How do I improve my sprint power?

I often find myself in crits or road races constantly attacking because I know that I can’t win in a sprint. I want to change that. I know I’m not built like a sprinter but I need to increase the kick in my legs if I want to be competitive in flat races. I come from a hockey background and I’m familiar with box jumps, squats, etc. what can I do to increase my sprinting power off the bike? I posted a while ago asking what I could do on the bike to increase sprint power and I’ve been using TrainerRoad for a while but I still can’t seem to sprint. Any help is appreciated :grin: thx

1 Like

A lot of people complain that they can’t sprint, but when you actually ask them if they’ve done any sprint training they usually say ‘no’. There’s a perception that you’re either a sprinter or you’re not, and that it’s not very trainable. But if you train it, it will improve.

So it sounds pretty simple, but just go do some sprint sessions. I live near an outdoor velodrome, so I used to ride down once a week and do 10 hard sprints. It definitely helped. You could get more fancy and do specific drills. etc. But I think a lot of us over-analyse this stuff and let perfect get in the way of good.

The other things like squats, deadlifts, etc, will increase your sprint potential, but you still have to do the sprint training to get better at it. I have found riding a track bike/fixed gear to be one of the best ways to build cycling specific strength. Pushing a big gear up a hill, out of the saddle, in the drops; this is building strength in the exact sprint position. After doing a bunch of these types of sessions I feel rock-solid when I launch a sprint. The hips-to-handlebar chain feels locked-in, no wasted effort.


I agree with @Shockwave.

I’d also add that a lot of people think that sprinting == power. Sprinting is, in my humble opinion, more about turning the pedals faster. #1 mistake I see is people change down a gear before starting their sprint - I’m better off staying in that same gear and using leg speed to accelerate.

So if you’re going out on a long ride - chuck in 6 x 10s efforts peppered throughout the ride, try different techniques and practice on different terrain when you get it right you know.


Totally agree - power doesn’t equal the fastest sprint. Focus on the speed, pedal speed and actual speed. Body position makes a big difference to aerodynamics at the higher speeds that most sprints occur.

There are a few things to consider here:

  1. Sprinting is mainly genetic - you either have it or you don’t. You can make some marginal gains in training, but most of those gains are made early in a training career.
  2. Fatigue at the end of a race is the most underestimated impact on sprinting. If you are completely gassed at the end of a race it doesn’t matter if you have an 800W sprint or a 2000W sprint, you’re not going to be able execute.
  3. Technique matters - being able to activate your muscles appropriately IS trainable. Sprinting is about maintaining force while increasing cadence increasing total power. This is all about neuromuscular recruitment and can be practiced with NM intervals. You won’t make huge gains in peak power, but that effective technique can ensure you sprint to your genetic potential.
  4. I am sure this is obvious, but worth repeating, position matters. Watch the pros. The fastest sprinters in the world lose races because the winner is in a better position. Smaller guys with lower max power can use momentum in conjunction with a great position and a sprinkling of CdA to take the win - Caleb Ewan is a shining example of this. Even Cavendish was a small guy with raw wattage substantially lower than the Kittels and Greipels of the world. This goes back to number 2 in a way. You need to have a well developed VO2 max at the end of the race to even make it to the point contending the line.
  5. Understand your capacity for risk. Many of us, at the end of the day, have families, jobs, lives etc. that are not worth sacrificing for a win at the Thursday night Crit. Others are willing to eat their own leg for a win. If you aren’t comfortable with the appreciable risk of going down at upwards of 40MPH, you shouldn’t be there. It will hold you back and make you more unsafe. I know this doesn’t answer your direct question, but some people don’t consider that.
  6. Know your competitors. If you’re in a stacked field, then the breakaway might be your move. At minimum, you know what wheels to be on.
    All this to say that while training to improve is certainly recommended, don’t sacrifice other elements of your training for a big bump in your sprint. You’ll likely never achieve it and will end up missing out on other opportunities for growth that will better support your chances at a win. Hope this helps.

To echo the above posters, winning sprints and actually sprinting on the bike is technique driven. Technique in terms of how you use you body and bike to generate power as well as how you position yourself in a lead out into the finale. However, if you are talking about just literally producing ‘sprint’ power, I have a few suggestions.

I just focused on sprint power this past winter. I would say I am genetically inclined to be good at it (was in track and field) but fell into the ‘ftp’ craze when I went to cycling and never properly trained a sprint until recently. Funny to think actually bc I was a state level sprinter, then got into cycling and started training as if I was a cross country runner, but that’s another story (one that most of us prob relate to).
Prior to my training, I could prob spike 1000-1100w (peak) and sustain close to it for 5-10s. At 75kg that’s a poor performance.

My most recent power curve (past 60 days) ranges from 1s @ 1544w, 5s @ 1451w, 10s @ 1388w, 15s 1242w, etc. Huge improvement over 6 month period. I weight the same 75kg. I would say my improvement is atypical but here is what I did and I do think my training plan will yield big benefits:

Lift 1-2x per week consisting of squat and deadlift both 3 sets of 5 reps. Proper below parallel squat (you need to go very deep for a full glute extension / full development of the muscle). These reps are near max weight (ie could prob hit 6-7 but stop at 5, they all feel challenging). * I’ll make a note that they are more important, IMO, for being able to generate more power than actually doing on the bike sprint repeats. Both matter, but I don’t think you can just sprint and get the same benefit - think track cyclists who are basically Olympic lifters who ride bikes.

Actual on the bike sprint work. I did 3 weeks doing 6 reps of 10s all out → 5min easy. I would do a 90s ramp up to maybe 400w leading into the sprint bc that’s race-specific. Then another 3 weeks of same workout bit for 15s, then again for 20s. Doubled back and did another round of 10s, etc. I had a huge difference in power when doing it indoors relative to outdoors (about 10% increase in average power for the X-second interval when outdoors). This is completely bc sprint on the trainer doesn’t all you to throw the bike in the same way as outdoors (and why technique matters). I can also generate more power on my MTB (straight handlebars) than road bike (maybe 5%) almost surely bc the straight bar gives better leverage to throw the bike side to side than drop handlebars.

Lastly, technique is complicated, but I will note that I can feel the difference between when I get full extension (at ankle, knee, and hip, as well as opposite elbow) and when I don’t. My power meter confirms this. Watch Matthieu Van der Poel sprint for a really good example.

They say cadence matters and I think it’s true (obv for the same gear ratio, high cadence equals more watts) but i find I can spike higher watts with relatively lower cadence (ex. My sprint builds from 90-105rpm). Some people hit like 130 and stuff, which might be better (or at least is for them) but I never have done anything like that. Always feel like I’m spinning out (starting to generate less power) when I’m at levels 110+


Good timing! :rofl: