Coach Adam Morka of Wired for Performance recently had a blog post regarding the use of sled pushing to enhance sprint power. You can read this post at the link below if you haven't seen it already:
Using sled pushing and sprinting has been a great tool for conditioning athletes and different energy systems for some time.
Using it as Adam references to in developing more sprint power requires short duration efforts (5 to 15 seconds) as well as lots of recovery (3 to 5 minutes … the more the better).
Some things to think about when setting up a sled for pushing.
- Safe footing and proper shoes (shoes with poor traction on a given surface can greatly reduce power application and acceleration of the sled). You can also use some sort of olympic plate for the athlete to get good footing for the initial push (like at a 100m track race...the blocks they stand in to start)
- Proper hand height on sled - it is often ideal to have the hands at a height for the given athlete to be in neutral spine while pushing - if the hands are too low the back will likely be rounded while pushing the load. As long as the spine remains solid (even if rounded) this is ok, just not optimal. I like to see a straight line through the wrist, shoulder and hip
- Appropriate weight selection when loading the sled is important and will vary depending on the goal of the session.
- If the goal is to work on peak power and the initial sprint, just make sure the athlete can push the sled and continue to accelerate through the first 5 to 8 seconds.
- If the goal is to work on the maintenance of momentum, some cheering of the athlete will help! .. but you can also strip a little weight off each time you see the athlete starting to slow down. I like to put small 5 pound plates on the sled and take one off at a time to keep the athlete's speed and momentum high until they reach goal duration or distance ** THIS WOULD BE SIMILAR TO CYCLING WHEN POWER IS DROPPING BUT SPEED CONTINUES TO RISE ** SEE PICTURE BELOW
- In regards to applying this idea to cycling, you can see in the picture above that power and speed take on a different pattern at the beginning of an effort.
If you are really trying to work on initial sprint power and the ability to apply pressure to the pedals, you need to understand that different things can affect these sprints.
As the picture explains, initially power, torque and speed will all increase from the beginning of the effort. At some point during the effort, power and torque will drop off and speed will continue to rise.
This is the point that will dictate the effect of the sprint workout.
If you want to work on peak sprint power, you can stop your effort as soon as power drops and speed continues to rise.
On steep hills, the sprint will likely be longer in time as you can continue to accelerate against the hill for resistance for longer.
On flats the sprints will likely be shorter depending on how long you can continually build your rpm in your selected gear to continue to apply power to the pedals.
Some different workout suggestions for developing the above.
1) Slow rolling start sprints (develop initial sprint power and work on peak power) - Start in a big gear, rolling along at a slow speed about 5 to 8 km/hr. Start the sprint and try and get up to max speed as soon as possible. Continue to accelerate as long as you can feel power increasing in your legs. As soon as you start to feel that you are spinning the gear instead of really turning the cranks under load you can stop the effort. Efforts should be 3 to 15 seconds long (optimal maybe 8 to 15 seconds). These can and should be done both seated and standing.
2) Hill Sprint to flat or slight downhill sprint (develop maintenance of momentum) - this is a favorite of mine (usually used for running and team sport athletes but would apply to cyclists as well). Find a hill that takes 6 to 10 seconds to sprint up - but then has a flat to slightly downhill runout. Sprint at max effort to the top of the hill, then continue to accelerate on the downhill/flat for another 10 seconds or until you can't accelerate any more.
Make sure when you work on maximal efforts you recover well. A good session would consist of 8 to 12 repetitions only. Taking about 90 seconds to 5 min of recovery, whatever it takes to do quality work each time.
When working on maximal efforts in the gym with weights...5 min recovery is very normal...but in the endurance world we just can't seem to sit around for that long. Try it sometime and see how the sprint workout feels with lots of rest.
Let me know if you have any questions and leave them in the comments section or email me at email@example.com and I will respond in the blog.