Cannot improve sprint

Discussion in 'Cycling Training' started by Dave_K, Aug 24, 2008.

  1. Dave_K

    Dave_K New Member

    Aug 28, 2007
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    A few years ago I was a pretty good sprinter (or at least much better than now), but since then I've had two pretty big crashes (both involving cars and quite a few broken bones). I have completely lost my ability to sprint and cannot seem to get it back. Doctors believe that there are no injuries from the crashes that could be causing this. I've decided to change my training to only work on sprints, but I'm seeing almost no change whatsoever. The last three weeks I've been doing a training race on Thursday (1:00 - 1:10 long with 10 sprints), 20 20-second sprints on Saturday and 10 1-minute L6 intervals on Sunday. The other days are all 1 hour recovery rides. So far my 5-second power has "improved" from 975 to 980 watts. My 1-minute power has remained the same. I haven't done a maximum 1-min test since it's tough to put in 9 more after that, but my average power outputs for the 10 1:00 efforts are pretty much unchanged after the three weeks. One thing I'll say - recovery takes a lot longer with these efforts than any L4 or L5 training I've done! I'm going to start taking Tuesdays completely off the bike instead of a recovery ride since my legs are usually still quite sore then. Is it possible that 4 recovery days a week are still not enough? I know that weight training is generally not seen as necessary for cyclists, but is that maybe the direction I should go? I'm hoping that there's a glaringly obvious problem with my training that I am just not seeing!


  2. Julian G.

    Julian G. New Member

    Dec 17, 2006
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    Well it could be, I figure that if 500 watts is suposed to be equal to leg pressing 60 pounds per leg (aka 120 pounds), then the 1k to 2k watts of a good to world class sprint works out to something like leg pressing 240-480 pounds. Personally those figures wouldn't require any weight training (my max leg press being something like 600 pounds), however, I've been getting the impression that I'm more "gifted" towards the anareobic end of the spectrum. It is certainly possible that weight training could benifit you, as there certainly are people who can't generate the 240 pounds of force per leg to genererate a 2k watt sprint.

    Of course, that is just "what I figure". I would get on google to look into this further, or wait for somone who has more of a clue than me to drop you a line. I definitely wouldn't start hitting the weights based on just what I said.
  3. Alex Simmons

    Alex Simmons Member

    Mar 12, 2006
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    Aside from possible functional impairment due to injury recovery, the thing that strikes me when I read some of the above is to do less quantity and more quality.

    With sprinting, you gotta get fast first, then work on going longer. Otherwise you just end up with a long slow sprint.

    Some of this progression involves maximal efforts of 6-10 seconds.
  4. Roadie_scum

    Roadie_scum New Member

    Nov 14, 2003
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    That was my thought too... long rests too.
  5. wiredued

    wiredued New Member

    Aug 17, 2004
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    This sounds new to me my impression before was training in L7 was just to sharpen sprinting before a race how trainable is sprinting? I mean if SST got me to 1200w how much more can I get by training L7? Am I the only one or does training L7 blow out your knees?:)

  6. Alex Simmons

    Alex Simmons Member

    Mar 12, 2006
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    Only one way to find out. ;)

    NMP responds well to freshness. It most definitely is trainable. Ask Chris Hoy.
    But like most of our physiological makeup, there is a strong genetic element. And depending on how far you want to take it, it may also require sacrifices in other elements of (aerobic) performance.

    It shouldn't and suggests a possible set up problem.
  7. Animator

    Animator New Member

    Mar 17, 2007
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    I can relate to you, Dave. I used to have a really good sprint too (for a local amateur), but when I got back to racing a few years ago I had totally lost it. Very frustrating to be outsprinted by skinny climber dudes, let me tell you! My PM now confirms my current mediocre sprinting power (but above average 1m power).

    At first, I thought it might come back more or less on its own the more I rode, but no dice. Then I tried emphasizing the sprint workouts for a time, but without seeing much improvement. But maybe I was doing it wrong? I can hold my mediocre sprint for a long time (20-30 seconds). Maybe Alex's recommendation will help. Or perhaps these old legs just won't sprint anymore -- nah, that can't be it!

