Sprint training fundamentals

sprint fundamentals


I just leave it at that.


Leg speed

Developing my speed has been an interesting, and at times also frustrating task. Track cyclist’s speed is a combination of two factors. Strength and leg speed. Because of my background the first has been the easier part. Not easy, but EASIER than the latter. I have spent quite a lot of time understanding the leg speed and have arrived to some conclusions I though would be nice to share with you.

Relationship between type II fibers and pedaling velocityReading through a whole bunch of articles about sprinting, power, etc. etc. I came a cross with “Optimal velocity for maximal power production in non-isokinetic cycling is related to muscle fibre type composition” by Hautier et. al. The graph on the right (from the same article) defines the relationship between fast twitch fibers in vastus lateralis muscle and optimal velocity on a friction loaded cycle ergometer. To summarize the already obvious graph, the higher percentage of fast twitch fibers the faster cadence. Makes sense, right? Now, this seems like a very bad news if you believe(d) rev-outs with minimal or no load develop your speed on race gears. If it is all about type II fibers, then that pretty much explains why the base training for trackie is gym.

Progressive age-associated reduction in type II fiber area

Being a master category rider myself, the next piece of interesting information came from Marko T. Korhonen’s study of the effects of aging on sprint performance. The attachment on the right talks about progressive age-accosiated reduction in type II fiber area, which then is related to sprint performance. What it says to me is that the strength part stays on you longer than the speed, but that the speed is in constant decline from 30 years onwards. Thanks, like I didn’t already know I’m 20 years late here…

I have experienced a sort of cadence ceiling with my race gears that keep me from going any faster, even though I sometimes felt I had the strength to do that. At times it was due to the fatigue, but not always. I’m hopeful that part of the cadence limit is due to the fact I’m still somewhat new to the sport and have not reached my full potential. That at lease sounds better than “I’m too old to spin any faster”! But as I say that I have to recognize the cold fact might as well be that this is as good as it gets. Cadence wise, people, cadence wise…

In the light of the above I think I better focus on the strength/power side of the equation. Translating that to power to power-on-bike is something I’ve learned during the past year.  If indeed getting faster is about increasing the type II fiber area, then the best way I know to accomplish that is to lift heavy and lift fast. Maybe if I get more power my legs will spin faster too! I will keep doing – and perhaps even increase the amount of speed drills (slightly under geared). Anyway, I’m back to square one.

“Pain is weakness leaving the body” just took a whole new meaning.

Quick edit: I recently heard that Jose Escuredo rode the 10.391s flying 200m in Manchester with a 112″ gear. That is about 133rpm. Yeah, I need more power!

Gym training

My Gym training took a fully different form after the shoulder surgery. For the past 10 weeks the main exercise has been the leg press. Dropping the squat and the deadlift out of my program was a bit of a shock. Today I look at my quads and see a somewhat different looking pair of legs than I had a while back. I’m feeling confident this was not only a good but also a necessary step in changing my gym training routines to better support my goal events, the sprint and the kilo. I do recognize the looks may be deceiving. I’m yet to verify if and how this change has actually improved my cycling performance.

Warm up and cool down: Loading and unloading the torture machineI had not touched the press for quite some time, as I do not like the damn thing. Loading and especially unloading the sledge is a workout itself, not to mention single handed. Unfortunately it was the best and also the only effective exercise I was able to do to train my legs. Surely better than spending the 10 weeks just sitting on my butt. At first I carried my arm in the sling and had to minimize the upper body involvement, which in turn led to limited weights. Single leg leg press was the answer.

I made steady progress first with the 3 x 12 and now with the 6 x 5 program. Last Saturday I really emptied the tank with a progressive 6 x 5, starting at 320kg and finishing at 370kg (sledge not included). Would be nice to know the max and that way have a better idea of the intensity of this workout… but that’s a side track and in all honesty my body already told me it was a tough one! Ok, but what do these weights mean? When it boils down to squat there seems to be a general consensus about the strength requirements for a Sprinter being equal to 2.0 – 2.5 x BW. Chris Hoy squats 227.5kg so that seems to be in the ball park. I read through my old journals and found a record dated Dec. 15th, 2011. I did a 5 sets of 3 rep squats at 185kg combined with a 4 sets of press ending to 300kg. Accoring to this I think I have a fairly good reason to feel I’m pretty close to what I did last year or slightly above.

Estimating the training load with total tonnage calculation

Estimating the training load with total tonnage calculation

Another important aspect of the gym training is the working capacity, which for me is certainly on a very different level than a year ago. The chart on the right calculates a total tonnage of a leg press exercise I did about a week and a half ago. I just realized this does not count the warm up sets. Anyhow, together with the weighted step ups I get a total score of 14850. That is roughly 50% more than what I got for the 15.12. exercise. 

When starting with the 6 x 5 I also added a dynamic effort day and my weekly gym schedule now includes two strength and one power day. I just realized that for the DE day I should estimate the weight of the sledge too as the purpose is to explode and too big of a weight is probably counter productive. So last time I loaded 50kg on the sledge and tried to kick it through the wall. Sounds fun, doesn’t it…  

So the leg press is keeping me busy 3 times a week, at least for a while. Together with the 6 bike exercises I have a pretty steady stream of training stimulus to keep my legs constantly on the sore side. What has surprised me the most is how my joints and ligaments have strengthen during the process. At least that is the feeling I get. Most of the issues I’ve had so far (knee and lower back) have been caused by tight muscles. The press and the still somewhat weak shoulder have certainly creted some unique problems, but let me talk about those in a separate post.