Burgomaster-setsAim of Session

Repeated blocks of 30s sprints, effective for anaerobic and aerobic development

Session description

WU: 15 minutes, inc 5 mins of zone 3/4 to get you revved up, included in session duration

MS: All out 30s sprints with 4 mins total rest recovery between each effort.  Start with 4 reps, moving to 8.

CD: Easy 10 min spin, included in session duration 


Like the Tabata and Gibala intervals, this session takes its name from the author leading the research study investigating its training value. Burgomaster and colleagues reported 6 sessions of these short sprints in a 2 week period dramatically improved cycle endurance capacity in recreationally trained men and women. During a cycling test at 80% of VO2max, average time to exhaustion increased from approximately 25 minutes to 51 minutes - that's a massive 101%! One theory as to why this session promotes fitness is that it helps the rider access their anaerobic ability. Some physiologists believe that we cannot train the size of our anaerobic capacity, but rather this type of work helps a rider make better use of the stores already present. For example, the sprints will teach the body to recruit more fibres maximally at sprint onset. Over the 30s, the large energy turnover will lead to high rates of lactic acid and other metabolic by products. The body will adapt to this stress by improving its ability to continue muscle contraction under high acidity and also, enhance systems for lactate clearance (the 4 minute recovery will allow each sprint effort to be performed 'fresh'). As well as improvements in time to exhaustion, repeated sessions have shown to increase the oxidative enzymes in muscles that help process oxygen for energy, but also clear the lactic acid produced. Interestingly, the research has shown glycogen storage in the muscles to also increase after a 2 week training cycle using these sets. 

Application for the Rider

The use of the Burgomaster sessions will usually be in the context of a specific block rather than a session contained in a 'normal' training cycle. This is because the physiology it aims to hit is very sensitive to overall activity / training stress. A rider tempted to slot in an 'easy ride' between 2 days of this work can actually risk jeopardising the adaptation the sessions aim to bring about. To guaranteee the same results of the research study, one must be prepared to commit to it fully: both within each session i.e. hitting true maximal effort, no pacing; and also across the 2 week block. There is no artistic licence allowed in THIS training block! The coach might suggest this block for a number of reasons:

  1. Your performance appears to be limited by your ability to vary your effort within a race i.e. you cannot push up the hills / drags without bringing on premature fatigue. This session might help you access your anaerobic ability
  2. You have a relatively flat 'power-time' relationship, and some top end work might help you hit higher powers in shorter races (see the factsheet on Critical Power for some explanation on this)
  3. You have spent a long time in a particular training cycle and your coach thinks a 'shock' to the system might kick start adaptation

For whatever reason, this series of sessions is extremely time effective - 15 minutes of exercise in 2 weeks!

Practicalities and tips!

  • Best done on turbo as a controlled session is needed.
  • This session will be used in a focused training block – it is best used in isolation (or its effects might be compromised) and typically a day off in between is needed (as this allows complete adaptation of the aerobic and anaerobic pathways). DON'T be tempted to maintain near to normal training volume by adding other sessions in your week: keep the training block as intended.
  • Be mindful that your energy demands while intense IN the session will be significantly lower over the 2 weeks. Typically, total energy expenditure over the 2 weeks would be 3500kcal (the same you would burn off in 2 x 3h rides). Keep nutrition as normal, but cut out use of energy drinks during the sessions themselves.

Evaluation of the session

  • There are two key parameters to check within each session - your peak power, and your average power. How do they change across the reps?
  • You can also calculate a 'fatigue index' by taking the end power as a % of your peak power. This will give you an idea as to the shape and rate of your fatigue. How does this change?
  • Looking across sessions 1 to 7 (the typical amount achieved in a 2 week block), how does your average power, peak power and FI change?
  • Heart rate and its rate of increase is also interesting to analyse - as it might tell you how quick your oxygen uptake is being switched on. Is the % of maximum changing? How quickly is it rising towards its peak in the session? How quickly are you recovering?