Former track cyclist and multiple world and Olympic champion Chris Hoy has some tips for beginner’s on how to improve power and pace on the bike.
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1. Squat for power
Power on the bike is really built in the gym.
The best move is the squat which works the glutes but also uses what they call the Lombard’s paradox: basically, you’d think you can’t use opposing muscle groups but when you do a squat, both your knees and your hips are extending, which means the quads and the hamstrings are both contracting at the same time, even though they are antagonists.
The squat works all of the power muscles at the same time.
2. Boost your cadence
You can improve your cadence by working on your technique. Put your road bike on some rollers and practice short sprints with a high cadence. Keep your pedalling motion smooth and avoid bouncing.
With beginners, there is often a dead spot at the bottom of the pedal stroke when the brain hasn’t switched off and is still pushing, even though the other crank is coming up, so you are essentially working against yourself. The smoother your technique, the faster your cadence will be.
3. Fight the pain
In a sprint you also have to be able to tolerate the accompanying lactic acid build-up which can be very painful. I will ride my bike on an indoor trainer and do interval sessions — four sets of 30 seconds at close to sprinting speed, with one minute of recovery in between.
It is hard to do interval sessions effectively on a track or road but on an indoor trainer you can safely work to your absolute limit. Each time you think it’s the worst pain ever. It is grim but very effective training.
4. Repeat after me
There’s no point expecting to become faster by doing long, slow miles on the bike. If you want to beat your mates to the 30 sign, or have a quick spurt up a short climb then you need to do it over and over again.
Repetitions really are the key — pick a short hill and ride repeated sprints up it — do three or four giving it everything you’ve got to give then have a 30-minute spin and do it all again. These sessions are more effective if you do them fresh, so do it the day after you’ve had a rest away from the bike.
5. Feed your muscles
When you are working your muscles hard, your nutrition is really important. The biggest thing is to try to minimise DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness), which is more than just lactic acid but also physical damage to your muscles.
On a micro level your muscle fibres are being torn apart, but that’s not a bad thing. That’s what you need to build more muscle for power. Have a shake with protein and carbohydrates within 20 minutes of your gym session to help your muscles adapt.