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The Pyramid Scheme

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We all know that taking the time to plan, create a ride profile and then execute makes for a smooth and organized ride. Planning your rides allows you to devote your time in the class to coaching and motivation rather that figuring out what to do next. One profile type that can be extremely effective is a pyramid.

What is a Pyramid?

A Pyramid has two sides and a peak. The idea is to move up the pyramid by increasing or changing a variable, such as increasing cadence until you reach the ‘peak’ of the pyramid. Once at the top riders make their way back down the pyramid by decreasing the variable. The more difficult skill is coming down the pyramid. This is where pyramids can be beneficial in having participants understand the changes can be very subtle to affect the effort. Often people will release a lot of resistance or pedal speed when the hard effort is complete. Encourage them to make a small change and use their breathing and mental focus to affect their heart rate. This strengthens the mind-body component of the ride.

As the variables of cadence and resistance have an inverse relationship and equate to heart rate, there are many ways to change the effects of the pyramid by the way we change these two variables. A pyramid in which we increase cadence can be aerobic if we coach participants to decrease the resistance in comparison so that their heart rate response stays steady at 70% of maximum heart rate. This same pyramid could be changed to set and hold steady the resistance at the bottom of the pyramid as the cadence is increased, causing a higher heart rate response as riders move up the pyramid.

Benefits of Pyramids

Pyramids are a great interval training option as the work to rest ratio can be manipulated within the pyramid depending on the intensity and goal of the class. Many smaller pyramids can be incorporated in one class providing shorter or longer intervals as desired.

Pyramids can be a great motivator because riders are able to experience small challenges that slowly increase in time or difficulty. This is easier to tackle than two or three long intervals in a single class. Motivation builds as participants anticipate making it to the top of the pyramid.

Pyramids also offer a way to create split profiles. Split profiles provide for a more flowing feeling to a ride without the hard stops between sections. As pyramids can be driven by setting blocks of work time that can be within a song or cross two or more songs they can help instructors move to more complicated profiles.

Applicable Energy Zones™

Pyramids can be applied to the following Energy Zones™
• Endurance
• Interval
• Strength

Pyramid Ideas

Cadence
Increase the cadence from 60-110 RPM and then back down to 60 RPM. This ladder allows participants to experience cadences, improve pedal stroke and can also be used to focus on the form of the five basic movements. Alternatively, you could focus on the Strength Energy Zone and coach a hill climbing ladder with cadences from 60-80 RPM, or focus on endurance and speed by staying with 80-110 RPM.

Types
• Decreasing/increasing
• Consistent time

Benefits
• Learn each cadence
• Develop consistent cadence
• Improve pedal stroke and power
• Sharpen mental focus
• Take participants outside their preferred cadence zone
• Exercise central nervous system

Example:
Increase the cadence 10 RPM for each level of the pyramid and then back down the same amount: 60, 70, 80, 90, 100, 110, 100, 90, 80, 70, 60.

Resistance
Choose a cadence and then change the variable of resistance by increasing the resistance every two minutes a specified number of times, then reduce the resistance every two minutes until the bottom of the pyramid is reached. You can pick a time blocks that suite the Energy Zones in which you are working. For example, you could decrease the time as you move up the pyramid in relationship to the intensity of the work.

Types
• Decreasing/increasing
• Consistent time

Benefits
• Learn each cadence
• Develop consistent cadence
• Improve pedal stroke and power at a specific cadence
• Sharpen mental focus
• Get outside preferred resistance or gear

Heart Rate

Heart Rate pyramids give participants the opportunity to solve the formula Cadence + Resistance = Heart Rate. How much resistance do I need to add or subtract to meet the HR goal? If my resistance is constant how many pedal strokes to I need to add or subtract to meet the HR goal?

Types
• Same cadence varying resistance
• Varying cadence same resistance
• Time: Decreasing/increasing in relation to heart rate percentage

Benefits
• Understand the cadence and resistance relationship to heart rate
• Develop control of heart rate
• Learn to master intensity
• Improve breath control
• Strengthen mind-body connection

Example:
Increase the heart rate 5% for each level of the pyramid and then go back down the same amount: 65%, 70%, 75%, 80%, 85%, 80%, 75%, 70%, 65%.
Increase the heart rate 5 beats at each level of the pyramid and then goback down the same amount (base heart rate, +5 bpm from base, +10 bpm from base, +15 bpm from base).


Power
If you have access to bikes with power meters you can structure a pyramid around the measurement of watts or the percentage of threshold power. Use the watts as the variable to change going up and down the pyramid. For example, add 5 watts at each level. You could also use the percentage of threshold wattage increasing and decreasing this number like the heart rate ladder.

Types
• Same cadence varying resistance
• Varying cadence same resistance
• Time: Decreasing/increasing in relation to percentage of threshold power

 

 

 

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