Bike Tempo and Pool Tempo for Speed Training

August 25, 2016 by Angela Coon

I may have some days from now on when I have no time to get running tempos in at all....

Forum Member Question
I wonder if doing bike tempos can have negative effect on sprinting mechanics.

Coach Ange’s Answer

I am not able to think of any good reason bike or pool tempo would have a negative effect on sprinting mechanics. Avoiding tempo in a program may make it a challenge to perform routine, quality speed work as a key benefit to performing low intensity exercise promotes circulation which helps keep muscles loose and limber. Utilizing bike and pool tempo ensure an adequate volume of low intensity work gets performed in an annual plan. Bike, pool and tempo substitutes are used for variety in training, limited facility access, poor weather, and travel distance to training as well as avoiding excess pounding of running. We have used the bike and pool for tempo with success when I was a 100m hurdler on the National team. We continued to use tempo training of each variety with Professional athlete in the tennis, NHL and NFL.

Tempo is used to flush muscles of lactates produced by high intensity work and to ready the muscles for speed training and other high intensity work. Performing low intensity work such as tempo assists in vascularizing the muscles, which facilitates greater blood flow. Greater blood flow facilitates a higher rate of access of fluid in and out of the muscles so you are increasing the circulation.

Extensive Tempo:
Slower, recovery based tempo used primarily during the competition phase as you want to make sure none of the non speed day training competes with the energy systems needed for performing quality speed work. Use the guideline of running 75% your max effort but never forget the last set needs to be performed at the same speed and quality of the first set no matter the volume of total runs. ( 75% max effort of what distance, under what circumstance and with what kind of conditions / wearing flats or spikes for max effort) When performing extensive tempo during competition season be conservative if you are unsure of speeds)

An example of an Extensive Tempo session performed during competition phase might be 1 or 2 sets of 10 x 100 meter for 100/200m National level sprinters with consistent rest breaks and up to but not more than 5 minutes rest between sets. I might never do bike or pool tempo with an athlete during comp season especially if they had not ever done it before. Pool can be unexpectedly tiring and then becomes something other than low intensity.

Intensive Tempo:
Faster/ harder tempo where by you are using the quality of the runs to rule recovery while controlling breaks and trying to keep them as short as possible but never to compromise quality. This type of tempo is used extensively during GPP (General Preparation Phase) as well as the fall and spring training.

An example of an Intensive Tempo session performed in the General Preparation Phase for a 400mh National level sprinter would be 600 breakdown x 1 building quickly to 2 sets with last 100 meter of each run up graded hill. Rest intervals might be 4-5 minutes after first 600, 4m after 500, 3.5m after 400, 3m rest after 300, 2.5m rest after 200 and 2 minutes or less before the last 100 meter run up hill. Take 20 minutes before you perform next 600m breakdowns.

 

Forum Member Question
With bike, one is not able to extend his fully, because the position of hips is fixed and range of motion of the legs are limited, resulting in "sitting back" posture.

Coach Ange’s Answer

The main goal of tempo is to facilitate more work of high intensity especially as it pertains to speed work. While running tempo facilitates other mechanical strengths for runners, performing alternative tempo methods is useful for a variety of reasons mentioned above. (Injury prevention, time saved for travel to facilities etc.)

As a general rule for training finding ways to accomplish your athletic goals in a variety of ways will ensure consistent training with little or few injuries. There is an ideal way and then there is a compromise. Don’t make the mistake of believing the compromise won’t be as good or better than what some insist is the only way.

 

Forum Member Question
Will this carry over to one's actual sprinting or sprinting drills?

Coach Ange’s Answer

Yes, tempo performed as a low intensity exercise facilitates high intensity work and all other types of low intensity work. The more fitness you have the greater your ability to grab onto all other variables of your training. I was taught this idea early on in my training, as athlete and maintaining fitness became a main goal as the premise for all other work I needed to get done.

Guidelines for tempo speed:
75% of your maximum effort or overall speed may seem vague for people trying to understand how exactly to perform tempo runs. You want to be able to finish the last run of any chosen volume of work the same way you began the run. Timing yourself might help but routinely it’s better to have your coach time the runs. Be mindful not to run too fast on the first rep or first few reps. Speed can be added but you cant take it away. Be conservative until you have experience of what a tempo circuit feels like in a week or two of training. A coach can time the runs and have the athlete raise their hand at the beginning and end of each run. Over time you will see the pattern and speed of the runs. A coach needs to learn to watch for mechanical breakdown of an athlete and stop work right away. Even if you are in the pool or on the bike when quality begins to diminish your estimation of workload has been over done. Stop when you see degradation of any kind.

 

Forum Member Question

…or are these too unsimilar to have any carry-over effect biomechanically?

Coach Ange’s Answer

Biomechanics won’t be successfully maintained if the foundation of fitness has not been in place and stays in place throughout the season. Fitness is usually best attained using a variety of methods of training. A person will be able to accomplish greater volumes of meaningful work of all kinds when the work is varied and spread across the spectrum of both low and high intensity work.

 

Forum Member Question
I've read also that treadmill tempos can have negative effect on sprinting mechanics because of longer ground contact time due to the belt moving forward.

Coach Ange’s Answer

Tempo on treadmill will never match the tempo on grass but it can be successfully used as an alternative the same way basement, pool and bike tempo can be utilized. Speed work done on treadmills is not recommended and might be where you are referring to ground contact times.

Tempo performed badly any place should not ever be continued or repeated.

Providing alternatives for tempo is not to say you want 100% of tempo performed as an alternative. Having said that if it’s the only way you can sustain successful training due to lessening pounding from foot or ankle issues then that is what you need to you do to get the job done.

 

Forum Member Question

I wonder what I should do.....bike or treadmill. 

Coach Ange's Answer

How about you try both and follow the videos that are based on real results are record your experiences.

 

Forum Member Comments Questions

Bike - possibility of causing sitting back.

Treadmill - possibly cause longer ground contact time, but more movement specific (mechanically).

Coach Ange's Answer

Use the treadmill as a tool to perform tempo. If possible use the tempo to come on and off and mix exercises in between for another type of tempo we use which mixes exercises like sit ups and push ups and low intensity exercises which can enhance the type of work you wish to get done in lieu of running.

 

Final Comments from Coach Ange

Bike, pool and basement tempo each provide excellent alternatives to tempo runs which facilitate speed training in athletics.

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