Developing explosive power



What is the most effective way to increase explosive power?

I was told to do weighted squats combined with full speed training on rollers. My coach told me to use about 90 - 100 kg weights and do small sets to build up the muscle and promote leg power. I usually ride my highest gear for about 30 minutes every day. Crude methodsand they dont seem to be working for me.
I am not a sprinter I am a much better climber but here is my thoughts.You need to answer one question are you a track or road rider. Here is what I would for a roas rider. I would do squats with the weight set at your body weight or more. I would do them quickly, as to train the muscle for quick power out put. On the bike I would do, and have done interval training. They hurt when done right but they will give you better power. I am not a coach, but have 16 years under my belt. Good luck.
Hi guys, a good place to search for training articles is[] it is called Coach Carl online it is full of great articles and if you wish you can subscibe to a program.
Hope this helps.
regards, sillystorm
I assume you want to develop explosive power for:
  • attacking the bunch
  • responding to an attack
  • bunch sprinting for the line?
A good way to train your muscles for sudden bursts of speed is to sprint from lamp-post to lamp-post. Find yourself a flatish section of road with some street-lights or other markers. Sprint flat-out from one marker to the next, skip four or five markers or until you have recovered and then repeat. Remember that sprints are short lived, so trying to sprint for 5 kms is not going to help you much. You can also practice this with your training buddies. Let each of you have a chance of calling the sprint. Don't let the others now when you are going to call the sprint. Ride easily, and then suddenly attack. See if you can catch and outsprint your buddies.
Seems the data file for this thread had the wrong permissions and ownerships for some reason, members were not able to write to it.

It should be ok to post replies to this thread now, sorry about the inconvenience! :mad:

Thanks admin :)

When out with the guys we always sprint for speed signs.

I find the best way to develop explosive power is to find a longish uphill drag and attack it quite hard. When you're getting tired close to the top start sprinting for as long as you can over the top.

The other way is to do intervals like Vo2 said. But increase your HR very rapidly for short maximum effort bursts with a few minutes rest in-between.

trust me, it's a short cut to injury.
weights should always be performed in a SLOW, CONTROLLED MANNER.

anyway, weights aren't particularly useful to cyclists - no weight training machine recreates the same effect on the muscles as a bike...

so, do the kind of traing riders like chris boardman and lance armstrong do:

right, basic maths lesson:

power = force x velocity

to increase the power you can produce you have to either increase the force you can produce (i.e. get STRONGER), get faster (eg be able to PEDAL SUPER FAST), or, most effective all, a combination of the two...

to get stronger do muscle tension intervals (as prescribed by LA's coach Chris Carmichael) - LA apparently does 2 or 3 (i forget) x 8mins up an incline in a gear between 53x12 and 53x15. the cadence should be slow 50-60 rpm as you are trying to make the force in the muscle HUGE! loads of tension in the muscle = strength gains ;D

now, to improve speed:
well you need to be able to pedal faster right?
this means you have to improve your technique
if you're hips are bouncing around at 120rpm then you're never going to be able to pedal properly at say 160rpm.

now's the time of year (in the northern hemispher at least) to really be working on pedalling technique. it's best done when you're fresh. what i like to do is ride as small a gear as i can on club runs. while everyone else is going along 53x19 at 80rpm, really comfortable, i'm desperately trying to keep up in 39x19. when i get tired i move up a few gears, recover, then start again.
i also challenge my riding buddies to low gear sprints: we all get in a similar gear - normally 39x17 and sprint for a sign. it's quite possible to get to 50kph even in that small gear ;)

the important thing is that you should really try and relax: sit IN the saddle (rather than ON it) and try and keep your hips and upper body perfectly still.

with this improved pedalling technique and increased strength, the combined result will be doubly improved power!
Andy, I was going to start a thread on pedal technique and i may still do that. The best way to evaluate whether your technique is efficient is to try pedalling with one leg. If it's not completely smooth then you have to work on it.
Hi all,

I'm new here, but I saw this post and just had to throw in my .02. First off, let me give a little background on myself. I've been the cycling world for over fifteen years, as road/track dude. Due to my size 6' 1" 200+ lbs., I've focused on the track as a sprint specialist. I've qualified for two olympic trials, been to nationals a few times, and made in to the first rounds the last go round. Oh, and have a district medal or two. I also have a competitive swimming background and am a certified personal trainer.

