Maximum power isn’t just about the sprint at the end. In fact, the sprint at the end doesn’t really come into maximum power and might be separately described as sprint or peak power. Sprint power is an absolute maximum you can sustain for a very short period of time, maybe just seconds. Maximum power is more about minutes. Sprinters of course have high sprinting power but break-away specialists or Puncheur’s (cyclists specialising in shorter steeper climbs) have high maximum power.
Whether you compete yourself or are a casual weekend rider, boosting your maximum power output will be of massive benefit. The riders’ who go up hills effortlessly might do quite a lot of training to boost their maximum power. The great news is that the sessions to build power are short, the bad news is they are hard, very hard…
First, you might find it useful to know what your maximum minute power (MMP) is. You can get this from a performance or fitness test with a professional, or by taking the average of a 3′ minute all out effort or the average of the final minute of an incremental ramp test. Getting this done in a controlled environment with a qualified coach will give you the most accurate readings, but, tests can be done from home on a turbo trainer too. Once you know your MMP boosting power output is done by completing intervals at close to or above this figure. If you aren’t using power you will find your heart rate heading towards max and you should be aiming to be extremely stressed, gasping and sweating heavily.
While it is possible to build maximum power in most settings, indoors might give you the biggest gains. The sessions are so sensitive and short that you need to be training in the exact parameters to get the best adaptations. Outside you might have traffic, weather, hills and a myriad of other influences destined to ruin your interval. You could do hill climb intervals, but, when you have to keep an eye on what’s going on around you, you might be missing what’s happening with your power outputs or heart rate, not to mention that these efforts might make your road riding somewhat sketchy!
Other than simply building more power, you are also developing race specific skills such as starting power, an increase in your ability to jump away from the bunch, or to catch someone who has just started a break, should that be of interest to you…
The last considerations to mention here focus on the quality of your session, it is very important here, you should be very tired by the end of the session, and you may not actually finish the final interval – so don’t give yourself a hard time if your power drops off! Ensure you warm-up well before, and do a cool-down after. You should experiment with these interval sessions and keep a training diary, looking to progress with interval power first and duration second (it’s quite tiring to do both at once and it makes sense to increase power as much as possible first, then look to build your ability to sustain that power longer).
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