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Training benefits of low cadence at FTP+

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Training benefits of low cadence at FTP+

Old 01-17-12, 10:24 AM
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grwoolf
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Training benefits of low cadence at FTP+

I attended my team's annual training camp this past weekend and the rides included a few significant climbs. I'm not talking mountains, but several that were a couple miles long and would take about +-10 minutes. I train with a power meter and I was averaging high FTP to mid Vo2 on a couple of the climbs where I was really pushing it.

I did well (despite being 10+ lbs heavy right now) and actually set some new personal best power numbers between 7 and 10 minutes. However, I know I would have been stronger/faster at a higher cadence. There were extended sections where I was turning 65ish RPMs and I feel inefficient at that cadence (80+ feels much better when climbing).

I mentioned that I should have brought my crank with a 34 because of all the climbing and several of my team members said it's better to run the 39 because it's good training to turn a bigger gear. Some of these guys have been riding a long time, so I'm inclined to trust their guidance, but I was wondering if there is a consensus on this and what the reasoning is behind it.

Sorry if this is more of a 41-type thread. I am not looking to debate the merits of compact vs. standard, just the training advantages of making FTP/Vo2 power at lower cadence vs. higher. None of my races this year will have any significant climbs more than a couple minutes, so this is more of a training question than a racing question.
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Old 01-17-12, 11:19 AM
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Originally Posted by grwoolf View Post
I mentioned that I should have brought my crank with a 34 because of all the climbing and several of my team members said it's better to run the 39 because it's good training to turn a bigger gear. Some of these guys have been riding a long time, so I'm inclined to trust their guidance, but I was wondering if there is a consensus on this and what the reasoning is behind it.
Andy Coggan would call BS on that. Your self-selected cadence is your self-selected cadence, meaning the most optimal based on how you feel, especially for something specific such as a prolonged climb.
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Old 01-17-12, 11:28 AM
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Don't speak for others, he wasn't asking about efficiency he was asking about training effect. There is weak but growing evidence that training at the same power and duration - but at a lower cadence - may yield greater training effect.


Eur J Appl Physiol. 2012 Jan;112(1):69-78. Epub 2011 Apr 11.
Effects of low and high cadence interval training on power output in flat and uphill cycling time-trials.
Nimmerichter A, Eston R, Bachl N, Williams C.
Source
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21479957
College of Life and Environmental Sciences, Sport and Health Sciences, University of Exeter, Heavitree Road, Exeter, EX1 2LU, United Kingdom, an242@exeter.ac.uk.
Abstract

This study tested the effects of low-cadence (60 rev min(-1)) uphill (Int(60)) or high-cadence (100 rev min(-1)) level-ground (Int(100)) interval training on power output (PO) during 20-min uphill (TT(up)) and flat (TT(flat)) time-trials. Eighteen male cyclists ([Formula: see text]: 58.6 5.4 mL min(-1) kg(-1)) were randomly assigned to Int(60), Int(100) or a control group (Con). The interval training comprised two training sessions per week over 4 weeks, which consisted of six bouts of 5 min at the PO corresponding to the respiratory compensation point (RCP). For the control group, no interval training was conducted. A two-factor ANOVA revealed significant increases on performance measures obtained from a laboratory-graded exercise test (GXT) (P (max): 2.8 3.0%; p < 0.01; PO and [Formula: see text] at RCP: 3.6 6.3% and 4.7 8.2%, respectively; p < 0.05; and [Formula: see text] at ventilatory threshold: 4.9 5.6%; p < 0.01), with no significant group effects. Significant interactions between group and uphill and flat time-trial, pre- versus post-training on PO were observed (p < 0.05). Int(60) increased PO during both TT(up) (4.4 5.3%) and TT(flat) (1.5 4.5%). The changes were -1.3 3.6, 2.6 6.0% for Int(100) and 4.0 4.6%, -3.5 5.4% for Con during TT(up) and TT(flat), respectively. PO was significantly higher during TT(up) than TT(flat) (4.4 6.0; 6.3 5.6%; pre and post-training, respectively; p < 0.001). These findings suggest that higher forces during the low-cadence intervals are potentially beneficial to improve performance. In contrast to the GXT, the time-trials are ecologically valid to detect specific performance adaptations.


