T Nation

Power Athletes?


What type of athlete produces the most power for a 10-20 second period? Sure olympic lifters have the highest peak power, and track runners(sprints) likely have the best speed. But I am talking about pure power sustained for a short duration.

Since I am a cyclist I am going to nominate the track cycling sprinters during the 1st lap of the team sprint event. They go 0 to ~43mph in 17 seconds, with an average power in the area of 1800watts (world class level).
It's easy to measure a cyclists wattage with powermeters, but I assume its not really possible for most other athletes.

Anyways, back to the question. Who are the other most powerful athletes for sprint durations?


2000+ watts don't lie :slight_smile:


I know those bmx'ers are fast, but they still are not as powerful as a track sprinter. Jamie staff put down some decent times on the track when he made the switch from bmx, but he still wasn't nearly the fastest.

2000watts...is that you? I can believe some of the top bmx guys peak at that.

that's some power either way. I'm still trying to break 1900, altough I only recently switched from endurance road racing.

come to think of it, there probally isn't much of difference in peak power between the best bmx'ers and best track sprinters.


Is the bike's leverage taken into consideration with the power measurement?

Would the power be measured by the force placed on the pedal, times the distance the pedal travels through one rotation over a certain period of time? I don't know how the leverage could be taken into the equation though, depending on what gear they're in.

I'm assuming you're talking about the power output of just the athlete and not the whole 'athlete and tool' used for the competition.

Otherwise I would think a nascar racer would win, or if you don't want to include engine power, just mechanical leverage, a luger might produce a lot of power (mass X acceleration X distance / time); all using the initial push, gravity and lack of friction (or trying to reduce friction by steering correctly and using their weight distribution).

I've heard a lot about speed skaters having incredible leg power, and their legs are huge, so they might be up there with speed bikers, but again the power should be measured at the skate's blade (I think).

I think it would be easier to measure force output, but then strongmen or powerlifters might win since distance and time are out of the equation (I think).

Good question!


A cyclists power is measured at either the bottom bracket where the cranks attach to frame (SRM) or at the hub of the back wheel(powertap). (there are a couple others, but these two are the most accurate powermeters)

It doesn't matter, the bikes leverage. The bike doesn't produce any power itself, its all coming from the riders legs. Leverage is not an issue (it would be if we were only concerned with torque readings at either locations). Power is force x velocity.

I don't understand what you mean by the "power of the athlete and tool"

Look at it this way. A 200 meter sprinter will only be producing around 500watts at peak speed (after the acceleration) But a top level sprint cyclist will be producing nearly triple that power at peak speed. It simply does not require much power to run at 12m/s. but it takes a ton of power to cycle at 20m/s. (wind resistence is expotenial)

Is that what you mean? The bike allows the athlete to produce more power because the bike is a lever?
That is understood, and the reason why I previously stated that runners do not produce high sustained power.

The purpose of this thread is to find out, simply, what athlete produces the most power of a sprint duration. You need some sort of additional resistence (gravity, wind) to allow the body to produce its maximal power.

I hope this clears things up.


I'm confused as to why you mention a nascar racer? human power, not engine power! lol

A luger might produce a high power during the push(acceleration), but as soon as they jump into the sled, they aren't producing any power, it's all gravity.


bull riding man, on a 95 point ride


It is hard to know... has anyone stuck a Ben Johnson type in a bike for 10 seconds and checked his power?

The fact is that the bike does matter.

Put the cyclist on the ground and see what he produces....

if he can produce 2000 watts without the bike, then the argument is valid. Until then, the bike aids the athlete...


ok, true, the bike "aids" the athlete over simply running. But you NEED another outlet to produce such high power.

You guys are missing the point.

I do not care how much power an athlete can produce on the ground. All I care about is, how much power can an athlete produce PERIOD. If that means riding a bike, fine. It it means sprinting up a hill with dumbells in each hand, fine.


I did yesterday...Yeah, he was pissed.


I would say that if you put a 100m sprinter on a bike, they would produce less power than a track cyclist(sprint) of equal level. Obviously the cyclist is trained to produce more power on a bike, that's all he does. If this weren't the case, you would have Ben Johnson holding the fastest flying 200meter on a bike, not Curt Harnett.

The bike is just a lever. Yes it matters, but it won't turn an old lady into a 2000watt generator.

this is so fustrating, you are completely missing my point.

What about Strongman - pulling a tractor trailer? What's their power?
Are you going to say that those guys are "aided" because of the outside resistence?

see me point?

All I care about is PURE POWER that a human can generate.....in whichever way possible, it doesn't matter what levers, bikes, weights, hills, wind, they use. Who produces the most power for a sustained period of 10-20seconds?


care to elaborate?

I would say those guys have the best leg speed, but not the best average power.


An old lecturer of mine is a strength coach who works with elite sprinters. Formerly, he worked with olympic weightlifters. When posed with a similar question, he was of the opinion that over the first 30-40 yards of a 100 yard sprint the oly lifters would smoke the sprinters. I know this doesn't answer your question but I thought it was an interesting aside.

