Training for anaerobic athlete ... science?

Does anyone have any resources on how to train an anaerobic athlete versus a more aerobic athlete? Also the training would be for general road riding not sprinting on a track.

I’ve seen a lot of anecdotal stuff but I don’ t have a good conclusion on how it affects periodization or specific workouts of the training plan.

For example, we have the many topics on how anaerobic athletes can overtest on the ramp. The more interesting aspect to me would be how one would train the anaerobic athlete compared to the slow twitcher. TR though is a one sized fits all plan, possibly tuned to the middle of the bell curve.

In the That Triathlon Show podcast #261, Kevin Poulton spoke about this a bit. It’s not in the notes but he talks about Caleb Ewan being on a more polarized plan. From the notes:

I am a big fan of HIIT but this training is only great for certain riders.

For GC riders, a lot of work is done in order to lower VlaMax,
mostly by tempo efforts in combination with high torque and low
carbohydrate intake.

Correspondingly, the sprinters should avoid this kind of training 
as much as possible, and instead focus on very short high power
efforts, which builds up plenty of lactate.
In terms of threshold training, for GC riders, having a high threshold
is super important so these athletes do plenty and prolonged efforts
at around threshold intensity.

Sprinters on the other hand use to do shorter efforts at threshold,
often just after a ”pre-threshold set”, which is 4-5mins well above
threshold, in order to let the lactate build up.
1 Like

Personally, I am a fast twitcher. WKO5 classifies me as a Sprinter. I was good at crits back when I raced 30 years ago. Now at 54 I’m more interested in performing in fast group rides with lots of younger riders and possibly doing gravel races. I don’t think I’ll ever do a crit again. In a sense I’ll be constantly training my weakness because there just aren’t many sprint opportunities on the road for an old geezer. :slight_smile:

I started experimenting with polarized training a couple of years ago and I got the biggest (20 point) FTP boost out of one training block. It was basically 12 weeks of long and slow Z1 and not chasing any strava KOMs plus doing one group ride per week (which includes a solid mix of Z1-Z5).

This winter I’m bound indoors and trying an ISM Z2 approach since I’m not going to be doing 3 hour trainer rides. Plus I have no events or group rides on the horizon so I’m just keeping base fitness in check.

Hi AJS914, I hope these resources might help get your started…

This blog discusses the science of HIT/HIIT training (which isn’t strictly anaerobic but it’s in the right direction)
This calculator will try to work out your annual periodization for your riding style (enter “sprinter” in green cell e26)

bw alex

My interest was also piqued by that podcast episode. Kevin talked specifically about Caleb Ewan avoiding sweet spot and low cadence work because they would be detrimental to his sprint power. He talked about him having to building aerobic power through high volume/low intensity work to protect his fast twitch muscle fibers.

Question for @AJS914 - are you looking for the best way for an anaerobically gifted athlete to build FTP at any cost, or are you looking for ways to build FTP while maintaining sprint / anaerobic power?

I’m also a fast-twitcher, and still searching for the latter - all my racing is on the velodrome (or at least it will be if covid ever ends), so I’m looking to maximize the P-D curve from 10 seconds to 10 minutes. If you just want a higher FTP, maybe you should do all the things Caleb Ewan is avoiding, and turn all your type2B muscle fibers into type2A …

There are a series of great recent papers investigating training response in athletes with different muscle fiber typology. More from a training load tolerance and recovery perspective, but it could give you more background understanding about how and why to program your training & recovery one way or another, based on your own typology/phenotype.

HIIT Science has two blog posts from the authors summarizing their work. I’d recommend starting there. The original papers are linked, but might not be freely available.


At 54, I’m trying to be as fast as I can be. I skew fast twitch but since I’m mostly not sprinting for anything I’d willing to give up sprint power in favor of FTP.

I’ve been interested in this subject for a while but I really can’t find any articles on it. I mostly find anecdotes here and there so I’m curious. Maybe I’m not even searching the correct terms?

Here’s another anecdote while we search for the science…

I haven’t watched it all the way through for a while, but I think it squares with the blog posts linked by @SpareCycles, ie fast twitchers have to be cautious with high volume programs…

1 Like

@AJS914 this post triggered a memory of a set of slides I’d seen on another thread talking about training for fast twitch vs. slow twitch.

Then I looked at the author. So I guess you already have this!

I’m in a similar boat. Fast twitcher looking to improve my sustainable power output for long rides. I’ve gravitated towards a pyramidal distribution.

  • Endurance rides
  • Sweet spot in the 85-90% range, long intervals, low cadence (reduce VLaMax)
  • No threshold rides (too much stress on the system)
  • one VO2max ride a week (Friel, fast after 50; maintain cardiac output)

How do you know if you’re a “fast” twitcher or “slow”?

I’m new to cycling, only other sport I did was play lots of Basketball when I was younger.

Even the best sprinters in the world have a lot of slow twitch fibres and they won’t be working on their sprints all the time.

As always it depends on your objective. If you want to keep being a strong sprinter, keep doing sprint training that. But acknowledge, your maximum performance relative to FTP will be different to the average TR user. And therefore TR is systemically constrained in its ability to optimise your training. This seems to be a fundamental weakness in the TR methodology I have not seen addressed.

