Where does power come from?



Piotr

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I was glad to see this thread revisited, but alas it has apparently gone off the reservation. If anyone else would like to tackle the original theme, I'm eager to hear from you. Where does power come from? Why do larger, untrained cyclists generally have larger power outputs? We've already established that longer (?) muscles and larger hearts may be responsible for offsetting the weight "handicap". What else?

Perhaps we can play a little game and try to create/describe an ideal cyclist. Obviously lots of things have to come together to create a cycling talent. What are they?

Competitive personality,
Large heart muscle,
Long/lean tigh muscles (with lots of little engines ;)),
Large lungs (not sure about this one),
...
 

bighead_9901

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daveryanwyoming said:
Someone posted in another thread a while back and it really stuck with me conceptually. I can't find the exact post, but paraphrased it read something like: Hypertrophy(power weight lifting adaptation mechanism) builds big thick slow muscles that are very strong but aren't efficient in terms of delivering energy for rapid and frequent contractions. Endurance training doesn't enlarge individual muscle fibers, but increases mitochondrial density and converts fiber types which results in many smaller, more efficient engines. It's those energy conversion engines which allow a trained cyclist to put out 350 watts or more for hours on end at 80 to 100 rpm.

-Dave
Thanks, once again you are helping me out quite a bit. It's nice when you can just ask questions and get straight forward answers.
I guess my problem is just that I have always been an avid weightlifter and now that I'm cycling I don't want to just stop lifting. I lift for a variety of reasons and I want to try and understand these concepts so that I can apply them in the weight room.

One small problem I have with the above statement is I think it is speaking of a very narrow but common type of weightlifting. Most people think of weightlifting as trying to get "huge" but there is a lot more to weightlifting. I would like to find a way to adapt my training to support cycling as much as possible. I was under the impression that doing higher number of quick explosive reps was a way to accomplish this. I know that this training in and by itself will not immediately translate into better performance on the bike. However, by increasing my legs ability to produce quick contractions to failure and then recovering faster wouldn't I be able to see an improvement in cycling?

I guess what I really want to know is if there is a way to apply the knowledge I have of weightlifting to support my cycling. I know that I need to adjust my training so that I avoid putting on more weight which I have already done. I just want to understand these concepts and then see if I can find a way to apply them in the gym. One thing I have noticed is as I have increased my reps above 20 that it seems that I recover a little faster after hard hills or sprints but this could also just be in my head.
 

daveryanwyoming

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bighead_9901 said:
... However, by increasing my legs ability to produce quick contractions to failure and then recovering faster wouldn't I be able to see an improvement in cycling?
The question is, can you do these quick contractions with appropriate leg angles and at an appropriately fast rate (think 80-100 rpm cadences) for long enough to engage the appropriate energy delivery systems?

It takes 2 to 2.5 minutes to get your body up to speed and delivering energy at a VO2 max pace. Much shorter durations than that and you're really just utilizing your Anaerobic Work Capacity and not really engaging your aerobic system to provide energy. So you need to make your VO2 max intervals at least 2 minutes long and they really need to be longer to get any training benefit or you'll just get that energy system primed up when you stop. So assuming you can constrain your motion appropriately (box squats plus maybe a high stop to simulate leg motion while pedaling) you'd be talking about something like 300 to 400 reps in 3.5 to 5 minutes (~ 80 rpm).

Take FTP or one hour power work where you need ~ 8 minutes to get your energy delivery system up and running and want to hold these repeats for 10 to 20 minutes and you're talking about 800 - 1600 reps in the squat rack to get the kind of L4 training that are the meat and potatoes for a lot of folks on this forum.

Again, the key thing is to think about training the energy delivery systems, not the strength. If you do 80 quick explosive reps in a minute at somewhere near your best sustainable weight for that time, you'd be training your ability to fuel your muscles anaerobically which is one energy delivery system but really won't help you at all for longer more aerobic efforts. So with time you'll get good at minute long efforts on that program but you'll suffer on ten minute climbs, hour long time trials or multihour races or group rides.

