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Improving Power Output at LT(22 posts)

Improving Power Output at LTRockyMountainRacer
Jan 24, 2003 10:37 AM
Well I bet a lot of you are starting to get racing on the brain, as most of us only have about two months to go before the big races start!

In that frame of mind, I have started my lactate threshold training, and my question is "What is the best way to improve power output at LT?" And I am not looking for answers like "Do LT intervals" because I already do that. More specifically, what I have done is 1 long hill climb each weekend so far in January (to get some intro LT work without having to do intervals), and last night I did my first set of LT intervals on the flats: 4 at 5:00 minutes each. I plan to focus pretty much exclusively on LT training for my intervals in February, then lay down some anaerobic work in March so I'll be ready to go in April.

So back to the original question. To improve power at LT is it best to do the intervals with a higher cadence or lower, bigger gears or smaller, in the hills or on the flats? And what about varying the length of the intervals? And I don't train with power, I am looking at speed, heart rate, and perceived exertion at LT. So my best indicator of a power increase at LT is a faster speed for my intervals at the same level of HR and exertion. And that is what I am really after here: How do I go FASTER at my lactate threshold?

So thanks in advance, and let me know if you need any more information to make a more informed response.
re: Improving Power Output at LTFasCat
Jan 24, 2003 11:19 AM
Hello RMR-
One approach to improving your power output at LT is to simply work on your power output. By increasing your OVERALL power output, you will increase your maximal power output, your anaerobic power output, your LT power output, and your sub LT power output. In other words your cycling economy will improve.

Alas, you don't need a powermeter to factor power into your workouts. Don't worry about cadence, gears, hills, or flats right now. Later, yes.

DO consider the length of your intervals because the length of your intervals will determine the level of power output. A 1 minute interval may have a power output of 450 watts (for example). A two minute interval may have a power output of 400 watts. Obviously the longer the interval, the lower the average power output will be. Now by working at power above your LT power, you will increase your overall power and that includes LT power. Makes sense?

Once you have increased your power then you can focus on your LT power as the season draws near. For now, I recommend starting with 15-30 sec. intervals and work you way up slowly to 3-5 minutes over the course of a few weeks. The shorter the interval, the higher your power output should be.

Based on your measurements if you perform the intervals from the same location (hill or road sign), you can gauge your speed and distance traveled. Perceived exertion is good. The shorter the interval the higher your PE should be. BUT during the shorter intervals, your heart rate will not respond fast enough to accurately reflect your power output. Once the intervals lengthen then HR will become more useful.

I hope this makes sense and you find it useful. This is ONE approach and there are others. I personally find this raises my power output the most and when I adopted this approach I noticed tremendous gains.

Good Luck!
re: Improving Power Output at LTJon Billheimer
Jan 24, 2003 11:42 AM
With respect to cadence and terrain I would select the cadence at which I'm going to be racing. Ditto for the terrain. Make your neuromuscular adaptations event-specific.

Another idea re power at LT: current research indicates that 4 to 5 min intervals done slightly above LT is the fastest way to raise it. This stimulates production of a transporter protein which grabs off blood lactate molecules, carries them back into muscle cells where they're converted to pyruvate, and enter the Krebs cycle for complete oxidation. The net effect is to increase your clearance rate. The speed/power at which these intervals can be done is called velocity at VO2 max, or the speed which you can average doing an all-out six minute interval. The pro's advice on this kind of work is not a steady diet, but one session per week for four to six weeks. Your other interval session would consist of the type of intervals described above.
Good AdviceRockyMountainRacer
Jan 24, 2003 12:06 PM
Thank you Jon, I do plan to start doing VO2 max intervals in February. I figure that one month of anaerobic work is all I will do before my first relatively important races in April. This is the first time I am following a periodized build, and I don't want to do too much too soon. And I want to race from April to September, so I don't want to destroy myself too soon. Sound good?
Wait a minute...RockyMountainRacer
Jan 24, 2003 11:48 AM
First of all, in terms of increasing overall power output, I have been training my sprint once a week since mid-November. I like to do sprint training, and some coaches like LeMond recommend that you work on it all year round. So I have been increasing my peak power through sprinting for the past few months.

