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No top end - how much could I improve it - if I really tried

Old 05-30-22, 07:24 PM
  #1  
MinnMan
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No top end - how much could I improve it - if I really tried

Please note:

(A) I am not saying I want to do this - I'm just curious.
(B) I am not asking for advice about how to do this - I can figure that part out (intervals, weight lifting, etc.) if I want to.

I'm a reasonably well trained endurance cyclist, but I do not have, nor have i ever had, much of a sprint. No short term power.
I'll give numbers below, but my question is, hypothetically, if I dedicated myself to improving my 3 and 5 second power, how much difference could.I make?

I have good endurance power. I can pull for a strong group quite ably and I can do a solo 5 hour century. I'm good on the hills.
But my sprint sucks. I'm 61 years old, but I don't think it's only age - In the 12 years that I've been riding seriously, it's never been that good at short term power.

I'm 66-68 kilios. My FTP is in the range of 240-250 watts. My best top end power (instantaneous) is around 750 watts, and at 3 and 5 seconds, is more like 650 and 600 watts, give or take.

I ride about 7000-10000 miles/year.

I'm not saying that I intend to dedicate the time necessary to make a difference. i don't lift weights (though I know I should), and I'm not really contemplating beginning a serious program of weight training or interval training. So, strictly hypothetically, If I resolved to improve my sprint and put in the time and suffering it required - how much difference could I make? 3 seconds at 800 watts?

thanks

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Old 05-31-22, 06:48 AM
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I went from low 900's to over 1100 this year.

I a little older than you and also an endurance type.

GL
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Old 05-31-22, 07:12 AM
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I think you could break 1000 if you worked at it.
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Old 05-31-22, 07:14 AM
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MinnMan
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Originally Posted by GhostRider62 View Post
I went from low 900's to over 1100 this year.

I a little older than you and also an endurance type.

GL
That's a significant gain. Good for you. And your numbers (though not normalized for weight perhaps) highlight how low mine are.
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Old 05-31-22, 07:34 AM
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Originally Posted by MinnMan View Post
That's a significant gain. Good for you. And your numbers (though not normalized for weight perhaps) highlight how low mine are.
Unfortunately, it screwed up my PD Curve. I have around 530 watts at 1 minute and 367 watts at 5 minutes and GC software says my CP is only 245 watts. I know it is much higher. I am not sure how the Morton 3 parameter model works. I might just need a representative 15-20 minute effort.

I also have not done any sprints in about 6 weeks because I am more concerned with increasing the other energy pathways (aerobic), not that it is a zero sum game but it sort of is.
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Old 06-04-22, 07:20 AM
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My experience is that you can make pretty huge gains (relatively speaking) in sprint power with relatively little effort (like for example one dedicated sprint interval session per week). I would guess you could go from your current 750W to close to 1000W with minimal effort (presuming you are making no effort at all right now). The only catch is that the quick gain you make in sprint power is quickly lost if you stop doing those sprint intervals. But I find sprint intervals are a very good bang for the buck, so I do them fairly regularly, especially approaching my key events even though they are endurance focused. I find it adds very little overall fatigue and the top end power can be quite useful on occasion.
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Old 06-05-22, 05:17 PM
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Originally Posted by PeteHski View Post
My experience is that you can make pretty huge gains (relatively speaking) in sprint power with relatively little effort (like for example one dedicated sprint interval session per week). I would guess you could go from your current 750W to close to 1000W with minimal effort (presuming you are making no effort at all right now). The only catch is that the quick gain you make in sprint power is quickly lost if you stop doing those sprint intervals. But I find sprint intervals are a very good bang for the buck, so I do them fairly regularly, especially approaching my key events even though they are endurance focused. I find it adds very little overall fatigue and the top end power can be quite useful on occasion.

I am going to give this a go.

I've never trained my top end / sprint power, being more of a time triallist and hill climber. I max out at around 700-750 watts on a very good day (one second power). I'd love to see four figures, at least once in my life!
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Old 06-05-22, 06:50 PM
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Along with training the short, high power efforts, work on technique.

