Advice on low cadence strength-resistance workouts

I usually ride my workouts indoors and outdoors at 80-100 rpm but I found when climbing outdoors my cadence usually is nearer 65-75 rpm when climbing a 10% slope, for example. That cadence is out of the saddle (my strenghtness), on the saddle cadence is a bit higher.

Since my gran fondo events are pure climbing, I’m thinking of improving strenght doing low cadence interval training outdoors.

Which % FTP should I target when doing these intervals?

One of these workouts per week would be enough?

I assume rule of thumb of ~6% slope steady climb to perform the workout at 50-60 rpm. Correct?

Interval resting should be at Z1 with high cadence to recycle lactate or should I target only a little less power so my body learns to work witch acid?

Opinions, rhanks

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The only thing I can say is the old rule of thumb - don’t spin below your age. My knees like to remind me once in a while.


Sweet spot and above would be my recommendation for intensity

The overall goal I believe is to improve your torque effectiveness (someone correct me on this if I’m wrong) so lower cadences of 50-65 would be a good range

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Just one note: science is mixed on this. Some articles show no effect of low cadence work but the ones I have read did their low cadence work at either moderate intensity or rpms around 70 which isn’t low cadence IMO. Regardless the scientific jury is still out AT LEAST in the lab. Personally it’s really helped me develop my cycling as well as others whom I know. For others I know, it has not improved their cycling leaps and bound but hasn’t made them any worse.

You do have to be careful with your knees and back so be mindful there.

Just my two watts


Several existing discussions with good info.


Good info @mcneese.chad, but…

Question: is a high or low cadence for a long course triathlon bike “better” considering surging to answer an opponents move, break away, or to shut down a break is unnecessary? And, do these factors matter and if so how much:

  • if the course is flat or largely flat
  • if the course how some hills or rollers
  • if the course is likely to demand steady state and does not have technical parts that require decelerations and accelerations (as many shorter course tris do)

Put another way, may the conditions of non-draft steady state time trialing (ie IM bike) followed by a marathon benefit a technique that does not fit the needs of road racing or TT races?

Brett Sutton who coaches Ryf and coached Wellington believes so. He has his athletes pedal at 70-80 for IM races. Not a scientific paper to suggest he is correct but that’s what he subscribes to and based off the success of his athletes it works for them.

Lots of TTers in the UK pedal lowish (70-80) cadences. I think it’s because the most common events are 10 and 25 miles, and you can basically mash a big gear for that length of time. Also, I think that it’s mentally easier to live with the muscle ache from pedalling slow than it is to deal with the CV effects of pedalling much faster, at least for short events. The majority of UK TTs are on flat fast courses.
For longer events it is counter intuitive, but I’ve not watched (or taken part in) any long events (or ironmans), so I couldn’t comment.

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@tribuddha this is partly why I ask the question. But I also wonder whether the nature of the event (more steady-state due to ‘independence’… ie non-draft, no making or covering breaks) and the course (flat or hilly) is not sufficiently considered.

I was a big proponent of high cadence and used the example with the athletes I coached nearly two decades ago ‘would you rather lift 100lbs in 1 go (1x100), in two efforts (2x50), four, or ten (10x10)?’ In the broad advocacy for high cadence, I wonder if we’re adequately considering different requirements. Related to this, does the cadence impact fueling strategies?

My framing: my A race in August is an Ironman where the bike has 2400’ of ascent across 110-112 miles (all entries at Best Bike Split show 110mi) rollers with two ‘hills.’ This seems nearly flat considering my normal outdoor rides.