How "trainable" are the various power zones of a rider?

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How "trainable" are the various power zones of a rider?

Postby NeillS » Tue Nov 12, 2013 5:59 pm

For the coaches/power nerds out there, how "trainable" are the various areas of a person's power output? Assume that you've got a rider who is training 10 hours a week and wants to progress further through the grades, and needs to get his FTP up to make this happen. He can spend another 5 hours a week on the bike in order to make this happen. He currently has been riding for a few years and has a good aerobic base (for argument's sake).

The rider can do, with 10 hours a week on the bike spread over 3-4 rides, something like 300 watts for 20 mins, 450 watts for 1 minute and 800 watts for 15 seconds. He is already lean and weighs in at 70kg or so. He uses a structured training program involving about 1.5 hours of threshold tolerance per week, with the rest largely aerobic training and a few short sprints.

How far is it possible to train an individual's power zones? I would assume that his aerobic power over 20 minutes is the most trainable of the zones, how much is it possible to increase the average rider's anaerobic power over 1 minute? What about 15 seconds? Are the sprint efforts largely genetically-determine by your neurological makeup?
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by BNA » Tue Nov 12, 2013 7:01 pm

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Re: How "trainable" are the various power zones of a rider?

Postby vander » Tue Nov 12, 2013 7:01 pm

Very highly individual, so tough to say, I would say > 20% over a year or so. Sprinting is decently trainable, if you cant do it very well. Like the first few weeks in the gym you have big gains, sprinting is similar however if you are already training your sprint a decent amount (which it sounds like this guy isnt) and have a good technique no its not as trainable as aerobic power.
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Re: How "trainable" are the various power zones of a rider?

Postby toolonglegs » Tue Nov 12, 2013 7:14 pm

Not an expert speaking... but I think something like this.
Max - 15 sec ... trainable, but your genetic make up limits how fast you can fire your muscles, it's not how hard you can push, it's how hard and fast.
30sec - 1 min ... trainable, but still highly genetic, also at what cost to really raise this zone.If you are a trackie sure, but if you are a roadie spending a lot of time on this may fatigue you too much.
3-5 minute ... VO2 levels ... the lower the zone the more trainable.
FTP ... where you are likely to see the most gains, of course it all depends on where you are at now.

The question should really be what is the best zone to concentrate on to see gains over the entire field. IMO that is FTP ... the less time you have to spend above FTP in a race the more power you will put out in all zones above FTP when it really matters. So get your FTP as high as possible ( while still spending time on the other areas ) ... the hard part is when to concentrate on certain zones ( of which I have not much skill at ).

For example I have been spending a huge amount of my time on my Max to 1 minute power lately for CX, basically its 15 sec sprint then roll, 10sec sprint then roll ... I would really struggle to go out and do FTP intervals at the moment :oops: .

I think it might be time to give a power meter a go one more time :mrgreen: .
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Re: How "trainable" are the various power zones of a rider?

Postby winstonw » Tue Nov 12, 2013 8:19 pm

what's your age, improvement to date % wise, do you cross train (swim or run) and do resistance exercise, what demands are on on the rest of your time? all these things matter.
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Re: How "trainable" are the various power zones of a rider?

Postby thearthurdog » Wed Nov 13, 2013 5:31 am

People forget that raising your FTP also raises the points where you go V02 / Anaerobic / NM.

A recent 'light bulb' for me has been discovering the intense benefits of using my indoor trainer for training (and not just recovery rolls and wet weather days). Doing 2 x 10 / 15 / 20 / 30 minutes on a trainer, where your RPE is SOOOOO much higher than on the open road, makes sessions very tough. I also find that because of the lack of 'normal' movement of your bike that it forces you to adapt to your TT position.

I'm going to smash myself on my trainer next year.
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Re: How "trainable" are the various power zones of a rider?

Postby michaelten » Wed Nov 13, 2013 11:27 am

vander wrote:Very highly individual, so tough to say, I would say > 20% over a year or so. Sprinting is decently trainable, if you cant do it very well. Like the first few weeks in the gym you have big gains, sprinting is similar however if you are already training your sprint a decent amount (which it sounds like this guy isnt) and have a good technique no its not as trainable as aerobic power.


For me anyway, I have been doing a fairly well rounded training schedule for a while now but with lean towards more sprint work. Funnily enough my sprint power numbers don't seem to be changing much at all while my 5 min and FTP numbers are increasing quite a bit.

