Science behind Sweet Spot Methodology

:grinning:That’s not exactly how I read the discussion leaning toward argument they’re having there.

Dr Coggan:

As far as I am aware, no study of humans has directly addressed the effects of intensity per se on performance while controlling for confounding factors (e.g., total work). Moreover, not all studies are necessarily in agreement, as the few citations I pointed towards were meant to illustrate. You therefore have to rely on a synthesis of the literature, including studies of rats, which among other things nicely illustrate the issue of motor unit recruitment. What such studies also demonstrate is that, within certain limits, there is a trade-off between duration and intensity, with the end result being the same. It therefore logically follows that the best “bang for the buck” in terms of improvement per unit time is at the highest intensity that still falls within said limits. IOW, there is a “sweetspot”, training below which requires significantly more time and training above which results in significantly different adaptations. As I have said many times before, I consider this to be as much a concept as anything else, but if people twist my arm and ask me to guess where the “sweetspot” (as Frank Overton termed it) lies, I place it between the level 2/3 border and FTP itself. Most importantly, this concept was introduced (enunciated, actually, as it was in response to a question I got at a USA Cycling coaching clinic at M.I.T. in Boston around 2000) to encourage people to move away from “training faddism”, i.e., the mistaken belief that training at particular intensities is “bad”, i.e., that there is a “no-go” or “grey” zone that should be avoided at all costs.

As for your summary, it contains several apples-to-oranges comparisons that make it far less useful than you wish to pretend it to be.

I hear this a lot. People tend to forget about the FTP gains you get. So while you might not be changing how well you process fat as a percent of FTP you’re actually increasing your FTP, so at the same wattage as before you’re more aerobic.

Athlete 1:
250 FTP, aerobic ceiling at ~ 70% - 175 watts
Lets say they train lots of slow stuff and get their aerobic ceiling up to 75% of threshold - 188 watts

Athlete 2:
250 FTP, aerobic ceiling at ~ 70% - 175 watts
Focuses on raising their FTP and goes up to 300. Same 70% aerobic ceiling at ~ 70% - 210 watts

I know that’s a generous FTP increase but most of us have some room to grow in FTP. Athlete 2 could also ride at 188 watts but probably go much longer than athlete 1.

I did almost all of my training indoors for Leadville. I find the 2 hour sweet spot workouts (like wright peak; but build up to it) work really well. I did a few longer rides outside and they were tied to races. 5-6 hour training rides are so brutal for me.


there’s some bad blood between the two :slight_smile:

What, I think, does come out from Coggan is that there seems to be no clear definition of sweet-spot range.

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Hi Nate

This is a reasonable assumption, but FTP is an “hour” metric. Is it not also possible that we become better at producing more power (ie via more efficient fast twitch muscle fibre) for the same amounts of glycocen? I am way out of my league here but can’t help wondering if any “hour” (like FTP) metric is not skewed by abundant glycocen stores.

Thanks for the insight Nate. Appreciate you taking the time to read through all these posts and contribute like this :+1:t3::grin:

I’ve got enough time before Leadville where I can spend several months doing lower intensity endurance sessions with the goal of improving my aerobic base (which is underdeveloped).

I then still have the time to transition to more sweet spot and threshold sessions to drive the benefits you mention above. So hopefully I’ll get the best of both worlds here.

I don’t mind the long training rides - as long as I can do them outdoors!

@DaveWh FWIW similar to Nate, I like longer sweet spot and threshold intervals. I have a loop out to the river and back, its pretty much pancake flat as our house is 60’ above sea level and the river flows into the SF Bay.

This is my natural conclusion of doing longer and longer intervals:

The outbound leg has 50 minutes of uninterrupted riding on country roads (after 15 minutes to get outside town). The return leg has traffic and stop lights, which makes it harder to keep a sustained effort going unless the traffic lights are smiling on me that day :wink:

My first season I successfully trained for the DeathRide (120miles / 15,000’ climbing) by doing that loop twice a week, at increasing intensity. EDIT: p.s. people actually bet against me finishing, because I “didn’t do enough training in the hills”

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They really do get at each other, don’t they. It also seems like they’ve covered a lot of ground that we (not you and me specifically @trianta, but the forum as a whole) are going over again. I’ll keep reading. Assuming the conclusion is that they have agreed to disagree?

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In 2017, I also did a lot of outdoor sweet spot and threshold rides (training for Leadville). I live in the mountains, so many of them included a lot of climbing - eg like the following laps on a fire road climb.

Like I mentioned, they worked well at improving my fitness for “shorter” races. But on all the longer (over 5 hours) races I did, I noticed a distinct drop off in power past the 5 hr mark - presumably once I started running low on glycogen.

I recognize there’s a pacing question here also, but my goal with the endurance rides is to boost fat metabolism. And if I can get higher fat metabolism, and retain my glycogen fueled fitness, I’ll get the best of both worlds - that’s the goal anyway😁

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how much time for each of those climb repeats? I’m assuming you have worked on giving your body enough easily digestible carbs during the long 5+ hour rides. I started with Hammer Perpeteum, and have switched to Gu Roctane in my bottles and then some protein from real food.

