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How trainable is peak power?

Old 07-29-21, 03:32 PM
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zybez
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How trainable is peak power?

Question: I'm new to track cycling (interested in sprint) but have only been able to increase my peak power by 1 watt over a 5 month time period is this normal?

Info: I can't find much online about how much you should be able to increase your peak power over a certain time period but other things, such as strength, you can find loads of info. Because I am new to track cycling i thought it would increase quite quickly at the start and then slowly get harder to increase it. During these 5 months i have increased my strength by 20%, done plyometrics, max cadence drills, high torque efforts, and increased my bodyweight by 5kg (so my W/kg is now worse). I assumed if i increased my strength and at least kept my max cadence the same then i'd have a higher peak power (force x speed) is this incorrect? I increased my 30 second power by 50 watts in 4 weeks so i can see this is trainable but i'm not sure about peak power.
I don't know much about the sport so i was just wondering how much people have been able to increase their max power by over a certain time period. (The power tests are being done on a wattbike).

Thanks
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Old 07-30-21, 10:26 PM
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Pure peak power doesn't matter, but 5, 10, 20 sec power much more.
Yes, it's trainable and considering you're a newbie on track/sprint thing, and brought pure strength up as described, your peak, and 5, 10 sec, should come up considerably.
I can't get any reason for you not seeing improvements on short period power, but sometimes if you aren't fresh, peak power doesn't show at all.
What about time on real track for short efforts like first lap from standing starts, and flying 100m time and max speed?
I'm addicted to data (powermeters on all bikes since 2006, including track bikes) but the real gauge is the track.
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Old 07-31-21, 10:43 AM
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zybez
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Originally Posted by Clythio View Post
Pure peak power doesn't matter, but 5, 10, 20 sec power much more.
Yes, it's trainable and considering you're a newbie on track/sprint thing, and brought pure strength up as described, your peak, and 5, 10 sec, should come up considerably.
I can't get any reason for you not seeing improvements on short period power, but sometimes if you aren't fresh, peak power doesn't show at all.
What about time on real track for short efforts like first lap from standing starts, and flying 100m time and max speed?
I'm addicted to data (powermeters on all bikes since 2006, including track bikes) but the real gauge is the track.
Thanks for the reply, makes sense actually as i haven't tested anything over 3 seconds for a while as i've been hooked on peak power. I will see if my 6 second power has improved soon. Haven't been on the track for ages now as my nearest one is still closed due to covid...which has made my addiction to data worse lol. But yes you are right, times on the track should be my main focus, cheers. Out of curiosity, do you know how much your peak power has increased since starting? (unless you started as a child). I just find it weird how an untrained adult could more than double their strength with training but they wouldn't be able to double their peak power with training, imo.
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Old 07-31-21, 11:51 AM
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I'm not what anyone but a roadie would mistake for a sprinter, but if your goal is numbers that matter for performance, I'd suggest just ignoring 1s power entirely. If you're going to pick one number to tunnel-vision on, make it 10s power, since that's what matters for qualifying.
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Old 07-31-21, 06:06 PM
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Hi, @zybez. Welcome to the sport and to the forum.

Long story short, while power makes for great bragging rights, it's a red herring. While power is most certainly an indicator of ability, it's not the ultimate one. Otherwise, there would be medals for Max Power Output. Coincidentally, there are medals for max weight lifted. This is a nice segue into my next point about tracking progress that will translate into more speed (not power) on the track, which I assume that you want to do.

Weightlifting and/or Powerlifting are excellent ways for a power athlete to track training progress. For such an athlete, gym gains can directly result in performance gains...and they are easier to monitor. But, also don't get tricked by the 1-rep max squat red herring either! You into cars or motorcycles? There is (understandably) a lot of talk about horsepower...but that's only 1 factor in winning races. (Notice a theme here?).

There are A LOT of factors that come into play that will determine if you win or lose a race, series of races, or have a great career racing.

That being said, everyone likes to see their numbers go up. When I started racing, I logged everything. Every lap on the bike to every rep in the gym. Seeing those watts, speeds, cadences, reps, and weights all go up (along with wins) was very encouraging. Don't lose sight of it. But, I also lost a helluva lot of races that I thought I should win because of my max wattage.

If you are looking for a golden metric to track, here's an easy one that you can track with a $25 bike computer: Maximum Speed.

Max speed on the velodrome will tell you more about how you are doing in your sprint training that max wattage. And it'll be a much better predictor of wins.