Ok, the point of all this drivel is to qualify myself before I go shooting off my mouth. all right, with that said, here I go. The last post by Andy_Waterman, would be about 95+% correct. BUT the one big problem with what Andy said, was the part about the weights. (the explosive movements) Now, even that wasn't too far off the mark, i.e., lifting in a uncontrolled manner. That's very bad. There are certain techniques, like compensatory acceleration, that are very effective in developing explosive power. Doing olympic lifts, (clean & jerk, ******) are also very good for developing explosive power.

Andy, did also have a point about non-specific movements. But, you must remember that part of being a cyclist isn't just being a cyclist. You want to have a base of good athletics. You can take a good athlete and make a good cyclist, but you can't take an out of shape person and make them a good athlete, let alone a good cyclist.

The key here, is to take that raw power you've developed in the weight room and convert it to specific cycling power. So, some fundamental things to do are, First look at your pedaling technique, just your ability for smooth round action. AND concurrently work on your raw power. And as you come in to season effectively marry the two to have on the bike power, you see in guys like Marty Nothsteen. (sorry for the misspelling.)

If you have more questions or specific questions, drop me an e-mail.
O.k. I admit that my response was aimed predominantly at road riders.

Most of the strength development required by road riders can be brought about through the neural development that strength training will facilitate. These neural developments are best brought about by performing the specific movement you are looking to ultimately improve. i.e. PEDALLING

Now track sprinting is a whole different ball game.  To be a track sprinter you need to produce HUGE amounts of force.  It's very hard to develop the sheer muscle size required purely by riding a bike.  Therefore weight training is innevitable and VERY necesary.  For road riders however excess bulk - whether that be fat or muscle - will ultimately detrimental to your performance and the development of it should be avoided.

As regard weight training, it should always be a means to an end.  What are you training for - to be an Olympic lifter or a racing cyclist (of whatever discipline).  In my opinion specificity is a much overlooked factor of athletes in the west.  Former eastern block athletes seem to show this up at every oportunity.  Think of javelin throwing in athletics: I'm British and therefore think of Steve Backley - he's a VERY big guy, obviously spent a lot of time in the weights room.  does he ever win? not really. the world record holder is Jan Zelezny, a czech, who is of much smaller build but who has the technique down to perfection.  I could come up with examples from almost every sport, my ultimate point being that Olympic style weight lifting movements are not the best way to get strong for anything other than Olympic weight lifting.

Jeez, I think I've had too much cofee this morning, sorry if the above is a bit incoherent.  

The person I respect most in the strength training world has to be a guy called Matt Brzycki; he really cuts through all the bulls$*t that surrounds weight training.

here's a link to an article by him:
Hi Andy,

I see you and I, will be doing a lot of conversing. ;)  Ok, I do understand that road cycling does require maximum muscle efficiency, do to the need for optimal power to weight ratios.  But, we must understand the line between, optimal efficiency, i.e., power to weight ratio vs. your (and this is the key, here) goals.  Now in the case of a Match Sprinter, like myself it's fairly simple.  As, you astutely stated, I need sheer power and let's not forget like ANY elite level cyclist, maximal pedaling efficiency.  This where all cyclists will gain most success, and why we all, trackies & roadies are on our bike day in and day out.

Training not only hearts and lungs, but also muscles and nervous systems to turn nice round circles, REALLY REALLY fast…

For a roadie, it's more complicated.  Here is we're get into the X factor of cycling, or of sport in general.  The idea of individuality…  Meaning, am I a road sprinter? Or am I a TT guy? Or can I climb hill like an angel?  See this is where for as much as both Andy & I can spout on how we both, "just know so much about cycling!"  But if we don't (or you, for that matter) don't know what your strengths and weaknesses are, all we can do is speak in generalities on what types, or how 'X' training will work for you.

