Improving sprint power for a skinny guy

Hi, new here, but long time cyclist / power user.

I am a skinny (62-63k, 5’10) racer that has good numbers 5 min and up, but struggles with the shorter duration stuff. Generally I perform well in races and can climb quite well but often times I find my poor finish lets me down.

Power profile:

5 sec: 1000w (16w/kg @ 62.5)
1 min: 550w (8.8w/kg @ 62.5)
5 min: 370w (5.92w/kg @ 62.5, this was done at the start of a very difficult 13 min effort, so maybe closer to 6w/kg in all out)
20 min: 320w (5.12w/kg @ 62.5)

Right now in an effort to improve my kick I’m doing some basic workouts - stuff like standing starts from 0rpm to max cadence in the biggest gear I can push, sessions that focus on the neuromuscular force (5 and 15 sec efforts mainly) as well as also doing anaerobic work.

Any suggestions from other skinny guys that have improved their kick would be most welcome.

Lift weights. Also sprint with high torque / low cadence. When you lift, lift for low reps (3-5 reps) and heavy weight.

Most of your gains will come from the weight room. Obv practice sprinting on the bike but the big thing is lifting


Thanks. How low a cadence are we talking?

If you do get into the gym and start lifting then I wouldn’t worry too much about the low cadence stuff but would focus mostly on activation and technique through sprint repeats - really working on the jump aspect and then pushing for 5 seconds before shutting it down.

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70-80. It just makes sure you’re not spinning out. I do these for 10-20sec and maybe hit 100-105rpm in the last seconds

For the 1min and 5min improvements. Probably a lot of z2

I’ve done a fair bit of sprint work under the guidance of a coach. Posted a bunch of articles on another thread:

Like @KWcycling said, you need to lift. Think in terms of a 2 year time horizon. Do sprint work at different cadences, learn what generates the most power at the end of the race. You don’t want to be shifting during the sprint, and you’ll likely be at 80-100rpm while approaching the finish, and I found it pays to figure out my “ideal” starting cadence while still having the ability to maintain power at high cadences (130-170rpm). Over time I learned that my biggest power output on an uphill finish happens when coming into the sprint at ~90rpm, and similarly you’ll learn over time what tends to produce the most power on flat finishes. Not that you always have control over that in a race situation.

That appears to be working very well for me, targeting a minimum of 5 hours/week on average of 7-8 hour weeks.

That 5sec sprint @skinnydad is far better than mine this year at 59kg. I forget what the actual watts are but it was higher before when I was actually doing sprints. The only real way to become a better sprinter IMO is to practice Sprints which will probably lead to you bulking up. That though will probably take away from your natural advantage uphill and endurance though. I prefer that natural advantage and stick to the short uphill sprints myself.

Thanks guys, all your insight and experience is appreciated. I’ll spend some time reviewing that link @bbarrera.

I should have talked about existing training. I have good volume (12-16h p/week) and am getting plenty of Z2, it would have to be somewhere between 7-10 hours a week. Outside of Z2 I am doing 2-3 hard sessions per week which are either structured sessions or racing.

I’ve always been good at training and maintaining a solid level of fitness, but would credit the bump in z2 hours (as well as a little bit more structure and strategic over reach) in getting me to where I’m very strong between that 5-20 minute power band.

Will keep chipping away and try and spend a bit of time in the gym, I may need to purchase some equipment as it’s always difficult to carve out the time away from family to go to the gym. Riding always seems a lot easier to squeeze in!

Any further insight is as always appreciated.

Go out with a good sprinter and work on technique. Your 5sec is genetic – weights will help some, but most of your improvement will come from better technique.

1min is trickier. There’s still a good aerobic component, but you have to work the :30-:60 energy delivery. That’s going to compromise endurance training.

In my 30s-50s, I worked less to improve my 60sec than I did to be able to repeat a high percentage of my 30-45 sec power over and over. In races, I found that the best way to handle my lower 60sec power (I’m pretty good at anything over 3min and pretty meh under 2min) was to read the race and get on a good wheel quickly. My “sprint” and 1min were never going to be late race-winning moves, but they were good enough to hop on the train and stay in the placings. Or better yet, I used my 900w “sprint” in the first half or third quarter of the race to initiate break, and race to my strengths if the break made.

And as a knowledge supplement:

I have very similar numbers and also lack of any “kick”. My 5s power is almost the same as 30s power - so no peak power at all. The only answer how to improve it is lifting to drive that neuromuscular adaptations that are responsible for the “kick” phase.

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Additional to all the good advice above. How is the rest of your finish?

Do you have you positioning etc dialed in. You need a lot more power to come from 5th wheel around the upwind side of the group, than 3rd wheel on the covered side.

I had a lot more success the second half of this season when I started preparing for the possibly of a sprint before, or early in, the race. Sometime this meant moving up with 5km to go knowing that it was technical finish.

TrainerRoad and NorCal of course have lots of awesome geeky content on this.

Good luck!

This year I started doing 10-20s all out sprints in my (outside) z2 rides. In second third of a ride and with 10nish min in between and I improved a lot.

You cannot say that you don’t have a good sprint if you are not doing it regulary. Sprint is specific and it is a lot neuromuscular so you have to do them regulary

I second this. I was a very good 200m/400m sprinter in T&F before getting into cycling. I jumped on the FTP band wagon and never trained a sprint. I have similar numbers to OP (at 5min+ in w/kg terms) with like a 1000w 5s avg (at 74-75kg). I made it a point to train sprint to 60sec last winter and improved up to 1500w for 5s. I did heavy weights and actual sprinting (reps of 10-20s in a weekly progression). Two key works outs a week, one sprint day where I also lifted and one LT focused day where I also lifted (always lifting after quality bike work and not beforehand).

There is no way I improved that much from pure strength development. I think most of the gains came from learning the technique of sprinting on a bike (not positioning in a race but literally how to get the most power out of your body). Learning to throw the bike laterally gave me a lot of extra leverage, etc. I basically tried to imitate van der Poel’s sprint technique.

All that said, I think OP does need to hit the heavy weights bc that body weight is super lean. If you gained a kg or two of lower leg muscle you would have huge
gains and still largely retain or only slightly lose from your high duration power in w/kg (through higher absolute watts). (Almost) Nobody has ever lost a race bc their 20min power was 4.9 w/kg rather than 5.1. I placed last in the winning selection group many a time tho from lacking a powerful sprint!

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