    It sure would be nice to have a sprint again!
  8. Piotr

    Piotr New Member

    Jan 29, 2007
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    Highest power numbers occur when you accellerate. You don't accellerate for 20 seconds, do you? Keep 'em short and maximal and recover well between.
  9. Piotr

    Piotr New Member

    Jan 29, 2007
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    Last weekend the lack of dedicated L7 training this year blew my race. :) I couldn't make the winning break, because the initial accelleration was just too much. Let's not forget that sprint training = core strength training and I think my small upper body did me in. :eek:
  10. Dave_K

    Dave_K New Member

    Aug 28, 2007
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    I guess I've really been trying to address two issues at the same time - lack of L7 power and lack of L6 power. The 20-second efforts were all flat-out, but we all know that the power drops dramatically after about 8 seconds and shifts to L6. I just would have thought that a few months of this type of training would have gotten me more than a 5-watt increase in my 5-second power. Don't get me wrong - I'll GLADY give up those torturous workouts! I think what Alex said makes sense in that you have to develop the maximal L7 power before it can be applied to L6 power. It still seems that doing 20-second maximal sprints should increase my maximal power output, but recovering from 8-second sprints is much, much easier than 20-second sprints, so it would allow me to do maximal efforts more than just 2x a week. And I'm convinced that 1-minute efforts are the most evil workouts known to man, so I won't exactly miss those!
  11. Animator

    Animator New Member

    Mar 17, 2007
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    Pay attention to your form too. It's possible you developed bad habits after your crashes. Not using your arms properly can cost you 100W or more. I sometimes inexplicably push on the bars instead of pull. Keep at it!

  12. Jono L

    Jono L Well-Known Member

    Apr 28, 2005
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    errrr since when? and how?
  13. RHR38

    RHR38 New Member

    Sep 7, 2005
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    Many slow guys are fast at the end of road race and vice versa meaning you can't win one you can't stay with :D

    20 sec efforts are quite bad as they produce lactate so that they disturb neuromuscular process already, but do not give good stimulus to lactate removal, that is important even in organised sprints. I would keep NMP efforts shorter than 10 sec and work with lactate removal with 1-2K (all out) efforts. 10 seconds at 60 km/h is about 160 metres when you do your final move in 1 to 1 sprint. That's all you need. Good placing and team tactical movements mean so much.

    5 sec @ 980 watts sounds so low if it's made by adult person?
  14. Piotr

    Piotr New Member

    Jan 29, 2007
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    1. Since cyclists have been doing sprints. 2. By engaging upper body in sprinting. Personally, I don't know how not to. When I start doing sprints after a layoff, it's not the legs that hurt for the next few days. Do we need to get into the definitions of core strength vs. endurance?
  15. Meek One

    Meek One New Member

    May 5, 2004
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    Little harsh, huh... :cool:
  16. Steve_B

    Steve_B New Member

    Dec 31, 2006
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    I generally need to directly work on something two or more times per week to see significant, rapid improvements. I would also say that L6 training may not be necessarily the best training for L7 and those sprints during the training race may not be that effective at training your neuromuscular power as the other dedicated sprint training you are doing.

    Are the dedicated sprints you are doing from a dead stop (or close to it)? If that is your measure of progress (where the 980 W came from), then you may not be hitting that during your training race because the conditions are different (fatigue, speed, it's in the middle of an aerobic effort, etc.) I found that my sprint power from a dead stop improved when I worked on sprinting from a dead stop. (Huge increase in the initial torque I could produce.) However, that didn't necessarily mean that I could produce more during the conditions when I would actually use my sprint (a race, where I was never coming from a dead stop as I'm not a track racer).

    I guess I'm saying that you need to pick your metric to guage your improvement correctly.

