Road bike training with a power meter

Training with a Powermeter

Implementation of the training theory with Powermeter

Whoever once had the fun of Cycling will soon want to drive faster or further. An important step is regular training to build up fitness. Long but relaxed training sessions help to build up the Basic endurance. However, since there is little time for this in everyday working life and sensible training units during the week sometimes have to be completed in 1.5 hours, some help is needed. As training always consists of two components, intensity and intensity, a certain compensation can be made. Intervals at high load can contribute well to fitness. But many athletes are afraid of overtraining. In order to avoid this, there are means for training control. Extremely popular are Powermeter. In this article we want to explain why these are a useful means of training control.

Introduction: Watt is better than pulse!

The performance-controlled training offers in the Cycling some advantages over the training control according to Heart rate. On the one hand there is the better reproducibility of the training load, because 100 watts is exactly the same power today and tomorrow. The Heart rate is a clearly unsuitable factor as the body's reaction to the work done, because it is subject to many influences. Outside temperature, health, state of relaxation, stress and a few more can cause strong fluctuations every day.

A pulse watch is often inferior to training with a power meter
As soon as the intensity of the training varies more, a heart rate monitor reaches its limits, because the pulse fluctuations occur at a time delay

In addition, the power measurement reacts much more finely to changes in, for example, wind, road gradient and speed than the Heart rate does. This means that very effective forms of training can also be implemented with a powermeter. With these, the load can only be precisely controlled by the power. We would now like to introduce some of these training forms.

New approaches in training control

Classical training approaches in Cyclingsuch as long and slow from the GDR still have their justification today. They are still used by professionals when it comes to 6-8 hour units of the Basic endurance to train in fitness for the coming season. New approaches allow us to use even short training sessions effectively or simply bring some variety into the training routine. A power meter is helpful for this.

Basic endurance "+"

The Basic endurance training "+" takes place at the border between the training areas GA1 and GA2 (75-82 % IANS). Depending on the preparation phase and training cycle, it is performed at either a high (95-110 rpm) or low (70-80 rpm) cadence. The training duration is one and a half to three hours; therefore this training form is especially suitable for working athletes who do not have the possibility to do longer basic training units.

Gravelride with Powermeter
Gravel tours are a welcome change in the training routine, especially with a not too wavy profile they are ideal for basic training

This is a very effective training for the fat metabolism, which is however Heart rate is hardly controllable. increases slowly over the duration of the unit due to fatigue. Especially in the narrow range between GA1 and GA2 training a maximum fat burning rate is achieved. With a powermeter it is possible to perform and control this training very precisely.

This way we achieve a very effective training in terms of time with the highest possible training stimulus.

HIT - until the blood boils

As early as ten years ago (LONDEREE, 1997) it was found that training in the area of the continuous performance limit (IANS) - i.e. classic EB training - is the appropriate form of training for improving continuous performance, but higher intensities work more effectively in all performance classes. New studies with different intensities and load lengths prove this. It is astonishing that not only the continuous performance limit (IANS) can be shifted upwards by this intensive interval training. There are also significant improvements in the Energy supply in the lower load ranges.

During HIT training with a power meter you can feel the effort in your whole body
During HIT training with a power meter you can feel the effort in your whole body

For example, after a HIT training block, the proportion Carbohydrates during which Energy supply lower (improved fat metabolism), and also the lactate values of athletes at the same loads were lower (WESTGARTH-TAYLOR, 1997). At the same time, the maximum performance of the athletes in the performance test was increased, and also the time trial performance over 40 km was significantly improved.

Different levels of stress have proven to be particularly successful. Only the loads in the area around the continuous performance limit (IANS) - i.e. especially the traditional training in the EB area around the IANS - resulted in almost no further increase in performance for very well trained cyclists.
The following approaches are particularly effective:

Twelve 30-second intervals, each with a 4.5-minute break

Here the load is very high in the 30 seconds. Depending on the power level and weight of the driver, it is about 650-900 watts. During the breaks the load should be kept in the lower GA1 range (power).

Eight four-minute intervals with a 1.5-minute break

Here, the performance in the stress phases is significantly lower, but still slightly higher than in classic EB training. The load is slightly above the limit from development to peak.