So to conclude this, sense I'm at work…. Andy, I agree with you for the most part. But, because I come from not just a cycling background, and have seen the benefits of strength training in other sports I've participated in. I can't say that strength training won't help you in cycling, road and definitely track cycling. Oh, which I forgot to add can most definitely help your explosive power in a VERY specific way.

So, if you have a local track I'd invite you to check it out…  
i was wondering what amount of weight work etc would be neccecary for me.? At the Monment i only Cyle and dont weight train. what amount / other training is benificial? ps i dont want to be arnold swartzeneger ;D. just enough to be of benefit. i am of medium/slim build and 66kg. 175cm if that helps?
Yeah, I'm also interested. I do have a basic understanding of weight training and used to train with dudes that knew what they were doing, but the program was not cycling specific.
Nicholas, you and I have very similar stats ;)
cjfast and Andy come well qualified and informed regarding this, so maybe they can dish-up a nice cycling specific weight training program for us.
cjfast and Andy, whatya say guys? and Sean, maybe you can do that pedalling thread for us? Majority of cyclists don't pedal, they stomp
You don't even have to go to the gym to build up leg power.

I do one-legged squats at home. Using one leg at a time requires a lot of leg power and it also indicates if one leg is weaker than the other.

I usually put one leg out in front of me on a low chair/stool and keep the leg straight as I go down (as low as possible). Stand next to a wall for to help balance. If the quad isn't strong enough to do a couple then use a chair too for additional support and a bit of help.

Stretch the quad lightly before you do this and even do 10 (or more) squats using both legs and no weights. Stretch the quad well afterwards.

I find this helps for me but Andy or cjfast may have better ideas?
Did you guys check out that link I put into my last link.

It really deserves a good look.
here it is again:

That article (and a book I have by the same guy) make me feel that a lot of the so called "cycling specific" strength training programs espoused by the likes of Edmund R Burke and Joe Friel are really no more likely to give "cycling specific" results than other strength training programs

just about any type of strength-training program has the potential to produce favorable results  
from the link above.

The effects that strength training has on your physique are largely genetic - people with a lot of fast twitch muscle fibres are going to gain bulk a lot more quickly than someone who has a lot of slow twitch fibres.

At 175cm and 66kg I'm guessing Nicholas is pretty good in the hills and isn't very muscular.
That probably means that you're physically incapable of bulking up Arnie style.
And that's just tough I'm afraid.  You're going to have to content yourself with whupping (fat) ass up the hills.

Here's another (rather massive i admit) quote from the same author. The link for this (there's more to this article too) is:

It is said that free weights are more advantageous for building muscular size and strength, while machines are merely for toning and shaping muscles. But is this a reasonable asserton?

To examine this matter, it's first necessary to understand the requirements for increasing the size and strength of muscles. First, a resistance (or "load") must be applied to a muscle. Second, the resistance must be made progressively more challenging from one workout to the next. It's that simple. Certainly, other ingredients are also important in weight training, but to improve muscular size and strength, these are the two basic requirements.

What about the nature of the resistance? A number of studies show that muscle development occurs the same way, whether using free weights or machines. A 10-week study compared groups training three times per week with either free weights or machines.5 Both groups significantly increased strength and lean body mass and deceased body fat. There were no significant differences between the groups. Similar results were found in another 10-week study examining a group using machines and a group using free weights.4

The bottom line is that muscles cannot possibly "know" whether the source of the resistance is a barbell, a dumbbell, a selectorized machine, a plate-loaded machine or a cinder block. The sole factors in determining muscular response from weight training are genetic makeup and level of intensity -- not the equipment used.

