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Sweet Spot Training: longer intervals or is any cumulative effort good?

Old 01-12-20, 09:53 PM
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Sweet Spot Training: longer intervals or is any cumulative effort good?

Want to get more deliberate about training this winter/spring and have recently read that Sweet Spot training (~90% FTP) need not be done in big chunks but can be broken up into smaller intervals. That is, a long SST session is thought to be just as effective if it's broken into shorter intervals with recovery.

Question I have, is there a lower limit to how short these smaller chunks can be to remain effective training? For example, if I want to break my 60 minute SST training into 4x15 or 3x20 intervals, is this any different/better than going down to 6x10 or even 12x5? And to take the question even further, would it be enough to simply focus on just the time spent in the SS Zone over the course of a ride (ie, no structured intervals at all)??

Thanks for any insights you all may have
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Old 01-12-20, 11:53 PM
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I don't have an answer for you. I've usually done my SST workouts in 20 or 30 min chunks. I'm interested to hear what others have to say.
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Old 01-13-20, 07:57 AM
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I do a lot of sweet spot, Trainerroad bases their high volume (9-11hr/wk) base plans on exclusively sweet spot intervals. Without giving too much of their plan structure away, the main gist is that if you're doing sweet spot as part of a structured plan, you can start with 10min intervals and eventually string things together to 15, 20, 30min efforts. While there's a ton of benefit from doing, say, 70 mins of sweet spot with 10min intervals, there's just something a little more mental and physical by doing 20-30 mins of sweet spot at a time and with reducing rest between intervals. I don't think there's anything wrong with doing the 10min intervals, I think they come as a welcome break from the longer efforts, but I think you do want to keep building the duration of your intervals
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Old 01-13-20, 08:45 AM
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JMO

I have been doing them in 30 min and 1 hour chunks and have seen big improvements. I don't see how doing it at 5, 10, or 15 min provides very much benefit. My thought process is, someone should be able to hold their FTP for one hour for it to be a true FTP (which is why I do 1 hour FTP tests - outside). It shouldn't take a whole lot of effort to ride below that for 5, 10 or 15 min chunks. Given that, how much physiological adaptation is someone really getting doing them in small chunks like that (remember you will be zone 2 or 3 at max recovering in-between). To me that's just like a group ride. Again, just my opinion but based on my own experience, doing it for 1 hour straight (no recoveries) has paid big dividends. The 30 min chunks (also no recovery) are usually after work when I don't have a lot of time. Sweet spot is anywhere from 84-97% FTP. I usually end up riding at 90-95% of my FTP.

Edit: I base my SST on my average watts for the whole ride (not normalized power). The average must be between 84-97%. Not saying that's right but that is how I do it and have seen huge improvements to my power and endurance.

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Old 01-13-20, 09:06 AM
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I don't see how doing it at 5, 10, or 15 min provides very much benefit.
Yeah. It's definitely not the conventional take on the subject.

Just to provide one reference on this (specifically this paragraph quoting cycling coach from Frank Overtron):

“I like to start athletes off easier than 2×20 and progress up,” he says. “So it may be 3×8, 3×10 , 4×9, 3×12, 4×10, 3x 5, then 2×20 and on up to advanced workouts 4×15, 3×20, 3×25, 3×30 and finally the freestyle SST.” This ladder of progression focuses on what Overton believes is the most important aspect for SST- your cumulative time spent in the SST range. In other words, your total time in the range is more important the the length of each individual interval.
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Old 01-13-20, 09:23 AM
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Originally Posted by jadocs View Post
someone should be able to hold their FTP for one hour for it to be a true FTP (which is why I do 1 hour FTP tests - outside).
I'm opening a can of worms, but Dr. Coggan does not define FTP as one hour power and has gone out of his way on other forums to say that. It's more like 40-70min power. I've done FTP for over an hour in the past and I probably couldn't right now without a period of time of actually working up to that duration, it's really difficult.
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Old 01-13-20, 10:24 AM
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Originally Posted by ExMachina View Post
Yeah. It's definitely not the conventional take on the subject.