But back to the power at LT discussion, it sounds as though you are suggesting that I do my shorter, more intense intervals now, then phase into longer LT intervals. This is the first I have heard of this, because most coaches including Friel, Burke, Borysewicz, & Cantrell recommend that you start by doing the longer LT intervals before you do anything anaerobic (i.e. shorter and more intense). Most of what I have heard in advice and from literature recommends that you build your LT first, then work on anaerobic in the last month or so leading up to the first race. Am I missunderstanding you or what?
Wait a minute...Jon Billheimer
Jan 24, 2003 12:00 PM
The advice that I passed on comes from Owen Anderson's reporting of the work pioneered by Veronique Billat at University of Lille. The work that she has done with runners has been pretty successful and is being taken up by a lot of coaches. The Kenyans have been training this way for years. The advice is to do a couple of microcycles of these intervals prior to tapering for racing, and to do one session per week concurrently with your standard LT and/or tempo work. I already gave you the physiological rationale. This is not theoretical. It has been measured both in skeletal and cardiac muscle tissue.

Some of the British cycling coaches have also adopted this approach for training short course time trialists, i.e. under 40K. One coach (Jeff Stern??) recommends intervals done at slightly above 10 mi. TT pace, which is about the same thing as Billat's vVO2 max workout. I realize that this is not yet mainstream thinking, but it is gaining currency. I threw it in as alternative for you to think about since you asked that no one reply by saying "do LT intervals", right? The only way you're going to raise power at LT is by either raising your LT or by improving neuromuscular co-ordination. The first can be done with super-threshold intervals, the second by working at event-specific cadences and on event-specific terrain at your LT to improve economy. Make sense?
Wait a minute...RockyMountainRacer
Jan 24, 2003 12:08 PM
Yes, look closely: My "wait a minute" reply was directed at FastCat's response, not yours. I totally get what you are saying.
I agree w/John...James OCLV
Jan 24, 2003 12:24 PM
To increase your power at LT, you need to work on Muscular Endurance. This has two components, Force and Endurance.
Muscular Endurance is the ability of a muscle or muscle group to perform repeated contractions for a long period of time while bearing a load. Power is the result from combining force and speed (cadence). Basically to increase power at LT, you need to:

1). Increase the amount of force you can apply to the pedals while riding at or slighlty above your LT, or

2). Increase your cadence while riding at or slightly above your LT, or

3). Both

Remember the rule of specificity - Any training induced adaption is specific to the type training undertaken. What does this mean? If you want to increase your power at LT, train at or slightly above your LT! What does that mean? Long Intervals (basically, what you've been doing). Two adaptations result from training at LT. You:

1). Raise your LTHR (there is a cap, though; about 80-90% of your max).

2). Once adaptation #1 happens, the result is increasing power at LT.

Overall power and sustainable power are completely different. Working on your sprint won't increase your power at LT. Neither will doing short intervals. (Both sprint training and Anaerobic interval training lack the endurance component of ME).

If there were a corelation between overall power and power at LT, you'd see sprinters wining Time Trials and Mountain Stages... Rarely happens... (Same for body builders, for that matter).

So the long of the short of it is, keep doing what you've been doing. You've got all of the answers to your own question!
May be treminology?Dream plus
Jan 24, 2003 1:50 PM
You do mention "Force and Endurance" maybe FastCat was working it from that angle. I subscribe to Trainingbible and in Base 2 the recommended workouts ( based on AE as my limiter) include Force workouts F2c which read
" BT on flat road or on a trainer. Use the big chain ring and a gear that allows only about 50-60rpm. While in the saddle drive the pedals down as hard as possibel for 15-20 revolutions of the cranks.Do 6 -10 of these starting a new one every 3-5 minutes after warming up. Heart Rate is not observed."
It also suggests M1a intervals( muscular endurance tempo Z3) and endurance rides inthe same period.
May be treminology?James OCLV
Jan 24, 2003 7:36 PM
Yes! is a great site. Lot's of good info on there; especially from their message board. I like Friel's methodology because it's based on science and scientific methods - not randomness...