    BTW - right now, my 5-sec max is ~980 W and I am an 40-something adult. It's been as high as ~1150 W (from a dead stop) with a lot of dedicated work. However, I have mostly neglected it lately as I haven't been getting into the right breakaways where I would need to use it.
  17. Steve_B

    Steve_B New Member

    Dec 31, 2006
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    Based upon what data? There are plenty of adults that are in that range. One is a guy named Floyd Landis.
  18. simplyred

    simplyred New Member

    Sep 27, 2007
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    "I am currently the Strength and Conditioning Coach for the Australian
    National Sprint Cycling Team and have been for about five years. I am also
    the Strength Scientist for the South Australian Sports Institute in
    Adelaide, Australia, where the National Sprint Program is based. In
    addition, for "fun", I help coach a group of developmental sprint cyclists,
    which form the core of our SA State Sprint team and half of whom are now in
    the Top 10 sprinters in Australia, which would make them National champions
    in all but a handful of countries and, when I get time, I roll around the
    track myself.

    Some points (for free):

    1. We don't keep any secrets from anyone, including the Poms, the Frogs, Ze
    Germans or the Yanks. In fact, people just generally don't believe what we
    tell them, disagree or their programs (or minds) are too set in concrete to
    change. We invite other top riders to train with us and they get faster, but
    they go home and do the same old thing. The Head Coach, support staff and I
    are happy to tell anyone and everyone what we do. We usually just don't get
    time to sit around on chat rooms or make social chit chat on E-mail, let
    alone write a book.

    What Charlie Walsh and Gary West used to do with our sprinters when they
    were the Head Coaches was state of the art at the time and they are both
    great coaches. You will not find anyone in Australian Cycling who will
    question that or say a word against what they did at the time, but times
    have changed and those methods are not quite enough to consistently hit the
    top spots now, although you can still be troublesome internationally if
    you've got natural speed. The top speeds have gone to a new level and to
    reach that level, you have to specialise your sprint riders more. I'm sure
    if Charlie and Westy were still coaching the Oz team, they wouldn't be doing
    exactly the same things they were doing ten years ago. They are too smart
    for that.

    Most of what we do is based on methods and research that have been around
    for decades but have not been applied to cycling. It has mostly been used in
    athletics and we have copied a lot from that and what the French and Germans
    have done at various times. The Brits were formerly coached by our current
    Head Track Coach, so they do a lot of similar things too. What the Dutch are
    doing now, I'm not sure, but they were mostly all speed skaters before they
    were top cyclists, so maybe there's something in that.

    2. We are constantly trying new things and changing what we do, so what we
    do this year will be different to what we did last year and so on. Australia
    is a small country and is competing with some real powerhouses in terms of
    talent pools, resources and money that we can't even dream of matching, so
    we have to be a step ahead or we're not in the race.

    3. What sprinters did 10 years ago is completely different to what most of
    the top sprinters are doing now. The critical factors that determine success
    or failure have changed. Tactics have changed and the tournament formats
    have changed. Training that would win 10 years ago is generally not as
    successful today, but every dog has his or her day and some old-school
    trainers still come out on top now and again, but it is happening less and

    4. Our philosophy is simple. Most events are speed endurance. To win you
    need to go faster for longer than the other guy or gal. Some riders are
    better at faster, some are better at longer, but they generally need a bit
    of both. To have speed endurance, first you need speed. If you can't ride
    5.0 for a flying 100m, you won't ride 10.1 for a 200m. Speed is hard to
    train and takes a long time. Endurance is easy by comparison and we just
    chuck that on at the end. To get up to speed, you need acceleration and that
    means power. Power is a combination of strength and speed. The speed part
    you get on the track, the strength you get in the gym. Low cadence power
    (0-120rpm or so) we can train in the gym too, but high cadence power
    (120-200rpm) is too fast to do in the gym and you generally need to be
    chasing a maniac on a motorbike (e.g., our Head Coach) down the bank to
    increase that. Or at least, someone faster than you to break the wind so you
    can go overspeed.

    5. Aerobic Capacity (VO2max, AT) is the base for enduros, strength is the
    base for sprinters. We do three gym sessions and two track sessions for most
    of the year. Road is just for recovery, to keep them a little bit lean and
    to keep the sprinters out of the pub and out of trouble. It is generally a
    max of 2hrs, but mostly only 1 and is very easy - talking the whole time.

