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Best sprint workouts for cyclists to increase speed

Incorporate these easy sprinting workouts in your fitness routine to increase your VO2max, build more power output, and train endurance.

Non-professional cyclists often neglect sprint training thinking that it’s only useful to get an advantage in a race. In reality, your sprinting ability is critical to your cycling performance. Regular sprinting workouts will minimize your fatigue and enhance your cardiovascular fitness more effectively than steady-state cardio. Not to mention they will make your cycling routine more fun. It’s time to introduce some sprint intervals in your training!

What is sprint training?

The definition of a sprint is a short ride performed with maximum effort. Two main criteria define your sprint performance: you can either aim to perform a sprint in the shortest possible time or ride the longest distance. The ideal sprinting cadence lies somewhere between 90 and 120 rpm.

A proficient sprinter produces a high-power output at a high cadence and uses an optimal body position to maximize this effort. Knowing your 5-second maximum power output can help you set a baseline for improving sprint form and power.

Key benefits of sprint workouts

Improving performance indicators

 

Sprint training is the most time-effective way to improve your major cycling indicators.

 

One of the main cycling benchmarks—power output—depends both on your force and speed (cadence). In other words, the harder and quicker you push pedals during the ride, the higher your power output will be. By incorporating both low-cadence and high-cadence intervals in your training program, you will effectively train both qualities. In addition to that, regular sprinting increases your VO2max, maximal anaerobic power, aerobic and lactate threshold (a pace at which the lactic acid builds up in your muscles and you feel fatigued.)

 

The most commonly studied 4-7×30-second Wingate sprints were proven more effective in increasing VO2max than regular aerobic training. More recent research suggests that a greater improvement in VO2max can be achieved with fewer sprints. For example, a REHIT sprint workout that consists of just 2×20-second sprints will improve your VO2max by 12% in just 8 weeks—a number superior to any other type of training.

 

Enhancing health indicators

 

Sprint workouts will improve your overall health including insulin sensitivity and glycemic control, cardiovascular system, blood pressure, blood lipid profile, and body composition.

 

A study of 4-second power cycling intervals resulted in increased maximal anaerobic power, peak oxygen consumption, and total blood volume.

 

Another research demonstrates that sprint workouts can reverse functional decline with aging and improve metabolic health. To achieve a significant improvement in skeletal muscle function and a reduction in blood glucose, it’s enough to perform two sprint sessions per week lasting no more than 11 minutes.

 

According to scientists, short sprints elicit similar or even greater improvement in fat oxidation in cells than endurance training. They induce a greater excess post-exercise oxygen consumption which makes them a more effective means for weight loss.

Best sprint workouts for various goals

REHIT

Reduced Exertion HIIT (REHIT) on CAROL Bike is the shortest, most effective sprint workout. All it takes is just 2×20-second sprints—and it’s scientifically proven to deliver superior health and fitness benefits in 90% less time compared to regular cardio. CAROL Bike’s AI-personalization learns to push you to your limit during the sprints leading to significant body adaptations.

 

REHIT duration varies from 5 to 8 mins 40 secs.

 

  • Warm-up: 20 sec – 2 mins of easy pedaling
  • Sprint 1: 20 sec of all-out effort
  • Recovery: 1-3 mins of easy pedaling
  • Sprint 1: 20 sec of all-out effort
  • Cool down: 3 mins of easy pedaling

 

 

While this sprint workout is performed at an all-out effort, the short sprint duration makes it easy to perform. CAROL Bikes AI algorithm also makes it suitable for any age and fitness level. It’s a moment of effort you can always master.

 

8 weeks of 3x REHIT workouts per week will improve your VO2max by 12%, reduce risk of type 2 diabetes by 62%, and keep your cardiovascular system healthy. You’ll also burn more calories on a 15-minute CAROL ride, than a 30-minute run.

REHIT on CAROL Bike is scientifically proven to deliver superior health and fitness benefits in 90% less time compared to regular cardio.

Beginner sprint workout with standing sprints

Standing sprints are a variation of a sprint workout recommended by some cycling trainers to improve sprinting technique. Short bursts of fast out-of-saddle ride may feel difficult at first but this is a great way to increase your cadence when seated.

 

This beginner workout consists of two sets of low-cadence, low-effort, and low-speed standing and seated intervals.

 

  • Warmup: 10 mins of easy pedaling (Zone 1)
  • 20-sec standing sprint at 90 rpm
  • 3 mins rest
  • Repeat x3
  • 5 mins: Easy pedaling (Zone 1)
  • 1-minute seated sprint at 100-120 rpm
  • 2 mins rest
  • Repeat x6
  • Cooldown: 10 mins of easy pedaling (Zone 1)

Speed Intervals

This is one of the classic sprint workouts which consists of several sets of sprints of different durations and intensities. If you are not sure about which gear to use when sprinting, you can follow a good rule of thumb. Switch to a gear that is one gear higher than the one you used when you have your maximum cadence at an all-out standing sprint. Seated sprints are easier to perform so this will challenging enough for you.

