Our Favorite Workout: High Cadence/Smooth Pedaling

Most people realize there is skill development in swimming, but many just hop on their bikes and don’t ever learn the basic skills to become a better cyclist. When I first started riding a bike I was lucky enough to be involved in a great program that had an Olympic-level cycling coach. One of the first sessions he taught me and included in my program a few times times a week was the high cadence session. It’s a good session to incorporate up to three times a week in your off-season and one time every week or every other week in the body of your race season.

The session is best done on rollers to develop a smooth pedal stroke, although it can also be done on an indoor trainer or outside on a flat road. I like to place this session on easy days or the day following a strength endurance ride or long steady distance ride.

The Workout

  • Warm up easy for 15-20 minutes: You can include some single-leg pedal drills (such as 5-10 x 30 seconds right leg / 30 seconds both legs / 30 seconds left leg). Make sure you spin normally for 5 minutes before beginning the main set. Try to avoid “hitches” or “bumps” in your pedal stroke when doing single-leg drills — you want smooth pedal strokes.
  • Main Set: Repeat the following set 2-3 times with 5-10 minutes easy pedaling between sets. The session is a pyramid and the better you get, the longer you can make each repetition or the higher you can increase the cadence. A good starting point with cadence targets and times is:
    • 2min @ 90rpm
    • 1:30 @ 95rpm
    • 1min @ 100rpm
    • :45 @ 105rpm
    • :30 @ 110 rpm
    • :15 @ 115rpm
    • Spin normally for 1-3 minutes and then continue back up the pyramid
    • :15 @ 115 rpm
    • :30 @ 110 rpm
    • :45 @ 105 rpm
    • 1min @ 100 rpm
    • 1:30 @ 95rpm
    • 2min @ 90 rpm

I’ve seen Olympic-level track cyclists take their cadence up to 180+ rpm, repetitions as long as three minutes, and completing a pyramid four to five times through.

Notes: Do everything in a very light/easy gear (for example: 39/23). This is not about creating stress via cardio, strength, etc. — it is all about neuromuscular development. Try to focus on quick, smooth pedal strokes with very light tension. Rollers are best because if you are not perfectly smooth at the higher cadences you will bounce off the rollers. Avoid bouncing on the saddles as your cadence goes up. Keep tension on the gears low and focus on quick, smooth feet. If you’re using a trainer, set the resistance low.

Categories: Bike, Training

About Author

Marilyn Chychota

You can contact Marilyn via www.marilynchychotacoaching.com