Class Profile: The Ultimate HIIT—Teaching With Power

This profile has been a project of love for me and has been in the works for a long time. I have heard from so many instructors that they weren’t sure how to use a power meter, or even if they do know, what power level their riders should be aiming for. Even those who understand power training zones have said that they can’t do FTP testing (the full 20-minute functional threshold power test) because their classes are too diverse or they feel the tests are too hard.

I strongly believe every club or studio that purchases bikes with power should also provide training for instructors on how to teach with power. Most manufacturers also have educational programs that go with their bikes. Still, I recognize it’s not always feasible for a club to do this and it’s even more challenging with high instructor turnover.

In those cases, I hope that these instructors will seek out online education, attend conferences, read books on power training, or, at the very least, join ICA.

This profile doesn’t take the place of education, but it does help you teach your riders about power and guide them to find a baseline benchmark that is a worthwhile estimate of FTP—at least until they are able to take the full 20-minute FTP test.

I call it The Ultimate HIIT profile because, well, that’s what it is! In addition to estimating FTP, it includes some of the more important durations for intervals so they can be compared to each other. This is relevant when teaching power as well as perceived exertion. The cueing in this profile is extensive for that very reason—it provides you with the ammunition you will need to guide riders to relate each interval and to make mental notes of what they are feeling.

Ask your riders to take what they learn in this profile and apply it to other classes they attend.

Caution: This is a very hard class, but, because it has the proper amount of recovery in between hard efforts, it is very doable by most relatively fit people. Obviously, the more fit you are, the harder you can push during the intervals and the more reliable your FTP estimate will be. But even less fit riders can do the 3-minute estimate, and then back off slightly for some of the other higher-intensity intervals and get a lot out of the workout. 

For those without power meters… here is this very same Quick Profile based not on wattage cues but on perceived exertion cueing. 

13 Responses to “Class Profile: The Ultimate HIIT—Teaching With Power”

  1. JoyceNahorski says:

    Is there a way to shorten this to 50 minutes easily?

    • Yes, Joyce. I give several suggestions for shortening this profile in the PDF download. I’m trying to do that for all profiles now, since there is such a wide range of class lengths out there.

  2. LizKlohmann says:

    I did the RPE ride and it was excellent! The playlist was also excellent. I have never used someone else’s playlist in whole, but this one is a perfect match for the ride. Thank you!

  3. Shari Miranda says:

    I teach at two facilities, and both have Keiser bikes. I know I’m going to have to rely mostly on RPE, but I REAAAAAAAALLLLLLYYY want to tie this to power somehow. Could I just try using the lever re-set on the longer intervals and then observe wattage in the moment on the shorter ones, to give them an idea of how much above that benchmark they are working? Trying to figure this out…hope others will share their ideas.

  4. Sevana says:

    It’s been over two months since opening our studio in LA so I haven’t had a chance to dive into an ICA profile in that time. So happy to find this today as I needed some inspiration and it was just what the doctor ordered.

    My late afternoon classes are still small so I was able to give a lot of individual attention to the group as we went through the process of calculating the FTP estimation during the 45-minute version. I even had one client who I ran through a field test (two 8-minute efforts) about ten days ago and she was pretty on target with the estimate as described in your profile. Since we are outfitted with the SC3 bikes, giving the group the opportunity to really understand what all those metrics are was a treat.

    This is an excellent alternative to doing the 20-minute field test and I’ll try the 60-minute version during my weekly FTP-class on Sunday in lieu of the two 8-minute efforts. Thank you, as always!

    Questions:

    For the two 50-second efforts, would you incorporate the SprintShifter? If so, how and when? Also, what RPMs would you cue?

    I attempted to do one of these while coaching (not easy) and tuned into to the 65 rpms as dictated by the beat of the song, at my FTP (knowing I was hoping to add 20-40% more during the effort. I made a last-minute decision to take the SprintShifter from center to far right, which instantly increased that load and, consequently my wattage, to way beyond the 40% I was hoping for. It was doable, though. (I also incorporated use of the Stages button so we were able to compare our output for each interval.)

    Final question: during the 30 on/60 off, if the rpm goal is 86, where should the cadence be during the recovery? Or is the goal to increase the wattage but keep the same rpm during the efforts?

    Thanks again, Jennifer!

    • Very good questions Sevana. I did this profile on my Stages bike for a 5th time right before I finished writing it, just to verify my power levels. I used the sprint shift lever on the 1-minute, 30-second and 10-second efforts, but still had to make adjustments every time. It will not be exact for every person.

      If you can go more than 40% above FTP for the full duration, that’s OK! Everyone is stronger in different ways. I went about 35% to 40% higher in mine.

      During the recoveries in the 30-second efforts, I kept the cadence at 86. It’s not too high, but if someone can’t bring their breathing under control, they can certainly slow the legs. Heart rate should drop somewhat, but 1 minute may not be long enough to drop it to fully recovered levels, but it’s long enough to feel rested enough to go hard again (for most fit people. Less fit riders should only do what they can under control.)

      If I were doing just 2 or 3 30-second efforts, I could do them higher than 40% of my FTP, but since there are 7 of them, I averaged about 30-35%. It took a couple of efforts to practice using the sprint shift lever and then fine-tuning it to a power level I could maintain. I found these to be the hardest from a power management point of view. Every time I did it I got better.

      Let me know how it goes on Sunday! Good for you for taking yourself through it first. Very important!

  5. Mary Hawkins says:

    Great Information, Jennifer. I love that I’m always learning something new from you or a better way to teach my riders. Thanks!

    Regarding the FTP test, I would add that many instructors don’t know how to utilize the average function feature on their bikes. The stages bikes are easy with the stage function and the ICG bikes are easy with the lap function. Both of them, you simply press and go. I teach at many facilities with the Keiser M3i bikes and most, if not all of the instructors don’t even know how to initiate/use the lap function…..moving the lever down/up to begin the lap — then moving it down/up again to end the lap. The averages will then flash for a few seconds and then they are gone. So, I am very intentional with explaining/practicing the process with my riders before we start the test. We usually try it out while we are in resting before the first effort.

    • I thought the newer M3i Keiser bikes had a lap function? I know the older version you had to push the lever up and back 3 times (big pain!) That is doable for an FTP test (though not ideal to have to stop cold at the end) but it is just way too complicated for short intervals in succession.

  6. HeidiChase says:

    Looking forward to the RPE version!

    • coming soon, Heidi! In the meantime, you can still use this profile, or at least try it on yourself. Instead of power, use RPE cues of moderate, moderately hard, hard, very hard, and very, very hard.

      • MoniqueSparks says:

        I’m excited to try this, and want to be sure I understand something correctly. For the three minute test runs, you have us stand at the onset…are we standing for three full minutes during the whole time or is that just to get started and then sit? I know I’ve seen you debate those who have long standing times in the past, and three minutes out of the saddle would be nearly impossible for some people. Am I missing something?

        • Monique, most people cannot put out consistently high power standing for that long, however, when you first start, it’s a good way to get your power up. So have them stand for 10, 20, even 30 seconds if they want, but it’s better to find a hard effort they can hold while seated.

          Good luck and have fun!

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