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One-Hour Workout: Strength and Spin for the Win

Hit these low and high cadence intervals to help improve your strength on the bike.

This week’s one-hour workout from coach Kate Ligler combines lower cadence intervals and higher cadence spinning to help improve your strength and endurance on the bike—and all in under 60 minutes. The lower cadence intervals (all at 60 RPM) are a sport-specific way to boost strength, while being able to vary your cadence quickly and smoothly, as this set demands you do, not only helps boost your fitness, but forces you to work on pedaling efficiency too. 

You’ll begin with a five-minute easy spin to warm up before getting into a six-minute building block, where you’ll build both the cadence and power/effort from a lower Zone 2 effort to a mid Zone 3 effort (in RPE, rate of perceived exertion, think 4 out of 10 up to 7 out of 10). 

Take two to three minutes to reset and spin easy before you begin the main set. 

As you’ll see, once you start the main set, it should be a continuous ride until the end. There are four parts to it and as the interval duration gets shorter, the intensity increases, so be sure to hit these intervals with gusto as you progress through each part to really maximize the training benefits. 

Ligler said: “In each part of the main set, note that the work is always at 60 RPM. You’ll want to pedal smoothly here with great control of your heart-rate—and it should feel a little slow intentionally. In the later sets, the transition/build to higher cadence will spike the intensity/effort quite a bit, but returning to that smooth yet strong pedal stroke at 60 RPM will be key in reducing the aerobic load, despite the power.”

The first part of the main set involves four minutes at lower Zone 3 (7/10 RPE) at 60 RPM cadence, into one minute at mid Zone 2 (5/10 RPE) at 90+ RPM into two minutes easy spin.

Next up, you’ll hit two sets of three minutes at 60 RPM, this time aiming for lower Zone 3 on the first block of work and upper Zone 3 on the second (think 7/10 then 7.5-8/10 RPE). Repeat the same one minute higher cadence (90+ RPM) interval after each three-minute block of work, then wrap it up with two minutes easy spin.

On the third part, you’ll do three rounds of two minutes at 60 RPM, progressing effort from lower Zone 3 in the first, to mid Zone 3 in the second, and then upper Zone 3 in the third. Again, each three-minute block is followed by one minute higher cadence (90+ RPM) riding. Conclude the block with two minutes easy spin.

The fourth and final part of the main set sees you hit four rounds of one-minute intervals, all at 60 RPM, with effort moving from lower Zone 3 in the first, to mid Zone 3, to upper Zone 3, to lower Zone 4 (8/10 RPE) in the final round. Each of these minutes should be followed by one minute at 90+ RPM. As previously, wrap up the block with a two-minute easy spin. 

Cool down to the hour (approximately eight minutes).

One-Hour Workout: Strength and Spin for the Win

Warm-up

5 min. easy spin
6 min. build (building effort and cadence) from lower Z2 to mid Zone 3 (RPE 4/10 – 7/10)
2-3 min. reset, easy spin

Main Set

4 min. @ Z3 @ 60 RPM
1 min. 90+ RPM
2 min. easy spin

2 x 3 min. @ 60 RPM (as: lower Z3 on round 1, upper Z3 on round 2 – or RPE 7/10 and 7.5-8/10) with 1 min. @ 90+ RPM between each 3 min.
2 min. easy spin

3 x 2 min. @ 60 RPM (as: lower Z3 on round 1, mid Z3 on round 2, upper Z3 on round 3) with 1 min. @ 90+ RPM between each 2 min.
2 min. easy spin

4 x 1 min. @ 60 RPM (as: lower Z3 on round 1, mid Z3 on round 2, upper Z3 on round 3, lower Z4 on round 4) with 1 min. @ 90+ RPM between each 1 min.
2 min. easy spin

Cool-down

~8 min. easy to the hour