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Cycling Exercises: Sprint Workouts with Plyometrics to Improve Speed

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A bit more…if only the legs were as determined as your will. Often cyclists wonder how to become quicker than other cyclists, how to improve the pedalling power and gain that winning speed. Of course, by training harder and better. Training harder is understood but how to make it better. What extra could cyclists add to their training regimen, how to improve sprint speed? Enter sprint workouts for cyclists.

Basically, sprint workout has branched from the plyometric exercises aka jump training or “plyos” in which the muscles are worked to exert maximum force in short intervals of time with the goal of increasing speed strength or power. Cyclists can benefit a lot from working the sprint workouts and plyometrics for explosive speed and power.

Do you know these ultimate leg exercises that can enhance your cycling performance?

Keep reading to know how cyclists can employ plyometric exercises and sprint workouts to improve sprint speed.

Why Plyometric Exercises for Cyclists

cyclists sprinting
How to Increase Leg Speed? (source)

Your ability to apply force to an external resistance defines your strength. For cyclists, it is the pedals that offer the resistance. Now, stronger the ability to pedal, greater is the speed and better chances of being ahead in the race. And that’s where plyometric training walks in.

Plyometric exercises are explosive workouts that are done in short intervals with plenty of rest in between sets. Quick, powerful, jumping and bounding movements are involved in order to increase muscular power and dynamic strength in short period of time. The plyometric exercises can be segregated into three phases:

  • The eccentric phase, or landing phase

In this phase, the agonist muscles contract eccentrically to control movement

  • The amortization phase, or transition phase

This is the time between eccentric and concentric contractions

  • The concentric phase, or the jumping phase

In this phase, the agonist muscles contract concentrically

Examples of plyometric workouts for sprinters include:

  • Standing jumps: This workout incorporates standing jumps or jumping over barriers such as hurdles, steps or boxes.
  • Multiple hops and jumps: Typically a combination of repeated jumps or hops to increase leg strength.
  • Bounds: These are exaggerated workouts, mainly focusing on horizontal movements over a distance of at least 30 meters.
  • Box drills: A more intense form of plyometrics, these involve a raised box or step on which the athlete has to jump onto or off of.
  • Depth jumps: These are the most intense form of plyometrics wherein the athlete steps off a box, lands and immediately jumps forwards, upwards, or sometimes up onto another box.

We can call the plyometric exercises to be a part of sprint workouts because basically, both focus on the power and speed to deliver.

For better success in endurance cycling, check out these top way to build your performance.

​​​​​​Best Plyometric Exercises for Cyclists

plyometric exercises
Plyometric Exercises (source)

Cyclists can break the monotony in their training program by implementing plyometrics for speed and agility. These plyometric exercises for speed can bring a fun variable in the routine while aiding to the athlete’s maximal speed.

Here are some plyometric exercises for cyclists to supercharge their sprint speed.

Squat Jump

Get into a stance with feet at shoulder width apart and your knees bent. Jump straight up, extending your arms over the head and land gently. Repeat.

Tuck Jump

Take a similar stance like before and jump straight up and bring your knees towards chest. Land gently, reset the body position and repeat.

Lunge with hop

Perform a reverse lunge by stepping back with your right foot. Put majority of the body weight on the left foot. In a single movement, bring the right knee forward and jump into the air. Land gently to reset the stance and repeat.

Long Jump Get into

Keeping the initial stance same, crouch down into a deep squat position keeping the arms behind you. Now, jump forward landing softly on both feet with knees bent. Reset and repeat.

Plyo Push-up

While the previous workouts concentrated on the lower body, this exercise would work on the upper body. Take the push-up stance, tighten the torso completely and push down. Now explosively push the body up, into the air and land in the initial position. Take a few seconds to reset the body and repeat.

While these plyometric exercises improve strength and endurance of the cyclists on the bike, they should also perform high cadence leg workout to be able to turn that power into acceleration after mounting the bike.

And along with your body, learn how to make your bike go faster for more speed.

How to Improve Sprint Speed: Powerful Bike Sprint Workouts

sprint workouts for cyclists
Do You Struggle With Your Sprint Speed? (source)

We understand that not all cyclists are sprinters. But there is no loss in picking up the tactics to become a faster rider. Incorporating plyometric exercises in your training program will enhance the existing aerobic and lactate threshold training. It will work on your leg speed, improve your peak power output and, in the case of Tabata-style training, will also benefit your endurance by boosting your V02max.

So, here are some sprint training exercises for cyclists to try:

Wind Sprints

In this types of sprint workout, you begin with a walk or a slow run and increase it to a faster run and gradually slow down again. Throughout the workout, the process is repeatedly reversed.

