• David Martin

What's the best training protocol for your fastest 1 hour cycling effort?

In the laboratory at Southern Connecticut State University

The 40K cycling distance is a popular time trial as well as the bike portion in an olympic distance race. Coaches load their athlete's training plans with intervals ranging from 10 seconds to 20 minutes or more at a certain percentage of either their FTP, Critical power, peak power output, VO2max, or others. So, will all these different protocols and numbers, how do you know which training strategy is the best? Which interval is giving you the best bang for your buck? Well, scientists thought of this too....

In a research study done by scientists at the University of Cape Town in South Africa, the training protocols were studied to analyze their effectiveness on a 40km TT.

20 men, split up into different groups.  Here was the options for training

12 × 30 s at 175% PP. RI: 4.5 min

12 × 60 s at 100% PP. RI: 4.0 min

12 × 2 min at 90% PP RI: 3.0 min

8 × 4 min at 85% PP RI: 1.5 min

 4 × 8 min at 80% PP RI: 1.0 min

PP strands for peak power. This means they all did a test before the training began.  The test had them pedal at 3.3 w per kg for 150 seconds, then increased by 50 watts for 150 seconds, then 25 watts every 150 seconds  until the cyclist was exhausted and couldn’t go anymore.  PP was calculated by what watts they held in the last completed 150 second interval, plus the watts achieved in the incomplete 150 second interval multiplied by 25…..complicated I know…but imagine I started at 250 watts, increased by 50 to 300, then reached 425.  Its going to be around that number plus or minus how much I was able to hold on for in the 450 interval.  

Cyclists completed 6 sessions over 3 wk, in addition to their usual aerobic base training. All laboratory tests were then repeated. Which group do you think improved the best!!!???

BOOM!!! The relationship predicted a maximum enhancement in performance after work bouts with a duration of 3-6 min and an intensity of ~85% of PP.  The prediction of a maximum enhancement of performance after work bouts undertaken at ~85% of PP makes sense at the 40-km time-trial is performed at an average intensity of approximately 80% of PP or 90% of VO2max.  The 30 second bouts also helped!  But everything else inbetween was no a significant change. 

In conclusion, the study predicted greatest enhancement for the intervals performed at 85% PP (2.8%, 95%CI = 4.3-1.3%) and at 175% PP (2.4%, 95%CI = 4.0-0.7%). Intervals performed at 100% PP and 80% PP did not produce statistically significant enhancements of performance.

Happy training everyone!

Stepto et al., 1998, Effects of different interval-training programs on cycling time-trial performance.