A Different Spin on Fast Pedal Drills

The early season, for many athletes, is a time to build aerobic capacity, improve inefficiencies or fine tune form.  One, very common method of improvement that cyclists and triathletes use is fast pedal drills. I am certain the vast majority of you reading right now are, not only familiar with these drills, but have more than likely done them yourself.

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Fast pedals often consist of very high cadence, 120+rpm pedaling, for 30-120 seconds.  In these drills it is usually recommended that athletes pedal up to a cadence where they begin to bounce in the saddle and then slightly lower pedaling cadence down until bouncing stops.

“Why do this?” you may ask. The most common goal is to help athletes increase average cadence and smooth out the biomechanics of the pedal stroke.

Getting nerdy:

Ultimately the factor in improving pedaling biomechanics is to improve neuromuscular efficiency.  This increase in efficiency is caused by an improved synchronization of motor unit firing (think muscles working in unison) and an improved ability to recruit motor units (think force production).  In the end this leads to more efficient muscular contractions and more forceful contractions when needed.  

With this goal in mind, I believe that it may be time you rethink your fast pedal approach.  Instead of what you have done previously I recommend you try high cadence pedaling intervals.  Where cadence is a factor as well as load. These intervals would be as follows:

5×6 minutes @ 88-90% of FTP

10RPM above your “comfortable” cadence

To properly train the body we are looking at not only the neuromuscular level but the entire system must be working in unison.  My concern for many is that as cadence increases to the extremes biomechanics deteriorates and therefore muscle recruitment is not optimal.. If we go back to the old Vince Lombardi quote that “Practice does not make perfect, but perfect practice makes perfect” then fast pedals may be going about it all wrong. 

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