Where does power come from?

Discussion in 'Cycling Training' started by Piotr, Feb 8, 2007.

  1. Piotr

    Piotr New Member

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    I have lurked and read this forum for some time. I found the "strength training" thread particularly interesting. In fact, I stopped going to the gym because of it. The question that I still have is: why do bigger riders tend to have greater power outputs. Simple enough - they have bigger muscles. Could that alone be the answer? I know that bigger muscles are stronger, but more powerful? Why? On the face of it that would contradict what was being advocated by Ric Stern.

    I'm a 39 year old cyclist who weights only around 53 kg (117 lbs). With an FTP of 250 watts I can climb pretty well for a cat. 3, but I stand no chance in a time trial. It would seem that an average 80kg rider can take 300 watt FTP for granted, while I would have to work my butt off to achieve such a result. Why is that? Would I be better off, bulking up a little to achieve better wattage, maybe even better W/kg?

    Then again, perhaps my observations about weight and power are just a figment of my imagination. Fire away.
     
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  2. Aussie Steve

    Aussie Steve New Member

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    An Aussie rider called Cadel Evans, who is very very light, has always been a very good climber, and got the Pink Jersey in the Giro d'Italia a few years ago. He did a lot of work on his strength and won a Gold Medal at the Commonwealth Games in 2002 or maybe 1998 in the time trial. So it can be done, but remember he is a pro and has the best training methods at his disposal. It will be interesting to hear other people's suggestions and ideas, hopefully something will work for you...
     
  3. wiredued

    wiredued New Member

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    Your weight and FTP puts you at 4.7w/kg on the power profile chart that is the high cat 2 low cat 1 level. You should be blowing the doors off of 80kg cat 3 racers that are 3.75w/kg I don't see why you are having a problem with heavier riders.:confused:

     
  4. Roadie_scum

    Roadie_scum New Member

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    Reread the thread. You are misunderstanding the limiters for FTP. You are unlikely to be strength limited - the reason you can only do 250W at FTP is because you don't have the fitness to do more than that. Not anything to do with strength or muscle bulk.

    The reasons why some riders have higher thresholds are multifactorial, but they include:

    Cardiac output (stroke volume, MHR)
    Mitochondrial density/muscle enzymes
    Capillirisation
    Neuromuscular resistance to fatigue
    Etc

    Not strength

    To train these things, you need to ride at appropriate intensities, not push weights around.
     
  5. Piotr

    Piotr New Member

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    Yes, on the face of it I should be able to compete with cat.1/2's. Unfortunately, experience tells me that windy circuit races are not my friend even with cat. 3's :eek:. OTOH, I believe that my 4.7 W/kg is a result of more recent power-based training and only time will tell if the chart is accurate with respect to categories ;).

    Also, I recall reading in this forum that W/kg is not as important in a time trial as pure wattage. The question still remains: Is it feasible to bulk up to increase one's potential without losing the W/kg advantage. I suppose all cyclists bulk up a little over time, and yet they get better.
     
  6. frenchyge

    frenchyge New Member

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    They're not necessarily more powerful, but if developed to an equally high degree of fitness they are likely to be. Why? Because each muscle cell is not just a unit which contracts to produce force, but is also an engine which produces energy to sustain the process. A big rider with more little engines producing energy is going to be able to produce more power than a smaller rider with fewer little engines (assuming both are equally trained).
     
  7. Piotr

    Piotr New Member

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    Thanks for your reply. I don't think I misunderstood the thread. My issue is that I've observed larger cyclists generally having larger power outputs - not due to their training, but due to their size. I'm not claiming that an 80 kg newbie will beat me in a race, only that he'll output 250 watts as a cat. 5, while it will take me 3 years to get to that point. I don't think this is an issue of freak talent either. I'm talking about all other things being equal. I'm having a hard time believing that Andre the Giant would output only 250 W at FT after 3 years of training.
     
  8. frenchyge

    frenchyge New Member

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    I doubt it. Bulking up typically implies muscle hypertrophy, which means that the individual cells grow (as opposed to growing *more* cells). As each cell grows, it's ability to produce force grows, but it's ability to produce energy does not. Your W/kg will go down as a result.

    Edit: However, even though your W/kg goes down, you're still likely to be somewhat more competitive in flat TT's and windy circuit races.
     
  9. Roadie_scum

    Roadie_scum New Member

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    Learn to sit in. Bettini does alright and he's not massive. Tactics, tactics, tactics.

