When training which criteria takes priority, HR or Power?

I have recently added a Limits Power meter to my spin cycle and then completed the Full Frontal session to measure my cycling fitness. This is in preparation for a 200+ km single day Alpine ride happening in November.
Unfortunately during the indoor training sessions I am unable to keep my Power, Cadence and HR in their recommended ranges and usually can only achieve 2 out of the 3.
When I alter the load / gearing to achieve the Power and Cadence targets my HR ends up ~ 20 bpm lower than recommended. If I increase the load / gearing to raise my HR my Cadence drops by at least 10 rpm to achieve the Power target.
Is there something I am missing or does one measurement during training take priority over the others?

2 Likes

Power takes priority. Cadence takes second priority. I don’t have experience with spin bikes, but on a regular bike, you have to shift to get the cadence as close as you can while hitting the power targets. Heart rate is really for information only (most of the time). It lags too much to be of much help for short and medium intervals and drifts too much for long intervals. That said, if at the end a 5 minute interval your heart rate is consistently 20 beats lower than the expected range, that’s a lot. I would wonder if you did Full Frontal hard enough and whether your power profile numbers (FTP, MAP, etc) are right. During FF, did you frequently wonder if you would be able to finish it? When you finished, did you want to just lie down on the floor? If the answer is “no”, you may not have gone hard enough.

3 Likes

I would agree for indoor structured training that Power is primary with Cadence secondary. For outdoor workouts, I would put RPE before Power and then HR, with Cadence in the shadows.

Wrt your HR data, have you found with other training platforms for your HR numbers to be on target, or in other sports if your HR numbers act the same as Cycling or noticeably different?
I ask as I find when I run, my HR registers higher numbers for what I feel would be the same RPE between cycling and running. I have found that there have been instances wher my HR recorded much lower than expected to the effort given, and then again the converse.

I have given up relying on HR data whilst training, I only use a HR strap. I am sure you are aware that OHR monitoring can be less accurate when measuring bpm during activity.

Thanks. I gave FF everything so any issues with HR calculation aren’t due to insufficient effort.

Thanks Dan. I haven’t tried other training programs. I used to alter the load / gearing on my spin cycle so my cadence could shift my HR to the recommended target. By staying within the power meter targets my HR stays much lower and the effort seems easier than what I was accustomed. As it feels easier am I getting the most benefit?

Yes and no, it depends I would say :rofl:

Is it (feel) easier because you are getting stronger, or because you have sandbagged your 4DP test and riding to ‘easier’ targets? Is it easier in the beginning of the week versus the end of week? There can be many factors as to why you feel it is easier outside of cycling. If you are riding to Power (and Cadence) easily, retest.

For me, Tuesday I am styling as Monday is an active rest day, by Thursday I am hating myself as I have done +5.5 hours already with a +2 hour set ahead at least but knowing Friday is a complete rest day, so I push through. My Tuesday’s are easier for me than my Thursday’s. Same as Saturday 4-10 hours are easier than the Sunday +2.5 hour IDT session to do.

HR variability is unusual in and of itself and for me, having trained with multiple devices (3 watches, 2 head units) at varying times, and not all devices reading off the same HR strap, some OHR, having used same brand but different model of watches, the only definite conclusion I can make is that they all keep the same time, relatie to when they are started and stopped.

I have had variances in distance and HR readings parameters, amongst other data. As such, I don’t place much emphasis on HR data during training sessions, my focus is on RPE, my internal pace meter, listening to my body when I need to match Power and Cadence targets. I retest every 12-14 weeks at end of blocks or (series of) events, and try to ramp test midway during a block to ensure my body is pushing against relative numbers (regardless whether they are higher or lower). For what it is worth, I can never and have never met HR targets and as such, I hide that data block from my screen. Only show Power and Cadence, RPE is inside my skin, I don’t need a number on a screen to tell me how easy/hard I am going.

It sounds like you are very keen to train (utilize/incorporate) to your HR. To answer your question in the title, I would say Power. If it is too easy, restest. Similarily, do a 4 week block training only to HR and see/feel the outcome when you test after that.

Then I’d ignore the HR “targets” for now. But perhaps do a Half Monty test in a couple weeks (or after a couple or three easy days) to reconfirm power targets.

1 Like

I rate power and cadence equally for training as cadence is an important stressor to drive adaptation. I only consider an interval done if I can do it at the target power AND cadence. As long as you’re heart healthy (no heart problems), HR is what it is, but can provide good information regarding response to training, level of fatigue, physiological stress (high temperature, humidity, hydration…)

3 Likes

That only works on a smart trainer where resistance on the wheel acts like infinite gearing. On a dumb trainer or in level mode there usually isn’t a gear that will allow you to hit power and cadence simultaneously. In that use case (which I think is probably closer, but not exactly, to the OP’s spin bike), I think one should prioritize power and get cadence as close as possible.

1 Like

Good point about dumb trainers. I use a smart trainer, and of course in ERG mode I just maintain cadence and let power take care of itself. In Level mode, between my bike’s gears and level setting I can always get pretty close to the target power/cadence combination. Once there, I just maintain cadence at or just above what produces the target power.

