any real muscular force improvements.

Strength work may be best done in the gym, but many well respected coaches seem to think that the cycling specificity of low cadence strength work is beneficial.

Coach Chad is among them. He covered this at various points. One was after all the hard climbing in Singletrack 6. He said he should have trained using more low-cadence, high-force work. The demands on the body were tougher than his less specific training.

I have applied low-cadence work at a range of power over the last year. It really helped me this year compared to prior years. I had more endurance and muscle strength on sustained and very steep climbs.

I feel there is real value, and I believe Coach Chad does too. But, this type of effort is good primarily in the sense of specificity more than pure strength building, IMHO.


I do both low cadence work for Ironman training and strength in the gym. A bunch of other coaches like Brett Sutton also highly recommend it. Personally, I have had good experiences with it. I balance it out with higher cadences as well. For example, in a sweet spot workout, I typically will do the first 5 or so reps low cadence in the 60rpms range then the last few at high cadence.


I find it useful when it comes to strengthening connective tissue too, but it has to be used judiciously. It’s really easy to overdo the slow-force work and stress both your tendons and muscles, but also to stress joints that have never really functioned as intended. Misalignments and less than optimal movement patterns are more common than many riders realize, and the risk of furthering damage to already challenged joints is often enough to sway me away from broadly recommending slow-force work.

But if you think you need it, or know it’s specific to your riding/racing demands, there’s certainly a case for this type of work and it can be woven into almost any workout within reason. Just stay sharp and recognize when the pain is joint pain and not just muscle burn/ache.

And FWIW, I find it much, much easier to establish and reinforce proper movement patterns, especially when it comes to moving under heavy load, via strength work in the gym (assuming you know what those patterns are or you have access to a truly qualified coach, trainer, sports therapist, etc.).


This may be worth its own forum post and you all talked a little bit in the latest (181?) podcast, but my HR is typically lower at the same wattage when I do lower cadence work. So my HR might be 150 while holding 300 watts and 165+ when doing higher cadences (still 300 watts). Does this mean I am burning less calories or the same at the two different cadence levels?

I have heard that low cadence work burns more glucose because the larger muscle groups engaged require that. Is that true?

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There is already a great post by Coach Chad covering this exact question… now I just have to find it :stuck_out_tongue:

I think this is it, @tribuddha


Thank you! That all makes perfect sense. I wonder about calories though is it the same regardless of the cadence since watts are the same?

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Interesting study!

I wish they had a group of cyclists doing workouts with low cadence at higher intensity instead of moderate so like 90-110% of FTP rather than by heart rate. Some of the studies that have shown improvements with low gear work are the ones that use higher intensity low cadence work versus self selected low cadence work.

I can buy that. I have done some lower cadence hill climbing on my fixed gear/single speed…50rpm, threshold and VO2max…it’s like doing squats sets for an hour! Super sore the next day, but the worse part is the knees. Those workout are incredibly taxing on the knees so you have to be careful how often you do them.

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Every year I take on a century ride way over my head: the Lu Lacka Wyco Hundo in PA, about 10K feet of hilly, scenic, climbing in rural PA. As I work through SSB1 ,SSB2, and General Build to my April Century, I know by the end of the day I will be spinning slowly. There are so many pitched climbs that I’m pretty sure there’s at least an hour or two of 50-60 rpms, so I figure that simulating low cadence drills on Tray Mountain +3 at the slowest interval you can sustain the watts, to only replicate the stress and pace of the day. I think there’s a value to it, but peppered in only to add a workout variation. I think the VO2 data shows that TR’s plan is to improve your body and cycling in lab-like settings. I can’t wait to see if I finish before the pop-up taco stand 60 miles and 6,000 ft in :slight_smile:

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Perspective is interesting.

I’ve done more low cadence work since starting TR than ever before. Workouts like Carson that encourage climbing drills and working at cadences below 80 RPM at various times are among the few workouts I’ve ever done intentionally below 90 or so. I generally make the conscious decision to work at lower cadences when TR text “gives” me the option to do so. But since these workouts are written to suit all types of cyclists, it may not be appropriate to dictate that everyone does 65 RPM work in a Sweet Spot workout if their only riding is going to be in flat crits or TTs. I appreciate the flexibility to choose low cadence work as it suits me.

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