I really don't know anyone who'd want to try those workouts, and why bother? It's easier and more directly related to cycling to jump on the erg at the gym, and do these workouts with appropriate positioning, crank lengths and cadences. Then you can forget about pounds and dial in the appropriate watts and ride the erg in a manner that's much closer to riding your actual bike.

I guess what I really want to know is if anything I do at the weightroom would be able to increase my power?
Peak power, like that needed in a standing start for track racing or possibly during a top end sprint, yes. Sustainable power for efforts lasting more than a couple of minutes, no.
 

frenchyge

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Piotr said:
Obviously lots of things have to come together to create a cycling talent. What are they?
A long, pointy skull and a large hole in the middle of their chest. ;)
 

Fday

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jamesstout said:
it is power per se you cant just redefine a word to suit your purposes or language would serve no function i could say that for my purposes its better if dnf means 1st place then i won my last race....
Here is a dictionary definition of strength I pulled off the web.

strength (plural strengths)
The quality of being strong.
The intensity of a force or power; potency.
The strongest part of something.

In view of this dictionary definition I see nothing wrong with incorporating a sense of power into a definition of strength when talking about cycling. The definition given before is pretty useless because it has no bearing on cycling performance because it only refers to maximum possible force, at least most of us can agree on that. We hear all the time that "that rider looks strong". What on earth do they mean? It cannot relate to the so-called "accepted" definition? It does have a meaning when taken in the context of my definition.
 

Fday

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frenchyge said:
Shouldn't you specify all the parameters, rather than just the number of reps, just to be clear for purposes of comparison? So, you could have strength (#reps, cadence, crank length) which would be useful for comparing between people who don't always pedal at exactly 90rpm with a vertical rise of 14". ;)
Sure, if one was doing a study all those parameters (and, even, a few more) should be specified. Otherwise the study would not be reproducible.

The purpose of my new "definition" was to come up with something more useful such that when someone askes the question, how do I become a stronger (or as our president might say, strengthier) cyclist, they don't get dissed as being stupid because strength has nothing to do with cycling.
 

bighead_9901

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Once again thanks. I agree that what you described is not something I want to try in the gym. The most obvious solution for me is just to continue lifting and doing squats for the benefits that they provide but until I can come up with something through more research except the fact that I won't be able to perform an exercise in the gym that is going to be truly beneficial to cycling.

I guess my next question about cycling is pretty similar to the first one in this thread but why do the best cyclists I personally know have rather muscular legs especially in relation to the rest of their body? If I understand everything I have read so far than most cyclists should have rather skinny legs like you see on distance runners. If you have ever had the opportunity to see world class distance runners in person their legs are very defined but really, really skinny. On the other hand the few cycling pro's I've seen in real life have rather large muscular legs for an endurance athlete.

Please be gentle.:D
 

vadiver

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Oct 3, 2006
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Big,
it appears you have a very good base from your weight training. Many years ago I was doing power training and many other sports other than cycling. I would cycle ocationally and I threw papers (a lost art) growing up. I have very large legs and at one time could box squat a lot of weight. Enough to severly deform the standard 45# bar. I can leg press the 750# rack for ever with no effort. This sounds a lot like where you are at.

From reading these forums and watching my own cycling what I have determined is to work on my cadence. You probably have the the strength of many people here. It is getting it applied to the road eficiantly.

Look at LA and his marathon. He said it was either the hardest or at least one of the hardest things he has ever done. He had to train his body to go from the bike to the run. He was/is a very fit person but yet he had a hard time running. I think many W/C marathon'ers woud have a hard time completing the miles a TDF rider compeletes. It is just a different animal.

I have had a hard time grasping this. Most of the time the things that get said here make minimal sense to me on the surface. As I either think about them or take them to the road and apply them, then it comes to light.

Work on building your cycling strength. The best way to do this is to cycle. You need to train your body differnt from what you have been doing. If you apply the dedication you have had with your weight training, cycling will come, you just need to push the same.

