Interval training: An essential guide for cycling performance
High-intensity interval training is vital for competitive performance, but why is it so important, and what is the most effective form?
Interval training is a necessary evil for optimal performance – it’s uncomfortable but it works, and the benefits are manifold.
Regularly completing multiple bursts of high-intensity riding can increase VO2 max and stroke volume (the amount of blood ejected by each heart beat), reduce blood lactate levels, enhance fatigue-resistance, improve neuromuscular efficiency, and increase peak power by up to six per cent in as little as four weeks. It’s a powerful package of physiological improvements.
One of the good formats is the 4×4, that method consist in completing four repetitions of four minutes at 90-95 per cent max heart rate (HR max) followed by three minutes of active recovery at 70 per cent HR max, three days per week for eight weeks. Remembering that you have to take in consideration all the phases of your periodization, the 4×4 is not recommended to all the phases of your training. Discuss with your coach about how you can implement the 4×4 inside of your training without compromising your periodization.
Cyclists and Triathletes can benefit of these intervals. It can result in a 7.2 per cent increase in VO2 max and 10 per cent greater improvement in stroke volume.
The increases in VO2 max and stroke volume justify its use for endurance cyclists, and the increases in peak velocity/power equally make it indispensable for shorter-duration cycling disciplines.
What’s more, interval training is very time-efficient; it can be conducted as a standalone session or as part of a longer ride.
‘Intervals are vital race preparation’
“Interval training is important for cyclists for various reasons. Firstly, when coming out of the winter into the cycling season, intervals simulate the high-intensity efforts that must be sustained in race situations — this helps prepare for intense exertion.
Exemples of interval training:
4×4 Intervals – 4 min at 90-95% HR max | 3 min at 70% HR max – Ideal for elite and recreational cyclists of all disciplines. Effective and time-efficient
15/15 Intervals – 15 sec at 90-95% HR max | 15 sec at 70% HR max – Beneficial for sprints cyclists and mountain bikers. Short high-intensity work periods followed by short rest periods
30 Second Sprints – 30 sec max effort | Up to 4 min recovery – Beneficial for sprint cyclists. Short-duration maximal sprints with long rest periods, replicating sprinting
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