J Strength Cond Res. 2009 Sep;23(6):1758-63.
Effects of low- vs. high-cadence interval training on cycling performance.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19675486
Paton CD, Hopkins WG, Cook C.
Source
Health and Sport Science, Eastern Institute of Technology, Napier, New Zealand. CPaton@eit.ac.nz
Abstract

High-resistance interval training produces substantial gains in sprint and endurance performance of cyclists in the competitive phase of a season. Here, we report the effect of changing the cadence of the intervals. We randomized 18 road cyclists to 2 groups for 4 weeks of training. Both groups replaced part of their usual training with 8 30-minute sessions consisting of sets of explosive single-leg jumps alternating with sets of high-intensity cycling sprints performed at either low cadence (60-70 min(-1)) or high cadence (110-120 min(-1)) on a training ergometer. Testosterone concentration was assayed in saliva samples collected before and after each session. Cycle ergometry before and after the intervention provided measures of performance (mean power in a 60-s time trial, incremental peak power, 4-mM lactate power) and physiologic indices of endurance performance (maximum oxygen uptake, exercise economy, fractional utilization of maximum oxygen uptake). Testosterone concentration in each session increased by 97% +/- 39% (mean +/- between-subject SD) in the low-cadence group but by only 62% +/- 23% in the high-cadence group. Performance in the low-cadence group improved more than in the high-cadence group, with mean differences of 2.5% (90% confidence limits, +/-4.8%) for 60-second mean power, 3.6% (+/-3.7%) for peak power, and 7.0% (+/-5.9%) for 4-mM lactate power. Maximum oxygen uptake showed a corresponding mean difference of 3.2% (+/-4.2%), but differences for other physiologic indices were unclear. Correlations between changes in performance and physiology were also unclear. Low-cadence interval training is probably more effective than high-cadence training in improving performance of well-trained competitive cyclists. The effects on performance may be related to training-associated effects on testosterone and to effects on maximum oxygen uptake.
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Old 01-17-12, 11:40 AM
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Okay I'm keeping the 55x44 on the bike.
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Old 01-17-12, 11:49 AM
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Originally Posted by carpediemracing View Post
Okay I'm keeping the 55x44 on the bike.
Wuss, I run a 60x56 with a 6-15 straight block cassette. (this is funny if you know how pathetically weak I am).
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Old 01-17-12, 11:58 AM
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I'm interested in this topic as well. My son's coach has him training in a low cadence alot. Not necessarily at hi intensity (only 2 days a week are hard). The idea is to increase strength gradually over time like 1% improvement per year to allow his body to adapt. I'm afraid he might lose his leg speed (important in cfrits).
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Old 01-17-12, 12:06 PM
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Originally Posted by mkadam68 View Post
I'm interested in this topic as well. My son's coach has him training in a low cadence alot. Not necessarily at hi intensity (only 2 days a week are hard). The idea is to increase strength gradually over time like 1% improvement per year to allow his body to adapt. I'm afraid he might lose his leg speed (important in cfrits).
Just some thoughts...after a big gear workout I do some high cadence 39*21/23 spinning for several minutes to remind the legs to spin. Based on advice of some others on this board I also do high cadence spinning on recovery days. I can't prove it, but I feel this helps to remind me to keep spinning and not become a grinder. For example, though I've been doing big gear work for over two years, my average cadence in any race I do is 95+ RPM, which is my preferred SSC. My guess is in a race situation you're not thinking about things like cadence as much, so you'd be riding at your natural SSC anyway.
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Old 01-17-12, 12:14 PM
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Originally Posted by Enthalpic View Post
Don't speak for others, he wasn't asking about efficiency he was asking about training effect. There is weak but growing evidence that training at the same power and duration - but at a lower cadence - may yield greater training effect.
that's from his book, in which he gave a very unfavorable review of big gear work.

here's what he has to say about big gear work (in a post on slowtwitch). His words, not mine

I have never paid much attention to what others do/advocate, so can't really comment on its current popularity. What I can say, however, is that from a physiological perspective there is little, if any, plausible reason to perform such training. Specifically, the force requirements are too low to result in significant increases in either the strength or mass of one's muscles, and in fact may be too low (given the speed of contraction) to enhance recruitment of type II muscle fibers (the other rationale that has been provided for performing such training). Moreover, even if "grinding it out" does result in greater dependence on such motor units, it is unclear why this would be considered necessary/beneficial.

More info here:
unfortunately, his website is no longer available

ps. here's original thread: http://forum.slowtwitch.com/gforum.c...;so=ASC;mh=25;

pps. I will concede that it does seem to have beneficiary effects despite Coggan's negative view of it. as one poster in that thread stated, we don't yet fully understand human physiology and there may be other mechanism not yet discovered to be at work.