Just to provide one reference on this (specifically this paragraph quoting cycling coach from Frank Overtron)
:
“I like to start athletes off easier than 2×20 and progress up,” he says. “So it may be 3×8, 3×10 , 4×9, 3×12, 4×10, 3x 5, then 2×20 and on up to advanced workouts 4×15, 3×20, 3×25, 3×30 and finally the freestyle SST.” This ladder of progression focuses on what Overton believes is the most important aspect for SST- your cumulative time spent in the SST range. In other words, your total time in the range is more important the the length of each individual interval.:
This is what I do, starting in November or December. Exactly this progression. Works very well indeed, which is more important to me than the theory. I also salt in some VO2max intervals, which also slowly increase in length and number. I should add that the short ones work best if you use power.
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Old 01-13-20, 10:30 AM
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Originally Posted by hubcyclist View Post
I'm opening a can of worms, but Dr. Coggan does not define FTP as one hour power and has gone out of his way on other forums to say that. It's more like 40-70min power. I've done FTP for over an hour in the past and I probably couldn't right now without a period of time of actually working up to that duration, it's really difficult.
From what I understand, 40-70 or 30-60 were based off two groups. One being able to operate at a higher percentage of lactate threshold and the other only being able to operate at the lower end (Trained endurance athletes vs. untrained? - I don't know). My thinking is, how do you know what your lactate threshold is unless you take a blood test in conjunction with a stress test. Yes sustaining it for an hour is hard...it's hard as heck. Without knowing what my actual lactate threshold is, I can only say that I use my one hour power to determine what my zones are and to determine what sweet spot is....and I have been doing them in 30min, 1 hour and 1.5 hour chunks (solo sustained with no recovery - average watts for the whole ride not normalized)….and my fitness has improved a lot (quickly). Maybe my approach is wrong, but it has paid huge dividends and I'm not trying to guess what group I fall in to or make myself feel better by thinking my FTP is higher than what I can sustain for one hour (that was not directed at you hubcyclist just providing context to my line of thought).
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Old 01-14-20, 11:50 AM
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I've been doing 60 min SST sessions at around 90%, getting ready to bump to 90 mins, but I'm also leaning more towards endurance and gravel racing, so I figured longer sustained blocks of SST would be better than shorter intervals. Doing them 3x week on a Stages gym bike, since I don't have power on either of my bikes.
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Old 01-14-20, 12:16 PM
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To reiterate what has been said here many times when different training modalities are discussed, it depends on the goal and the athlete.

If the goal is to get fit on the bike then most any SS protocol seems to work especially if one is short on time. If the goal is to race a 40k time trial under one hour then protocol matters as well as individual athletes muscle composition.

If the goal is a 40k ITT and the athlete is more sprinty, like me, then breaking up SST and threshold efforts into 2x20 and 4x10 works. However, at some point, one has to practice racing an hour. Constant torque in ones legs for one hour without a position change is much harder than 4 to 6x10 threshold intervals or 2x30 SST. Just my experience.

Also, putting some longer endurance rides at constant power z2/z3 provides solid aerobic conditioning that coupled with SST, threshold and VO2 work can provide amazing fitness and capability for doing most any cycling event.

The other thing to keep in mind when doing SST intervals is they burn a lot of glycogen per kilojoule produced. And a great equalizer of humans is that we all only have about 2000 calories of muscle glycogen. And our stomachs can process only so many calories per hour. So a 400 watt FTP athlete will deplete his muscle glycogen quite quickly riding at SS whereas a 200 watt FTP athlete can ride a longer time. Hence UCI world tour pros tend to ride more z2 since they are still going fast but not burning a lot of glycogen.

I have found that riding SS is quite fatiguing compared to riding lets say mid range z2 even though the training stress score may be equivalent. The difference is torque in the legs is higher for SS and one is burning more muscle glycogen per kJ that has to be replenished after the ride is over.

There is a dark side to riding SS and tempo power. It tends to build a “happy spot” versus choosing to ride or wanting to ride at higher levels of effort. So if one wants to “get to the next level” what is the protocol?

Here is where riding about SS for short periods of time or increase SS matters, IMHO. Motor pacing drills where the motor is set at slightly above race pace but the rider is at SS, and the rider rides next to the motor for periods of time builds the required power to go faster at a sustained level. The increased intervals above race power and speed provide the brain with a different sensation that may improve the athlete to the next level meaning there is more to riding faster than just physiology. Just some ideas.