I'm 9 years older, 174 kg, and way lower in FTP and 100km or 100 mile times. GC says my 10 second max is around 650, 3 seconds around 750. (I expect that 3 second or shorter power numbers can be somewhat inaccurate, I hit 700-800 quite easily by just doing a couple of standing hard pedal strokes, like at the top of a moderate downhill to get my speed going. It's mostly body weight.)

This recent NorCal aero vs power video is interesting. Jeff is way up there in sprint power, but the ideas apply to the rest of us. It discusses the difference between optimal aero and a less aero optimal power posture. So I googled "road bike optimal position for short sprint power", and liked this Trainer Road page on Cycling Sprint Technique. And that page has a link to Cycling Sprint Workouts. (My impression of Trainer Road is that they like to make things complicated and quite technical. They do want riders to sign up for their paid programs, of course. Still interesting to read.)

Work on standing, pulling hard on the bars in the drops at an efficient angle, and spinning up the cadence without losing power.

When I used to ride a fixed gear occasionally years ago, it made it obvious when my fast spinning timing was off. If the wheel was turning, so were the cranks, so any bad technique was instantly obvious. If I was still pushing down on the pedal when it was starting to rise back up after the bottom of the stroke, I'd bounce right off the saddle as the cranks were rising while I was still pushing down. With road bike freewheels, all this does is waste power fighting the opposite leg, there's no bouncing feedback. It did help with smoothing out my high cadence, and boosted my efficiency a lot.

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Old 06-06-22, 09:23 AM
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Originally Posted by tempocyclist View Post
I am going to give this a go.

I've never trained my top end / sprint power, being more of a time triallist and hill climber. I max out at around 700-750 watts on a very good day (one second power). I'd love to see four figures, at least once in my life!
Let us know how you get on. I think you will be pleasantly surprised after just a few sessions. When you do sprint intervals, make sure you get plenty of recovery between each maximal effort (at least 5 mins easy spinning). I usually do 4x20 sec flat-out sprints starting from a low speed/cadence, aiming to hit around 120 rpm at the end of each sprint. 5 mins recovery spin between each effort. Also make sure you have a good warm-up before starting the first sprint. Do this once a week for a month and you will almost certainly see big gains. I think a lot of the initial gain comes from improving your sprint technique as you practice and waking up those fast twitch fibres that you have never trained before!
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Old 06-06-22, 02:25 PM
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My hunch is this is mostly genetic, and the weight room will open up the biggest gains for <= 20 second power.
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Old 06-06-22, 06:09 PM
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I think Seattle Forrest is on the right track.

As for improvements from sprint intervals, I'd like to hear the results that tempocyclist gets. Personally, were I to try to make a difference for myself, I think weights would be what I would try. Though I definitely haven't done any structured training to improve my sprint, that doesn't mean that I don't frequently push my short term limits. In friendly sprints, be it IRL or on Zwift, I do *try* my hardest on short duration efforts with some frequency, even though I suck at it. I just seem to lack the leg strength to turn the cranks above 700 and some watts.

One thing I did learn, on brief Zwift efforts, is that I'll get my highest watts not by turning the hardest gear, but by turning a somewhat easier gear at much higher cadence.
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Old 06-07-22, 12:13 AM
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Originally Posted by MinnMan View Post
One thing I did learn, on brief Zwift efforts, is that I'll get my highest watts not by turning the hardest gear, but by turning a somewhat easier gear at much higher cadence.
This is absolutely my existence too. Also, counterintuitively, my highest power numbers are seated not standing.
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Old 06-07-22, 11:03 AM
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I would have no idea other than to guess. I have a lot of experience competing in your age group sprinting at the track. The way your framed your post, you do not want advice and you can figure it out on your own. I actually doubt that. I couldn’t. FWIW, I won state championship in NorCal in 2016 and SoCal in 2017 in the 500 meter time trial. And I was top 10 in the 500 meter at the world championships and I went for a WR at Aguascalientes track but had an injury but still logged a PR. I used a sprint coach.