FWIW, my knees hurt like a mother when i do semi big gear work at 80rpm. I can do them for 10-15 minutes and then my power promptly begins dropping. At that point, my quads get so sore that i can't push anything. After three minutes of rest, though, i can go on putting out FTP wattage, but at a higher (mid 90) cadence

Last edited by echappist; 01-17-12 at 12:31 PM.
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Old 01-17-12, 12:28 PM
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^from what i recall, the coggan big gear conclusion was largely based on a study of trained cyclists doing big gear work at 45 rpm. I have the article and can pm it as an attachment if you're interested. fwiw, i dont know any coaches recommending big gear work at 45 rpm, but know lots that recommend, for QII specific training, it at 60 to 75 rpms as these are more realistic climbing or force cadence ranges.
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Old 01-17-12, 12:28 PM
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This is my first year doing big gear work. I like it.

So far I am stronger and still getting stronger each week.
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Old 01-17-12, 12:29 PM
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I would think that training at lower cadence would be akin to doing squats or leg presses in the gym. They work the muscles more than the aerobic system. Your muscles will fatigue before you run out of breath. Also, if you were to ask Friel I think he would say that this is essentially the foundation skill known as Force, a component of muscular endurance (time trialing/FTP) and Power (jumps, sprinting).

Do with that what you will.
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Old 01-17-12, 12:30 PM
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A long time ago (read "may be outdated, a myth, or otherwise untrue"), a then-pro rider told me bits of his training schedule. His favorite for me was 10 min in a big gear (53x12 usually, not 11), 60 or so rpm, over all somewhat normal terrain (up to 6 or 8% grade). It was like weight lifting on the bike, and I'd get sore even mid-season, indicating I was working particular muscle groups harder than normal. It induced less soreness in later years.
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Old 01-17-12, 12:40 PM
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Q: Which is better, carbohydrates or protein?

Yeah, it's like that.

The first relevant question is what specifically were you trying to accomplish during this training session? If you don't have a clearly defined answer (and "get stronger" is not a clearly defined answer) then it's really a bit of a red herring asking if low cadence super FTP work has any benefit. Besides, before we get to that question there's several more that need to be answered and then you ideally you design a workout around those answers.

Then you chart progress to define an answer for you, because there's no uniform h0m0 Sapien response to any particular training stress than generates an unequivocal yes or no as to benefit. Responses are individual, at best you can determine whether something is likely to produce a benefit or not in most people.

And FWIW, just because someone writes a book doesn't mean their opinions should be help up as divinely inspired and not questioned.

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Old 01-17-12, 12:55 PM
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Originally Posted by Racer Ex View Post

And FWIW, just because someone writes a book doesn't mean their opinions should be help up as divinely inspired and not questioned.
yep, i realized my folly in that

more practical question. how do you guys actually pull it off? 15' of it yesterday at 80rpm really did me in. 3 minutes of rest however, allowed me to get restarted and push FTP at mid90 cadence.
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Old 01-17-12, 01:17 PM
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Originally Posted by echappist View Post
yep, i realized my folly in that

more practical question. how do you guys actually pull it off? 15' of it yesterday at 80rpm really did me in. 3 minutes of rest however, allowed me to get restarted and push FTP at mid90 cadence.
My answer is I don't do long low cadence efforts, at most I'll do 2 minutes (or to failure) at a very high wattage and torque. Being a part time track guy I'm using low cadence strictly to develop peak and short duration power, and not in any aerobic capacity. If anything I'm trying to push my cadence up for track racing, and I've got fragile knees which aren't happy grinding in any case.

It's been my experience that some people can benefit by going to a higher cadence than what would be self selected during training...moving that selection point upward over time and getting the benefit of the reduced force peaks discussed here. Riding like the OP actually goes the other direction.

I watch a lot of people climb and 90% of the time I can tell by cadence and pedal stroke who will be there at the end of the race. Slow mashers usually don't make the cut. One of the biggest outliers to this was watching an track Olympian who pedaled away from most of us at an annoyingly slow cadence on the climbs at Gila. Completely opposite of what you would expect.

I don't generally see a positive training response to long, low cadence climbing and the benefits that I have seen could be accomplished faster by other means. But that's not to say some people may not respond to this type of workout differently.
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Old 01-17-12, 01:37 PM
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Thanks for all the responses.

The first study (time trial one) seems pretty relevent to my question, although the cadence differences were more extreme than what I am looking at.

As for the purpose of the training last weekend, I'm sure everyone has a bit different goals, but it's more about meeting new team members and getting some miles in the legs and feeling each other out. My primary objective right now is boosting FTP. My plan was to push hard into high FTP/Mid-Vo2 on day 1 (60 miles) and then stay within threshold range on the climbs sunday (80 miles). I was able to get a couple hours of time at Threshold or higher in the 2 days, but much of it was unstructured (as you'd expect in a group).