    6. When strength is the focus, we don't care what numbers they pump out on
    track, just what they lift. When power or speed is the focus, we back the
    gym off (2/wk and easier sessions) so we can get the numbers we want on the
    track (3-4/wk). Generally, half the year is spent focussed on strength and
    half on power and speed (roughly - depends on competitive calendar) although
    we always train a bit of everything, it's just the proportion of each that
    changes. The strength work is not all done in one block. We cycle through
    strength, power and speed at least twice per year.

    7. Gym is generally 3-4sets of 3 max lower body strength or power lifts -
    early in the phase, two strength and one power, later, two power and one
    strength. I don't use cleans, jerks or snatches with our current riders -
    they are too technical for maximal efforts unless you have years of
    experience. We do one bilateral strength lift each session for "core"
    strength (Squat, Deadlift, Romanian Deadlift) - usually lower back is the
    limiting factor not legs and this is the only reason I use these lifts - for
    back strength in standing starts. The rest of the lifts are unilateral. How
    many feet do you push each pedal with at one time? If you train bilaterally
    you get stronger bilaterally and unilateral strength lags behind. If you
    train unilaterally, you get stronger unilaterally. It's a neural thing.

    Single-leg Press is our bread and butter. Different foot and hip positions
    for different phases of pedal stroke, standing, seated, etc. I use high
    speed video to match joint angles and velocities for each rider. We mainly
    do it ballistically for power - throw the sled as far as you can - at
    different percentages of max to match up to different muscle contraction
    velocities for different phases of the acceleration (different cadences). We
    do a lot of single-leg plyos on boxes, stairs, bunjee sleds, etc during
    speed phases. Strength and power gains are extremely specific and do not
    necessarily transfer well. When Ryan Bayley beat Sean Eadie in the
    Commonwealth Games sprint final in 2002, Sean was tripling 250kg for a
    parallel back squat and Ryan was tripling 120kg. On single-leg press, they
    were much closer (20kg) and so was the racing.

    Single-leg squats (front and back) and deadlifts usually make up the third
    exercise and are as much for pelvic stability as strength. I'm going to try
    single-leg pulls and cleans this year, but these will not be our primary
    power exercises - more of a preparation for the work before Beijing. We have
    done SL squats, deadlifts and pulls for years now and the riders are pretty
    stable. An example of numbers - our best single-leg squat figures are 3 @
    165kg on each leg (just over 360lbs). The weakest of the girls (who just
    entered the squad this year) is 3 @ 80kg on each leg, but she only weighs
    about 50kg. Two riders have done the 165kg so far. We have riders who can do
    sets of standing hops onto 1m+ boxes. The lowest is for one of the girls and
    is a 70cm box for sets of 8 each leg.

    8. Upper body, we do two exercise per session (a push and a pull in the same
    plane of movement, different each day) in general prep and two per week in
    specific prep (both pulls) so they can keep hold of the handlebars in
    standing starts. The girls are starting to push themselves off the bike,
    their legs are so strong (around 3 @ 250kg on each leg for the girls and up
    to 350kg for the guys on SLP). Abs and core, we do two per session - one
    mainly flexion, one mainly extension. Some have rotational or lateral
    components, but not isometric holds or pilates mumbo jumbo. If their "core
    stability" is poor, they wouldn't be able to squat on one leg. Lying on the
    ground and waving your legs in the air doesn't transfer to the bike. That
    might annoy the physio's and guru's who make money out of Swiss balls and
    all that stuff, but I tried it for three years in 20 different sports and it
    didn't make any difference to performance or injury rates. They get really
    good at balancing on a ball, but there's no Olympic event for that. It
    doesn't transfer to the sport. Fix their technical problems in the actual
    technique (soapbox time is now over).

    9. A Gym session lasts about 2.5-3 hours for 6 or 7 exercises, a maximum of
    33 sets including 12 warm-ups sets, so that's about one set every six
    minutes or more on average. We don't set maximum rests, just minimums. If
    they need longer to get their heads in gear, they take it. Ryan Bayley is
    the slowest trainer in the world. Lucky he's so bloody fast, they'll pay my
    bill to sit there and talk about muscle cars and heavy metal music. Reps are
    a maximum of 6 for strength, and 4 - 15 for power (less for high percentages
    - 60-70% max, more for low percentages - 20%, or BW for plyos) Total
    contraction time for a set (not counting hang time in the air) is around
    6-8s max - phosphate energy system all the way. Minimum of 2 min rest, but
    that is never in danger. Only the phosphate energy system can deliver energy
    fast enough for maximal work and you've got about 8s max.