How would I know? I could regularly clock over 2,100W...but I was heavy and built like a rolling refrigerator.
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Old 07-31-21, 06:16 PM
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Also, know that there are ways to game a power meter to get bigger numbers that you would actually see in the heat of competition. This can lead many to believe that they have abilities that rival top athletes.
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Old 07-31-21, 07:19 PM
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Built like a rolling refrigerator
Thanks for the responses guys, i'll focus on max speed as a test of progress, and more prolonged power tests (10s) when i can't get to the velodrome.
Looking forward to racing!!!!
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Old 08-06-21, 06:23 AM
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You don't get fast over 1 second or 3 seconds. You get fast when you've been doing that output for 10 seconds, or 15, or 20.

If 20 seconds @ 1200 watts was racing against 3 seconds at 2200w, who would win?
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Old 08-07-21, 07:18 AM
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I see your point but i think someone who can do 2200 watts for 3 seconds can probably do over 1200 watts for 20 seconds. The person doing 1200 for 20 seconds probably still has a reasonable peak power.
I was trying to increase my peak power first and then focus on holding power over longer time periods. I feel like my peak power is the limiter, no one can hold their 1 sec peak power for 10 seconds, so why would raising the ceiling of my peak power be pointless?
if i can do over 80% of my peak power for 10 seconds and over 60% of my peak power for 30 seconds, wouldn't increasing the peak power cause an increase in 10 and 30 second power because the percentages would probably stay the same if you are still training them too?
Or do the percentages get worse the greater your peak power is? I would assume the percentages would get even better with more training.
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Old 08-07-21, 12:53 PM
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You are arguing with guys who have been at this for a long time at a pretty high level. You are new. If it were me, I would soak up as much of this valuable info possible and try it out.
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Old 08-07-21, 02:04 PM
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zybez
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i'm not arguing, i'm just asking questions which is what a forum is for. I literally said i don't know anything about track, so it would be pretty hard to argue. I am using their advice which is that prolonged power (and therefore speed) is more important. What queerpunk said just prompted another question for me. Sorry if it seemed like i was not taking people's advice.
Anyway, it's physiologically impossible to hold peak power for 10 seconds so at some point peak power will be a limiting factor. I think people were saying peak power will probably increase if i focus on longer power so i shouldn't worry about it.
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Old 08-07-21, 04:56 PM
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I think chasing peak power has gone by the wayside. Back in the days of riding 90” gears and trackstands it was likely relevant. Nowadays that doesn’t really happen much if at all outside of the local level of racing. Bigger gears and speed endurance are what rule the roost in 2021 and peak power is not really that much of an important marker. I’ve seen mentions of top level Olympic riders peak powers ‘only’ being in the low to mid 2kW.

Now if you looked at speeds and times today vs 40 years ago and considered peak power the be all and end all, you would expect to be seeing 3kW being pumped out at the highest levels, but that’s not the case.

IMO get into a seasonal cycle of building strength peferably on the bike/trainer, and then as the bigger events come along work on holding as much of that power for as long as you can. Rinse and repeat each season as you get continually stronger and faster.

But who knows, maybe training and racing principles might be in a very different place in 10 years
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Old 08-08-21, 08:26 PM
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Off-topic, but directly related: The real gains (and losses) come via aerodynamics.

I watched a small 15 year old girl following a large powerful man during a flying 200 in training for fun. The guy was one of DLV's top sprinters and could ride sub-12s F200s (pretty good for DLV). She would normally ride 14.x F200s.

He gave it full gas expecting to drop her. She literally didn't drift more than 6-8 inches from his wheel the entire effort. It was like they were riding a tandem. That's how crazy aerodynamics works.

I wish that I had paid more attention to aerodynamics instead of power when I was all-in with the sport. I suspect that I would have had better results.
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Old 08-10-21, 02:29 AM
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Originally Posted by queerpunk View Post
You don't get fast over 1 second or 3 seconds. You get fast when you've been doing that output for 10 seconds, or 15, or 20.

If 20 seconds @ 1200 watts was racing against 3 seconds at 2200w, who would win?
A while back I spent around 2 years lifting a lot in the gym and not riding much at all, I might have commuted 2-3 times a week tops but that was it. When I decided to start training again,I jumped on a trainer with a power meter to get a baseline, and managed to put out low 2k watts for 5 seconds but my other numbers (30 second, 1 minute and five minute power) were absolute garbage. Needless to say I stunk it up on the track for c.2-3 months till the longer on-bike efforts started to make a difference and that endurance fitness came back. Can't win a race with a massive peak watts if you're half a lap back, I hate how I have to learn really obvious lessons through making long, difficult mistakes.
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