    No. There is no reason to want to bulk up.

    No they don't. If they did bulk up, there is no reason to think that this would lead to them getting better.
     
  10. Piotr

    Piotr New Member

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    Then why shouldn't I strive to have more little engines? :) Don't get me wrong, I still will spend my time on the bike, but this came to my mind and I think it wasn't addressed with respect to how bigger muscles have bigger power potential. I know, "Go re-read the thread" ;).
     
  11. Piotr

    Piotr New Member

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    Aha! Now we're getting somewhere and it makes more sense.

    P.S. Doesn't this discussion seems strangely "Live"?:D
     
  12. frenchyge

    frenchyge New Member

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    Sorry, we don't get to choose our body type (and see my other response about bulking up through weightlifting). We can choose where we live and race, though. May I suggest a nice spot in the mountains? :D
     
  13. Piotr

    Piotr New Member

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    The Tour of Utah passes right by my house. :cool: And I ride the same 8% 6 mile climb in the summer (see avatar).
     
  14. andrello

    andrello New Member

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    Why resort to theoretical arguments and appeals to authority when you can do the experiment and find out for yourself?

    Go to the gym and make your leg muscles bigger then see what happens.
     
  15. Piotr

    Piotr New Member

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    Well, thanks to good books, teachers, and online forums I may not have too. I sure hope you don't provide that answer to your kids when they ask you about gravity :D.
     
  16. Sillyoldtwit

    Sillyoldtwit New Member

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    FWIW Piotr, I joined these forums Jan 2006 at the age of 63 with a small rusty engine. I was lifting weights in the gym, then after an hour or more I would jump on the trainer and and push myself to the max (about 130/140watts).

    Luckily RapDaddyo got hold of me and I started structured training doing less and less weight training. The time spent this year on the weights is a big fat zero. It's a total waste of time except to look good.

    This morning I did 40 minutes @ 235 watts, and this was my 'take it easy and relax day', i.e. turn the pedals around at a cadence of 90 and watch all the sexy women in the gym doing their thing.

    So what am I saying? The only way to improve your FTP and VO2max etc. for that matter is on the bike doing structured training. Oh, and BTW I've shed 15 kilos. So now I have a lean burn machine with a hell of a lot more power than the heavy muscle bound specimen that used to sit astride the trainer.

    I know it know takes forever to read through the "Killing me thread", but in there not so long ago I caught and overtook an Adonis from 1km or so back. He had calves larger than my waist, and quads to match. However, unfortunately he had a Citroen C7 engine driving them. Cheers! Tyson:D
     
  17. RipVanCommittee

    RipVanCommittee New Member

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    Close...they have bigger lungs, and bigger hearts. It's not 'bigger muscles' per se that makes them put out more absolute power.

    As far as being at a disadvantage in a TT or in the wind, this is largely a self-fullfilling prophecy--lots of small guys think they're at a disadvantage, so they don't bother getting themselves in a really good aerodynamic position. At 61 kg or so, I'm probably stronger in a flat TT or big cross-wind than on a climb, mainly because I've gotten myself into a really good, aerodynamic position, both on my road bike and my TT bike.

    There are plenty of good small TT'rs, too (Hamilton, Levi, etc...)--take advantage of your size and get in as small a position as possible. If anything, you're at a big advantage in a break on a really windy day, since the larger riders are getting less draft when you're on the front (and you're getting proportionally more of a draft). Think about it...
     
  18. Bigbananabike

    Bigbananabike Member

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    ===========================================================
    Most pro cyclists do bulk up - from the likes of under 23s to fully fledged pros there is increase muscle mass - that doesn't just come from normal growth. They're still what the general population would call slim or athletic build.
     
  19. Bruce Diesel

    Bruce Diesel New Member

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    Not sure I buy the argument that power is not related to mass. After all, Coggan's profiling chart uses watts/kg which means that in order to be a rider in a certain cat, you should be producing a certain amount of watts based on your mass. This imples a correlation between mass and watts.

    If this were not the case then a guy like Rasmussen would be killing the entire field. I don't believe that he doesn't train as hard as the heavier guys in the peleton.
     
  20. Spunout

    Spunout New Member

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    OP: Pick your battles. Absolute power is what counts in the wind, you will never win. Watts/kg counts in the hills, you will have an advantage.

    Mitigation Strategies: Train your weaknesses. Spend time in the wind, develop your aerobic power and FT.
     
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