In my case I would say my sprinting isn't responding at all compared to other zones. I have never been able to sprint or have any kind of explosive power in any sports I have done.
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Re: How "trainable" are the various power zones of a rider?

Postby Leeroy » Wed Nov 13, 2013 4:40 pm

thearthurdog wrote:A recent 'light bulb' for me has been discovering the intense benefits of using my indoor trainer for training (and not just recovery rolls and wet weather days). Doing 2 x 10 / 15 / 20 / 30 minutes on a trainer, where your RPE is SOOOOO much higher than on the open road, makes sessions very tough. I also find that because of the lack of 'normal' movement of your bike that it forces you to adapt to your TT position.

I'm going to smash myself on my trainer next year.


+1. Huge gains to be made on the trainer if you can get past the mental aspect.
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Re: How "trainable" are the various power zones of a rider?

Postby Alex Simmons/RST » Wed Nov 13, 2013 6:04 pm

NeillS wrote:For the coaches/power nerds out there, how "trainable" are the various areas of a person's power output? Assume that you've got a rider who is training 10 hours a week and wants to progress further through the grades, and needs to get his FTP up to make this happen. He can spend another 5 hours a week on the bike in order to make this happen. He currently has been riding for a few years and has a good aerobic base (for argument's sake).

The rider can do, with 10 hours a week on the bike spread over 3-4 rides, something like 300 watts for 20 mins, 450 watts for 1 minute and 800 watts for 15 seconds. He is already lean and weighs in at 70kg or so. He uses a structured training program involving about 1.5 hours of threshold tolerance per week, with the rest largely aerobic training and a few short sprints.

How far is it possible to train an individual's power zones? I would assume that his aerobic power over 20 minutes is the most trainable of the zones, how much is it possible to increase the average rider's anaerobic power over 1 minute? What about 15 seconds? Are the sprint efforts largely genetically-determine by your neurological makeup?


The primary energy systems that underpin our abilities along the mean maximal power curve all have a different mix of response to training, as well as different levels of genetic pre-dispostion to how much and how quickly one can improve. IOW, it's not possible to know without actually having a crack. And of course the nature of our training affects which parts of the MMP curve will more likely receive a bump (or even a drop).

VO2max for example may be improved say 25% or more in relatively less well trained people but only by a few % if already very well trained. It has a large genetic component. Of course changes can be larger when normalised to body mass and one loses excess body fat.

This was a meta analysis of measured improvements in VO2max:
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24066036

and the improvements recorded shown in a distribution of absolute VO2 change due to various forms of training intervention:

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0.5L/min is a lot. So keep in mind it matters a lot on the starting fitness level as well as the type of training you do.

Anaerobic capacity is also quite trainable, and indeed many people don't really train that element all that much, mainly because it is vomit inducingly hard work. Likewise neuromuscular power is definitely trainable however the sprint ball park in which you are going to compete is very much predetermined by your genetically inherited mix of muscle fibre types and other factors. Put it this way, sprinters are born that way.

Fractional utilisation of VO2max at threshold is highly trainable, which is why many will see larger gains in their FTP than shorter range power typically.

Gross efficiency is likely trainable as well, but it's a relatively slow process that takes many years of high volume riding and gains may be relatively small.

Just to emphasise the highly variable nature of such things, I have seen FTP improvements from 5% to 100% in six months.

In general, improvements are largest in the first year of quality consistent training, thereafter gains are slower but are attainable for many years if you are prepared to work for them.

I suggest not setting arbitrary limits or targets on such things, but rather follow good process and the training response will be what it is.
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Re: How "trainable" are the various power zones of a rider?

Postby vander » Wed Nov 13, 2013 7:37 pm

The issue I find with meta-analysis like that, and for that matter the literature on the subject is often the participants are not trained very hard at all and conclusions are drawn about their plateaus even though their training load is low and they have not been overloaded throughout the program. (this is just from what I have read which unfortunately is not too widely)
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Re: How "trainable" are the various power zones of a rider?

Postby donncha » Wed Nov 13, 2013 8:53 pm

Do a bit of everything. Push up from below (sub-FTP efforts), pull-up from above (VO2/AC efforts).

