Put It in the Big Gear—We Explore Low-Cadence, High-Torque Training with Neal Henderson

We take a close look at big gear work. What does the literature say about performance gains? What have elite coaches discovered through practice?

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Photo: Mattia Cioni

You’ve heard us talk about so-called “big gear” training on the program before. Many of you probably incorporate it into your riding, and for a variety of reasons.

What’s surprising is how little research has been done on this low-cadence, high-torque riding. Even the definition of what constitutes “low-cadence” remains hazy. And there are as many ways of incorporating this into your workouts as there are coaches. Threshold, sub-threshold, five minutes, or 20 minutes. There are many possibilities, and as many philosophies.

Today we take a closer look at big gear work. What does the research literature say about performance gains and adaptations? What have elite coaches discovered through practice? Are coaches employing something their gut tells them works, and the research has simply yet to catch up?

Our guest today is Neal Henderson, head of sport science at Wahoo, and, in his spare time, an elite coach to several WorldTour riders. Neal is one of those coaches who routinely uses big gear work with most of his athletes—from track riders to time trialists, including world champion Rohan Dennis.

We also hear from Sebastian Weber of INSCYD and Jim Miller at USA Cycling, two other highly experienced coaches who utilize big gear workouts with their athletes to great success. Finally, we hear how pro Petr Vakoc incorporates big gear work into his training.

Alright, put it in the 53×11. Let’s make you fast!


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  • Whitty, A. G., Murphy, A. J., Coutts, A. J., & Watsford, M. L. (2016). The effect of low- vs high-cadence interval training on the freely chosen cadence and performance in endurance-trained cyclists. Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism = Physiologie Appliquée, Nutrition et Métabolisme, 41(6), 666–73. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1139/apnm-2015-0562
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