How to improve acceleration

Hello All,

Looking for some training advice. I’m trying to improve my “snap”. I can hang with people in terms of top speed but I am never able accelerate as quickly as others. Does anyone have success stories with certain workouts and maybe some outdoor drills so that I can work on the feel? Thanks in advance!

That’s a great question, I have been on many rides that I can sit in front of or keep up with the group but when they take off I seem to always miss it and get left. Then I work really hard to catch up again

@Incanaan, most of the workouts can be used to increase snap, it’s a case of developing high cadence. Keeping in a low gear allows for faster acceleration, but takes more aerobic fitness, so this needs developing. I only have a dumb trainer, so cannot comment on the effect of ergo, others to add here.

Personally, I find that sessions which include short, 5-10 second sprints really help. These sessions require you to go from low endurance/active recovery power levels to 130+ FTP power. You’re having to recruit a whole lot of muscle fibre in a short period of time.

Of course, Spanish Needle comes to mind but others such as Joe Devel and the final interval sets in Junction. (thanks for the correction @Rosscopeco)

Lest we forget Junction. :hot_face:

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…and Jepson.

Actually, you’re right. I meant Junction, not Lion Rock. :+1:

I have Junction scheduled next week I believe. Or the week after. I’m pretending it’s not happening again…It knocked me flat last time around.

Hi my name is Ross and I bailed in a workout. I was on an FTP high and thought I was the man until I tried a combination workout. Bam! I had hit rock bottom.

Seriously though, if you can smash any of those workouts you’ll be able to accelerate like a demon.

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I’m not going to argue what cadence you or anyone should be riding. That’s an entire discussion of itself. To each his own.

However, to answer your question, I recommend riding at a higher cadence. Let’s say you’re riding along in the group at 70rpm in whatever gear. Someone decides to accelerate or even attack. How fast can you spin that gear up to match the acceleration and then some? Even if you can, how many times can you do it before you fry your legs? Now compare that w/90rpm or 95rpm. I’ve always found that you can be much more reactive in a lighter gear.

If it’s not gearing and/or cadence, then you might be doing too much steady state training. Try doing something like Gendarme, Olancha, Tyndall or their variations once a week.

In the group, snappiness can look confusing. Being snappy from the front, while very impressive, is rather hard and “expensive” to achieve, most behind will be able to jump on that wheel. The goal is to achieve maximum speed difference between the front of of the group and one trying to snap, but that speed difference comes from behind, preparing, waiting and using others to make a good launch ahead…

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Off-the-bike option: box jumps.

I was listening to a podcast (maybe Steve Neal on Flo?) that pointed out that jumping from a standing start up onto a box forces the legs and core to “snap” in the way that you need. There’s no building up to jumping, you just have to do it.

(Interestingly, as I was typing the above, “Jump” by Kriss Kross came on the office music player. If that isn’t a sign that I’m right, I don’t know what is.)

Outdoors I like this workout for sprint work. Do the 20 second efforts absolutely all out. This type of outdoor work helps develop both your short time peak power AND technique. While you can try short power work on the trainer, you totally miss the technique work.


1 Set = 2 minutes, 20 second effort with 1:40 recovery

Do 4 sets of 4 with 8 to 10 minute recovery between sets.

Another good workout that simulates a group ride is 2x15 minutes @ sweetspot with a 10 second burst to 130% every minute (then back to sweetspot). Repeatability is more important than peak watts for what you are after. Consider that not being able to match accelerations in a group setting is not necessarily a pure sprinting issue but is often a sign that you just need better overall conditioning so you have more available power when you need it. And, learning to anticipate when accelerations are coming is huge too.

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I had more snap back when I was doing Power Start workouts (outside) once a week.

2 sets of 4 all-out sprints from a dead stop in the hardest gear I could get up to speed on in 10-15 pedal revolutions. 5 minutes easy spinning between each sprint, 10 minutes easy spinning between sets.

The whole workout took about 90 minutes, and was one of my favorites.

Two thoughts: if the attacks are coming on hills, improving power to weight helps; whether on hills or flats, I’m a firm believer that spinning in a lower gear, and being comfortable in a wide range of cadences over time is important. If you’re geared and can launch an attack by jumping from 80-120+rpm with control before you need to shift, I think you’re going to catch people off guard regardless of how devestating the accelaration actually is.

Admittedly, higher cadence is my preferred style, but in my limited road racing experience, the attacks that come from guys pushing big gears harder but slower always seem less sudden than the ones where guys spin up quickly, and my spinup attacks are certainly more effective than mashing, but I’m relatively small.