Workout of the Week: Bike PowerIntervals


, by Jim Rutberg

Photograph: Torwaiphoto

Do you want to improve your personal best on segment times? The quickest path to success starts with following a training plan. Specifically designed to help you reach your potential, Strava offers subscribers 10 different training plans to develop the speed, power and fitness you need to reach your goals on segments ranging from 20 seconds to a full hour. Customized workouts get delivered to your inbox daily for four weeks.

To give you a little taste of what you’ll find in these Training Plans, we’ve worked with the coaches behind them to bring you a free workout. Give it a shot to to mix up your routine, kickstart your training and help increase your power. We launch the series with a 2-minute PowerIntervals workout from CTS Coach Kirk Nordgren who has a decade of experience helping cyclists unlock their full potential.

What is it?

60 minute workout:

  • 15 minute warmup.

  • 30 minute interval Set: 8×2 minute PowerIntervals with 2 minutes easy spinning recovery between intervals.

  • 15 minute cool down.

What are PowerIntervals (PI)?

PowerIntervals are designed to increase your ability to sustain your VO2 max power output.

Try to reach and maintain as high a power output as possible for the duration of these intervals. Ideally, these efforts should look like flat plateaus when you view your power files. Take the first 30 to 45 seconds to gradually bring your power up and then hold on for the rest of the interval. The point here is to accumulate as much time as possible at a relatively constant and extremely high output. These intervals are maximal efforts and can be performed on any terrain except sustained descents. Your gearing should be moderate so you can maintain a relatively high pedal cadence (100 rpm or higher is best).

Strava Subscribers get Access to 10 Premium Training Plans

The rest periods are intended to be too short to provide complete recovery, and completing subsequent intervals in a partially recovered state is a key part of what makes these efforts effective. Typically, recovery times are equal to the interval work time, which is sometimes referred to as a 1:1 work-to-recovery ratio.

Note: Aim for your intervals to be well above 101 percent of your field test power. Many athletes will consistently hit 110–130 percent of field test power, and some may go higher. The 101 percent level marks the bare minimum. If you can’t consistently exceed this level, you’re too tired to complete an effective PI workout.

Every cyclist has had the experience of hanging on for dear life trying not to get shelled on a group ride. This workout helps you build the specific fitness you need to hang on for longer.

Why PowerIntervals are awesome

Incorporating 2-minute PowerIntervals into your training is a great way to gain the power for prolonged surges in power or pace. As an added benefit you’ll also develop a great ability to recover from short, intense efforts so you’re ready to go again soon.

Coach Kirk’s Perspective

Every cyclist has had the experience of hanging on for dear life trying not to get shelled on a group ride. This workout helps you build the specific fitness you need to hang on longer in these situations.

Success often comes down to being strong enough to stay with the front group through efforts that leads to a selection. Take John F. for example. During his local group ride he was perfectly able to stay with the pack but would get dropped when they reached St. George Street climb which is about a 2-minute effort. On a larger scale, this situation is often what leads to the decisive win-or-lose moments in everything from local races to the biggest races in the world.

For John to make it to the finish of the local group ride he had to be able to stay with the group during those crucial minutes on St. George Street. To help him gain the necessary power to do so we incorporated this workout into his training plan.

Every cyclist has had the experience of hanging on for dear life trying not to get shelled on a group ride. Photograph: Sidekick

The purpose of 2-minute PowerIntervals is to increase power at VO2 max, not necessarily because we wanted John to ride up St. George at his VO2 max but instead give him the power necessary to climb it sustainably. In other words, by raising his maximum capacity to take in and process oxygen (VO2 max), efforts below that maximum capacity become more manageable.

RELATED: Strava Workout: 60-Minute SteadyState Intervals

Why not focus on SteadyState intervals that improve power at lactate threshold?

The breaking point for John F. was when the ride forced him to hit power outputs above his lactate threshold. We could train John to raise his LT power to the point where the St. George Street climb was an LT effort, or increase John’s ability to handle short efforts above LT. As his coach I opted for the latter because increasing power at VO2 max also has a positive impact on power at lactate threshold, and getting John over that hill would mean more overall time at LT (an important part of increasing power at LT) during the group ride because he would be with the group the rest of the way. Incorporate this workout into your training program and it will help you develop the fitness you need to go harder, longer in situations where you’re forced to ride above your LT in groups.

Ready for more?

These intervals are used in several of the Training Plans for Cyclists, including the Power Climb training plan. Select from 10 four-week long Training Plans today and unlock your potential.

Related Tags

More Stories