    10. On the track they take about 3 hours for 3 or 4 efforts including half
    hour warm-up routine - same as pre-race warm-up. Warm-up, change gears,
    roll-up, effort, roll down 20-30min rest, roll-up, effort, etc. Lot's more
    rest. Rest usually consists of sitting on their arses, paying out on each
    other, drinking Coca Cola (sponsorship please - the Coke bill is killing us)
    and the occasional chocolate cake. This is especially good when there is a
    joint sprinter/enduro training session. (Enduros don't get any cake -
    they're too paranoid about body fat). In general prep phase, the sprinters
    ride to track and gym (15-20min easy each way) and in spec prep, they drive..
    Each track effort is no longer than about 15s and usually less than 10s.
    Again, mainly phosphate system.

    11. The one thing we do that most coaches can't cop is this. If you don't
    make the target times or loads on the first effort or set, you warm down and
    go home. You aren't fresh enough to train at a level that will make you
    improve. If you do a PB, you warm down and go home. If you are on fire that
    much you can blow yourself to pieces in a couple of sets or efforts and it
    will take weeks to dig you out of the hole you put yourself in, so whatever
    it is, if you PB, you stop and come back next time. This philosophy takes
    everyone a while to accept, but it works. When we don't follow the rules, if
    we let someone pump out a series of PBs in one session, they are almost
    invariably wrecked for weeks afterwards and we never get close to quality
    training during that time. Sometimes, you can see it coming, but sometimes
    it just comes out of the blue. When it does, warm down, go home. Sometimes,
    at lower levels you can get away with it, but the better you get, the more
    capacity you have to exceed your normal limits, the more this becomes
    important. Enduros don't need to do this. Everything is submaximal.

    12. In general prep, the sprinters might do 2 x 1hr easy aerobic/coffee
    rides per week and an easier recovery ride on days off (unless the're too
    fat, then they might do 2hrs and less chocolate cake). This year, we are
    doing a total of six aerobic development rides (over Christmas - fat time).
    In spec prep, they just do the recovery rides.

    13. We generally always do track after gym. Gym in mornings (8:30am-11/12)
    track in the arvo (2:30/3pm-5:30/6pm). If the gym session is too hard, it
    will bugger them for track. As I said, for about half the year, we don't
    care. For the other half, I water down the gym so the track work is 100%.
    There is some short term potentiation from doing some maximal strength or
    power efforts but the research is not clear on time frames since everyone
    does something different. This is one thing we are looking at. If we do two
    maximal power ergo tests (6s with 4-5min recovery), the second one is always
    much better. The same has been shown with some contrast-loading studies on
    squats and plyos, etc., but an equal number of studies have shown no effect..
    The time courses and stimuli are always different though, so it's hard to
    compare. I think there's something in it so if you find something that works
    for you, go with it. The exception is start sessions. We never do standing
    starts after gym. If we do, they are always crap sessions.

    14. Coming up to the major comp for the year (Worlds or Olympics), we slot
    in a speed endurance block. This involves the addition of some longer
    sustained efforts or sets of short efforts with low recovery once or twice
    per week, usually one on an ergo and one on the track. This increases the
    muscles ability to buffer hydrogen ions from the anaerobic glycolysis energy
    pathway that you have to rely on when the phosphates run out and increases
    the enzyme capacity of that pathway as well, so it can run at a higher
    level. Adaptation is relatively fast and 6-8wks will usually give a massive
    increase in this capacity.

    15. Here's the logic.
    Volume is a speed killer. It doesn't matter what you do, if you do a lot, it
    will make you slower. The protein in your muscles (myosin heavy chain
    isoforms for those who know their molecular biology) will change to a
    slower, more endurance friendly type if you do too much volume. This is
    individually variable, but two sessions every day of anything will make you
    slower as will lots of aerobic work. You might still be fast for an enduro,
    but in sprinter terms, you're still slow.