Athletic specificity. The second area of controversy generally pertains to specificity. Some individuals feel that specific sports skills can be improved by simulating them with added resistance. Unfortunately, the motor-learning literature does not seem to support this assertion. In one study, competitive swimmers were filmed while sprinting the butterfly.3 The films were digitized and analyzed by computer. Among other things, it was found that swimming using resistance was done with noticeably different -- and less effective -- stroke mechanics compared to swimming without added resistance. In effect, the swimmers were performing different strokes.

The same result occurs when attempting to mimic the movement pattern of a particular sports skill in the weight room with a barbell or dumbbell. No exercise done in the weight room -- with a barbell, dumbbell or machine -- will help improve specific sports skills. At best, this is a waste of time and energy.

Another related argument is that balancing a barbell or a dumbbell is advantageous because this balance will carry over to sports skills. Once again, the relevant research does not appear to confirm this claim. In one study, six tests of dynamic and static balance were examined, and it was found that the abilities supporting one test of balance were separate from those supporting another.1 In other words, the ability to balance a barbell is quite different from the ability to balance the body during a handstand or any other skill requiring balance. Adds John Thomas, the strength and conditioning coach at Penn State, "[Using] free weights may develop general balance, but not specific sport skills."

While watching a basketball game, volleyball match or any other athletic event, try to figure out which teams use free weights, which use machines, which use a combination and which use nothing at all. Obviously, it would be impossible to tell since the source of resistance matters very little, if any, in a person's response to weight training. [/size]

Now that makes sense to me.

So, my opinion is that if you are a match sprinter you go into the weights room to develop the size of the muscles so that they are large enough to produce the force required to win match sprints. Once the muscles are large enough it is necesary to train them to pedal. (that's very simplified I know but that's the general idea right CJ?)

Any weight training program is going to have a larger, more visible, effect on a track sprinter than a small climber purely because they are physiologically very different animals.
Simply put - the sprinter has more potential to gain muscle than a skinny roadie like Nicholas who, try as he might, is unlikely to ever get that "ripped" look.  

As a roadie, the need to add bulk is minimal - the consensus being that "what you gain on the flat you'll lose uphills" - in most cases (e.g. after a lay-off through injury some strength training will be usefull to get the muscles back up to size). That's why very few euro pros do weight training.

What it comes down to is whether you want to do weights to improve your bike riding or to give you a more balanced, attractive (go on, admit it, you all want bay-watch six packs! ;)) If you want to improve your speed and sprinting ability I would reccomend getting down to a velodrome and doing some racing there - you'll soon learn the tactics of sprinting and get used to pedalling fast too.

right, i'm off for a lie down..........

[linked fixed - Vo2]
Very interesting indeed!


I often see ladies with weight-belts strapped around their wrists and ankles while doing aerobics. (ogle-ogle).
If one does the same i.e. strap a weight-belt around the ankles during training rides, would'nt you be getting the best of both worlds? Resistance training via the added weight while performing the actual movement pattern of the pedal stroke?
Ok guys,

Once again, Andy has provided a rather convincing argument against weight training.  The things Andy has touched upon by reference and quote, are good basic observations. But, this also where there's much confusion and misinformation on the science & practice of strength training.

First off gents, we are talking about weight training solely for the maximum performance of athletics. (In this particular case, cycling.)  Not, I repeat, not to be confused with bodybuilding or body sculpting.  The athletes we are talking of, ARE not the guys & girls you see in Muscle & Fitness or some other mass media publications.

The science of strength training is much more then how big can I get, or good I look. What we as cyclists and athletes want to accomplish is the ability to turn a 100+ in gear at over 120 RPM's, or to jump over a bar at 7 + feet in the air, or to run the 100m in under 10s. In other words to be in the 100th percentile in our chosen sport.

Scientific strength training is a means to that end.

