Power to Sprint?
The idea behind structured training is to
make best use of your training time by making it specific to your
requirements and tackling your weaknesses. To help identify your
weaknesses you could undertake an
Ability Gap Analysis.
You can easily carry out this Spidergram Test without any help from me.
Follow the link above, follow the instructions and have fun analysing yourself!
Why a Wingate
I recently had a chat with someone who saw themselves as a
time triallist, who was getting creamed in the finale of races and
bemoaned their lack of a sprint. "I'm just not a sprinter, I don't
have the power" was their explanation. When I asked "How much
sprint training have you done?" guess what their answer was.
I said I'd test them, do a four week
plan, test them again and guarantee, (if they'd followed the plan), an
improvement they'd be happy with or they didn't have to pay me. Here's the results.
To explain the timing marks at the base of the graph you'll have to
understand the test protocol. First, there is a long warm up which
isn't on this graph. The program then begins with a one minute
continuation of that warm up and a ten second countdown to the full
effort. So the test proper begins at 0:01:10 which explains why
the bottom, superscript timing marks are ten seconds ahead of the test
duration. The first five seconds are masked to allow a build to
peak. So, 0:01:15 is actually 5 seconds into the test. The test
lasts 30 seconds which is why it finishes at 0:01:40. Simple!
You'll remember from the first test published
last month (the dotted line) that the peak effort occurred five seconds
in to the test. The green line is power, the magenta line is
cadence. On the retest (the solid line) the peak effort isn't only
higher but it occurs at the ten second mark, five seconds later than the
first; already a significant power and time improvement. So
we have peak power up from 572 watts to 595 watts; a 4% increase and for
double the initial sustained time period.
Peak power is good but it doesn't win
sprints, it just allows you to open up that initial gap. The fact
that we now have a ten second sustained burst rather than a five second
one gives us the initial psychological as well as physiological
the first test, power bled away to 502 watts 15 seconds in to the test.
In the second, power dipped to 542 watts at this point, 8% higher, then
levelled to a gradual decline to hit 502 watts at 25 seconds. A
full ten seconds later. So in all that time this rider would have
been pulling away from themselves in their virtual sprint and would now
be a few bike lengths ahead of themselves!
The first test shows a peak, a steady
decline then a drop off. The second test shows a later higher
peak, a small dip, a gradual decline then a drop off. However, the
second drop off falls at a significantly lower rate and finishes at a
higher power output than the first. In the first test we had a
final power reading of 365 watts, in the second we have an 18%
improvement to give a final reading of 432 watts.
You'll also notice that the increased
power has come with a reduction in cadence; which means a bigger gear
was being used to produce that power. A little more work to get
leg speed back to the cadence of the first test will see even bigger
improvements and more power gains.
Scores on the doors
Power drop of
Absolute peak power of
Relative peak power of
Final power figure of
Anaerobic fatigue index of
Anaerobic capacity of
What does it mean?
Obviously the results above can at worst be
described by an extreme cynic as "not bad". In fact they're bloody marvellous.
This rider always had the engine to be a sprinter they just didn't use
it because they only sprinted (badly) once every other week in an actual
race. And because they didn't see themselves as a sprinter they
never committed to sprint training. It's a self fulfilling
prophecy; as with most things in life. Who dares wins; or in
cycling terms, "Who sprints wins".
We can see the muscles, the physiological
and the psychological systems have all come together to produce big
gains. When most sprints are won by less than a wheel length these
differences can be seen to be "event changing".
The power drop improvement
means this rider can now go from further out and sustain their speed.
As others die 25 metres from the line, they may still slow but at less
of a pace and maybe just enough to hold people off.
The absolute peak power
shows a 4% increase, which is good but it was hit five seconds later
which is fantastic. A double whammy. The relative peak
power shows a 7%.increase because during the month the rider
lost a kilo in weight and a reduction in body fat. Again two wins
for the price of one.
The final power improvement
of 18% shows that this was an across the board improvement. It
wasn't just a case of working on peak power. There are many facets
to a sprint and they all need attention. Just going out and
practicing sprinting isn't where it's at.
The anaerobic fatigue index
gives the percentage of power decline over 30 seconds. The
lower the better. As you can see we dropped a considerable amount
in this area and improved overall by 33%.
Our anaerobic capacity, the
indicator of total work accomplished within the 30 seconds, was up 5%.
This is the true indicator of our improvement as it takes in to account
all of our effort for all of the duration. Now this may seem a
small figure compared to the others but when you look at the tiny
distances by which sprints are won an extra 5% is a phenomenal amount of
return for eight sessions of work.
As a final note, the improvement isn't to
be measured from the peaks and troughs of the lines. The real
world improvement is the volume of the area sandwiched between the two
green lines. Every pedal rev builds on the increase of those that
have gone before them. The improvement is cumulative throughout
the entire duration of the sprint. And few sprints last 30
seconds. So after this test a sprint is a doddle!
As you can see it doesn't matter which way you measure it, there have
been significant, quantifiable improvements. This comes from
focussing on an identified weakness and training specifically to address
Knowing you have a sprint also helps when
the going gets tough in the race itself. You'll feel more inclined
to hurt for that extra second or two on the climb if you know you can
out sprint the riders you're trying to hang on to. At our level we
can all be a sprinter. The power is within us we just need to
Power output is not as high in these tests as on the
road due to the fact the bike is locked in to an ergometer so the upper
body road action is negated. I know the person who took the test
can knock out over 800 watts on the road. So don't get hooked up
on the numbers it's the percentage gains that matter. Although
ergo-based, they are transferable to road riding.
test isn't to determine maximal power, it determines sustainable power. However,
the test conditions are repeatable and provide an excellent indicator to
your capacity to sprint, jump or attack on a climb.
For a full explanation of the energy systems
tested click the Anaerobic Capacity link on the left.
To view a test protocol, click