Post #84 is probably the best suggestion I have heard so far. Now getting that to application....
 

daveryanwyoming

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Oct 3, 2006
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bighead_9901 said:
... The most obvious solution for me is just to continue lifting and doing squats for the benefits that they provide but until I can come up with something through more research except the fact that I won't be able to perform an exercise in the gym that is going to be truly beneficial to cycling. ...
If you live near a velodrome, how about focusing on riding the kilo and or match sprinting? Those are events where you can really target lifting to help your cycling since they both rely on big peak power numbers. If you really love the lifting and want to apply it to your cycling then pick a form of cycling that will benefit from your time with the weights :)
 

Fday

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daveryanwyoming said:
The problem I have with your line of thinking Frank besides the definition thing is that there is no time element in your strength(5400) logic. I recently took a closer look at my power vs. pedal torque relationships. If I want to hold 350 watts in my typical gears and cadence I need to do one leg presses at a bit less than 50 pounds. Well I used to do gym work because I thought as you seem to that it would help my racing and I could regularly do one legged sets of 15 or more at 300 pounds on the leg sled. I'm certain I could do 50 pound reps indefinitely if I didn't worry about how fast I did them. I'm sure I could do a lot more than 5400 if I could rest, eat and drink between every one.

What's become real clear to me from reading these forums and surfing Pubmed for exercise physiology abstracts is that cycling or other endurance sports have almost nothing to do with peak strength(standing starts and certain sprint events excluded) and almost everything to do with supplying energy to enable frequent and rapid muscle contractions at moderate to low forces. IOW for TT's and mass start racing what matters most is how well you train your body to get energy to the working muscles. The way I see it, that's what power training is all about. Focusing on the specific energy delivery systems that you'll draw on during your events. Increasing your single or 10 rep max won't help if the muscles are already strong enough, but you can't continually supply them with ATP at a fast enough rate.

Your argument assumes a linear relationship between 1 rep max strength [your strength(1)] and the needs of a cyclist hours later [strength(5400)]. I don't see any published evidence that such a relationship exists, particularly if you remove any time constraints. Even weightlifting max one rep tables rarely extrapolate above 10 reps and even then warn about the lack of accuracy that comes from estimating one rep max from more than 10 reps. What makes you think you can relate your strength(1) to your strength(5400) or more importantly that your strength(5400) is defined and limited by your strength(1)?

-Dave

I pretty much agree with everything you say except what my argument assumes. Be that as it may, you can have all the energy systems in the world peaked to capacity but if you do not have the contractile elements that need that energy it doesn't do you much good. You need both, contractile elements and energy systems. Sprinters need relatively more contractile elements and fewer energy system elements because they need more power for shorter durations. Endurance guys need relatively less and more energy systems elements because they need somewhat less power for much longer durations. Both need to maximize power for the duration required but they do it in different ways.
 

bighead_9901

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Hey thanks everyone for helping out this poor newbie. I know as the evening goes on and more folks read this forum that I will probably see a lot more.

Vadiver it does sound like we are coming from a similar beginning. I would like to know if you still lift weights at all or if you have stopped completely?

Also I'm sure I will have a few more questions later but I'm still curious aobut this one that I posted earlier.

"I guess my next question about cycling is pretty similar to the first one in this thread but why do the best cyclists I personally know have rather muscular legs especially in relation to the rest of their body? If I understand everything I have read so far than most cyclists should have rather skinny legs like you see on distance runners. If you have ever had the opportunity to see world class distance runners in person their legs are very defined but really, really skinny. On the other hand the few cycling pro's I've seen in real life have rather large muscular legs for an endurance athlete."
 

vadiver

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Fday said:
Here is a dictionary definition of strength I pulled off the web.

strength (plural strengths)
The quality of being strong.
The intensity of a force or power; potency.
The strongest part of something.

