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benefits of low cadence cycling

Pro cyclist warming up on turbo trainer

Incorporating low cadence training into your cycling regimen can offer several potential benefits. While the scientific evidence regarding its effectiveness may be somewhat inconclusive, many cyclists, including top professionals, have found value in this training method. Here's a breakdown of the potential benefits and how to integrate it into your training:


1. Improve Cycling Power: Low cadence training allows you to increase power by pushing a bigger gear at the same cadence. This can be particularly useful when you've reached the limit of how fast you can pedal and need to increase power through torque.


2. Enhance Climbing Abilities: On steep climbs, you often have to increase torque, regardless of your preferred cadence. Low cadence training can prepare you for these situations, improving your climbing performance.


3. Boost Neuromuscular Efficiency: Pedalling in a bigger gear at low cadence can enhance muscle activation and efficiency. This can lead to a smoother pedal stroke, a key metric that separates pros from amateurs.


4. Promote Aerobic Adaptation: Low cadence training may help recruit more Type II muscle fibres, which can improve endurance and overall aerobic fitness. It might also contribute to the conversion of Type IIa fibres to Type I fibres, which is beneficial for FTP and VO2max.


5. Increase Cycling Endurance: Low cadence intervals can quickly fatigue your muscles, making them a time-efficient way to improve endurance. They can be especially valuable during the off-season or when you're limited to indoor training.


6. Complement Strength Training: Combining low cadence training with strength training can be an effective strategy. Activating neuromuscular pathways through strength training and torque intervals on the same day can help transfer strength gains to the bike.


Who Should Consider Low Cadence Training:


  • Those who want to improve their power output, especially when climbing or during high-intensity efforts.

  • Cyclists who live in flat regions and rarely pedal at lower cadences.

  • Individuals with well-developed aerobic engines who want to work on muscular strength.

  • Riders who feel their legs give out before reaching their aerobic limit during races or intense intervals.


Who Should Be Cautious About Low Cadence Training:


  • Cyclists with a history of overuse injuries, particularly knee problems.

  • Athletes who are naturally strong muscularly and may not need torque training.

  • Those who naturally maintain low cadences and need to focus on higher cadence efficiency instead.


How to Implement Low Cadence Training:


  • Perform low cadence training at either tempo or threshold power.

  • Start with one day per week and gradually work up to two sessions.

  • Incorporate variations, such as extended intervals, decreased cadence, increased power, and mixed cadence segments.

  • Use low cadence training primarily during the base season and consider maintaining it with 1-2 sessions per month during the competitive season.


Overall, low cadence training can be a valuable addition to your cycling routine, but it's essential to consider your individual needs and goals before incorporating it. Monitor your progress and adjust your training accordingly to maximise its benefits.


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