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ERG mode is a mode on your smart trainer whereby the trainer dictates the power you ride at. It will automatically adjust for the cycling cadence you are using at and so there is absolutely no shirking when riding in ERG mode.
We’ve asked cycling coach James Spragg to talk through the pros and cons of using ERG mode on the best indoor training apps such as Zwift, and whether or not he would recommend using it or not for maximising on fitness gains.
Sports scientist and coach James Spragg is one of the experts who will be answering your questions in Cycling Weekly’s ASK A CYCLING COACH series which comes out every Wednesday. Working both in research and applied settings, he currently runs Intercept Performance Consultancy.
Pros of using ERG mode in Zwift
ERG mode is the mode that I will use when I do some (but not all) performance tests with athletes. If I want to do a time to exhaustion test, a lactate profile, or a VO2 max test then I will use ERG mode as it allows me to perfectly control the power an athlete is riding at. Likewise, when riding in ERG mode there is absolutely no getting out of doing those intervals. The best smart turbo trainers will simply dictate that you must complete the session at a fixed wattage and that’s that. If you are the kind of person that wants to switch off their brain and just pedal, then erg might sound like a dream solution.
The other bonus is that in more complicated interval sessions there is no remembering what you need to do. Your coach can program the workout and it can be uploaded to whatever platform you are using.
Cons of using ERG mode in Zwift
While for some specific performance tests, ERG mode is undoubtedly the way to go, what about everyday training? Spoiler alert, I am not a fan and don’t advise the athletes I work with to use ERG mode. Here’s why:
I don’t want to limit my athletes
To use ERG mode I need, as a coach, to decide the exact wattage at which an athlete is going to complete an effort. However, the exact power that an athlete is capable of in each set of intervals on any given day may fluctuate by ~2-3 per cent. It may even change from morning to…