The difference between torque and power
You hear torque often in discussions around cars because it measures the rotational force, or strength, of the car’s engine. In cycling, it’s similar. Torque measures the rotational force generated by the cyclist’s legs and applied to the pedals during each pedal stroke. This might seem very similar to the definition of power. There’s only one difference. You have to add up torque and cadence (rotational speed) to get your power output. This is exactly why playing around with a different cycling cadence is important when training torque.
Torque training improves muscular strength
You can think of torque training almost as strength training you can do on your bike. It helps develop neuromuscular pathways between the brain, your motor neurons, and the muscles. Building up this pathway is crucial for effective muscle recruitment. It’s most commonly needed on long climbs or time trials where your cadence slowly drops or during sprints where high torque is used with high cadence.
Create your own torque training session
It’s not hard to create your own torque session. Let’s take a look at the three main components every good training session should have – the warm-up, the main bit, and the cooldown. You can train torque no matter whether you’re planning to ride outdoors or indoors.
A proper warm-up is always important. About 10 minutes of easy spinning should be enough indoors. Give it a bit more time outdoors, especially if the weather is cold, about 30 minutes should make your legs ready to push hard.
- Intervals that last between 4-10 minutes are best. You can start with just a few shorter ones and add more time and repetitions as you get more experienced.
- The best outdoors place for the intervals is a steady, steep climb with an 8-12% gradient. If you don’t have that option, look for any climb with at least a 4-5% gradient to produce sufficient resistance.
- Select the lowest gear that still allows you to maintain a cadence of 40-60 rpm. If you’re new to this, start with a higher cadence and decrease it as your legs get stronger. Don’t try to go below 40 rpm as that will only result in sore knees.
Always include some easy spinning to cool down after hard intervals. It will help you recover faster for your following rides in the week. The length can be similar to your warm-up.
Pushing a lot of torque is taxing
Adding these types of rides to your repertoire can be very rewarding. You are likely to see an impressive increase in power over the first few weeks of doing these. But keep in mind that torque training sessions are very demanding, they cause a fair amount of damage and fatigue in your leg muscles. That’s why you want to taper these off in time before your next race. Also, while racing, opt for a higher gear during the majority of your climbs and save your legs for when you truly need to push.