I've seen decent gains from 3 FTP sessions, 1 AC interval hill session, 1 long ride & 1 recovery ride per week. Total around 11hrs including filler if I did everything.

Even without doing any sprint work at all I've seen my 1s power go from 1050 -> 1200 and my old 1s power (1050) I can now hold for 10s.
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Re: How "trainable" are the various power zones of a rider?

Postby NeillS » Thu Nov 14, 2013 3:06 pm

Thanks for all the input guys, a tricky question to ask, I know, as so much depends on the individual.

Alex, Neil is working with me to whip me into shape for next year's road race season so I'm in good hands. For myself, I'm aiming to get up to 300w for 20 mins, I reckon that's a good aiming point for a 62kg rider.
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Re: How "trainable" are the various power zones of a rider?

Postby Leeroy » Wed Nov 27, 2013 11:28 am

NeillS wrote:Thanks for all the input guys, a tricky question to ask, I know, as so much depends on the individual.

Alex, Neil is working with me to whip me into shape for next year's road race season so I'm in good hands. For myself, I'm aiming to get up to 300w for 20 mins, I reckon that's a good aiming point for a 62kg rider.


You should be winning A Grade if you can achieve that - 'specially if there are hills. That's Cat 1 on the Coggan/Allan Power profiling chart.
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Re: How "trainable" are the various power zones of a rider?

Postby Xplora » Wed Nov 27, 2013 12:38 pm

Friel does a guessimate of pounds x2 = FTP wattage, adjusted for age and riding experience. 62 kgs puts you at roughly 275 - you might be substantially below that on your FTP test (looks hatefully at my Garmin) so you possibly have a lot of room to improve to get to 275. I gunned for 300, and achieved 360 for my 5 minute but bottomed out way less than that for the 20 minute TT.
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Re: How "trainable" are the various power zones of a rider?

Postby NeillS » Tue Dec 03, 2013 6:20 pm

I doubt I'll be winning A-grade races any time soon, but I did 285 watts for 23 minutes during a time trial 4 days ago. I lost 4 minutes to the C-grade winner. I'm nowhere near A-grade!
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Re: How "trainable" are the various power zones of a rider?

Postby Alex Simmons/RST » Wed Dec 04, 2013 4:48 pm

NeillS wrote:I doubt I'll be winning A-grade races any time soon, but I did 285 watts for 23 minutes during a time trial 4 days ago. I lost 4 minutes to the C-grade winner. I'm nowhere near A-grade!


Time trial performance is very much about working on both energy supply and demand.
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Re: How "trainable" are the various power zones of a rider?

Postby skull » Wed Dec 04, 2013 6:23 pm

also that dates seems to coincide with the ToB TT, don't take the winners of C grade there as actually being legitimate C graders.
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Re: How "trainable" are the various power zones of a rider?

Postby ro. » Fri Dec 06, 2013 2:11 pm

skull wrote:also that dates seems to coincide with the ToB TT, don't take the winners of C grade there as actually being legitimate C graders.


Actually the winner of C grade TT at bright has been racing C grade in Canberra this year, and recently some B grade events. That said his time was quite good. Put over a minute into me. But then I climbed better, so apples and oranges. I speculate hes naturally has a low CDA, combined with good power.

That said bright was all about w/kg, to win C grade you would of needed to do around 4.3- 4.5 w/kg up hotham. I was pretty happy with myself doing 3.9.

If the guy above can get up to 300/62 (4.8 w/kg) for 20 he would of been going for the win.
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Re: How "trainable" are the various power zones of a rider?

Postby winstonw » Fri Dec 06, 2013 7:50 pm

vander wrote:The issue I find with meta-analysis like that, and for that matter the literature on the subject is often the participants are not trained very hard at all and conclusions are drawn about their plateaus even though their training load is low and they have not been overloaded throughout the program. (this is just from what I have read which unfortunately is not too widely)


There's a paucity of literature in the field, esp when it comes to effects of ageing....and part time coaches who deliver sermons from e-parapets, based on hours with head in Google Uni, stand out like hairy dog's b@lls... nevertheless, in this era of internet businesses, and their target audience of illiterates in physiology and pathophysiology, anything goes, and usually does.

There's over 50 years of involvement in the Olympic Games and World Championships in our clinic....and none of us are ignorant enough to deliver the pompous arrogance expressed by younger keyboard jockeys.
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