Let me be specific, or give some examples. The prime ideas of doing weight training are to, one: maximize your ability to recruit all available muscle fibers for work, i.e., explosive power or starting strength.  Two: inhibiting the neurological response of the Golgi tendon organs to work, i.e., max strength or limit strength.  Three: the increased ability to perform work at higher or longer levels, i.e., power or strength endurance.  There are other types or ways that strength training can be used & incorporated into an overall training program, but those touch on just a few.  

The main goal in strength training with weights is just the same as it is with riding a bike.  First and foremost is neurological training. Training your body to use and recruit motor units asymmetrically for endurance and efficiency, as you sit in the field or in a paceline. Then to fully and symmetrically recruit all muscle fibers for the last burst to the line at 40+ mph.  

To do this doesn't require big muscles, it requires a fully trained cardiovascular systems and neuromuscular development, which weight training can help you accomplish.  A couple points to touch on, in the quote Andy put up on the "non differences" of free weights vs. machines.  The magazine that you're quoting from is a "industry mag" for gym owners.  The main point of magazine itself is to promote your basic gym needs & equipment.

The article itself is kind of interesting and makes some points in very simple way. But I would refer you to publications and articles from places like ACSM (American College of Sport Medicine) or NSCA (National Strength Coach Association) and see what they have to say about the "non differences" of free weight vs. machines.  They'll get quite bit more in detail and have something much different to say…  

See you must remember, specificity is extremely important. But also remember the old adage, " a chain is only as strong as it's weakest link".  That's why you need to have a good basic or core of not just strength, but overall fitness.  

So many good cyclists out there are dealing with injuries do to weak stomach muscle, leg strength imbalances, and tight hamstring & lower backs.  Which can't be fixed, by "just riding your bike".  THE KEY to good overall performance, is good overall fitness!

To use one other sport, all most solely effected by conditioning is swimming.  If you do your research you'll find out that from the 1960 Olympic Games to present, the overall VO2's of swimmers has not increased. But, the times over the years are dropping quite dramatically.  Now those of us in the know, would think the specter of drugs may have something to do with this. But even drugs can't account for the size of drops in times. I would suggest (being a former swimmer, and all) that increased dry land training, (weights) have played a huge factor in the drops in time overall.      

So, without turning this into a much longer post then it needs to be, I hope that this gives some of you some idea on how you might spice up your training.
Ok guys this thread has been fixed  ::)

I had to create a new file and dump the data into it, hence the thread ID has changed and old email alearts will have a link that no longer exists......

*wishes he had telnet access from home*

notepad and ws-ftp just doesnt cut it anymore :-[

See you must remember, specificity is extremely important. But also remember the old adage, " a chain is only as strong as it's weakest link".  That's why you need to have a good basic or core of not just strength, but overall fitness.  

So many good cyclists out there are dealing with injuries do to weak stomach muscle, leg strength imbalances, and tight hamstring & lower backs.  Which can't be fixed, by "just riding your bike".  THE KEY to good overall performance, is good overall fitness!

I can't agree more. Overall conditioning is extremely important and definitely improves performance.

I go to a gym run by biokineticists (sports physiologists) once a week where i do strength training. It's not so much to develop great muscle power but to correct imbalances between left and right legs and to get quad/hamstring ratio correct as well to have hamstrings, hip flexors, glutes etc stretched by a professional (it's amazing how far you can be stretched). I've got a regime to work out stomach and back to improve core stabilty.

The array of specialised equipment is impressive but I do most of leg training and evaluating on a computerised CYBEX machine which measures torque against time. There are attachments for just about every muscle group in the human body.

I have to do this because I had a back operation when I was 16 where they removed a disintgrated disk out of my spine. There was quite a bit of nerve damage and there hasn't been much regeneration which results in my lower back and glutes stiffening up on a long ride. Not only can I now ride without any back pain but my overall performance has increased dramatically.

A pretty basic treatment of the subject in your link. I am suprised at some point they didn't say "lift with your legs" and "don't bounce the weights".


There is a considerable amount of evidence, and success in the other direction (using weight training) as well. I am wholly unconvinced by the evidence you quoted.


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