HOW TO: Solve Your Power Puzzle

September 14, 2016 | ,

By Master Educator Pam Benchley

Learning to teach with power can be, well, a bit puzzling at first! Use this easy–to-teach Simple Set to help your cyclists understand the pieces (time, RPM, resistance and body position) needed to create power or watts. Help them discover their own personal way to put the pieces together and solve their own ‘power puzzle’!

Power Puzzle Simple Set
Total Set Time: 11 minutes
Total Class Time: 60 MINUTES (5 sets x 11 min = 55 min. Include time for warm up/cool down, and adjust timing as needed)

Simple Set Basics:
5 minutes ramp up to ‘hard’

  • If FTP is known, aim for just under FTP by 10-15 watts.
  • If FTP is not known, use RPE of just under breathless.

3-minute recovery

2-minutes ramp up to just under breathless

  • FTP or 110%+

1 minute to recover and prep for next 5 minute ramp up.

Talking and Observation Points:
Set 1: Focus on TIME. Observe average watts in both the 5 and 2 min efforts. How did time affect power output? Which effort had higher average watts?

Set 2: Focus on RPM. Increase RPM by 1-3 every min in the 5 min effort, and by 3-5 during the 2 min effort. Observe average watts. Did power increase with each increase in RPM?

Set 3: Focus on RESISTANCE. Try and add resistance every 90 seconds during the 5 min effort. In the 2 min effort throw the hammer down at the 1 min mark using your SprintShift! How did adding resistance affect your average watts?

Set 4: Focus on BODY POSITION. Consider RPM and resistance to remain fairly constant in this set. You should add enough resistance to avoid ‘bouncing’ out of the saddle. Try sitting vs. standing. What did you notice happens to average watts when using a standing vs. seated position?

Set 5: CYCLIST’S CHOICE! By this time you have observed average watts for 40 min, playing with the variables or ‘puzzle pieces’. What worked BEST for you? How did you create your best 5 minute and 2 minute average power? Seated? What is your ideal RPM? Do you prefer more or less resistance? Use your best tactic in both the 5 minute and 2 minute efforts to put your puzzle pieces together in a way that makes sense to YOU!

Suggested Modification:
If pressed for time or if you have a less experienced class, repeat just one of the sets for one or a few class sessions, letting the information really sink in. For example, if you teach a 45-minute class, try repeating Set 1 (Focus on TIME) 3 times. Repeat this ride for the week. Week 2, try moving on to Set 2 (Focus on RPM).

Have fun putting your puzzles together!


Pam Benchley is a Master Educator with Stages Indoor Cycling and a national Master Trainer for BOSU®, Hedstrom Fitness and NETA. She is a provider of many workshops including indoor cycling, BOSU, and functional/active aging training. Pam currently serves on the faculty at the State University of New York at Fredonia. She is a member of numerous organizations within the fitness industry such as IHRSA, IDEA and ACSM.

In addition to teaching indoor cycling and fitness classes, she is also an outdoor riding enthusiast. She competes in several triathlon events every year and completed her first IronMan in 2015. Pam believes that fitness education is a continuous learning adventure, and tries to provide a learning environment that is both fun and educational.

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