Periodization of Low Cadence Intervals?

Firstly as a disclaimer yes I know the science is mixed on the results of low cadence training and Trainerroad does not advise them. And no these are not a replacement for weight training which I feel has its place.

A lot of the Pro riders that I have been following on Strava include low cadence intervals in their training, Joe Friel in the training bible, Fascatcoaching, CTS and these two podcasts by Fasttalk Labs, Big Gear High Torque and Tempo Low Cadence include them too.

The most recent video I have seen is the my fellow country woman Pro rider and climber in woman’s peloton, Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio on GCN, recommend it to improve climbing and it’s something she does often in early base.

I have done them before but mostly did the Friel Style muscular force type where you go all out on a steep climb 40-50 rpm for 20-30seconds. I did feel them help me in my sprint and power.

From what I understand there a few options when it comes to Low Cadence or Big Gear intervals. These are meant to be done during the base period.

  1. Short High Power: 20-30sec (All out)
  2. 5min Hills at 40-50 rpm (Above ftp))
  3. 10-15min hills at 50-60rpm (Sweet Spot)
  4. Long lower power 20 -60min+ at 75 rpm (Tempo)

How would you structure them during a base period? Start with the number 1. (short hight power) mentioned above then go to 4 ? Or would you start from 4 and then go up to 1 towards the end of base?

Just to note my average cadence on rides is 94-100rpm. I do a lot of hilly rides.

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I do option 3. I wouldn’t consider option 4 particularly low cadence , but I do longer tempo efforts in the 30 minute range (at my more natural cadence range). I don’t do the other options.

At the moment I’m doing option 3 and I do it once a week. Presently I do it on a fairly flat section of road as it enables me to do it both ways. In fact that’s what I have scheduled today with 4 x 10 minutes with 5 mins recovery between. I do progressive overload with them and did 6 x 10 min last week.

I’ve found it’s helping improve performance. It’s another tool in the tool box.

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Thanks. I am going to try these. Would it be okay to do these after a very easy low Z2 ride?

Depending on how strong your legs are, these will put extra tension on the leg muscles , tendons , ligaments etc. I prefer to do them on fairly fresh legs on a day on their own. But I do do a warm up of about 20 mins Z2 to the section of road I do them on. Sometimes I use a long 3% hill and it takes 40 mins to get there, which I also do in Z2. I wouldn’t do these at the end of a long Z2 ride but after a Z2 ride no more than an hour why not? Then do some more Z2 at your usual higher cadence to loosen the legs up and finish off.

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Tadej Pogacar talks a bit about that kind of training in this video, at 4:15. Tadej Pogačar - Climbing Drills

He says he used to do it when he was younger, kept cadence to around 60 @300W (his Zone 3 as a junior).

I tend to do them when my lungs are too tired to drive the interval, as the strength of my legs is far superior to that of my lungs (being an old weight lifter), or sometimes just to break up the monotony of an endurance ride.