Audio Master Class: The Speed-Strength Challenge

The first half of this profile focuses on cadence drills from 80 to 100 rpm with gradually increasing resistance in each song. The final 45–60 seconds of each song is right at or a little above threshold, and will prove to be quite difficult for everyone, even skilled cyclists. The lower cadences of 80–90 rpm focus on muscular endurance, but then as we move to 95–100 rpm, the focus moves towards speed-strength.

The second half of the profile takes those drills and puts them into a practical application of paceline work at progressively higher cadences. In fact, we top out at what pro cyclists probably maintain during team time trials, somewhere between 95 and 100 rpm. The rider in front who is pushing against the wind will be feeling that same sting in the legs that was experienced in the drills earlier in class.

This profile builds on many other profiles at the Indoor Cycling Association. The foundation is the understanding of the relationship between cadence and resistance you taught your students in Cause and Effect. The training stimulus is the combination of higher-cadence work to develop leg speed (see the Cadence Ladder profile) plus higher-resistance, lower-cadence work to develop leg strength. Ultimately this combination is called power (power = force X velocity, or in our case, resistance X cadence). This is not the same as trying to improve explosive power (that would be Tom Scotto’s two Audio Master Classes called HIT IT and Betwitched). We want to increase what is referred to as speed-strength—but that also has an element of endurance to it. In other words, it’s not a 15-second effort at maximal leg speed and force, it’s pushing somewhat bigger gears (more resistance, or hills) at cadences of 90–100+ rpm and enduring it for longer periods of a minute or more. We aren’t introducing large amounts of force (although it may feel like it to your students); we are increasing the ability to endure greater power outputs at higher cadences. Another way to think of it is muscular (or strength) endurance at higher cadences. In the diagram below, I would consider it the center of the triangle with a focus on the bottom half.

advancedtriangle of training

Improved muscular endurance increases the time to muscular fatigue. The collaboration of leg speed, strength, and endurance is how cyclists can become faster climbers, or can push bigger gears more quickly on flat roads or into headwinds.

And you know what? This kind of training kind of hurts, but it’s that hurts-so-good sensation that we are tapping into. Your students are going to work very hard in this class, no doubt about it.

For those who do not ride outside and don’t care how fast they get up hills, this workout, while tipping into anaerobic intensities during the surges, will help them to increase threshold and general fitness. Because of the strength-speed combination, it calls on Type IIa muscle fibers (fast oxidative glycolytic) to endeavor to be more aerobic. The final result of targeted training like this is that your non-cyclist students will ultimately be more effective at burning more calories doing what they love and meet their fitness and weight loss goals. They can push more resistance faster for longer periods, and as a result, have a greater sense of accomplishment in all indoor cycling classes, not just this one.

Maybe your students don’t care that much about the underlying physiology of a workout like this, but like I explained in the article on how indoor cycling instructors are like winemakers, it’s the underlying science and attention to detail that creates a great product even if you don’t delve into all the science. The end-user (your students) may not care, but they will remember you after this class. They may take your name in vain during the high-cadence surges against resistance, when their quads are crying out to stop, but they will high-five you afterward and say, “You really did it to me this time!” And in the process, you will have initiated some very important adaptations in the working muscles of both your students who are avid cyclists as well as the ones who do not ride outside.

Now THAT is an indoor cycling instructor who takes his or her students’ goals seriously!

Warning: This is not a good workout for beginner students.


  1. Author

    That is awesome Abby! These types of profiles are wonderful for helping students see the benefits of their hard work and the changes in fitness level. Very cool they are taking what you teach them and taking on challenges outside!

  2. Ive used this profile in 3 of my classes and it went over great. I usually design my classes in a similar style (although not always intense). my students can see changes in fitness level and have begun challenging themselves outside by doing triathlons and charity rides!

  3. Loving this profile!!!!

  4. Author

    Moritz, I can’t find any of those three songs on eMusic, Amazon or iTunes. I know Chronos and CJ Catalyzer pretty well, but not that, and found other albums/tracks by Cultus Ferrox but not Tamfanae. And Esoteric SOB is nowhere to be found on the primary music sources! (Note, I didn’t do a google search to look elsewhere though). Can you post the album names?

    Choosing music for ICA profiles that can be found in every country is one of the biggest hurdles!

  5. Author

    Thanks Moritz,
    I find it very strange that a popular song from the 1990’s wouldn’t be available on the primary music sources. It’s something about music rights that I just don’t understand. Do you know the song? It’s a folk rock song with a great rhythm, perfect for what I was using it for (I find that it’s hard to find songs with 170 bpm/85 rpm). It wasn’t until after many many hours of working on this profile, just as I was about to finalize and upload it that I discovered it wasn’t easy to find—I thought it was a no-brainer. Dang! But I was already running late getting this profile uploaded (this profile might have taken longer than any other I’ve done!) so didn’t have time to research another one (at least right away). Thank you for those suggestions.

    I was also trying to have a little more variety in my profile with some rock! 😉

    A few others:
    Inertia Creeps, Massive Attack, 5:57, 84 bpm
    Criminal Intention, D. Batistatos, 6:00 85 bpm

    PS Esoteric SOB! Probably one of the best group names I’ve heard in a long time. I’m off to go look them up! 😉

    1. Sorry for not having added the album names. Here they are:
      Unknown Civilizations can be found on the album Quid Est Veritas
Tamfanae on the album album Wiederkehr
      Egomania on the album album Esoteric Sob Remixed
      Check youtube first and give it a listen to see if it fits your style. Hope this helps.

  6. Stay On from BoDeans is really difficult to find … alternatives from my repository
    Unknown Civilizations from Chronos & C.J. Catalizer
    Tamfanae from Cultus Ferox (only 4:17 long but very “driving”)
    Egomania (Memphidos remix) from Esoteric Sob

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