You can improve quickly with focussed efforts on a turbo trainer. Soon enough, however, improvement will be hard to come by. It’s the same with running, swimming and many other sports too of course.
To ‘get over’ that plateau needs you to do something different. One way forwards is to improve technique which, of course, you should have been focussing on all along in any case.
The diagrams shown in this post give you an idea about specific muscle recruitment in the pedal stroke and you would be wise to understand these so that you get a better feel for the muscles you should be using.
There are lots of beneficial running drills but not so many cycling drills. Here are some:
1. High Cadence-to-bounce (entire stroke training)
Start in the easiest gear at about 70-80rpm and ‘go’ for 30 seconds. Raise your cadence (same gear) by 5rpm and do 30 seconds more with no rest. Keep increasing your cadence by 5rpm every 30 seconds until you start to bounce on your seat.
This is your bounce point.
2. Generic High Cadence
Let’s say your bounce point happened at 130rpm (a reasonable level to get to).
You could try 3x or 5x 1 minute high cadence intervals at your bounce point less 10rpm…in the above case that would be 120rpm. Have a comfortable rest between intervals, say, 30 seconds.
High cadence should be at a level you would probably very rarely achieve on the road.
‘Does what it says on the box’
When you first do this a low cadence might be needed, say, 65 rpm. You pedal with one leg dangling free for about 30 seconds and then repeat AT THE SAME CADENCE FOR THE SAME TIME on the other leg. Do these about 5x.
Aim to get your one-legged cadence up to around race cadence over time.
Any ‘clunking’ is a sign that you need to work on this specific aspect of your technique.
After you have done 5x immediately switch to 2 leg cycling and you should immediately feel a positive difference with a smoother stroke. Unfortunately that feeling foes soon enough :-( Keep working on it !
4) Aero (Specific training)
Al these drills can be done in aero. Indeed of you intend to race that way you might want to train that way…a lot !
5) Single-power leg spinning. (entire stroke training)
Both feet are clipped in but only one leg powers the stroke. Otherwise the same as one-legged cycling (3)
6) Push Drill (top of the stroke training)
Undertake this in a comfortable position, possibly a climbing position at a lower cadence than normal.
10x 30 seconds of the following with a comfortable rest in between of, say, 15-30 seconds. Use a harder gear to give yourself something to push against.
As each foot starts to go down from the top of the stroke drop your heel (&/or raise your toe) until you get to the 10 o’clock position (ie almost straight away with a clock going backwards as you pedal the opposite way to a clock)
7) Push Variant (top of the stroke training)
As the push drill but try to additionally initiate some small force at 1 or 2 o’clock as your foot approaches the peak of the stroke, taking your foot over the top.
8) Pull Drills (up stroke training)
Here you are just focussing on different aspects of your stroke for about 30 seconds in a harder gear at a lower than normal cadence.
◾repeat…ie next is
Another pattern is as follows alternating the pulling leg
◾repeat…ie next is
9) Scrape off the mud
Scrape the mud off of your shoe using the kerb by the road. Or at least imagine you are doing that at the low point of each pedal stroke.
Do this with both legs at the appropriate point.
A 30-60 second period is appropriate, with a slight rest before repeating a total of 5x.
I had to make up a round 10, sorry :-)
In the hardest gear, standing, apply smooth power in the downstroke and, indeed, as best you can for the entire stroke. 5x 60 secs should be sufficient and you can add into the main set(s) of your session or the warmup.
This is just to get you in a different position if you spend too much time turbo-training and neglecting some road skills. Whilst power is power you might consider that when climbing a hill you probably apply that power differently. It always helps to practice if there are hills on your race (there usually are).