Cadence Building vs. Sprints – What is the Difference?
By Jeff Krabiel
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Even with a strong initial foundation, many new Spinning® instructors struggle with the differences between cadence building and sprinting. After 17 years, I still answer questions about these two areas of the Spinning program on a weekly basis. Let me see if I can offer some information on what I view as the primary differences between the two.
To begin, l will define the Sprint movement as it relates to the Spinning program. A Sprint is a chance for the participant to maximize their intensity. It should be seen as very specific training opportunity. A Sprint is a time when the rider tries to attain an output that is above a level they can sustain. They attempt to reach this high level in order to strengthen their overall cardiovascular fitness by pushing themselves to a training “peak.” Within the cadence guidelines offered in the Spinning instructor manual, a Sprint can be defined as an “overload” movement. Each individual is looking for the point where they have to seek active recovery because their current level of output cannot be safely sustained. It becomes an overload movement when the high level of resistance combines with the intense rating of perceived exertion (RPE) response brought on by the spiked cadence activity that happens within a period of 10–20 seconds. If the rider has a strong training base, a Sprint should result in a perceived exertion of 8 to 9, which is a “very heavy” effort. The parallel purpose of a Sprint is to recover in a more efficient manner, which is both the time taken to regain breath control and the level of effort that can be held while reaching “comfortable” breath. The guidelines from the instructor manual include a 30-second maximal training time with options to sit or stand at various times during the Sprint effort.
Cadence building has a few similarities to Sprinting. It is an opportunity for increased output. The rider engages in cadence building with the intention of increasing their heart rate while holding appropriate form for the duration of the activity. At the conclusion of the cadence build section, the rider attempts to lower their breath while continuing to train at a slightly lower level. The differences between the typical “rhythmic” cadence periods and the cadence building opportunities are less as a participant’s level of fitness improves.
The differences between Sprinting and cadence building are numerous. While Sprints are limited to a maximal time period of thirty seconds, cadence builds can be held for as little as ten seconds and last as long as the instructor feels is beneficial. Cadence building can be applied to any “non-Sprint” movement in the program. Part of its overall appeal is that it can be offered as a challenge during flats, climbs and Jumps. It can be a repetitive challenge during a specific section of class, or used as a “surprise” training opportunity at various times during the ride. Cadence building is not meant to be an overload movement. While it can be used as an intense or heavy breath effort, it can sometimes be used as a simple increase in the current cadence (RPM). (Prior to the cadence increase, a challenging amount of resistance should be added.) In other words, a cadence build doesn’t have to be fast, it just has to reach a level above the current pace. When time and intensity parameters are given by the instructor, students can gauge their energy levels and respond to the cadence building opportunities as they see fit. A Sprint does not really allow for this type of flexibility. A Sprint is a maximum effort and there is no such thing as a “moderate” Sprint. If the goal is to slightly increase the intensity, the instructor should create a cadence build sequence, not attempt a Sprint effort.
Above are some simple guidelines for Sprints and cadence building that we can all work with as we strive to teach the safest and most challenging classes we can throughout our careers as fitness instructors.
Author: Jeff Krabiel
Jeff has been a Spinning Master Instructor since 1995. He is an autism specialist and has three teaching credentials to go along with his MS in special education. He is a classroom teacher for special needs preschool children. He is also an ACE and AFAA certified Group Fitness Instructor.