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Capacity vs Intensity

by Carl Brewer last modified 2011-09-14 19:01
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Two schools of thought, and finding the right balance

In my observation of current sprint training in this country, there's two broad schools of thought with regards to how best to train for track sprint cycling.  An intensity based approach and a capacity based approach.  Intensity based approaches work on driving peak power up, then drawing out the endurance component as competition approaches, and capacity based approaches work on lots of volume, working on longer duration efforts (15-35s or so).  Both approaches are anaerobic, it's the emphasis that changes.  One way to tell the two apart quickly is to look at the type of warmups employed.  Capacity approaches often mix in long and hard warmups, where intensity based approaches typically use shorter, lower intensity (or if high intensity, very short duration) warm ups. Another way is to look at the rider's physiology - the capacity trained riders will usually be leaner, the intensity guys will be (usually ...) bigger.  Think Sean Eadie as an intensity guy, who raced at 98kg, and Theo Boss as a capacity guy (much leaner, I don't know his race weight when we was sprinting).

I'm of the (totally uninformed and based purely on anecdote, observation, confirmational bias and personal gut feeling) opinion that for most riders, an intensity based approach is optimal, especially for most girls.  This is based on the my belief that it's relatively easy to make someone go long, it's hard to make them go hard.  ESPECIALLY for girls (who are almost always going to struggle to get 100% efforts out) and those who have come to the sport from an endurance background.  There are many exceptions to this, I can cite a few in the squads I work with who buck this observation, and others that fit it to a T. 

So, two schools of thought; Under one school, one type of rider prospers, under the other, another type or rider will flourish.  Some will plateau early under one approach but will do better under the other.  How do you tell them apart?  That's one for the exercise physiologists to help us with, and there's some experienced coaches' eye stuff here too, but this also means that a coach, despite personal preference to an approach, must be willing to experiement with the other for some athletes to get the best out of them.  I'm finding this with one rider at the moment, who I think needs more capacity despite my tending towards intensity training.  Food for thought!

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