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Effect of low vs high cadence interval training on cycling performance

This purpose of this post is to give a brief overview, not a critique, of a piece of recent research that you might find relevant to your sport. I’ve tried to translate it as neatly as possible and explain any technical phrases. On this occasion, the paper is a piece by Paton, Hopkins & Cook (full reference below) on the effects of low v high cadence interval training on cycling performance.

Eighteen male cyclists with at least 3 years competitive experience participated in the study. It took place during the competitive season during which all cyclists were racing at least once a week in endurance road or mountain biking events lasting longer than an hour.

The training sessions undertaken by the cyclists ran parallel to their normal training and consisted of 30 minutes of supervised intervals in the lab; sessions were arranged for similar times during the day to prevent diurnal variation, cyclists maintained their normal diets and didn’t take any performance enhancing supplements during the 4 weeks (e.g. caffeine). Training sessions were made up of 3 sets of 20 single leg jumps alternated with 3 sets of 5×30 second maximal sprints on the bike with 30 seconds recovery between each repetition. Depending on the training group, the intervals were done at cadences of either 60-70 per minute or 110-120 per minute. Rest between each jump and bike set were 2 minutes and the training, of course, came after a thorough warm up.

The main finding from the study was a 6-11% increase in performance by the low cadence group compared with the 2-3% increase in the high cadence group. The ranges are dependent upon the test variable. The testing showed that interval training at a low cadence produces greater gains than similar intervals at a higher cadence in cycling endurance performance tests. The low cadence improvements were put down to the higher pedal forces that look to be linked to testosterone increases and maybe better maximal oxygen uptake.

Paton, C.D., Hopkins, W.G. & Cook, C. (2009). The effect of low vs high cadence interval training on cycling performance. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 23(6) pp. 1758-1763.

Neil Welch

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