I believe another name the F2 workout that you are refering to is "Force Reps". Force is one component of Muscular Endurance - during the M1a intervals you'll notice that the cadence is between 80-90rpm's - kinda low for TT's. The reason for the low cadence is that you are developing the Force component of ME. Remember, Power is a function of Force and Speed - all of the work that you are doing now is helping to develop a solid foundation that you will need later - this will help your prepares your body and helps it adapt more quickly to intensity.

If you think in terms of a layer cake - Force, Muscular Endurance and Endurance are the layers and the AE workouts will add icing to the cake, so to speak.
More perspective on Power at LTJon Billheimer
Jan 24, 2003 3:43 PM
James comes up with a nice explanation. I also thought after my previous response that maybe some more background might be useful. Physiologically there are two sides to the "LT" equation: lactate production and lactate clearance. Lactate production is either reduced or handled within the cell within which it occurs by "building a bigger aerobic engine", that is by increasing fat mobilizing and fat metabolizing enzymes, increasing mitochondrial size and density within the cell, and stimulating the production of enzymes which facilitate the oxidation process. This is done progressively through base, tempo, and finally standard subthreshold intervals. But to go beyond this adaptation one can then improve the lactate clearance rate, and hence LT itself, through super-threshold vVO2 max intervals which stimulate the production of MCT1, the transporter protein.

This is not quite what most of us have in mind when we think of "anaerobic" training, the purpose of which is to improve repeatability of intense efforts and to stimulate CP resynthesis.

Finally RMR you're absolutely right about not wanting to overdo intensity too early. If you do want to do a microcycle or two of this kind of work to kick start your VO2 max and LT you can, but you really need to be observant of your recovery and not to combine this kind of training with a lot of high volume at the same time. As always, let common sense prevail and listen to what your body's telling you.
Recovery time and lactate clearancespeedisgood
Jan 25, 2003 3:33 PM
This is a great topic! I like all the previous posts--I pretty much agree with everyone. But don't forget about manipulating recovery time between intervals in addition to doing supralactate intervals to improve lactate tolerance/clearance. The ability to recover faster (or increase the rate of lactate clearance) between hard efforts is arguably one of the more important limiting factors in racing aside from vVO2.

Lactate should be produced most "efficiently" with repeated, short, high intensity efforts of <30 s. so do sets of 3-5 x 10 sec. with maybe 30 sec. recovery between reps with a full 10-15 min. of active recovery between sets. I think Chris Boardman used this type of training to prepare for one of his hour records except he used 6-10 sec. intervals with, I think, 15-20 sec. recovery. I could be wrong on this tho.

You can then extend the intervals longer up to 30 sec. and then increase the recovery proportionally to around 90 sec. If you are really masochistic, then you start decreasing recovery time while maintaining the 30 sec. work duration until you're doing 30:30::work:rest. Then you start doing more reps per set. Ouch.

For me, this is one of the "icing" types of training which you would do after acclimatizing yourself to LT intervals (4-6') and sprint training (<30" with full recovery between sprints) for 3-4 weeks.
Recovery time and lactate clearanceJon Billheimer
Jan 25, 2003 6:03 PM
That's a pretty interesting subject, which I didn't really want to get into since you're then really getting into "anaerobic" work. These kinds of sprint repeat sets with long recoveries between sets have a similar effect on LT as the vVO2 max intervals with longer recoveries. But in addition they also recruit Type IIa and b fibres.

One of Billat's original workout schemes was 30-30 intervals at vVO2 max to exhaustion. Not quite the sprint repeat idea, but close. Interestingly, Dr. Gordon Wright who trains some elite short course time trialists in the U.K. has an article on high intensity interval training at the ABCC website in which he describes reverse pyramid intervals. These intervals start out with sprint repeats, then move on to one minute intervals, and finish with 2.5 km intervals. This is a brutal workout which not only heavily emphasizes developing tolerance and clearance rates but also progressively recruits Type IIa, IIb, and I motor units.

The Brits seemed to have experimented more with this type of training than some others. However, this is not for the poorly conditioned or fainthearted athlete!
Speaking of motivation . . .speedisgood
Jan 27, 2003 9:51 AM
When we start talking about any supramax workloads, we also have to take into account motivation as a key to how much you really accomplish in those sessions. Obviously, that's why it's easier to use races as high intensity training vs. just going out by yourself and trying to hammer yourself into fitness.

