Peak Cycling Power

There has been a trend in the use of the Wingate Test to start the protocol from stationary rather then a peak cadence.  However, there is limited research on the load to be used for such a method, or in fact to highlight the limitations of the traditional peak cadence start methodology.

In 2010, the last year I was at the University of New Mexico, I developed pedal force sensors (Figure on left) to quantify applied force to the pedals during cycling using the standard Monark plate loaded Wingate ergometer. We showed that pedal force application is highly dependent on cadence, which just makes sense from a motor unit recruitment perspective.  The relationship here is close to a negative linear response, where pedal force increases as cadence decreases.  The power profile is the classic inverted U response, where most importantly, for cadences above an individualized value (mean was ~ 120 rev/min), pedal force application decreases.  This is logical, adheres to classic physics and neuromuscular physiology, and there is really nothing surprising here. Nevertheless, the traditional start to the Wingate Test, which requires the attainment of close to peak cadence prior to the application of the applied load, computes peak power as the almost instantaneous power calculated at peak cadence and load application.  It is physiologically impossible for this to be a valid measurement of peak power, for as you know, cadence drops dramatically once the load is applied because the cadence is too high for effective muscle force application to the pedals.  

We show this from the study results in the representative Figure on the left. Pedal force application increased during the initial seconds of the Wingate Test (top figure) while power decreased. The mean response time to peak pedal force application was ~ 7 s.  The pedal force profile is different from a stationary start (see bottom Figure), as the force profile is more uniform.  If you have done a traditional Wingate Test, you know that it is only once your cadence falls to a more physiologically suitable value (individually specific) that your ability to sustain power becomes more stable (rate of power decline decreases).  It is at this transition that physiological peak power occurs.  In this context, physiological peak power refers to a power output that is not biased by the high initial cadence and flywheel inertia that characterizes the traditional version of the test.

I am having a devil of a time getting this study published, for all the wrong reasons.  This is one of my best research efforts, as we are the first to measure pedal force application based on a unique pedal sensor configuration, the first to show the complex changes in pedal force application, and the first to document this error of the traditional Wingate Test and data interpretation.  The results also clarify the logic and need to start the test from a stationary, zero cadence, condition.  This method also allows for the measurement of a new variable, which is time to peak cadence, which we argue is highly relevant to a subject's capacity or capabilities to rapidly apply force, which in turn must be influenced by muscle motor unit expression. Furthermore, all of these results, and those by others who calculate peak power from shorter duration efforts, reveals that if peak power is the main objective of the test, then why have a standard duration?  All you need to do is run this test to where cadence peaks and then begins to decline, which of course is necessary to detect a peak!  We show that this duration is less than 10 s.

I continue to improve this manuscript and pursue favorable peer review publication in a "quality" journal, though clearly, it is difficult to get an unbiased review on this data from peers who seem (my interpretation here) unable to admit their prior errors in using a traditional Wingate Test and thereby reveal their oversight to logical applications of physics and exercise physiology.