Is Pmax or Peak Power actually trainable?

Hi all, recently, I was in a group conversation with other long-time cyclists about peak power and its trainability.

The group was split between 3 proponents:

  1. Some said Pmax is mostly NOT trainable, and it’s largely based on genetics, muscle composition, and how “fresh” you are for the Pmax effort.
  2. A second group said Pmax IS trainable through specificity, fueling, strength training, and most are capable of adaptations with the right training plan.
  3. Third group was unsure.

I’m in the 3rd camp.

However, everyone in the group agreed it’s possible to train sprinting technique. But once you’ve trained technique, there was division amongst the group on how much can each individual really “boost” their Pmax. This last part is what I’m after.

Can someone knowledgable about this topic provide some insight and clear this confusion?

I’m early on into researching this topic, but I’m quickly facing conflicting information or find myself going down rabbit holes that don’t come to any concrete conclusions.

I’m particularly interested because I’m a Vo2max sprinter by this article. Very very low Pmax, but large kicks in the 2~5min curve. Wondering if it’s possible to boost Pmax and maybe bring the rest of the curve up with it.

A good start:

http://storage.trainingpeaks.com.s3.amazonaws.com/assets/downloads/Building-FRC-and-Pmax.pdf

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“Sprinters are born, then made.”

(IOW, yes of course Pmax is trainable. Just maybe not to the same degree as marathon running ability, where you either finish the 26,2 miles, or you don’t.)

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I hit a new lifetime best a few weeks ago for Pmax - OK - it’s within the margin of error for a Powertap - but I’m taking it! (~10 years apart both with a power tap).

Endurance rides have 5sec Pmax efforts with 20minute rest - 2-3 times a week. Then 10 sec, then 15sec as the training cycle progresses. I’ve seen a ~200W increase this year in PMax on the road. ( 350W on the trainer but that doesn’t count IMHO).

Repeatability is now better as my technique gets better, but even the bad ones have improved. One thing to note is that it’s really fickle, easy to train and easy to lose that power.

I’ve fallen into the trap before that “it isn’t trainable” - so I don’t train it… and I think plenty of people do the same.

Well it is but also the mechanic of the sprint and the cadance make a big difference to the number
I always do a sprint in the same spot. I know exactly what gear i need it is a bit uphill that helps me awell. I think i started with 1100W and now i just broke 1300 in a timespan of 3 months. 1300 at 72kg last time my cycling buddy saw me do it, he made a funny face :slight_smile:

Not sure how trainable it is i had it always pretty high i guess, now i just like to see how fare i can push it.
Also i am about 70 lower indoor, you can see the rest of my numbers are fare less impressive but i work on them, and like to improve.
image

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Impressive numbers!

What are your numbers in watts and how long have you been cycling?

It is my first real season, I started last June made very fast progress until ende of Dec. mostly Zwift rides, then i started TR and made it until Build phase, at that time it was possible to ride outside and I did struggle with the intensity in Build anyway so I was glad to do rides outside. Did my first Century ride and now I am getting back at the trainer. 2 days I go I retested with the Ramptest and I went from 262W to 279W.

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Simply put, yes it is trainable. Obviously there’s many different ways of improving it.

If maximum squat/leg press is trainable, max sprint is trainable…

Not a good example. Those aren’t the same thing at all.

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Thanks for this link!

I’m going to find a time this week to watch the 1hr presentation and come back with what I absorbed. Skimmed through the slides but I quickly realized I need the audio to walk me through the details, or a transcription of the key points from the audio that I may have missed in the pdf. Either way, will take a look.

For everyone else replying in so far: Thanks for the perspectives.

It’s very trainable in some people, it’s barely trainable in others. I’ve added 1200w to my sprint since I started cycling, and in others we have a difficult time adding 100w in a year. That’s my presentation that got linked above, and I left a couple things out of it on purpose but I’m happy to answer questions you might have.

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can I borrow your legs? :rofl:

Any ideas on responders vs non-responders? My memory of MS and HS is a bit fuzzy (40 years ago), but distinctly recall being one of the slowest at 40 yard and 100 yard dashes on the track. Late start in life on the bike and I’ve got decent raw sprint power, been doing seated sprints and hitting roughly 1000W for 5-sec at upwards of 140-160rpm on 15-sec efforts. Couple years ago hit a few hundred watts higher when fitness was higher.

Realize this is a stretch but any crystal ball insights in probability I can move the needle? Or like so many things it is a simple matter of training and see what happens?

In running it’s different since that utilizes a large component of elastic energy, so difficult to extrapolate to cycling, especially with different muscle groups in use. Like everything, you just need to find your limiter and do the training, see what happens!

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Check out high level track cyclists, I assume they didn’t roll off the couch with a 2300 watt + peak power.

I added exactly 130 watts from last season until now at pmax, which is an improvement of like 10% so definitely trainable. That said, I’m still at like under 1200 though, so query how useful that extra power will be. It’s funny though, i dont think that i’m necessarily “weak”, like back when gyms were open i had a decent deadlift for a lanky dude. But I suppose i am NOT explosive to say the least.

Question on your slides - is “unilateral trap bar deadlift” basically the Staggered Trap Bar Deadlift shown here: https://simplifaster.com/articles/trap-bar-deadlift-physical-development/

On squat depth what are your thoughts on box squat / seated squat?

Finally, the Pmax standards:

Those are for 1 revolution by definition on the previous slide? Or 1-sec?

Hi, great presentation, just finished it. Your point about the extent of trainability being different for each athlete match my observations of what I see in the real world.

  1. In regards to Pmax ranging from very trainable to barely trainable per athlete – does this apply to “novice strength athlete” cyclists as well? Or are you speaking for the entire population pool of athletes that also includes highly trained athletes?

In your presentation you define “novice strength athlete” as someone who does not regularly invest & maintain in strength training throughout the season so the pathways to increase Pmax open up once they go back to the gym. I’m curious to know if there are untrained athletes who barely have any response even after throwing everything at them.

  1. For those athletes who see very little response to training Pmax even after throwing the gauntlet at them, is there a known understanding of what’s going on from a physiology standpoint? If so, what are they?

That all said, if I understood the 2nd part of your presentation correctly… it seems that one of the key takeaways is that even if Pmax barely moves +20w for you as an athlete, it is possible to train and elongate the time a cyclist can spend in the higher parts of the power curve (FRC vs FTP)… so all it not lost even for the cyclist that can barely make a dent to Pmax… (unless… FRC is barely trainable for some athletes too?)

Really interesting talk, thank you. I’ll have to watch it again later to see what else I can absorb the 2nd time around.

Pmax standards here are Andy’s iirc, and should be 1 revolution’s worth, so left leg-right leg.

Staggered is not the same as single leg as far as I can tell, but I’ve never heard of staggered before so there may be some nuances lost on me.

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I’ll look again, maybe I fumbled the search for single leg trap bar deadlifts. Thanks!