It makes sense to replace two units per week with HIT units and to do the whole thing over three weeks, i.e. a total of six HIT units in three weeks. Both forms of intervals can actually only be implemented with one power meter. Through the follow-up of the Heart rate and the relatively short loading phases are the Heart rate no suitable control variable.

Most athletes and trainers are afraid of overtraining with this method. This is actually unfounded. Overtraining is mainly caused by an increase in the amount of training. This increase in volume leads to changes in metabolism and hormone release. This is a great danger in the case of too great an increase in volume, because once the body is in a strongly catabolic situation (breakdown of body substance), no more performance increase is possible. Increases in intensity naturally lead to Fatigue and exhaustion, but there is no danger of classical overtraining for a trained cyclist with two HIT units per week.

HIT - Powermeters bring an old acquaintance on the road

Not everything that seems new is new. Already in the old GDR training equipment catalogue there was a K2 quick strength programme on the ergometer with 20 seconds of loading duration at maximum load (three series of ten repetitions with one minute break) as well as a K3 strength endurance programme for the ergometer in the repetition method with 75 seconds of loading (600-700 watts) and relatively long breaks of about 15 minutes. With a powermeter you can now effectively perform these strongly performance-based units on the road.

Hit Training with a Powermeter
HIT training already existed in GDR times, powermeters help to implement the training on the road

The approach of high-intensity intervals in Cycling so it's not new. What is new is the realization that these intervals not only lead to an adjustment in the high-intensity area, but that these forms of training also lead to an increase in long-term performance (IANS) and also to positive adjustments in the Grease- and carbohydrate metabolism can be achieved.

Furthermore, these are exactly those stresses that occur relatively frequently in races; among other things, they lead to performance adjustment and further increase the performance of cyclists through the competitions. Of course, competitions also have other effects. But what is there against controlling these stresses specifically during training? With an exact load level and pause length, and not randomly determined by the training race? In this way a greater and more effective increase in performance can be achieved in certain sections.

K3 with cadence change

K3 training is often criticized nowadays for not being a real strength training. This is absolutely right, because to achieve a real increase in strength, the amount of strength used is too low and the number of repetitions too high.

Nevertheless, this form of training is quite justified and leads to adjustments that can be very useful, especially in mountain driving. The intensity here is in the upper GA2 range and reaches up to the IANS, but does not rise above it. In American training theory, this range with an intensity of about 90 percent of the threshold power is often referred to as "sweet spot training". This training does not take place with the typical low cadence of K3 training, but physiologically it is almost the same load. A power meter is very helpful for correctly controlling both K3 and sweet-spot training. With both types of load, you can greatly optimize the efficiency if you train at a constant, equal load.

It is therefore a purely aerobic, strength-oriented endurance training - in the case of K3 training with low cadence on the mountain. The cadence should be between 40 and 60 revolutions per minute, depending on the training condition and preparation phase, and the duration of the training should be between ten and 45 minutes.

As a purely even training, this training form can be very well over the Heart rate control. Due to the low cadence it is rather difficult to leave the range permanently upwards. If, however, cadence and position changes are interspersed without changing the power to be delivered, control via the wattage becomes indispensable.

K3 Trining on the mountain with Powermeter
Training in the K3 range is very tiring, but after only a few units many athletes notice a difference in performance

Such a training can look as follows: During a three to four-hour training session, after about 45 minutes of warm-up, three 15-minute K3 intervals are run, each with a 20-minute break. The rest of the training takes place in the GA1 area. During the 15-minute intervals, after five minutes the cadence is increased from 50 to 90 revolutions per minute without increasing the power. This cadence is then maintained for five minutes before continuing at 50 rpm for the final five minutes of the interval. This is done in all three intervals. In this way it is possible to train changes in pace and rhythm on the mountain without increasing the training load to the peak range while maintaining the same power output. The Heart rate will rise sharply due to the change of rhythm and then not sink properly during the interval, resulting in Intensity control via the Heart rate impossible.

GA1 wavy

Even in undulating, hilly, even mountainous terrain, it is no problem to do a real basic training on the bike. There are even many advantages to doing a specific basic training, even in mountainous terrain: On the one hand, you train "mountain riding" already in winter, which differs from riding in flat terrain already by the constant effect of the downforce of the slope and thus trains the pedalling. On the other hand, the often very cold wind that blows in winter is at least not noticeable during the whole training session due to the low speed on the mountain and thus provides a little warming up.

