Turbo trainers are a valuable tool in your training regimen, especially for those who find themselves short on time to go out riding, or who simply don’t enjoy getting out there when it’s rainy, cold and horrible. If you’re going to train with a turbo, you still need to focus your sessions to get the most out of them – that means you can’t just stick the telly on and spin mindlessly for an hour and a half and expect to see results.
One of the great things about turbos is that they allow you to tailor your training to improve a very specific element of your riding – which can be much more difficult on a ride out on the roads with all the various surfaces, gradients and traffic conditions that you might encounter.
Below are three types of turbo session you can try at home to really hone your cycling skills. We’ll use revolutions per minute (rpm) and training zones as an indication of how hard you should be working. If you need to calculate your zones then check out this handy article from BikeRadar.
Session 1: Strength
Leg strength is a climber’s greatest weapon and can be increased by pushing similar wattages or working at a higher heart rate, but at lower a lower rpm. This’ll force your leg muscles to strengthen themselves and grow.
After a steady warm-up you need to spend 10 minutes in zone three, keeping the rpm around 60. Then drop down for five minutes rest into zone two, with 100-110 rpm. Next you need to hit zone three again, this time with just 55 rpm – this is where it starts to get tricky. Another five minute rest (zone 2, 100-110 rpm) should follow. Then the final strong effort, where your thighs really begin to burn should see you hitting zone three, with 50 rpm. Then it’s time for a gentle cool down to zone 1.
Session 2: VO2 Max
They reckon the VO2 max is the defining statistic for a cyclist. In simple terms, it’s the amount of oxygen your body can use and it’s an indicator of performance at the business end of a race or sportive. If you want to work on that little bit of sting in the tail, then VO2 max is what you want to train.
For this session you’ll want to warm up, spending 10 minutes in zone two. Then you’ll do five lots of three-minute bursts, each one in zone five. That’s going to feel really, really tough – so we’re giving you seven minutes between each effort to recover. Your cool down from this session should take around 15-20 minutes and take you gently all the way back down to zone 1.
Session 3: Sustained effort
This session should be great for anyone looking to build their ability to sustain a steady but consistently high amount of power over time. This is great for time-triallists, audaxers or those planning to tackle some long hard climbs like you’d find in the Alps or Pyrenees. You’ll be working at somewhere around the top of zone three and the bottom of zone four – this is the optimum rate to train your anaerobic capacity and endurance. It’s known as the sweet-spot or the golden zone.
You’ll warm-up for ten minutes in zone two – nice and easy – before doing a sustained burst in the sweet-spot for 20 minutes. To make things a bit more complex, you also need to stick in a bit of extra effort every fourth minute. Imagine you’re getting out of the saddle to tackle a kick up in gradient. Then you need to settle back in the saddle again. After the first 20 is up, spend 10 minutes in zone one – before repeating the 20 minutes in the sweetspot with the extra burst every four minutes.
So there you have it, three tested turbo sessions that’ll have you fine-tuning vital elements of your riding prowess, so you’re ready to blow away the competition come race day. Check out our selection here.