This is a sponsored article in association with Zwift.
ERG mode, a function found on a lot of smart trainers, controls the amount of physical effort you put into a workout by deciding how much resistance to apply to your pedalling based on your current level of fitness.
While you may already be aware of ERG mode – also known as resistance control mode – as an important training tool, WorldTour coach Kevin Poulton says there’s much more to learn.
According to Poulton — who has helped athletes at the highest level to win Paris-Roubaix, WorldTour Classics and Grand Tour stages, as well as compete at the Olympics — one of the secrets to getting the most out of ERG mode training is changing your pedalling speeds, even while ERG mode is controlling your power output.
“We used to say that a watt is a watt,” explains Poulton. “But watts at different cadences use different muscle fibres. If you use ERG mode wisely, your body will learn to find power from different resources.”
You can start pedalling towards improved fitness levels in almost any workout on Zwift. The next time you’re in ERG mode and riding base miles, for example, or even riding at a steady pace but in a higher training zone, try alternating your cadence by 10rpm every five minutes by spinning faster or slower.
“Watch how your heart rate responds,” says Poulton. “If your power remains the same but your heart rate changes, you’re recruiting different muscles to produce that power.” And the more muscles you use during your workouts, the stronger you’ll become.
Poulton adds that in combination with ERG mode, changing your cadence can also effectively turn long stretches of flat Zwift terrain into mountains. “Let’s say you need to train for a 30-minute climb,” he says. “In ERG mode, slow your cadence and you can work the muscle fibres that you usually use for long hills.”
It’s important to remember, however, that while ERG mode controls your power, you have the power to control your pedalling.