In this case, however, training control with a power meter is necessary in any case. The simple reason for this is that the powermeter gives you immediate feedback on the current load when you go into an incline. Additionally, small technical changes on the bike might be necessary, because in basic training you ride quite slowly on a hill. Even seasoned pros often ride cassettes in winter with a gradation up to 25 or 26 teeth, so in the amateur and hobby sector it is allowed to Compact chainrings in front (with 50/34 teeth) and in the back up to 28 teeth. Depending on the power level and the gradients to be negotiated, a triple crank may even be necessary in extreme cases. There is a simple reason for this small gear ratio: If you want to continue to train your fat metabolism on an incline, you will of course have to ride relatively slowly.

In order to do this with a reasonable cadence, you simply need a little more room for maneuver in the gear ratio.

SlopePerformanceSpeedTranslationCadence
6%180 watts71/2 mph39/2558
6%180 watts71/2 mph34/2875
8%180 watts9.0 km/h39/2546
8%180 watts9.0 km/h34/2859
The performance varies of course depending on the rider's weight. The example shows how cadence and gear ratio behave for a rider on a hill with constant power

When designing the training, the constantly changing gradient in undulating terrain must of course be given special consideration. In particular, two different forms of design for basic training must be considered.

1 Alternative: GA1 on the mountain with the powermeter

Firstly, there is the possibility to plan and complete a pure GA1 training. The athlete should then take care to ride on flat stretches and in the inclines as precisely as possible with the wattages of his basic range. When entering an incline, one deliberately slows down a lot, shifts down significantly and uses the power meter to control the load and cadence. The second sticking point with this technique comes as soon as you get out of a gradient and onto a flat section or even downhill. Often you let your legs hang down here, but this interrupts the training stimulus. Therefore you should immediately shift into a heavier gear and continue calmly in the GA1 range. This way the load can be kept very constant, even if this means that in case of a downhill run you have to pedal with high frequency in the highest gear.

However, if you have remained at a mountain high in the basic area, this is not difficult at all. The power output may be in the upper third of the GA1 range, but not above. This requires a certain amount of practice; in the beginning you often have to switch back and forth a bit and look at the power meter display very often. After a few practice units, however, you will quickly develop a good feeling for the load and will need to look at the display less and less often to check it.

2 Alternative: GA intervals with the Powermeter

In the second option, basic training in hilly terrain, slightly more intensive intervals in the GA2 range are performed on the ascending sections of the route (not necessarily on all of them). These can be force-oriented (50-70 rpm) or specially frequency-oriented (80-100 rpm), depending on your personal training goal. For this type of training, the power output should be in the middle GA1 range on the flat sections, in the middle GA2 range on the ascending sections and in the GA1 range on the downhill sections. This is also a real, albeit more intensive, basic training.

However, all these training instructions are not limited to training in wavy to hilly terrain. Also in flat terrain we find constantly changing conditions, especially in winter, but here the load is determined by wind direction and speed. And anyone who has ever been caught in an upcoming storm during bike training will be able to confirm that "against the wind" and "uphill" can feel very similar.

Basic training with the road bike
No matter if on the mountain or in headwind, for effective basic training the performance should be as constant as possible - this can be controlled best with a power meter

For basic training, however, this "variable resistance determined by nature" means the same thing: Against the wind, you move very slowly with a small gear and when changing direction, you can do high-speed training with the wind behind you without leaving the basic area, because the only thing that matters is the power that has to be applied.

Conclusion: Powermeters optimize our training

Powermeters are now not only found on every professional bike and are also widely used by amateurs. We find: ...justified. Because even if you don't ride up every climb like Chris Froome with a head engrossed in data, but just enjoy the view and the experience, we can definitely benefit from a powermeter. In addition, comparing the data, there is plenty to talk about for the next coffeeride for all the simplers among us.

Especially in winter, when the days are short or there is little time to train, performance-controlled training with the Powermeter is a good way to use an hour effectively. Of course it doesn't matter if we move the interval session outside or if we do it on a roll in one of the virtual worlds of Zwift and co.

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