 

  • Warmup: 10 mins of easy pedaling (Zone 1)
  • 30-sec sprint in Zone 3
  • 30-sec rest
  • Repeat x6
  • Rest: 5 mins of easy pedaling (Zone 1)
  • 10-sec all-out sprint in Zone 5
  • 3 mins rest
  • Repeat x10
  • Cooldown: 10 mins of easy pedaling (Zone 1)

Power Starts

Speed and explosive power are the two main components that define your sprint performance. While sprinting at high cadence is great speed training, you need to accelerate against resistance to develop explosive power. This means that you start slow at a big gear and power your bike up to a high speed.

 

  • Warmup: 10 mins of easy pedaling (Zone 1)
  • Slow down to almost stillness, switch to a big gear, and ride as hard as you can to accelerate to 100-100 rpm during 1 minute
  • Rest: 5 mins of easy pedaling (Zone 1)
  • Repeat x4
  • Cooldown: 10 mins of easy pedaling (Zone 1)

 

If this feels easy for you, you can increase the interval duration.

 

Power starts engage your fast-twitch muscle fibres essential for any successful sprinter. Fast-twitch muscles are in charge of producing short bursts of maximum explosive power.

Hill sprints

Hill sprints is a classic high-intensity interval training where you alternate sprinting at high resistance with rest periods or with high-cadence sprints. Usually, hill sprints come in several sets increasing or decreasing their length and intensity. There are several ways to measure sprint intensity: you can use hill gradient in percentage, Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) out of 10, or Functional Threshold Power (FTP.)

 

The total number of sprints may vary from 4 for beginners to 10 for advanced riders. It’s important to give yourself plenty of recovery time between sprints for each effort to be effective.

 

  • Warmup: 10 mins of easy pedaling (Zone 1)
  • 20-sec sprint at 200% FTP
  • 3-min easy pedaling for beginners or 3-min ride at 85% FTP for advanced riders
  • Repeat x6
  • Rest: 5 mins of easy pedaling (Zone 1)
  • 1-min sprint at 100% FTP
  • 2 mins rest
  • Repeat x4
  • Cooldown: 10 mins of easy pedaling (Zone 1)

40/20 intervals

40/20 interval training is one of the most effective high-intensity protocols for increasing your FTP, VO2max, and maximum sprint power.

 

Some trainers also call it fatigued sprints because you have to maintain all-out effort after reaching your lactate threshold. Regular HIIT workouts will increase your lactate threshold and improve endurance.

 

  • Warmup: 10 mins of easy pedaling (Zone 1)
  • 40-sec sprint at 120% FTP
  • 20-sec rest (Zone 1)
  • Repeat x6
  • Perform 2-3 Tabata sets with 5 min rest in between sets
  • Cooldown: 10 mins of easy pedaling (Zone 1)

Regular HIIT workouts, like the 40/20 intervals, will increase your lactate threshold and improve endurance.

Extended intervals training

Long intervals are a tough workout that requires you to sustain the highest sprint power for 2-3 minutes. This type of training helps your body to more efficiently deal with metabolic byproducts such as lactic acid which builds up in your muscles when you ride in the highest training zones. Extended interval training will not only make your pedal stroke stronger but also help you feel less fatigued during long and intense rides.

 

  • Warmup: 10 mins of easy pedaling (Zone 1)
  • 2-min sprint at 105% FTP
  • 2-min rest or 2-min sprint at 95% FTP for advanced riders
  • Repeat x3
  • Cooldown: 5 mins of easy pedaling (Zone 1)

 

You can increase interval length to 3 minutes to make training more challenging.

Strength workout for sprinters

Strength training is important to increase the number of muscle fibers you can recruit during the ride and the amount of force you can use. In addition, a stronger core and upper body are important to maintain the correct body position during the ride for optimal use of force.

 

Some fitness experts recommend combining classic full-body strength training with plyometric exercises to achieve optimal results.

 

It’s better to opt for compound exercises rather than isolation ones. A compound exercise is a multi-joint movement that works multiple muscle groups at the same time. They are more effective for building lean muscle mass and are used in functional fitness.

 

Here’s a basic strength workout that includes the most common exercises for sprinters.

 

  • 10-mins warmup
  • 3 x 10 deadlifts (2 minutes rest in between)
  • 3 x 10 squats (2 minutes rest in between)
  • 3 x 10 lunges (2 minutes rest in between)
  • 3 x 1-min plank (2 minutes rest in between)
  • 3 x 10 Russian twists (2 minutes rest in between)
  • 3 x 10 push-ups (2 minutes rest in between)
  • 10-mins cooldown: dynamic stretches or foam rolling

Conclusion

In just a few weeks of regular sprint training, you will see a significant improvement in your maximum power output, VO2max, and endurance. Don’t overcommit when incorporating sprints into your exercise routine. Trainers recommend doing no more than 2-3 sprint workouts per week and taking a complete rest every fourth week. Join CAROL’s community of riders to share your sprinting achievements!

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