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Top 5 Cycling Workouts
While any drive can help, some workouts are more effective than others. Some rides are meant to get you ready to practice. Others are to help you recover. But there are some key workouts that take a lot of effort and pay off with big improvements. Spring is right around the corner, so here are the 5 best workouts that will improve your speed, endurance, and help you burn off the winter pudge by boosting your metabolism.
Disclaimer: As with any exercise program, consult your physician to ensure that it is safe for you to engage in vigorous exercise.
These are power-based intervals that I created based on research on increasing VO2 max and threshold power. To do this correctly, you will need a power meter and have tested your functional power threshold. These are some of the toughest intervals I’ve ever done, so if you have less than a year of training under your belt or just laid off, don’t do them because you’ll probably vomit if you do. is done correctly.
The performance gains from these are quite rapid, so the prescribed intensity is for the first time you are doing these intervals. Usually with each workout you will either increase the number of intervals or the power at which you do them after the first workout.
Warm-up 15-20 minutes
30 seconds at 135% power FT / 30 seconds easy Repeat until you can no longer sustain the power.
As the wattage fluctuates I usually set a goal and when you can’t sustain 10-20 watts below that level the workout is over.
For example, if your threshold is 300 watts, your Velmax goal for your first workout is 405 watts. You can go above, but don’t go below 400. When you can’t keep it above 395 watts, the workout is over and cools down. The first time you do this, it’s common to only get 15-20 reps. Keep the same power goal until you can get over 30 reps. When you can increase your power for the next workout by 10-15 watts.
Athletes I work with have gone from an average of 400 watts for 18 intervals to 450 watts for 31 intervals in just 3 weeks. This translates to higher sustained power, higher sustained heart rates, and better recovery ability after hard exertion.
The reason they work so well is that the 30 second work period really gets your heart rate up, but the 30 second recovery isn’t enough to make your heart rate drop much. With each interval, your heart rate and oxygen consumption continue to increase until you reach your Vo2 max. The recovery time is enough for your legs to loosen up a bit, allowing you to do more work than you could if it were continuous. This allows you to accumulate a lot of time at your maximum oxygen capacity, causing a rapid improvement in your cardiovascular system. Although very effective, again I wouldn’t try them if you’re not used to heavy training.
Tabata intervals are named after the doctor who researched the effectiveness of short, high-intensity intervals versus longer moderate exercise. Tabata describes the interval protocol. 20 seconds on / 10 seconds off repeated 8-10 times. Dr. Tabata’s research has shown these intervals to be most effective in bringing about improvement in both the aerobic and anaerobic systems.
The key is maximal efforts with shorter recovery periods. Incomplete recovery results in increased oxygen debt and improved oxygen processing capacity. In a six-week study, these intervals performed 5 days a week increased VO2 Max by 13%, aerobic capacity by 14%, and anaerobic capacity by 28%. That’s with just 20 minutes of exercise per day, including warm-up and cool-down.
20 hard seconds / 10 easy rotations X 10 reps = 5 minutes of hell
Then roll gently for 5 minutes and repeat.
Rate your exertion level based on your current fitness level. If you are new to cycling or just getting back into cycling, do about 80% instead of doing everything. If you’ve been training consistently, give each 20-second interval 100% effort. Don’t try to pace yourself, just attack each interval as if it were the last in the set.
If you’re using a power meter, you want to target 150% of your functional threshold power for 20-second hard efforts. When you start, do only one set of intervals, but as your fitness increases, you should increase the number of sets you do.
4 X 4 intervals
Norwegian researchers Hoff & Helgerud found that you can get better increases in cardiac output from frequent high-intensity exercise than from longer but less intense workouts. The basis of Hoff & Helgerud’s endurance training theory is the 4×4 interval. This means 4 intervals of 4 minutes each, at 85-95% of HRmax (for the best endurance athletes between 90-95% of HRmax), with low intensity breaks of 3-4 minutes. This is the training that is supposed to give the greatest increases in VO2max -EUR” which according to Hoff & Helgerud is the deciding factor for endurance (something I only partially agree on, anyway).
The theory is based on training the heart at maximum stroke volumes to expose it to maximum shear stress – conditions that are only achieved at the highest heart rates. Why 4 mins? Apparently, it takes more than 2 minutes for the heart to reach peak stroke volume under these conditions, so you need to keep working longer in order to get the maximum training effect here. They found that intervals that last longer than 4 minutes usually mean a drop in intensity and are therefore less effective.
Researchers asked athletes to do multiple days in a row of just 4×4 intervals (up to 18 sessions in 14 days) with 2-4 weeks of low-volume training to aid recovery, while maintaining gains without as much work as necessary. On average, subjects saw a 5% improvement per workout.
The experiments led to large increases in VO2max, up to 10% increase over the course of the experiment for already highly trained athletes. If you train with a power meter or heart rate monitor, perform the intervals as follows: Warm-up 15-20 minutes. 4 min at 120% of your power threshold at a high cadence of 100-110 rpm or increase to your maximum heart rate from the fitness test.
– Recover for 4 minutes
– Repeat for a total of 4-6 times.
– Cooling for 10-15 minutes
Muscle endurance intervals
This workout is good for increasing strength development. Producing a lot of power is the combination of pedaling cadence and gear selection. Aerobic conditioning and pedaling exercises will get you spinning, and this workout will help you do it with greater speed. This workout is great because it works the cardiovascular system and really works the legs. Over time, your legs won’t be so tired from intense, sustained exertion.
While doing the low-end intervals, focus on smoothness and relaxing your upper body. If you have knee problems, go to higher cadences until your knees no longer hurt.
Do this workout twice a week with at least two days between workouts, as your legs will take longer to recover from this workout than higher cadence aerobic riding.
Warm-up 15 minutes to reach the upper end of your aerobic range (90% of your average heart rate from your fit test) Cadence 90-100 rpm.
Work on 5 strokes of 10 seconds with 3 minutes of recovery between efforts (pick a hard gear, slow the pace of the walk, then press the pedals trying to accelerate as hard as you can for the 10 seconds). 5 minutes of easy riding after stomps followed by 10-30 minutes at 70 rpm at the upper end of your aerobic zone. (If you are using a power meter, this will be 85-90% of your functional threshold power). Cooldown 10 minutes of easy spin to loosen the legs and gradually lower the heart rate.
Your Functional Threshold (FT) for practical cycling purposes is the maximum heart rate or power you can sustain for about an hour. The higher your power threshold, the faster you can go for an extended period of time without your legs exploding on you. Very simply, the way to increase your anaerobic threshold is to ride at your heart rate or threshold power for progressively longer periods of time. These are tough but effective. If you performed the fitness test, you will have calculated your anaerobic threshold heart rate and/or power if you have a trainer or on-bike computer that measures power.
Start with 2 X 10 minutes at your threshold heart rate with 5 minutes of recovery between intervals.
Each week, increase the duration of the intervals by 2 minutes until you have up to 20 minutes each.
To increase from there, try adding a third interval or more days of threshold intervals in a row. It can be very taxing, but when you recover from workouts, you’ll be stronger.
To mix together
Even though you’ll get your biggest improvements in fitness from high-intensity workouts, there’s still a need for longer, easier rides. Although you can develop great endurance performance with the workouts listed above, if the events you are doing are long (i.e. more than 2 hours) you need to get your body used to going through this. kind of time on a bike. Plus, low-intensity rides are great for promoting physical and mental recovery. Sometimes it’s hard to push yourself hard enough to take advantage of interval training because of mental exhaustion, so mixing up your training is a great way to stay mentally fresh and keep progressing physically.
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