Step down sprints

step-down-sprintsAim of Session

Maximal short intervals descending in length

Session description

WU: You need a good warm-up for these, take 15 to 20 minutes, include 5 mins in zone 4, included in session duration

MS: One set = 120s, 90s, 60s and 30s, take the same recovery as the preceeding work bout. 5 mins between multiple sets. Perform with a high cadence

CD: Easy spin for 15 minutes, included in session duration



Although each of the reps is a maximal effort, you are working across a range of time where big changes occur in the physiologcal systems predominating i.e. a 30s sprint is quite different to a 2 minute all out effort. In the 30s sprint, much of the energy will come from the muscle bound "ATP+CP" system; move to 2 minutes and now even the aerobic system is beginning to contribute to energy turnover - some very fit athletes can even reach VO2max in this short space of time!

Application for the Rider

Performance takes on very many aspects - and to call a cyclist a 'great sprinter' suggests that you can sprint or you can't. But, as this session demonstrates, there are many different time periods over which a winning sprint might unfold - take an uphill finish vs a flat end to a race: sometimes its like watching a race in slow motion when the peloton finish on a gradient! Being able to hit an effort maximally and then sustain it takes a different physiological ability than a 10 to 15s sprint. So, we must train the range. Time periods of 30 to 120s focus on the 'capacity' to sustain anaerobic work rather than hitting a peak rate of energy turnover.

Practicalities and tips!

  • Go all out in each effort rather than try to pace. This is not a session where you are targeting the same power in each work rep i.e. the 30s average power should be higher than the 120s average power.
  • A rider and coach can change the focus of this session by altering the work to rest ratio e.g. by extending the recovery time to 5 minutes, full recovery from the sprint will be allowed, thus the next sprint can be performed with fully replenished muscle stores of ATP+CP i.e. the session becomes more anaerobic in nature.
  • A coach might also ask the rider to perform multiple sets at different cadences

Evaluation of the session

  • How does the peak power; and the average power compare across the different length efforts? How about across multiple sets?
  • What is the shape of your power curve in each bout? Is there a peak and then a fall in power? Or, is the response 'flatter'? This can tell you a lot about the kind of rider you are (higher peak, bigger fall off normally indicates an athlete with a lot of fast twitch fbres)