Last edited by Hermes; 01-15-20 at 08:21 AM.
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Old 02-03-20, 11:55 AM
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Originally Posted by hubcyclist View Post
I'm opening a can of worms, but Dr. Coggan does not define FTP as one hour power and has gone out of his way on other forums to say that. It's more like 40-70min power. I've done FTP for over an hour in the past and I probably couldn't right now without a period of time of actually working up to that duration, it's really difficult.
If you did FTP for over an hour then your actual FTP was higher than the number you used for calculating the effort. Congratulations, it had gone up for a while before something interrupted your training.
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Old 02-04-20, 04:01 PM
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Originally Posted by AdkMtnMonster View Post
If you did FTP for over an hour then your actual FTP was higher than the number you used for calculating the effort. Congratulations, it had gone up for a while before something interrupted your training.
FTP at least in terms of how WKO is defining it is an inflection point in your power duration curve. TTE is a separate metric. You should go tell Coggan the term he defined is wrong. Its also never been defined as exactly an hour, but rather around an hour
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Old 02-04-20, 04:17 PM
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Originally Posted by redlude97 View Post
FTP at least in terms of how WKO is defining it is an inflection point in your power duration curve. TTE is a separate metric. You should go tell Coggan the term he defined is wrong. Its also never been defined as exactly an hour, but rather around an hour
Sure, it’s a metric, a number, a theoretical tool. It says that the maximum power you can generate over a period of roughly one hour is your Functional Threshold Power. If you can generate *MORE* than your personally estimated or measured FTP for “well over an hour” then your personal FTP is HIGHER than whatever number you’re saying you generated more than, for well over an hour. Get it?

Example: my FTP is 220W. For a 90 minute ride I rode at 300W, then told everybody that I can ride well beyond my FTP for 90 minutes. Uh, nope. My real FTP would probably be over 300W if I could do as my example illustrates.

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Old 02-04-20, 04:31 PM
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Originally Posted by AdkMtnMonster View Post
Sure, it’s a metric, a number, a theoretical tool. It says that the maximum power you can generate over a period of roughly one hour is your Functional Threshold Power. If you can generate *MORE* than your personally estimated or measured FTP for “well over an hour” then your personal FTP is HIGHER than whatever number you’re saying you generated more than, for well over an hour. Get it?

Example: my FTP is 220W. For a 90 ride I road at 300W, then told everybody that I can ride well beyond my FTP for 90 minutes. Uh, nope. My real FTP would probably be over 300W if I could do as my example illustrates.
70 mins is not well over an hour though, your example doesn't fit into the criteria. No one has defined FTP as up to 90 mins
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Old 02-04-20, 04:35 PM
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From Dr. Coggan, himself: “In particular, an Intensity Factor of more than 1.05, meaning that Normalized Power is more than 5 percent greater than threshold power, during a 1 hour mass start race is often evidence that your threshold power is set too low.”

So, there you have it. I refer you back to post #11 . I truly believe that most people who bandy about training terms regarding power output know very little of which they speak, me included. (But I’ve done a lot of reading and a lot of pedaling, and using FTP in any derivation consistently sure helps with monitoring training progress.)

Have a nice day! Go ride your bike.
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Old 02-04-20, 05:42 PM
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Originally Posted by AdkMtnMonster View Post
From Dr. Coggan, himself: “In particular, an Intensity Factor of more than 1.05, meaning that Normalized Power is more than 5 percent greater than threshold power, during a 1 hour mass start race is often evidence that your threshold power is set too low.”

So, there you have it. I refer you back to post #11 . I truly believe that most people who bandy about training terms regarding power output know very little of which they speak, me included. (But I’ve done a lot of reading and a lot of pedaling, and using FTP in any derivation consistently sure helps with monitoring training progress.)

Have a nice day! Go ride your bike.
That has nothing to do with TTE at FTP(ie IF 1.00) being between 40-70 mins.
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Old 02-04-20, 05:54 PM
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Originally Posted by redlude97 View Post
That has nothing to do with TTE at FTP(ie IF 1.00) being between 40-70 mins.
Ok. (When did TTE come into this discussion?). If you want to believe that any rider can ride at an output level beyond their maximum timed power limit for a longer duration than that timed limit, please do. Go pedal. I did.
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Old 02-04-20, 05:59 PM
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Originally Posted by AdkMtnMonster View Post
If you did FTP for over an hour then your actual FTP was higher than the number you used for calculating the effort. Congratulations, it had gone up for a while before something interrupted your training.
Originally Posted by AdkMtnMonster View Post
Ok. (When did TTE come into this discussion?). If you want to believe that any rider can ride at an output level beyond their maximum timed power limit for a longer duration than that timed limit, please do. Go pedal. I did.
Uh...do you know what TTE means? Coggan himself says you can ride at FTP for over one hour ie a TTE of 70 mins
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Old 02-04-20, 06:57 PM
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Ok.
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Old 02-04-20, 07:27 PM
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Originally Posted by AdkMtnMonster View Post
From Dr. Coggan, himself: “In particular, an Intensity Factor of more than 1.05, meaning that Normalized Power is more than 5 percent greater than threshold power, during a 1 hour mass start race is often evidence that your threshold power is set too low.”
I am certain Andy's acquainted with the word "proof" and would have used it if that's what he meant.
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Old 02-04-20, 07:47 PM
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Originally Posted by asgelle View Post
I am certain Andy's acquainted with the word "proof" and would have used it if that's what he meant.

