This workout is a favorite of track riders, who have mastered force development with some of the most efficient pedaling mechanics. That efficiency all starts with the ability to create a stable platform. The high gearing and low RPMs train you to stabilize through your core and reduce energy leaks in order to create a platform for the hips and legs to effectively drive power into the pedals.
You can perform this workout outdoors or on an erg-type bike. Experiment with the gradient and gearing that allows you to hit the below objectives. When the gearing and gradient is right, the last 10-15 seconds should be challenging to maintain the RPMs. The high resistance to initially overcome and RPMs to hold under that high resistance demands and hones excellent pedaling mechanics and technique.
Get a feel for and dial in the resistance (based on the grade and gearing) on the first set. Be careful not to torque your back or wrestle the bike by using too great of a gradient or engaging too big of a gear. Find the gradient and gearing that challenges you to meet the objectives, but also allows you to have a relatively quiet upper body and smoothly generate the power from the hips into your pedal stroke.
Stable posture is key to activating that big muscle group, the glutes. Conversely, poor posture—for example, a curved spine or posterior-tilted pelvis—turns off your glutes, and in this case, you are forced to make up for the loss of those powerful muscles by recruiting the back and hamstrings. Have a neutral pelvis and spine prior to initiating the effort to ensure injury prevention of the back.
Workout of the Week: In-Saddle Horsepower
15-20 min. flat riding @ 76-90% FTP
4 × 5 min. @ 88-94% FTP (2 min. recovery)
4 × 30 sec. on @ 121-150+% FTP and 40-50 RPM
1 min. 30 sec. off @ <55% FTP
Perform on a 4-6% grade, over-geared, (e.g., 53/14) from a nearly standing start while in the saddle.
5 min. set rest @ <55-75% FTP
10 min. flat riding @ 76-90% FTP and 90+ RPM