I often get questions about sprints when I'm conducting workshops. Many new (and experienced) instructors tell me they "sprint" multiple times within 4 to 5 minutes. I always try to point out that what they are describing to me is more " "cadence building" than sprinting.
One of the most confusing aspects of the Spinning program is sprinting. The word itself immediately brings to mind descriptions like: fast, quick, high speed, and fun. Each of those is true, but only after a high amount of resistance has been added to make them happen.
When is it a sprint? It's a sprint when a significant amount of resistance is added to lower the cadence to 80 RPMs (or just below). At that point, the rider bursts out of the saddle in HP #3 for 5 seconds with a singular intention of hitting the high point RPM target of 110. There is no conservation of energy at this point. Maximum power is applied to the movement. After the 5 seconds, the rider returns to the saddle for a period of 25 seconds or less with the intention of maintaining the high intensity output in HP #2. Since the effort requires such high intensity, the last part of a sprint process should be an intentional working recovery period where breath and energy are given an opportunity to go back to sustainable levels. One of the goals of active recovery is to continue "working" while the body begins to renew its'energy. Guideline cadence ranges and resistance ranges should be maintained during these periods.
When is it cadence building? It's cadence building when the intention is to elevate the current pedal stroke rhythm of the riders. A cadence build is an elevation of RPMs for a specific period of time. The time can vary just as the symbol can. It's a strategy to raise intensity but not necessarily to maximum levels. A cadence build can be a subtle elevation in output or a sharp (significant) increase in it.
Here again, are the primary differences between the two:
1: time can consistently vary above or below the :30 mark when you are cadence building.
2: heart rate can go slightly above the current working level or to the individual’s peak when you are cadence building.
Both movements challenge participants. Sprints are specified high intensity movements while cadence building is a strategy for increasing focus, rhythm, and output for varying amounts of time.