What does ‘highest power output’ mean?

 In Discussions
A question has been brought up to me several times when talking about ‘highest power output’ in regards to an interval.

The Question:

I am a little confused what power range I was looking for – what does ‘highest power output’ mean? After consulting my Chris Carmichael’s Ultimate Ride, which described the power interval as ‘maximal‘ which didn’t give me the specific information I was looking for either. I wanted to know what power range I was supposed to hit. So next I went to Hunter Allen/Andrew Coggan’s Power Meter book, I didn’t find the power interval, but I did find a chart that showed that Power Level 6 intervals could range from 30 seconds to 3 minutes. So I assumed that I needed to shoot for Power Level 6 for my 2 minute intervals. So fast forward, interval 1, set 1, I couldn’t hold level 6 for very long and stopped after I couldn’t hold level 6. I stayed at level 6 as long as I could, then as my power dropped, I just kept the pressure on as hard as I could without regard for the power level number. So what does “highest power output” mean?

The Answer:

So when we talk about ‘highest power output’ this takes a little art (perceived exertion) on your side until we have the science (data) to really fine-tune power numbers. In other words, your workout effort answers the following question: “What is the hardest effort I can do for the allotted interval time? So if I said, Zone 6, we don’t know if you could hold Zone 6 for 2 minutes, but this also gives you a feeling of what you can handle. If you are in a race in which you are trying to bridge to a break away, you may or may not know if you were ‘on the rivet’. These types of exercises help you determine (RPE – Rated Perceived Exertion) of what you can handle. Also, by time you are on the 2nd set of intervals and are on the last 2minute effort, you may only be able to hold Zone 4. This is not a failure but possibly a success, especially if you can then maintain your ‘base’ zone and not go to AR to recover.

So to control the ramp up. Start in an easier gear; get your cadence to 90. Once the cadence climbs to 95-100, then shift to the next higher gear, start building the cadence to 95-100, repeat until you are in zone.

Learning to do these is a skill all into itself. Remember the spirit of the ride, this is to simulate ‘surges’. So you are going along at endurance pace. Then there is a need to surge, could be a break could be a great opportunity. Takes about 15-30 seconds to get up to speed and power, cadence is climbing, hold the maximal power (the most you think you could do for 2 minutes) then recover (at endurance) for three minutes. Repeat this surge for the assigned number of intervals. Then rest for 8 minutes. Time to go again, do another set.

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