Ok
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Old 02-04-20, 08:11 PM
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From the Trainingpeaks.com website, written by Dr Coggan. Maybe I’m misunderstanding him.
  1. Perhaps an even more precise way of determining your FTP, yet one which still doesn’t require any formal testing, is to examine your normalized power during hard ~1 hour mass start races. Since TrainingPeaks automatically calculates Normalized Power® (NP®) even if you haven’t yet entered a value for your threshold power, using it to first analyze several race files may be the quickest way to deriving a good estimate of your threshold power.
  2. Since by definition the best measure of performance is performance itself, the most direct estimate of your sustainable (threshold) power will be obtained by simply doing a time trial of an hour or so.

My point is that you can’t ride harder for an hour+ than you can for one hour. If you can, then your previous one hour max power output has been beaten by your more recent hour+ effort. Therefore, your FTP would have increased. That’s a good thing.

Beers are on me. I just wanna ride hard, eat well, rest, enjoy life occasionally, and get faster, stronger, and better looking every subsequent day. Unfortunately, cycling won’t make me handsome. So, who needs a beer?
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Old 02-05-20, 08:57 AM
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Originally Posted by redlude97 View Post
FTP at least in terms of how WKO is defining it is an inflection point in your power duration curve. TTE is a separate metric. You should go tell Coggan the term he defined is wrong. Its also never been defined as exactly an hour, but rather around an hour
Yes. This.
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Old 02-05-20, 10:50 AM
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Originally Posted by AdkMtnMonster View Post
From the Trainingpeaks.com website, written by Dr Coggan. Maybe I’m misunderstanding him.
  1. Perhaps an even more precise way of determining your FTP, yet one which still doesn’t require any formal testing, is to examine your normalized power during hard ~1 hour mass start races. Since TrainingPeaks automatically calculates Normalized Power® (NP®) even if you haven’t yet entered a value for your threshold power, using it to first analyze several race files may be the quickest way to deriving a good estimate of your threshold power.
  2. Since by definition the best measure of performance is performance itself, the most direct estimate of your sustainable (threshold) power will be obtained by simply doing a time trial of an hour or so.

My point is that you can’t ride harder for an hour+ than you can for one hour. If you can, then your previous one hour max power output has been beaten by your more recent hour+ effort. Therefore, your FTP would have increased. That’s a good thing.

Beers are on me. I just wanna ride hard, eat well, rest, enjoy life occasionally, and get faster, stronger, and better looking every subsequent day. Unfortunately, cycling won’t make me handsome. So, who needs a beer?
61-70 mins is both over and hour and about an hour at the same time. No ones arguing that you can ride a lot longer over an hour. Most people also do not have a TTE of 70 mins. Its a range. On the other end if you can only ride at your FTP for 40 mins it doesnt necessarily mean your FTP is set too high. It all depends oj the athlete and training level and specificity of their training
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Old 02-05-20, 12:43 PM
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Originally Posted by AdkMtnMonster View Post
My point is that you can’t ride harder for an hour+ than you can for one hour. If you can, then your previous one hour max power output has been beaten by your more recent hour+ effort. Therefore, your FTP would have increased. That’s a good thing.

Beers are on me. I just wanna ride hard, eat well, rest, enjoy life occasionally, and get faster, stronger, and better looking every subsequent day. Unfortunately, cycling won’t make me handsome. So, who needs a beer?
This. I started sweet spot training a couple of months ago and calculated my FTP at 335w (20min test x .95). Last week I held 332w for an hour straight at what I would call 90-95% effort. That tells me that my FTP is no longer 335, more like 350-360w. I used to hear it in the running community all the time, people would say, "My heart rate hit 190, but my max heart rate is only 180", obviously your max heart rate is not 180. Your max is your max...until it goes up, then you have a new max.

Always need a beer, hence the name.
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