Tempo bursts

tempo-burstsAim of session

Development of quality endurance but with an added emphasis on change of pace and lactate clearance. A stepping stone to more intense training sessions.

Session description

WARM UP: spend 10-15 minutes buid from zone 1 to upper zone 2 or low zone 3

MAIN SET: Aim for a ride in mid-range zone 3. Every 4 minutes, increase cadence by 10-15 rpm for 30s.

COOL DOWN: ease off with 10 minutes of zone 1/2


Overall, this session will exert a similar physiological response to the other zone 3 sessions - 'tempo' work aims to improve the systems associated with lactate production and carbohydrate use / storage. The 'bursts' introduced in this session achieve two things: firstly, it allows a break in the monotony of the training load (both mentally and physically). A change in the delivery of the stress quite literally keeps the body on its toes! Dropping the gear to a smaller gear will, for example, require a different muscle fibre recruitment. Some of the body's fast twitch fibres will have to fire to increase contraction speed. This is why heart rate might climb more over a tempo burst session than a straight through tempo block - even if power averages can be lower.

Application for the Rider

The small increases in power (through increased cadence NOT increase torque / tension in the muscle) serve as a useful step up towards the top end zone 3 area; so expect to see this session as you move towards 'sweetspot' work. The session also works well as a lead into training cycles incorporating sprint work.

Practicalities and tips!

  • Riders tend to find this a session easier achieved on a turbo trainer, as finding the right gear in which to 'burst' is easier.
  • Alternatively, find a flat route, and one without junctions / traffic
  • Take time to establish which gear ratios can help you reach both power and cadence targets
  • Power will probably be similar if not a little higher in the burst.
  • Don't forget to fuel - its still a zone 3 session where carbohydrate is being burnt quite quickly - the bursts can make it hard to drink: get into the habit of a 'quick swig' after each burst (so to give yourself time to ingest it fully before the next gear change and cadence spike)

Evaluation of the session

  • Were you hitting mid zone 3 for the majority of the ride?
  • How did the bursts affect your heart rate?
  • How does this session compare to a zone 3 ride of the same duration?


More in this category: « Tempo plus Tempo finale »