This is the third in a three-part series on Quadrant Analysis. In the first post, Hunter Allen gave an overview of QA and looked at a scatter plot from a crit. In the second post, he exampined a Tour de France stage and a time trial. In this final post, he explains why you would want to compare QA from different workouts and how to apply the theories to your training.
Now that you have a good understanding about the different quadrants, the different shapes of plots, let’s compare two different workouts together. The purpose of this is very similar to how you might want to use this yourself. Let’s compare a training ride to a race and see if the neuromuscular demands are similar. If they are, then great! That means the athlete is training in the correct quadrant and should be well suited for the racing demands. If not, then the athlete needs to figure out a way to train in the same quadrant(s) as the races in order to better handle the neuromuscular demands of racing. In this example, let’ s compare a group ride in which the athlete did, including a series of hills in preparation for an upcoming hilly road race against the actual race which had a steep hill in it. In Figure 4, we see the race in RED and the training ride in Yellow and right away we can see that they do not match each other. The training ride had a lot more time in QII and QIII, then the race did. The yellow points in QII represent the hard hills in the group ride and it appears that the hills in the group ride demand a lot higher forces than the hills in the race, which are represented by the red points in QI. So, this means that the hills in the race were more like sprints (high force and fast cadence), whereas the hills in the group ride were more like…well…hard steep hills (high force and slower cadence). Another significant difference is the amount of time in QIV for the race (35%) versus for the group ride (20%), and this 15% difference is certainly significant as pedaling fast and not too hard is a critical skill to have in mass start races as you have to be able to match speed changes in order to stay on the wheels in front of you. In this example, the group training ride did not match up well with the actual race the athlete was training for, so my recommendation would be to skip his group training ride and do a ride more closely aligned with the upcoming race.
In our last example, let’s compare a criterium to a Micro-burst workout. A micro-burst workout is one in which you ride at 150% of FTP for 15 seconds “ON” and then at 50% of FTP for 15 seconds “OFF” and you continue to repeat this for a period of ten minutes, often 3-6 sets of them. The Micro-burst workout is a great one to do in preparation for a criterium or any type of ‘bursty’ cycling event, including cyclo-cross. The workout can be done on either an indoor trainer or outdoors on the road. When we create a multi-file quadrant analysis using TrainingPeaks.com or WKO+ version 3.0 software, we see right away that the micro-burst workout (yellow) has a significant portion of time in Quadrant I and so does the criterium (red). This is where the two workouts are similar and the “ON” portion of the micro-burst workout matches up well with the criterium, so that would be a nice example of training specifically for the demands of the event. However, most of the criterium is actually in the QIV, which is low force, and fast pedaling and most of the points in QIV would be criteriums, but the rest period (OFF) in the micro-burst workout is in QIII, which is low force but slow pedaling. So, the athlete in the off period needed to maintain a higher cadence in the “OFF” period than he actually did in order to even better simulate the criterium. I would suggest that both the “ON” and “OFF” periods, the cadence should be in the 90rpm or higher range. Besides this, I would say that this workout was a good example of trying to match up the demands of a criterium with a workout based on power.
In conclusion, it’s not just your cardiovascular output (FTP) that determines your success as a cyclist. It’s also your neuromuscular output or how you create the watts that also determines your ability to succeed. Each of us has strengths and weaknesses related to how we prefer to create the watts. Some like to pedal at a faster cadence and some of us prefer to use a slower cadence but push harder on the pedals and while neither is necessarily better or worse than the other, certain races and terrain demand more of one than another. The key for you to understand is that when you train, you must train specifically for that event and its unique demands so that you will be ready for those demands. If you need to be able to go up a 15% hill and do it in your 23-tooth cog, then you had better make sure you train in QII enough to be ready for that much muscular strength. If you are going to do a time trial, then it’s important that you are ready for a sustained hard effort in QII and QIV, without any ‘recovery breaks’ in QIII. These are just some of the examples of how important understanding the neuromuscular demands are in racing and training and as you start planning for your 2012 season, it makes good sense to get a clear picture of the exact demands you’ll need to meet in order to win!
Hunter Allen is the co-author of “Training and Racing with a Power Meter," co-developer of TrainingPeaks WKO+ Software, and is the CEO and Founder of the Peaks Coaching Group. He has online training programs available at www.TrainingPeaks.com/hunter and you can contact Hunter or any of his coaches about a custom training plan directly www.PeaksCoachingGroup.com