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Effects of Low- vs. High-Cadence Interval Training on Cycling Performance

Paton, Carl D1,2; Hopkins, Will G2; Cook, Christian3

Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research: September 2009 - Volume 23 - Issue 6 - pp 1758-1763
doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181b3f1d3
Original Research

Paton, CD, Hopkins, WG, and Cook, C. Effects of low- vs. high-cadence interval training on cycling performance. J Strength Cond Res 23(6): 1758-1763, 2009-High-resistance interval training produces substantial gains in sprint and endurance performance of cyclists in the competitive phase of a season. Here, we report the effect of changing the cadence of the intervals. We randomized 18 road cyclists to 2 groups for 4 weeks of training. Both groups replaced part of their usual training with 8 30-minute sessions consisting of sets of explosive single-leg jumps alternating with sets of high-intensity cycling sprints performed at either low cadence (60-70 min−1) or high cadence (110-120 min−1) on a training ergometer. Testosterone concentration was assayed in saliva samples collected before and after each session. Cycle ergometry before and after the intervention provided measures of performance (mean power in a 60-s time trial, incremental peak power, 4-mM lactate power) and physiologic indices of endurance performance (maximum oxygen uptake, exercise economy, fractional utilization of maximum oxygen uptake). Testosterone concentration in each session increased by 97% ± 39% (mean ± between-subject SD) in the low-cadence group but by only 62% ± 23% in the high-cadence group. Performance in the low-cadence group improved more than in the high-cadence group, with mean differences of 2.5% (90% confidence limits, ±4.8%) for 60-second mean power, 3.6% (±3.7%) for peak power, and 7.0% (±5.9%) for 4-mM lactate power. Maximum oxygen uptake showed a corresponding mean difference of 3.2% (±4.2%), but differences for other physiologic indices were unclear. Correlations between changes in performance and physiology were also unclear. Low-cadence interval training is probably more effective than high-cadence training in improving performance of well-trained competitive cyclists. The effects on performance may be related to training-associated effects on testosterone and to effects on maximum oxygen uptake.

1Health and Sport Science, Eastern Institute of Technology, Napier, New Zealand; 2Institute of Sport and Recreation Research, AUT University, Auckland, New Zealand; and 3Human Performance Group, HortResearch, Hamilton, New Zealand

Research conducted at the Waikato Institute of Technology, Hamilton, New Zealand.

Address correspondence to Dr. Carl D. Paton,

© 2009 National Strength and Conditioning Association