Brett Sutton is one of the key players in triathlon training. He strongly believes in strength training and low cadence training, and the use of this during longer triathlon races.
Looking at cadence, heart rate, lactate, metabolic optimum, and neuromuscular measurements. Science shows us, that the metabolic optimum is 63.5 +/- 7.8 rpm. While the preferred cadence of the tested athletes were at 90.6 +/- 9.1 rpm.
So the "feeling" on the bike isn't corresponding with what really happens in the body. The energetically optimal cadence and neuromuscular corresponds with the strength capacity. Using lower cadence results in a lower heart rate, lower lactate and is a better preparation for the run. The higher cadence an athlete can ride, only tells us his endurance training status.
Looking at the fatigue of the central (brain) and peripheral (muscle) fatigue, also gives an insight in using higher or lower cadence.
Central (brain) fatigue can be measured with EEG. As I do with the omegawave. EEG recordings at different cadences but identical workload showed that higher pedal frequencies are associated with an increase in cortical brain activity, heart rate, blood lactate and RPE (fatigue scale).
So fatigue kicks in early!!! When the central activation decreases an athlete will get fatigued and his performance will drop.
Consistently maintaining a high level of cortical brain activation might be necessary to delay fatigue and improve racing performance. Training at different cadences seems to be the key to respond variably to different requirements during a race (e.g. short burst or final sprint).
To increase the power output at higher cadences, higher cortical brain activation is necessary. Increased cortical brain activation at higher pedal frequencies could possibly be maintained longer by performing a systematic training at different cadences.
So a good training program also needs the use of different types of cadence. Looking at the central nervous system this could be one of the keys to better cycling.
However, central fatigue alone cannot explain the entire strength loss after exercise. Also the peripheral fatigue is one of the keys of the performance decrease. Peripheral muscle fatigue is an inability for the body to supply sufficient energy or other metabolites to the contracting muscles to meet the increased energy demand. This is the most common case of physical fatigue.
Train on different cadences. Look for your weak cadence spots.
For the short races you need more high cadence trainings because of the short burst after corners, escapes etc. The long races need more low cadence trainings so you get off the bike less fatigued and have a great run after the bike leg.
The key is the mixture of low and high cadence trainings for your race specific needs, talent and trainings that you've already done. So, give it a good thought before you start your preparation for the next season.
coach Ferdinand Mulder