In view of this dictionary definition I see nothing wrong with incorporating a sense of power into a definition of strength when talking about cycling. The definition given before is pretty useless because it has no bearing on cycling performance because it only refers to maximum possible force, at least most of us can agree on that. We hear all the time that "that rider looks strong". What on earth do they mean? It cannot relate to the so-called "accepted" definition? It does have a meaning when taken in the context of my definition.
Go to science to get your definitions, not Webster. If you would you would see definition three makes litle sense.

There are a lot of people you need to get to accept "your" definition before it will be acceptable. We cannot just say this is what I want without anytype of support.

Enron/ArthurAnderson tried this very same argument with accounting. You kind of need to stick with standards.
 

bighead_9901

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daveryanwyoming said:
If you live near a velodrome, how about focusing on riding the kilo and or match sprinting? Those are events where you can really target lifting to help your cycling since they both rely on big peak power numbers. If you really love the lifting and want to apply it to your cycling then pick a form of cycling that will benefit from your time with the weights :)
Unfortunately that type of cycling doesn't interest me. I like longer distances and I think I'm just going to have to find a way to balance the two without the weight training having a bad effect on my cycling. I'm thinking if I don't lift to add bulk and instead focus on higher reps that I should be alright, or is this some bad logic?
I guess it would also be helpful to explain that I am cycling not just for the competitiveness but also because I just enjoy getting out and riding for a few hours. I would like to eventually race but my primary motiviation is just a love of cycling and when I find something I love I do have a drive to also be as good at it as possible.
 

vadiver

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bighead_9901 said:
Hey thanks everyone for helping out this poor newbie. I know as the evening goes on and more folks read this forum that I will probably see a lot more.

Vadiver it does sound like we are coming from a similar beginning. I would like to know if you still lift weights at all or if you have stopped completely?

Also I'm sure I will have a few more questions later but I'm still curious aobut this one that I posted earlier.

"I guess my next question about cycling is pretty similar to the first one in this thread but why do the best cyclists I personally know have rather muscular legs especially in relation to the rest of their body? If I understand everything I have read so far than most cyclists should have rather skinny legs like you see on distance runners. If you have ever had the opportunity to see world class distance runners in person their legs are very defined but really, really skinny. On the other hand the few cycling pro's I've seen in real life have rather large muscular legs for an endurance athlete."
I do not lift at all anymore.

I found it to be counter productive to what I want to do. I want to loose weight and spin faster. When I got back into lifting I was getting bigger and heavier. I think I have a very good base muscle wise. I am working very hard at getting my cadence up.

I do not totally subscribe to the therory of stay out of the gym but I understand and accept where all of the people that say it are coming from. I like to swim and do other sports. I am doing them more for the variety in the winter than anything else. I love the bike but a good swim is nice once in a while.

My goal is to get a smooth comfrotable cadence in the 95-105 range. The gym will not do that, the bike is the only way. It has not been easy. I am having to rethink multiple aspects of how I would ride in the past. If I can get there without loosing the leg muscles (I do not know why I would) I will be that much better.
 

Fday

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vadiver said:
Go to science to get your definitions, not Webster. If you would you would see definition three makes litle sense.

There are a lot of people you need to get to accept "your" definition before it will be acceptable. We cannot just say this is what I want without anytype of support.

Enron/ArthurAnderson tried this very same argument with accounting. You kind of need to stick with standards.
thank you for your advice. I went to an online medical dictionary (so I could cut and paste and I am a physician so I wanted to go to a scientific source I could understand) to see what they might say. I looked up the term physical strength. Here is the definition:

"The magnitude of physical strength, often referred to as the ability of a person or animal to exert force on physical objects using muscles. Increasing physical strength is the goal of strength training.

Strength can be divided into two categories. Short-term endurance and long-term endurance. In humans, there are three primary muscle fiber classifications: Slow Twitch (Type I or ST), Fast Twitch A (also known as Type IIa or FT-A), and Fast Twitch B (Type IIb or FT-B)."

