Neuromuscular work and technique is more important than power in cycling

If you have been training with me, you know that I emphasize and incorporate technique into workouts: cadence, transitions, being off ERG, shifting, etc. You have also heard me say many times that power is important, but not the most important component in being a fast cyclist. It’s how you use/apply your power that matters the most. Plus, it’s not like we can continue to increase our FTPs ad infinitum.

Why is that? Well, we all know that cycling is a cardiovascular sport. So with that, we know that workouts need to be designed to help us develop our aerobic engines. In addition, cycling is a neuromuscular sport. Meaning, it’s about how our brain-muscle pathways are developed, through training, to allow us to perform all the techniques mentioned above and be more efficient. Being efficient means not wasting the power applied to the pedals. It means recruiting hip flexors, glutes, hamstrings, calves, in addition to quads.

Have you ever seen a cyclist that does not seem to have any “visible” muscle be super fast? That’s the cardiovascular system and neuromuscular connections at work. Cycling discipline matters, however. A track sprinter, for example, needs added muscle power to the neuromuscular work - but their efforts are not the same and not as long as those from the endurance-centric cyclists that go the distance.

To illustrate the above, take a look at this video. There is no denying that the body builder is extremely strong. The man can put out power from 0 to 1,000 watts in just a few seconds. But he can barely survive a Zwift race.


That was fun to watch, especially the Vegan Cyclist lifting all those bananas! :muscle: Seriously though, just watching them race, the Vegan Cyclist’s body was so calm and all his energy was going into the pedals. The bodybuilder was practically flailing. And when it was all over he could hardly breathe. So interesting! But, as the Vegan Cyclist said, when he gets to go be run through a bodybuilder workout, he is going to look ridiculous.


Very interesting to watch, like @Stefanie said, the constraint in the riders’ bodies with their efforts was clear. The other thing that struck me was the consistency of power and smooth transitions in power of the vegan cyclist compared to the bodybuilder guy who extremes of power output all the time, going from 0w to 900w then back again! His graph would be very spiky.

I remember one of the first things I learned from you @Coach_Theia was about the inefficiency of the spike of power at the beginning of a power increase and that big drop at the end of a block of work. And you could see the effect of these spikes of efforts on him. Super interesting, thank you.


Wow, I was suffering for the body builder! The cyclist has been calm all the race, even at the end he was talking and going back to normal breath very quickly; the body builder was breathing soooo heavy for a long time after the end.