Raising ones sprint power is highly specialized training and takes a lot of time and focus. A gain of a couple hundred watts is sort of the anti to get into the game.

I will say that endurance is a speed killer and having high power output is about leg freshness and strength to weight ratio versus CTL. Give up on long distance and focus on sprinting and do not ride very much and sprint power goes up.

Second thought, sure you can raise your sprint power a couple of hundred watts…why not.
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Old 06-07-22, 01:39 PM
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Why not?

Because all those Type 2A fibers that you spent so much time and effort converting for endurance riding will convert back to 2B. Sprint will improve but endurance will decline somewhat aside from endurance lost due to riding less and focusing on sprint workouts.
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Old 06-08-22, 09:21 PM
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I used to be the best sprinter in our group of maybe 30 frequent group riders, all of them younger. I did what I did to get better at it. I couldn't say if the following would work for anyone, but it did for me and did help my endurance riding for whatever reason. I'd start this once-a-week sprint training a couple months before my A endurance ride of the year.

The only sprint training I did was hill sprints OOS and did them near the end of a 20-30 mile week-day endurance ride. I wouldn't be particularly tired then, just well warmed up and riding well. I did one set of 6 X 45" X 5' sprints up 6%-8% hills. I focused on pulling up hard enough to almost lift the rear wheel off the ground, hands in the drops, but not deep. butt back with legs just brushing the saddle, pulling up hard on the bars, hard enough that if I didn't pull up on the pedals hard enough, I'd lift the front wheel off the ground. Cadence wasn't terribly high, maybe 80.

My impression was that this was good for leg fiber recruitment and increased my leg speed OOS in a flat sprint. It seemed good to be able to push and pull with all the muscular strength I had at a continuous power level and cadence for that long. Because of the focus on strength and technique, it seemed to help my endurance in hilly terrain. Even though we don't pull up in normal riding, still the back leg has to get out of the way. We certainly don't want to be lifting it with the front leg. I think the story above in post 8 about riding fixed speaks to this.

I don't have any numbers from those days, no PM. However I now (77 y.o) have a 5" 684w and average 467w on a 32" hill and I'm 4 seconds slower than I used to be in my 60s. Nothing great, but good enough for most purposes. I'm 2" away from matching the AG KOM on that hill. I was lifting in a gym fairly regularly then but haven't been doing much of that lately, nor have I been doing any real sprint training this year: I don't recover quickly from max efforts now. I think they'd cut into my endurance training too much. That wasn't an issue in my 60s.

All that said, I doubt that anyone could reasonably estimate how much you might be able to improve. Everyone's different. And that said, what difference does it make? I'm sure you could get better at it, and why would anyone not want to get better, there being IME, no downside?
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Old 06-09-22, 06:48 PM
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Originally Posted by GhostRider62 View Post
Why not?

Because all those Type 2A fibers that you spent so much time and effort converting for endurance riding will convert back to 2B. Sprint will improve but endurance will decline somewhat aside from endurance lost due to riding less and focusing on sprint workouts.
I found that I could improve my sprint power significantly (like a few hundred watts improvement) from minimal sprint intervals without any detriment to my endurance. This is in the context of not doing any sprint training whatsoever vs maybe one half hour session per week (or even every couple of weeks). As I understand it, the quick gain comes largely from improved muscle coordination rather than going as far as converting muscle fibres. I'm not talking about doing loads of dedicated sprint training here, where there may well be some kind of trade-off. It's just a quick boost for someone who mainly focuses on endurance riding.
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Old 06-12-22, 07:20 AM
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If you sprint more you seem to get better at it in my own experience.

I'm a lot slower now than I was 20 years ago - spent 17 years doing literally no sport prior to 2019 so the last 3 years have been starting over again which has been tough at times as someone in his 50's. I am short so relatively 'heavy' at 65kg and hold 1013w for 10s. I'll be around 62/63kg for my next race and should have the same sprint power so w/kg will be a little better. I've always been a 'punchy' type rider leaning more towards endurance - so road racing rather than track. Of course, power is only one metric, there are others that help define the fastest sprinters.

