Is a Heart Rate Monitor w/ Cadence Helpful in Sprint Training?

Kscheid asked me the following question: “I am interested in knowing a bit more about monitors. I have a heart monitor, which I like using, but I know that there are other monitors out there, say for cadence and/or power output. I am not a racer, so I am not sure I would really need the power meter. However, I do want to improve my sprinting ability. Would a monitor that shows cadence be enough to help with gauging and measuring improvement?

If I was asked to do some serious improvements on sprint skills, I would never recommend an upgrade from a heart rate monitor to a heart rate monitor with cadence.

Knowing your cadence as a sprinter might be useful, e.g. in post-race analysis of gear choice and cadence in the final sprint and other crucial moments. Before you start to analyse your performance in previous races, I think it is much more beneficial to work on your sprint power through training. That means different sorts of power sprints, high speed sprints and tactical sprints. That will make for sure make you a better sprinter.

Power meter can track progress in sprint performance

A power meter is the only tool worth considering if you want to track your progress. Spending time on analysis of maximum cadence is inaccurate and waste of time as a measurement of sprinting power. If you are not the lucky owner of a Power Tap or SRM Crank, the only way to track gains in sprinting skills will be on the result list. In most situations this is a cheap and really nice indicator of progress. On the opposite, what is a gain in maximum sprint watts worth if you can’t convert that to better results?

Sprinters can benefit in several ways from power meters

When the above is said, there are a lot of other good reasons why sprinters should use a power meter. If you are a road sprinter, you will need a large aerobic engine which can be trained more precise with a power meter. High sprinting power simply isn’t enough on the roads, you will need well trained aerobic system, like it or not.

Track sprinters who has 200m as their primary discipline don’t need the same amount of aerobic endurance training, but they will need to do anaerobic endurance intervals where a power meter is the logical way to pace intensity (heart rate monitors are worthless for these kind of intervals).

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4 comments… add one
  • James Link

    Power training is the only way to go for sprint workouts… If you can’t fork over the cash for a Powertap… Polar has a great system with the CS600.. It is actually currently a favorite amung my cycling group

  • Joseph Link

    A few weeks ago I bought a Powertap, and I have discovered some interesting things. I always knew I was pre-disposed toward sprinting (193cm, 95-100kg), but since I always got dropped in races, I never had the results to prove it nor quantify it. For the most part my training has always been just riding around, or some semi-specific training to try to raise my threshold power. I have never worked on sprinting, nor have I even really tried sprinting. So it came as somewhat of a surprise to measure my 5 second power at 1680W which is quite a contrast to my 320W threshold. I estimate my threshold peak during this last season was about 370W.

    Previously my goal had been to improve threshold for better TT performance as I thought this was my best chance for racing results. This new information makes me think I should just build enough threshold to not get dropped (400W?), and focus my energy on training my sprint.

    If I can manage 1680W now with no training at all, how many watts is reasonable to expect I can do with some training? And what form should that training be? How can I get that number as high as possible?

  • James: You’re right about Polar CS 600 is a cheap alternative, but I don’t think it’s good enough for sprints and anaerobic intervals. It’s measurements for short events is too unprecise.

    Joseph: Difficult to say how far you can push your sprint. It seems like you have talent for sprinting, but how good you can get depends on how trainable you are (and how much you train…)

  • Joseph Link

    Thanks Jesper. So then the question becomes how should I train my sprint, how often, and when?

    Do you generally agree with what is presented in these articles:

    In particular the slow-speed-start exercises. They say these should be done in the winter. When do you think I should start with that type of training? I have a good base.


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