3 ways to develop cycling power

ShutUpLegsHeadwind and hills!

They are the nemesis of all riders.  Whether you are a roadie preparing for your next century or Fred (or Doris) running errands, what can you do to combat the wind and climb that next hill more easily?

Weight matters.  And, so does power.  The higher your power to weight ratio, the easier it will be to climb hills or battle a strong headwind.

You have 3 options.  Lose weight.  Develop more power.  Or, do both.

Most recreational and amateur cyclists can afford to lose some weight.  How much?  What is your optimum weight?  There is an on-line calculator included in the list below.  There is also an easy manual method of estimating your optimum weight based on your height and frame size thanks to Dr. G J Hamwi.  For the first 5 feet of your height, add 106 pounds.  And, then for each additional inch above that add another 6 pounds.  If you have a medium frame you do not need to do anything further.  Ladies the same method applies – 100 pounds for the first 5 feet and 5 pounds for each additional inch.  You can estimate your frame size by wrapping your fingers around the smallest portion of your wrist.  If they barely touch, you have a medium frame.  If they overlap, you have a small frame.  And, if they do not touch, you have a large frame.  If you have a small frame, deduct 6 pounds from the calculated weight.  And, if you have a large frame, add 6 pounds to the calculated weight.  For example, I am 5′ 91/2″ tall and have a medium frame.  My optimum weight is 106 pounds + (9.5″ x 6 pounds) = 163 pounds.  I am currently ~ 170 pounds.  I could climb more easily if I lost 7 pounds.

On the other hand, I could train to become more powerful so that headwinds and steep climbs are less of an effort.  Here are 3 tips to help you develop more power on the pedals.

  1. Hill Repeats.  Find a hill nearby.  I say nearby so that you can use it regularly to develop more power.  I live atop a mountain, so I do not have to look far.  First, climb the hill several times in succession – 3-5 depending on length, grade and fitness level.  Pay attention to what gear you’re pushing and your cadence.  Next time, try pedalling faster.  Then try spinning in the next larger gear, at least for part of the climb.  Continue doing this until you can climb the whole way in the larger gear.  Then gear up again.  Keep doing this until you are sprinting up that hill.
  2. Resistance Training.  This is controversial.  Some cyclists and coaches prefer to spend the time on the bike instead.  I agree to some extent but 1-2 days in the gym, particularly in the wet weather, adds variety to your workouts and can quickly build strength.  Be certain to focus on the cycling group of muscles – legs and core particularly.  Remember, high weight with few repetitions builds muscle mass and strength;  lower weight and high repetition builds endurance.  You need both.  In the off season (when you are cycling less) lift heavy and when you are out on the bike again, build endurance.
  3. Seated Starts.  Everyone can do this.  Instead of getting out of the saddle to begin pedalling when at a stop sign or light, remain seated until you are up to speed.  This requires more force – you are not using your body weight – and will build power.  Make it a habit.

The preferred approach is to concentrate on developing power rather than losing weight.  There is a fine line between being at your optimum weight and being too light.  At some point during weight loss programs you can actually begin to lose muscle mass.  Instead, if you concentrate on developing power, the weight will take care of itself.  Rather than diet, exercise more, eat well balanced meals and stop when you are full.  Know your optimum weight.  Ride more.  And, weigh yourself each week until you are close to your optimum weight.

I’ll look for you on the hills.

Other thoughts:

  1. Bicycle Power Calculator – http://www.mne.psu.edu/lamancusa/proddiss/bicycle/bikecalc1.htm
  2. Power-to-Weight Ratio – http://wattbike.com/uk/guide/using_the_wattbike/power_to_weight_ratio
  3. The Basics – http://shaycycles.blogspot.ca/2012/06/climbing-part-2-power-to-weight-back-to.html
  4. The Pursuit of Leanness – http://cyclingtips.com.au/2011/11/the-pursuit-of-leanness/
  5. Optimum Weight Calculator – http://www.healthcentral.com/diet-exercise/ideal-body-weight-3146-143.html
  6. Weight Training Intensity – http://www.aworkoutroutine.com/weight-training-intensity/
  7. Where did the muscle go? – http://thefitnessedgeofhv.com/2013/09/19/where-did-my-muscles-go/
  8. Calculating Ideal weight – http://www.caloriesperhour.com/tutorial_ideal.php

2 thoughts on “3 ways to develop cycling power

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