I do all types of intervals but sprinting is my favourite. Earlier this year I beat a certain Mr Slik of Unbound Gravel fame in 2/3 sprints during Winter training when he was here. Next week a friend of his who has recently retired from Pro racing is over and was a sprinter so that'll be interesting - and good training.


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Old 06-12-22, 08:18 AM
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Originally Posted by PeteHski View Post
I found that I could improve my sprint power significantly (like a few hundred watts improvement) from minimal sprint intervals without any detriment to my endurance. This is in the context of not doing any sprint training whatsoever vs maybe one half hour session per week (or even every couple of weeks). As I understand it, the quick gain comes largely from improved muscle coordination rather than going as far as converting muscle fibres. I'm not talking about doing loads of dedicated sprint training here, where there may well be some kind of trade-off. It's just a quick boost for someone who mainly focuses on endurance riding.
like all medicine, dose is important.

I did not mean to imply training the anaerobic fibers is not important for endurance rider and on the contrary, it is critical to get a good balance if for no other reason to get lactate and the concomitant increases in shuttle to the slowtwitch fibers. It takes some looking into and depending on the focus of the ride duration and power profile, but the optimum loading of the muscle varies from the type 2a or 2b. I would love to see the training the sprinters of TdF use, what a conundrum. They have to have the endurance to make it to the finish and then have the explosiveness relative to their peers. I am not sure or really have no idea how much is too much or how often is too often to do sprint training if one's focus is long distance endurance type riding.


https://alancouzens.com/blog/strength_week.html
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Old 06-12-22, 03:39 PM
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Originally Posted by GhostRider62 View Post
like all medicine, dose is important.

I did not mean to imply training the anaerobic fibers is not important for endurance rider and on the contrary, it is critical to get a good balance if for no other reason to get lactate and the concomitant increases in shuttle to the slowtwitch fibers. It takes some looking into and depending on the focus of the ride duration and power profile, but the optimum loading of the muscle varies from the type 2a or 2b. I would love to see the training the sprinters of TdF use, what a conundrum. They have to have the endurance to make it to the finish and then have the explosiveness relative to their peers. I am not sure or really have no idea how much is too much or how often is too often to do sprint training if one's focus is long distance endurance type riding.


https://alancouzens.com/blog/strength_week.html
I just go off training plans I've used from Training Peaks (custom plan for Etape du Tour), Wahoo SYSTM (Mountainous Gran Fondo plan) and Pillar's dynamic endurance plan (5000 m climbing over 160 km). They all seem to dish out similar small doses of sprint training during the build phases. Typically standing starts. What I always gain from it is an almost instant boost in sprint power over just 2 or 3 sessions with no obvious downside. None of these plans push sprint training any further than that, so I don't know what happens if you do any more. But they all seem to agree that it's a good idea to do some NM training as an endurance focused rider.
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Old 06-12-22, 11:51 PM
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Originally Posted by PeteHski View Post
None of these plans push sprint training any further than that, so I don't know what happens if you do any more.
There is elevated risk of injury to the muscles and cardiovascular system if you do more and for the average Joe, the longer recovery time required can offset the more important cardio/endurance-oriented sessions.
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Old 06-13-22, 02:28 AM
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Originally Posted by koala logs View Post
There is elevated risk of injury to the muscles and cardiovascular system if you do more and for the average Joe, the longer recovery time required can offset the more important cardio/endurance-oriented sessions.
I think it's mostly about utilising training time most efficiently for the priority focus. The plans I use are high volume (10+ hours per week) endurance focused. Looking at the Crit plans, there are a lot more intense sprint sessions and loads of cadence builds. What you would expect really - horses for courses. But those plans also still include a fair amount of endurance riding. For the limited amount of sprint training I do, recovery time is minimal. Just have to be thorough with the warm-up to avoid any potential muscle injury.
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