1 Like

@BruceScott,

@AkaPete is definitely on the right track in that when you are completing SYSTM workouts your 1st priorities are to hit your Power & Cadence targets. In SYSTM workouts on ERG Mode (where the training is dynamically supplying load based on interval targets) it is often recommended to set your gearing to the mid cassette and simply focus on your cadence target, the smart trainer will automatically adjust the power to match the workout power target. Checkout out the article Indoor Cycling Tips For Training in ERG Mode & the article ERG Mode: Does Gear Selection Matter? for some advanced tips on gear selection when training on Wahoo SYSTM and ERG mode vs Level Mode when using the SYSTM training app. If you are not training with a smart train, then you will have to do your best to adjust your gearing to hit both your cadence and power targets, and depending on your cassette, it likely will not be exact. Just do your best to get as close as you can. And with SYSTM workouts you will definitely need to exercise some patients to figure out which gear combination is best for each interval in each workout. It is a process :wink:

In regard to Heart Rate, again @AkaPete is on the money when informing you about Heart Rate Lag and Heart Rate Drift. There is a delay in Heart Rate response to change in stimuli, i.e. it is not instantaneous like power measurements, which is why the advent of the power meter has brought so many advances to the sport of cycling. However, Heart Rate is still important, and can be a great predictor of excessive fatigue or a compromised state of health. An abnormally low or abnormally high Heart Rate indicates we’ve got problems. Checkout the article Everything You Should Know About Heart Rate Training, The Ultimate Guide for Tracking Your Cycling Heart Rate, & The Simple Guide to Heart Rate Training for an in depth discussion on the science behind heart rate training.

I also recommend reading Don’t Bail on a Workout, Adjust It and Ask the Experts: When to Skip a Workout to equip yourself with the knowledge concerning adjusting workouts when you are not feeling at your best and when it is in your best interest to simply rest to allow your body to recover and recharge.

All the best, and happy training!
Coach Corey

3 Likes

Yes!

2 Likes

@Dan, I would caution about simply leaving “Cadence in the shadows” for outdoor workouts. During the warmer outdoor training season, my workouts come prescribed with both power and cadence targets, and I am looking for compliance in both. Depending on the athlete’s goals and what they are training for, having the ability to not only increase and decrease power output, but also the cadence is important. Long climbs require the ability bear down and handle the slog of lower cadence and higher power output efforts. For punchier scenarios like Criterium racing, rapid successions of high power and high cadence efforts are certainly advantageous. Strong power and cadence flexibility is an indication of a strong athlete with deep capabilities.,

3 Likes

Thanks for the data. That helped me a bunch as well.

Okay, then why do the suggested no-vid workouts that can be done outside not contain a target Cadence along with RPE, Power and HR targets? Hence why I said Cadence in the shadows as it doesn’t even feature in your own literature. My emphasis was based on what you state in your own literature. This context of my comment matters.

If what you say is imperative to the student, surely your literature should include the important bits to completing a workout as desired by what you state.

I am not saying cadence is to be forgotten, and it is contextual to building muscular endurance to work in the high and low cadence targets in differing power ranges, but that would be a specific workout set out for that.

However, when a person is looking for a hierarchy list of what he considers important and what isn’t, and what they should focus on, I used the Cadence in the shadows comment, in the context that it doesn’t feature to his focus.

Picking the first workout that came to mind about our comments above, I don’t see your important Cadence target being stated. I am sure all the suggested outdoor workouts will be lacking the Cadence target.

Does one make the inference that the mere folk who do not make use of the personal coaching are being short changed by not being given the full information from this training platform when applying suggested outdoor workouts? No is my answer as context matters.

I assume you will be including this said aspect to all workouts that can be performed outside to ensure that us students perform to your expectations and remain compliant?

If it’s that important to take my comment out of context, it’s that important to make sure it’s stated in the workouts.

There certainly is always room for active recovery and definitely there should always be room for fun rides, where the only target is enjoyment.

I was talking about training.

But, I do see your point concerning outdoor rides prescribed by the app

I thought that’s what the FF was for.

1 Like

I need a little clarity about cadence, HR, Power, and the type of ride Mr. Scott is planning. He will be riding for 6+ hours and needs to make sure that for long intervals his tempo hr matches his tempo power and his threshold hr matches his threshold power, regardless of what cadence he prefers. If he is planning for a 200+ Km Alpine ride, it seems his LTHR is more important than his cadence when climbing. In his alpine ride, he will likely have sustained climbs of more than 20 minutes with 7%+ averages and pitches of 10-15%. An 8 mile climb at 8% will likely require a long time at or near threshold. What gearing/cadence works best for him when he climbs outdoors? And does he have climbs close by where he can figure out which chainring-cassette works best for him?. If my current indoor set up told me that my threshold power was 250 watts and that my LTHR was 170 after FF, but when training indoors I could sustain 230 watts for 20+ minutes at hr 150, something would definitely be different outdoors. It is simply not possible to climb at threshold power and sustain a tempo HR, no matter what one’s cadence is. Either I would struggle/blow up when trying to climb steep pitches at threshold power outdoors, or I would fly up the climbs. He needs to compare his indoor bike with his outdoor reality, so that he can finish his alpine granfondo with a smile instead of a grimace.
Correct me if I am wrong.