Power-based Training Enhances Cycling Classes

power-based training

Power-based training is the new “king” of cycling metrics. Here’s why.

Indoor cycling classes have been a long-time staple in health and fitness facilities. These sessions traditionally involve an instructor leading a group of participants through a series of sprints, intervals and simulated terrain changes. Instructors will often integrate high-energy music, verbal cuing and visual demonstration to provide an engaging class atmosphere.

While indoor cycling classes have been taking place for decades, new advancements in technology have made data-driven workouts accessible to the masses. The implementation of heart rate monitors added a layer of biofeedback above the rate of perceived exertion alone. It allows participants to track intensity and progress in a simple metric. Digital display of cycling cadence, typically displayed as revolutions per minute (rpm), has remained a primary variable within indoor cycling sessions. This enables participants to experience variety within sessions. It also allows them to develop different areas of fitness.

The King of All Cycling Metrics

In recent years, a new data parameter has emerged as the king of all cycling metrics. This metric is power, displayed in watts (W), which enables cyclists to gauge actual physical output. Similar to the horsepower rating of an automobile, a cyclist’s power output capability defines their current state of physical ability. This power output may be trained and improved, as watts are small units of measurement which can be easily compared from session to session.

A cyclist’s power output capability may be broken-down into zones, similar to heart rate zones, which are based-upon percentages of maximal exertion. Spending time in each respective training “zone” drives a different physiological adaptation. For example, certain zones are best for burning fat, while others are best for increasing endurance or improving threshold.

As a metric once reserved only for professional cyclists, power is a data parameter which may now be easily used by the general population — including indoor cycling class participants — to observe progress. In present day, many indoor cycling studios are transitioning toward power as the primary defining parameter for the workout intensities within a class or session.

How to Incorporate Power-Based Training in Indoor Cycling Sessions:

  1. Choose an indoor bike which displays Power (W), Cadence (rpm) and Heart Rate (bpm). Then set the bike to the saddle and handlebar position recommendation for optimal comfort and safety.
  2. Find your Training Zones. Use a submaximal assessment to determine your individual power and heart rate zones. Or, use normative data based-upon age, gender, body mass and fitness activity level to estimate training zones without formal testing.
  3. When performing workouts, use power as the primary targeted training parameter, while being mindful of your heart rate. If your heart rate decreases from session to session while holding the same power output, your fitness level is improving.
  4. In addition to targeting power outputs during workouts, try holding the same power target at different cadences. Some cyclists may prefer pedaling at higher cadences, while others prefer lower cadences. Figure out your preference, then try to strengthen your weak area.

Pair the techniques above with loud music and an energetic instructor, and you’re sure to have an engaging indoor cycling session geared toward progress and performance.

Thomson Remo is the Wattbike Master Trainer/Business Development Lead with Woodway USA. He is an elite-level competitive cyclist, indoor cycling world record holder and performance education consultant to professional sports teams and universities nationally. For more information, email thomsonr@woodway.com.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

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