With regard to power outputs I would guess that olympic lifters had the highest peak power outputs, however, the athlete with the highest mean power output over a 10-20 second period would surely be a population who trains specifically for this duration, IMO this would be 200 yard track sprinters. As they have very high peak power but also a low fatigue index and can therefore maintain close to peak power for longer periods, someone like michael johnson in his day would be a great example. However, quantifying power outputs would also be sport specific. For example, despite my theory that a 200 yards sprinter would possess the greatest mean power, if you were to test this on a cycle ergometer then they would probably be blitzed by a track cyclist. In contrast, place the 200 yard sprinter on a self-driven treadmill and no-one's going to get close.


Kilo -I think I mentioned this a while ago in another thread but back in '00 at the national finals, an ex-phy grad student from a nearby college was doing wattage and vertical testing on pros for his thesis. I peaked a little over 2000 and had +/- a 33" vertical. Some guys broke 2100 but not sure what the highest vertical was. We were all AA pros (class Jamie was in - the "big leagues") and the wattage gig was for 60 secs but not sure when in that minute I/we peaked.

I definitely agree that you guys have higher SUSTAINED power but who knows about 10 seconds. Also interesting to note that you guys typically have bigger/stronger quads but BMXers have bigger/strong posterior chains - most of this is the result of the differences in how we start.

I wish I had a 'drome close by. I kick myself for never going out to the Dick Lane (?) velodrome back when I lived in Atlanta. And then there's the Major Taylor in Indy - 'drome, BMX track and skatepark all right next to each other. Throw in a butcher, nudie bar and weight room and I'd never have to leave the premises!


Yes, the bike adds leverage.

You push on the pedal, and will get more or less overall power depending on what gear you're in. There's mechanical leverage helping to increase the power output. Would the guy on the bike be able to go as fast on (or even produce as much power on) a BMX bike? No.

A strongman pulling a truck is producing all of the power himself, with his legs pushing against the ground.

You should only compare the amount of power 2 athletes can generate with all the same variables.

A sprinter will probably produce more power sprinting with no added resistance than a strongman. The strongman would produce more power moving a truck than the sprinter would.


Not necessarily - you're forgetting that power equals work over TIME. If two riders are side by side on bikes, with all variables being equal except the gearing, the one with the smaller gear will go farther, faster out of the gate (i.e. have a smaller time denominator but do less work b/c of the smaller gear). The one with the larger gear will likely accelerate slower but have to do more work to get the bike moving(larger time component but also larger work output). So, they could conceivably be putting out the same amount of power with different gears, crank lengths, etc... You're confusing perceived effort based on gearing with the cold hard math of figuring power.

Ultimately, there's no way to compare apples to oranges to bananas here - its just a good academic discussion.


You still do not get it. It's NOT about how much power one will produce WITHOUT mechanical assistance or leverage. You need to look at the big picture, forget gear ratios, levers, whatever. IT DOESN'T MATTER.
Have the athlete use whatever mechanical contraption in the world, (a bike happens to be the best one).

I am here to find out what type of athlete produces the most power over a duration in THEIR sport. It doesn't matter how they produce that power, or with what mechanical aids, IT DOESN'T MATTER.


I garrantee that you peaked during the first 4 seconds of that test. After that point, your power would decline the entire time, assuming you were doing a maximal effort.

Speaking of vertical jumps, I am horrible. I got 17 inches last time I tested. I think it's because I am/was an endurance cyclist for 6 years. It's only been 6 weeks since I made the switch to sprint cycling, so I think I can improve on my peak power a lot in the coming years.


If mechanical advantages do not matter, why aren't you accepting NASCAR as an answer? Cyclists pedal their bike, NASCAR drivers step on the pedals.


That's interesting as well. But if you think about it, a runner at top speed is not producing a lot of power after the acceleration. It's all SPEED. Speed is not power, unless you have addition resistence on the runner (uphill, drag a parachute). I bet that a runner at 12m/s is only producing around 500watts.
200meter sprinters are trained for a short explosion out of the blocks, then the ability of pure speed (which is not equal to power because of the low resistence after the acceleration). Because of this, I am not sure that a 100/200m sprinter would have a great sustained power over 10-20 seconds. They simply are trained more for speed than pure power.

The other day I did a 200meter hill sprint on my bike. It was very steep hill at 15% gradient. I did it in 20 seconds, average speed of 22.5mph. AVERAGE power was 1500watts. Since I am on a bike I used a gear that allowed about 105rpms, which requires no real leg speed ability. It's pure power. Now, if you were to put a Ben Johnson alongside me, he wouldn't be able to match me. It's impossible for a runner to do the same time on the track for 200m, and also UP a 15% grade.
Runners have amazing leg speed, but I am not that convinced of their sustained sprint power.