This will take you down a rabbit hole, but if you want to reduce your sprint and increase your FTP, you need to reduce your bodies ability to produce lactate, i.e. your vlamax. If so, look up Sebastian Weber and enjoy the ride.

TR is very simple, and very old school given its tacit avoidance on the widely acknowledged science at present on these things. I am sure the sweet spot prescription works for most average punters, and they self select ongoing subscriptions for a positive feedback loop for “yay TR works”. But if you want to be better than average, as an anaerobic biased athlete, I have doubts the TR training plan and methodology is good enough.

1 Like

I think a key distinction between us and Caleb Ewan is that he is on the biggest stage in the world going for sprint wins. Most of us are trying to ride faster and light up a few short segments here and there.

Recreational cyclists in this case will definitely benefit from SS and tempo work. After all, how are you going to win a sprint if you’re not there at the end?

I don’t know about you guys but I don’t have a peloton with 8 other teammates to help me get to the end at the front and use a lot of threshold to get there.

This is the principle of specificity at it’s finest and emulating Caleb Ewan is not best practice for 99.9% of riders

It seems that not everyone acknowledges the veracity of the ideas that Weber relies so heavily upon.

The only way to really know is to go in a lab and have a large needle stuck in the side of your leg for a biopsy. But there are ways to estimate. If you have power data from maximal efforts at various durations, you can profile yourself like this and if you come out as a sprinter, you probably have higher than average fast-twitch percentage.

You can probably make a good guess from your basketball days. How were your vertical jump and sprint speed over 20 yards compared to other players?

Appreciate the reply. I checked out the Power Profile and it appears I’m, other than being fat and slow-I don’t see that “profile”, basically an all-rounder.

The university I graduated from has a sport science lab that will do testing, I’d have to check if they do the muscle biopsy test. Not that I’d get it, but now I’m curious.

My sprint speed was decent-probably average, but I did have a quick first step and an above average vertical leap. However, I’m 50 now and while I still play(ed) basketball once a week with the other fat old guys my vert and first step are laughingly low now…but still above average for my age I’m guessing.

There’s no way I’m a sprinter, lol. I was just curious between fast/slow twitch muscles. Whatever basic and average is that’s what I am.

I’ve not played basketball now for 2 years (moving and Covid wrecked it). I miss playing. I actually dream about playing basketball from time to time. I’ve never dreamed about any of the other sports or activities I’ve done…just basketball. Weird.

Sorry for the drift. Again thanks for the reply!

Thanks for the link, though I see no dispute. Not sure if you read it but the article you linked supports what VLAmax is and does from a measurement perspective. It has also been sufficiently modelled and tested by Weber such that many of the assumed errors are purely from a wko5 application context, and are just that.

What was great was "This is because maximal glycolytic flux, and therefore lactate production, is determined by factors that are not related to the state of muscle cells functioning near or below FTP. " Ding ding ding. I.e. sprinters ability to sprint has nothing physiologically to do with FTP, and as such, training towards FTP (like on TR) would thereforr be detrimental to sprint performance.

If you guys want to debate Kolie Moore, VLAMax, and WKO5s new implementation of it, maybe you could start an appropriate titled topic???

I think you may have replied in the wrong topic? You definitely replied to wrong guy. I’ve never once mentioned Kolie Moore, VLAMax, and WKO5 on this board.

I don’t even know who Kolie Moore is, or what a VLAMax.

Yes, I did read it, and no, it does not support Weber’s claims. Indeed, Kolie has been quite adamant on this forum that he disagrees with Weber on both the meaning of VLamax and the implications with respect to FTP.

To quote from that new article.

“The true maximal rate of glycolysis, as measured in a lab with ideal conditions, is actually much greater than humans are likely ever capable of accessing, meaning we have a large amount of a built-in reserve capacity in our metabolic pathways, or “headroom.””

(IOW, there is no such thing as VLamax, at least as akin to VO2max, because the rate of lactate production is limited by the demand, not by the maximal enzymatic flux rate as Weber believes.)

Then under " Misuses of Vlamax"

"According to interpretation that VLamax determines lactate formation and therefore MLSS, manipulation of the maximal glycolytic rate – which is itself a pathway that only responds to demand and does not create any sort of “metabolic pressure” – is sufficient to change the value at which FTP or MLSS occurs. This would be the driving force by which lactate production supposedly overcomes aerobic oxidation capacity. Nutritional manipulations such as ketogenic or LCHF diets decrease the amount of lactate flux an athlete is capable of producing by making fatty acids much more available than in an average athlete’s high carbohydrate diet. We would expect to see a significant increase in FTP due to less lactate production, and yet they do not raise FTP. "

(IOW, FTP is independent of the maximal rate of lactate accumulation, i.e., VLamax, because VLamax is determined by demand, not by enzymatic capacity, and is therefore only relevant above FTP. This is opposite of what Weber claims.)

Anyway, I refer you to Kolie’s other posts on this forum, in which he (and I) questions Weber’s understanding of even the basics of exercise physiology.

I’m not the one who brought up VLamax, etc., but I’d argue that such a discussion is directly on-topic. After all, to try to adjust training to match an individual’s physiology (the topic of this thread), don’t you have to be able to describe their physiology in the first place?

1 Like