In the last article, I covered how to improve sprinting in broad strokes. This week I am going to cover some details specifically concerning training factors that have a sprinting focus.
Speed, Force, Muscle Endurance, Anaerobic Endurance, Power, and Power Endurance are the training factors that play a role in improving a cyclist’s ability to sprint. However, I did add a caveat in the previous article about these training factors that they “may or may not help you improve your sprint”. So let’s look at the specifics of each factor and how they may or not benefit your efforts to improve your sprinting.
Leg speed is necessary to become a better sprinter
It may look like I write about cover high cadence development pretty frequently. The reason is that it’s often the quick adaptations that can have almost miraculous results for beginning cyclists. In as little as 4-6 weeks the average beginner can go from being a pedal masher to a high cadence rider. However just because you can ride your favorite course and Avg. 90RPM or better doesn’t mean it’s going to translate into the kind of leg speed necessary for delivering faster sprints. When an athlete employs workouts in lower gearing and quick bursts of high cadence intervals not only will their Avg. cadences improve but they will now have the neuromuscular ability to surge and the ability to set up for a sprint quicker than a pedal masher. I don’t often prescribe high cadence drills to those trying to improve their sprint as they usually are already capable of answering to surges in tempo and have higher than 90RPM averages.
Force is the raw ability to apply pressure to the pedals
In an effort to build explosive power an athlete will have to work at higher intensities applying heavier loads in an effort to recruit all possible muscle fiber types. Both anaerobic (Fast-twitch) and aerobic (slow-Twitch) need to be developed to generate the most force possible. The problem is that at maximum loads the anaerobic processes contract so forcefully that aerobic fibers won’t be used. To minimize this effect force training will use workouts that limit anaerobic takeover. I will often create several types of force workouts throughout a season for most athletes I coach.
Muscle endurance will give the ability to hang on to speed and force longer
Often the combination of strength and endurance training will result in muscles having the ability to perform more work. Longer, at higher intensities than the body, could before starting muscle endurance training. Muscle endurance is one of those key training factors that just doesn’t benefit a specialist but can improve the performance of any cycling discipline.
Anaerobic Endurance is the ability to increase your bodies ability to utilize glycogen over oxygen
High-intensity efforts lasting from 1 second to 60 seconds are the efforts that utilize more glycogen and ATP over oxygen. So going without oxygen is the meaning behind the term anaerobic. However, it has been found that we are still consuming oxygen but the vast majority of energy is anaerobic at the 1-60 second time frames. After the base, training has concluded the sharp end of most training programs are going to include Anaerobic Efforts even if that’s not what the workout is specifically labeled as.
Power describes many measurements over a curve but sprinting only covers a small part of the curve
Power is typically described as the ability to apply maximum force in the shortest amount of time possible. Without getting myself in trouble with other “power” mavens and copyrighted sports science publications I will describe power as being measurable across time curves. We measure maximum power over this timeline from approx. 1 second to 90 minutes. Of course, as a sprinter, we need to look at power from 1 second to 60 seconds. Maximum power at 1 second will not be the same as 5 seconds this is due to fatigue. Power distribution across sprint will then look like a curve.
Power endurance is all about how long you can hang on to the maximum amount of power
We don’t want to fatigue too much between these measured points on a power curve. Typically I measure any fatigue greater than 4-6% as a deficiency in performance and prescribe workouts to improve them.
Prescriptions for improving sprint performance
Most sprinters will find they have a hole in their curve. This hole most often presents its self in the 1, 3, 5, – 10-second measures. However, I have coached some athletes that have strong explosive abilities but lack the power to hold on in the 15, 20, 30 seconds necessary to hold off competitors.
In the cases where athletes fatigue in the 1-10 second range, I will prescribe explosive force work early on and follow up with shorter and more intense intervals.
Explosive force work would consist of an appropriate number of Pedal Stomps, Big Ring Hill Climbs, or what are commonly called force reps. For those that fade after the jump in the 15-30 second range, I will prescribe form sprints, full sprints, hill cruise intervals, and or have them attack frequently in group and team training rides.
Now that you know what areas of work need to be added to your training plan I will cover in the next article the timing of the workouts and the timing of executing a devastating sprint.
Train Smarter Not Harder,