The Four Minute Workout - too good to be true?
- An indoor cycling workout for E-Motion Rollers with detailed explanations by cycling coach Patrick Carey.
Four minutes. To good to be true?
This workout might take a bit longer than four minutes, but it only requires 3 to 5 minutes of actual hard work.
You can do ANYTHING for thirty seconds: about the time the effort starts to get really uncomfortable, you're done. The only caveat: during each 30-second interval you must pedal at absolute maximum; so hard, that it’s impossible to sustain that level longer than thirty seconds. A growing body of research shows short, maximum-effort bursts of work not only raise anaerobic capacity, but also our aerobic performance. In fact, workouts like this have been shown to create the same aerobic gains as a two-hour steady-state endurance ride.
How To Do It
Because this is a maximum-effort workout, we need to be relatively fresh. Schedule these workouts early in a training block, typically the first interval workout of the week. In other words, don’t do a four hour tempo ride the day before and expect to be fresh enough to do this workout.
Do an effective 10-15 minute warmup, including high-cadence pedaling and at least one effort of 60-90 seconds at threshold. On E-Motion Rollers, I prefer to warm up in a low resistance setting, then set the resistance to its max and only change gears during the workout.
During the workout, alternate each interval between sitting and standing. This is why Inside Ride's E-Motion Rollers are extremely beneficial for this workout indoors. They allow full-on efforts both sitting and standing, as well as having enough resistance to challenge even the strongest sprinters.
Begin in a relatively hard gear and focus on quickly accelerating (120+ RPM’s) for each sprint. Shift and continue to spin through gears until reaching maximum capable output. Hold that until the 30-second mark. Then drop to your lightest gear and spin easy for 3 to 5 minutes until you feel completely recovered and ready to hit full-intensity again.
Repeat until you are no longer able to perform full-power sprints.
● 10-15 minute warmup - including high cadence and tempo/threshold efforts.
● 6-10 x 30s maximum effort sprints (175-250% FTP)
○ Alternate every other effort between sitting and standing.
○ 3-5 minute recovery between sprints - spin in an easy gear for recovery.
○ If you're recovered before 3 minutes, it's because you can sprint harder during the intervals!
● 5-10 minute cooldown - Easy spinning after last sprint
Above is a power file from this workout completed on Inside Ride rollers. The athlete performed six sprints right around 250% of FTP. This is damn good power to make sprinting in your living room in the late winter!
Why does this work?
Common thinking often views the aerobic and anaerobic systems as mutually exclusive with the aerobic pathways shutting down whenever we “go anaerobic” - as if some sort of switch gets flipped. In truth, our aerobic system never stops working, even during short-duration, maximum-output bouts of exercise. We simply reach a force/power requirement that our slow-twitch (aerobic, high-efficiency) muscle fibers can't achieve on their own. When this happens, our fast-twitch (anaerobic, high-force) fibers begin firing in order to contribute to the collective effort. and all of our energy systems are activated.
This workout's all-out, cross-eyed-hard sprints aim to recruit as many muscle fibers and energy systems as possible. Though you will only just begin breathing hard by the end of the sprint, there is a large oxygen debt created, which can take a couple minutes to go away. This debt creates signals that trigger the body to adapt and increase aerobic pathways (oxidative enzymes, mitochondrial density and others). Taxing the neuromuscular system triggers changes in the neural networks that control the firing of our muscles. Improvements here allow us to produce more force and to do it faster, which is the essence of increasing power