So that leads me to the question of how can you motivate yourself to do this type of training on your own? How about more group ride strategies (like the reverse paceline idea or sign sprints)?
Speaking of motivation . . .Jon Billheimer
Jan 27, 2003 10:15 AM
You're absolutely right! In the ABCC article on high intensity interval training, the author specifically highlights the motivation issue. One must be highly committed and disciplined to carry out such a workout. The problem with group sessions is that they tend to get really haphazard and disorganized. It's hard to get a group together who are all on the same kind of training schedule, with the same goals. However, if you can, I think that really helps.
Best discussion yetFasCat
Jan 24, 2003 5:28 PM
No, I am coming from the camp that incorporates a weight program first and then transfers the power onto the bike. Then base and then an intensity phase that builds power and anaerobic endurance. Then its time to refine your training and get specific to your cycling discipline, such as your LT training.

People have done Ph.D's on this one subject, books have been written, and much has been written. Its good to discuss this in an open forum to hear all opinions. Often times there is more than one way, approach, method, etc...

Keep it coming!
alright lets let the slow one catch up.... LOLGall
Jan 24, 2003 6:30 PM

Great discussion but I have a simple question.

Are you all saying that after I finish my base and start my build I should start out with training above my LT and then after a few weeks or whatever I should train my LT by training at or below my LT?

alright lets let the slow one catch up.... LOLJon Billheimer
Jan 24, 2003 7:03 PM
Not at all. What I've done is to work progressively closer to my LT doing 8 to 12 min intervals. After two microcycles of that I then added one workout per week that involves heartrates in excess of LT for three weeks. In my case I was doing a progressive series of high cadence ladders. Then I won't be doing any more superthreshold work for the next six weeks or so, when I'll revisit some intense reverse pyramid intervals.

I'm not suggesting at all that anyone go beyond what they're conditioned for. But when you do plateau doing the usual cruise interval stuff there are further ways to boost the engine.
alright lets let the slow one catch up.... LOLJames OCLV
Jan 24, 2003 7:27 PM
In addition to all of the great info that's been posted here by everyone, I'd add that workouts should get progressively harder - this applies to both volume and intensity. To second what Jon said, I'd suggest doing sub-LT to LT work before doing anaerobic work because working "around" your LT will help to condition your body to adapt and better handle/tolerate Lactic Acid. When you do Anaerobic Intervals, your body is producing Lactic Acid at a rate much greater than that in which it is able to clear it. The better your body is at handling this, the higher the quality of your Anaerobic sessions.
re: Improving Power Output at LTMR_GRUMPY
Jan 24, 2003 7:38 PM
If you want to up your watts, try muscle tension intevals. I'm going to assume that it's a little too cold outside for really hard efforts, so jump on your trainer, warm up for 20 minutes, and throw it in the 53X12. Crank away for 15 minutes at 55 RPM. Spin for 5 minutes and do it again. Cool down by spinning easy for 20 minutes. If your knees hurt the next day, just spin. If your knees feel OK, but your leg muscles feel like someone has been beating on them with a baseball bat, the plan is working. Do this twice a week, and your Wattage at AT will increase. It may take 3 to 4 weeks before you notice the improvement. Like any other plan, go hard for three weeks, then ease of the next week.
If you are able to ride outside, warm up, then ride in the 53X15 for an hour without standing, no matter what happens to your cadence. Don't stand-- Don't shift. = Same results as the indoor workout.
I Agree, these are goodRockyMountainRacer
Jan 24, 2003 9:10 PM
I have been doing some of these throughout the fall, often in the gym on a spin bike after I do weights. However, I've been doing much shorter intervals, ussually around 6 minutes. I will try lengthening them.

I think I will try that 53x15 for an hour outside, but I might do a 53x17 or one smaller because I weigh 145. You think a slightly smaller gear might be better for a smaller rider? That sounds like a pretty painfull workout, but I would think that would be great for bike-specific strength & strength endurance.
Jan 28, 2003 3:14 PM
Best discussion of training specific to power at LT I have read on this board. Continue on pros!