It sounds like there is not strong proof out there one way or the other, but there is some positive data. It might be worth adding a bit of low cadence work as long as my knees don't compain.
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Old 01-17-12, 01:41 PM
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Originally Posted by echappist View Post
yep, i realized my folly in that

more practical question. how do you guys actually pull it off? 15' of it yesterday at 80rpm really did me in. 3 minutes of rest however, allowed me to get restarted and push FTP at mid90 cadence.
I do one session a week during my base of 5X6X4 low cadence efforts. As my base progresses I move my cadence from the starting point of 65RPM, to 70, 75, 80RPM and move my efforts from Z2, Z3 and then Z4 as the cadences increase.

I did notice an increase in strength and ability to turn over bigger gears after I started doing this last season. Is it because of the low cadence work, or just because I'm getting stronger from other work as the season progresses? I can't say.

If anything it helps me give structure to weekday trainer sessions during base making them slightly more enjoyable.
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Old 01-17-12, 01:41 PM
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When I first started doing the big gear work I jumped into a group ride and did it from start to finish in the 53x11.



Then I did it again the following week and it was much easier.

Last week I set a PB around my training loop (5.7 miles) in the 53x11
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Old 01-17-12, 01:57 PM
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Originally Posted by fordfasterr View Post
When I first started doing the big gear work I jumped into a group ride and did it from start to finish in the 53x11.



Then I did it again the following week and it was much easier.

Last week I set a PB around my training loop (5.7 miles) in the 53x11
Understand that like you, I do long big gear sessions (e.g., 1.5 hours at tempo); for me its to develop force as that's one of my weaknesses, so I can beat guys like you this year But I think others may argue that it's hard to prove that your improvement wouldn't have happened in a similar or better fashion by spinning a 53*17 at a higher cadence for the entire group rides.

Nice to see another vege on the board (though I don't have quite the discipline to be full-on vegan).
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Old 01-17-12, 01:57 PM
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Originally Posted by teetopkram View Post
Wuss, I run a 60x56 with a 6-15 straight block cassette. (this is funny if you know how pathetically weak I am).
Right now I'm doing well if I get into the smaller half of the cassette in the 44, so like 44x15. I'm still avg about 14 mph on the trainer, maybe 14.5 on a good day.
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Old 01-17-12, 02:23 PM
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Originally Posted by Racer Ex View Post
Q: Which is better, carbohydrates or protein?

Yeah, it's like that.

The first relevant question is what specifically were you trying to accomplish during this training session? If you don't have a clearly defined answer (and "get stronger" is not a clearly defined answer) then it's really a bit of a red herring asking if low cadence super FTP work has any benefit. Besides, before we get to that question there's several more that need to be answered and then you ideally you design a workout around those answers.

Then you chart progress to define an answer for you, because there's no uniform h0m0 Sapien response to any particular training stress than generates an unequivocal yes or no as to benefit. Responses are individual, at best you can determine whether something is likely to produce a benefit or not in most people.

And FWIW, just because someone writes a book doesn't mean their opinions should be help up as divinely inspired and not questioned.
bless.
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Old 01-17-12, 03:32 PM
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i tend to mash, so i do most of my winter work in a easier than comfortable gear to work out "smoothness" or efficiency of my pedalstroke

i also do low cadence climb intervals on my TT bike (like 2-3 min at ftp, 60rpm) for resistance training

both are based on nuggets of advice and science i've picked up here and there. resistance training apparently impoves TT performance considerably.

i dunno we'll see.

mostly changing it up keeps it from getting boring and jsut about any overload followed by an appropriate recovery is gonna provide some gains.

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Old 01-17-12, 05:28 PM
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Originally Posted by fordfasterr View Post
When I first started doing the big gear work I jumped into a group ride and did it from start to finish in the 53x11.



Then I did it again the following week and it was much easier.

Last week I set a PB around my training loop (5.7 miles) in the 53x11
3 hours z3 low cadence (70-85). One of my favorite workouts early in the season. It makes me baselevel fast not peak level fast, so i can do it as early as december, without risking peaking too early.
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Old 01-17-12, 05:47 PM
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I don't read all the studies. And I'm not an expert on exercise physiology. I didn't stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night, but ...

... common sense tells me that by training mashing of big gears will make you good at mashing big gears.

If you find the need to mash big gears in a race then you should do that in your training.
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Old 01-17-12, 06:49 PM
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My view on it is if you can gain the ability to put out more torque, when you apply that to a higher cadence you can push a bigger gear. IMO it's applicable if you're one of those who's legs are dead before your aerobic system.

Last edited by veloboy971; 01-17-12 at 09:39 PM.
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