About 30 mins climb each lap. Hammer perpetuem for fuel, but have since switched to honey stinger products, cliff bars, and pb+j sandwiches for longer rides.

Yeah, I’d do the same as you are planning. Some POL or traditional base will help with a stronger aerobic base. And at my age after some base work I have to restart working on muscular endurance - “use it or lose it” - so consistency has become king in my 50s. Same consistency needed now in the gym. Starting to feel like I need to retire just to stay fit!

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Your capacity at much shorter and much longer efforts is strongly predicted by your FTP.

You can move up and down those error bars, but especially at the supra-hour mark it’s mostly just down to what’s your FTP.


I’m 45, and I think I’m “lucky” in that my fitness does not drop off too quickly, but on the flip side, neither does it ramp up quickly.

This was one of my observations with all the training I did in 2017 - I did a lot of SS, threshold and VO2 max training, and while I got stronger, my gains were modest at best. And after not riding for the first 4-5 months of this year due to ankle surgery, when I did get back on the bike, I was only marginally weaker than last year.

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@ErickVH Your graph is pretty. Where’s it from?

Earlier discussion I was having.

I googled “cycling interval training increased fat oxidation” and got some interesting hits:

and another:


I don’t know that anyone seriously argues that HIIT isn’t effective. Just that polarized may be more effective on a time spent basis.

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For me it’s not really about which method will best increase FTP. Sure I want a higher FTP - everyone does. But I think for some people, there are better reasons to explore a more polarized method.
Firstly, it’s probably less taxing and stressful on the body and mind than lots and lots of Sweet-Spot and THR training. SS generally requires full devotion and leaves not much room for other training like strength and running, IMO.

Second, not everyone is racing and really needs the ability to perform at high % of FTP. I bet many riders have never even seen their calculated FTP power for longer durations over 20-30 minutes. Many riders are training for long endurance events, or just want to be fitter on epic rides, where higher power at LT1 is more important.

Thirdly, many might have hit a plateau with SS and hope that POL will build a bigger aerobic base to push that FTP from the bottom up.

For my personal example, my recent ramp test put me at 260 watts. I HIGHLY doubt I can do that for 1 hour. I’ve been cycling “seriously” for about 3 years and this year has been my best numbers so far. My season best 60 min power was @220 watts, on a 60 min climb pretty much going as hard as I could. My season best 20 min power was 264 watts. But my 5 min power @330 is quite a bit higher on the curve respectively, so I assume I have a fairly well trained anaerobic system and this probably contributes to higher ramp test results.

Why am I mentioning this? I think this is a direct result of lots of sweet spot and threshold training, as well as the typical Strava segment-chasing and group ride smash-fests that cause me to spend lot’s of time in that “tempo - sweet spot - THR” range - or in Dr. Seilers POL model “moderate intensity”. But I feel that I’m not really building a strong aerobic base. I think sweet spot only takes you so far. I’ve seen this in my own riding, especially on rides over 3 hours. Just for some fun, go and look at your 2-2.5 hour power on solo rides or where drafting doesn’t have much effect. If you compare that power number to any zone chart where does that number fall? If it’s on the lower end of endurance or moderate intensity, around 50-60% of FTP, you might have room for improvement in your LT1. If your numbers are up in the 70-80% of FTP then you’re doing pretty good.
At least this is the way I’ve been looking at things lately.


If you went as hard as you could for 60 min, 220 is your FTP. That is a better ftp test than a ramp/8/20 test.


Well, yes some might say that’s my FTP. And I almost agree. It’s my best 60 minute power.
However, that ride wasn’t a targeted “FTP-test” per se. It was just a spontaneous solo effort where I wanted to see what I could do at the end of my season, and I stopped for a quick photo about 10 mins from the summit and was I really going “as hard as I could”?
The reason I was bringing it up was that many of us have these FTP numbers based on certain calculations and tests but the real world efforts tell a different story. I know I should either take an actual 60 min test or use 220… But I feel that I could manage the Vo2 efforts with my FTP set at my last FTP test of 250 and even sweet spot intervals can be done at this level. But my LONGER efforts don’t reflect that FTP setting.
So I’m actually using HR right now to be under LT1 and I’m in the process of finding the right watt range to keep myself in that zone. Based on some recent sessions, my LT1 seems to be around 169-182 watts which is 65-70% of Ramp Tested FTP of 260. If I use 220 then my LT1 would be at a whopping 77-83% of FTP. And then my Vo2 intervals would not be challenging at all, 120% FTP would be 264 watts… which I can do for at least 20 mins. I have no problem lowering my FTP setting as I fine tune my workouts. If I see that the high intensity stuff like 6x8min @108% is too hard then yes, I’ll adjust down. My best 8 min power was 308 but I want to see if I can do repeatable 8 min efforts at 108% or 281 watts.