Power Sprints from a slow start

This helps you to develop explosive power from a slow speed. Good for attacking, standing starts or on a climb. Get into a big gear and roll slowly till you are almost at a standstill. Either in or out of the saddle, accelerate and hold it for 20 seconds, or until you start to spin out. Ease back into an easier gear and spin for five minutes. Repeat up to 8 times.

Super Speed – sprinting from a fast pace

If you are sprinting against other riders, then chances are you will already be moving fast. This session will really help to increase your leg speed, which allow you to accelerate from speed to get the gap you need. Use a safe downhill slope to increase your speed, and when you get close to the bottom of the hill, shift gears and increase your cadence to accelerate. Keep the speed up as you hit the flat, or the bottom of the next hill if it is a rolling stretch of road.

Tabata style sprints – repeated high-speed efforts

These repeated bursts of maximum speed with little recovery between them will improve your sprint and also boost your endurance for longer distance events. One sprint is seldom enough in a race situation, so this session will help with repeated sprints out of corners or if you have to go again to make an attack stick. Sprint hard for 30 seconds, then pedal easily for 30 seconds and repeat five times. Make sure you don’t stop pedaling between efforts, as you need to maintain momentum to keep the speed high. Recovery spins for five minutes and repeat up to five times in a session.End with a good cool down.

Some extra sprinting workout to improve sprint speed.

Acceleration Workout

In this type of sprinting workout, train to mimic the kind of effort it takes to bridge the gap or race ahead of the other cyclists.

Start by riding 10 to 15 minutes, pedalling in a cadence above 90 revolutions per minute. Next, alternate sprinting all-out for 30 seconds with 30 seconds of easy spinning. After doing five reps, rest for five minutes and then complete three to four sets.

Cool down by easy spinning for 10 to 15 minutes in a cadence above 90 RPM.

Jump Start

This typically builds the sprinting power. Warm up by riding easy for 10 minutes in small circles. Stay seated for the initial seconds then stand. Spin until your RPM reaches 120. Finish at least six warm up sprints, with one minute of easy spinning to recover.

Next, from a stop or track stand, sprint as hard as you can for 10 15 seconds or until you reach the highest maximum speed. Coast for 10 seconds before coming to a complete stop. Repeat 10 times.

Check out these spinning workouts to increase your cycling speed.

When to Take It Slow

cyclist training
Listen to Your Body. Don't Overtrain (source)

Because of the high proportion of eccentric muscle contraction when performing plyometric exercises, injury is a real concern. For this reason, plyometrics should only be performed by athletes with a good training background and under the supervision of a coach or trainer experienced in this kind of training.

To avoid the injuries, follow these guidelines while planning a plyometric training program for speed.

Preadolescent athletes should not do plyometrics because of greater susceptibility to injury prior to puberty. Plyometrics should be postponed for athletes who do not have a sufficient strength base. Lower body plyometrics should be avoided until the athlete is capable of Legs pressing 2.5 times their body weight, also avoid upper body plyometrics until the athlete is able to complete five consecutive clap push ups.

Begin a plyometric workout with a general warm-up session. Include walk-jog-stride-sprint cycles for one-half to three-quarters of a mile, followed by careful stretching exercises in the warm-up.

While performing plyometrics, wear footwear with good ankle and arch support, lateral stability, and a wide, non-slip sole. Do the plyometrics specifically on surfaces with good shock absorbing properties, such as soft grassy areas, well-padded artificial turf, and wrestling mats. Avoid doing plyometrics on asphalt or gymnasium floors as injury chances are higher here.

The boxes used should be sturdy with a non-slip top. Avoid depth jumping from very high objects as they increase the risk of injury, especially for larger athletes. The rapid switch from eccentric to concentric activity should also be minimized. The average heights for depth jumps are 0.75-0.8 meters (27-30 inches). Athletes over 220 pounds should use heights of 0.5-0.75 meters (18-27 inches).

Summing Up

For Extra Leg Power, Do Sprint Workouts (source)

Strength is a vital component in cycling but power is equally required. The thin line that separates strength from power is that strength keeps a cyclist going and helps to overcome critical phrases such as uphill cycling. While power boosts the pedalling performance giving an extra nudge to the keep ahead in the race.

To increase power and to answer the question- "how to improve sprint speed", cyclists should train with a mix of plyometrics for speed and power, and of course the sprint workouts to hone the perfect cycling sprinting technique. But do these with utmost attention and care. Athletes who do not respond well to instructions are also at greater risk of injury.