    Going slow makes you slow. If you want to be able to go faster, then going
    at less than maximal speed generally won't do it. If it does, then you
    weren't operating at 100% before. That's OK. Most people can't switch
    everything on. You have to practice it. It takes years to reach your 100%
    level even without any actual physiological improvement. Most sprint events
    require sustained power output at cadences over 160rpm. If you don't
    practice this, you won't get good at it. Most people will spend all their
    bickies just getting up to 160rpm on a decent gear, so to train maximally at
    that level, you have to get up to 160rpm without using up your phosphate
    stores. That's where the motor bike comes in. Use the slipstream to get up
    to max speed or over and then spend your bickies. That way you work
    maximally at maximal speed. You have to train your nervous system to
    coordinate your muscular contractions at that speed.

    Same in the gym. If all you do is slow, heavy. You get STRONG and SLOW. You
    need to do most of your work at race speeds using submaximal loads but at
    high speeds. If you can't do single-leg stuff, then Olympic pulling
    movements are your next best option, but unloaded plyos are more important
    for higher cadences. You don't need to be able to clean or snatch or jerk.
    The pull phase from the floor to full hip and knee extension is where the
    gains come from. What happens after that doesn't matter. You can throw the
    bar out of the window and the gains will be the same. I would only recommend
    this on your last rep as most gym owners get quite irate about their
    equipment being heaved out into the street, as do passing pedestrians. The
    overspeed work will come as you try to get away.

    Use your maximum capacities at the maximum rate and in as specific a way as
    possible to transfer to the bike. I can outlift all our top riders in the
    gym and out-power them on the ergo, but I'm not in the race on the track. I
    can't put my power through the bike into the track. I'm just not technically
    as good as they are. Ryan Bayley may look like a monkey humping a tennis
    ball when he sprints but most of his power is getting onto the track.


    Weight training for enduros - the same strategies apply but maximal strength
    and power are less critical. All endurance riding, even the bunch sprint at
    the end, is really submaximal. A little bit of gym regularly helps to
    maintain the structural integrity of the body, prevent imbalances and
    prepare you for crashes, but the real gains come on the road. Racing is the
    best training. All our best track enduros race on the road in Europe. They
    come together for camps to touch up their track skills, but all of that was
    learnt as juniors and in domestic track racing on the way up. For strength
    endurance on the bike, ride up hills in the saddle on bigger gears. That was
    the only strength work out team pursuit did for the last three years and
    they won everything there was to win with a bucket load of world records to
    boot. Incidentally, they are also the fastest starters."

    Hope that helps!
    Good luck - learn to flush that phosphate quickly...
  19. Alex Simmons

    Alex Simmons Member

    Mar 12, 2006
    Likes Received:
    Not any more they're not....
  20. Dave_K

    Dave_K New Member

    Aug 28, 2007
    Likes Received:
    All of my sprints have been in the 80-130RPM range from a rolling start. In the 20x:20 sprints I get a little momentum from a downhill and then go all-out as the road turns slightly upwards. Sometimes I keep the cadence on the lower end to work on strength, other times I work on leg speed, but they all start at no lower than 80 RPM. In the Thursday training race I'm able to hit my max 5s power at least 4-5 times since I've basically just been sitting in until 200M to go on each of the points laps. The reason I've been doing the training race is because the pace varies constantly, so it's a little bit of everything. That being said, it's clearly not enough of anything! I'm still trying to figure out if it is a training issue or a crash-related issue that's holding me back since I've seen literally no improvement for months. I've thrown in a few on-the-bike recovery weeks, quite a few days completely off the bike, etc, but am still coming up empty.

    Simplyred, that was some good reading! I don't think I'd be able to do plyometrics or explosive leg presses because of the screws that are now in my tibia plateau, but there were some good theories in there. The beauty of PURE L7 workouts is the minimal recovery time, so they can be done multiple times per week. They were talking about Ryan Bayley in that thread - I've seen Ryan Bayley sprint in person, and it is the most psychotic thing you'll ever see in bike racing!