Wait. Strength isn't divided into two categories here apparently. Strength is simply maximum possible force. No other possibilities. But, I have been declared stupid. What do I know.

Is there another "science" source you would like me to go to to get the "correct" definition?

Cheers

Frank
 

daveryanwyoming

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bighead_9901 said:
...If you have ever had the opportunity to see world class distance runners in person their legs are very defined but really, really skinny. On the other hand the few cycling pro's I've seen in real life have rather large muscular legs for an endurance athlete."
O.K. I really don't know the answer to this but it's a forum so I'm willing to venture some educated guesses:

- Runners need to support their complete body weight, cyclists are penalized for body weight on hills but much less than runners on the flats since the bike supports their weight.
- Cycling tactics result in much more speed variation during mass start events meaning competitive cyclists need to respond to surges, attacks, sprints, etc. Runners do some of this, but the effect of drafting at cycling speeds makes it much more important to stay with the lead group and cyclists are forced to ride at paces other than their optimal pace for the distance. This means they have to develop their anaerobic systems and neuromuscular power systems to a larger degree than endurance runners. It makes sense to me that the need to have some anaerobic capabilities leads to larger legs than endurance runners. Notice the size of track and field runner's legs they're not exactly skinny.
-Pro cycling events are typically much longer than pro running events. A pro level marathon runner needs a bit over two hours of endurance. A pro level cyclist needs to last for two to three times as long and in stage racing they need to do it again the next day and the next... One measure of endurance is how much glycogen can be stored intramuscularly. Could it be that the longer events in cycling select for larger muscles that store more glycogen?

Just guessing here, but it seems to me that the two sports are different enough that it's not surprising that body types are different for successful athletes in each discipline. To some extent I think the bicycle itself is a bit of an equalizer. There have been tiny TDF champions like Pantani, long lean riders and guys who look downright big compared to most of the peloton. I don't think you see as much body type variability among the top marathon or 10K runners.

This post is nothing but speculation so I won't be surprised when folks see it differently :)

-Dave
 

bighead_9901

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vadiver said:
If I can get there without loosing the leg muscles (I do not know why I would) I will be that much better.
vadiver,
As far as the size and strength of the leg muscles I personally have seen a decrease in the overall size of my leg but I also have more definition and vacularity?(I don't know if thats a word) than I did before I began cycling.
Another thing I have noticed is my strength has decreased but my ability to perform higher reps with less recovery time has improved significantly. This is part of the reason for my earlier questions. I have always been a firm believer in periodization weight training and so I have done higher reps before and I have been doing this long enough that I know how my body responds. However, since I began cycling I have seen a greater increase in these areas than I have in the past, particularly in my recovery between sets.
 

vadiver

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Fday said:
thank you for your advice. I went to an online medical dictionary (so I could cut and paste and I am a physician so I wanted to go to a scientific source I could understand) to see what they might say. I looked up the term physical strength. Here is the definition:

"The magnitude of physical strength, often referred to as the ability of a person or animal to exert force on physical objects using muscles. Increasing physical strength is the goal of strength training.

Strength can be divided into two categories. Short-term endurance and long-term endurance. In humans, there are three primary muscle fiber classifications: Slow Twitch (Type I or ST), Fast Twitch A (also known as Type IIa or FT-A), and Fast Twitch B (Type IIb or FT-B)."

Wait. Strength isn't divided into two categories here apparently. Strength is simply maximum possible force. No other possibilities. But, I have been declared stupid. What do I know.

Is there another "science" source you would like me to go to to get the "correct" definition?

Cheers

Frank
Now look up work and power. And you will start to see why what you are saying is confusing.
 

bighead_9901

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Dave,

That makes sense to me but that probably isn't a good thing.:D However, now I have another question. Because of all the different systems you described
daveryanwyoming said:
This means they have to develop their anaerobic systems and neuromuscular power systems -Dave
I am thinking that these systems could be focused on to varying degrees in the gym. So I'm curious if this is an area where weighttraining may have some benefit. What do you think?