10-14 Hour Weeks: Is Pyramidal Training Distribution the Best Option for Base?

Taking a look at SSBHV1, the average week is 9 hours with 5/6 workouts being sweet spot intervals. on week 2 of the plan that’s about 300 minutes of sweet spot work with less than an hour in Z2 coming from Pettit.
Now compared to a late-stage traditional base week, for example, week 2 of TBHV3 @ 13:45 has a little more than half the sweet spot/threshold work at about 170 minutes but 8:45 of Z2.

Using the distribution classifications from intervals.icu it could be said that the SSBHV distribution is “threshold” and the TBHV distribution is “pyramidal”.

No matter what you call it, the whole idea is to make make the most improvement with the time you have. Five sweet spot workouts a week seems like a lot of intensity in a week, according to some coaches, threshold/SS work should be done 2-3 times a week during the base phase. (link to one example below)

This raises some questions:

  • Why does SSBHV have so much sweet spot? (it seems like too much)
  • What is the difference in “base fitness” built by zone 2 work vs sweet spot work?
  • How to choose a training distribution?
    – Is one better than the other?
    – Should your TiZ distribution be determined by your available time?
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I know, it’s been a while, but maybe you already watched this, if you follow the channel:

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For those interested, there was a post started earlier today with links to related threads, and new discussion about the same video:

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So weird that this post, basically got no response.

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Depends on the day. Sometimes we get some very active posting that quickly makes a new post like this slip down the list of active threads. If it doesn’t get a reply, it can go down the list far enough to be ignored, unfortunately.

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I am an intervals.icu user as well (what a fantastic program, btw), and was noticing that my training is falling mostly in the pyramidal category. So I had these same questions.

There is quite a bit of reading to do on this in google scholar. :sweat_smile: That’s why we “hire” Coach Chad, and Dylan Johnson. I have yet to dig through them all, but the top one listed seems positive about pyramidal training, at least wrt to half-ironman training in recreational athletes:

If I had to venture a guess, I would say that traditional base sounds better if you have 10-14 hrs a week. SSBHV does seem excessive, but maybe it matches certain cycling goals or rider types better than others. I would also guess that low and mid volume SS plans make more sense for the time-crunched athlete.

I think a pyramidal distribution is a very natural (necessary?) outcome if you ride in the range of 8-10 hrs per week, and are of “normal” fitness.

8-10 hrs of a TR sweetspot plan (e.g. High Volume) would burn many people out.

And if you ride outside for several of these 8-10 hours, some of that is likely “in the middle” I.e. above endurance pace, but not above threshold. Hence ending up pyramidal.

And given the adaptations most of us are after, pyramidal seems very appropriate

  • Endurance pace to exercise slow twitch muscles and build mitochondria
  • Tempo/sweet spot (some low cadence) to improve muscular endurance aka lower VLaMax / “convert” fast twitch to behave more like slow twitch
  • Above threshold to enhance cardiac output and VO2max.

And - another benefit - pyramidal ends the debate between polarized and sweetspot training. It’s both!

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I’m in week 5 of SSB2 MV. For most most SSB1 and 2 MV, I’ve subbed in the “long ride” per the weekly tip for the sweet spot. Out of curiosity, I looked at the 11 weeks and I’m solidly pyramidal according to intervals.icu, not threshold.

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I agree 100%. I used predominantly TR last winter (Jan-May) for 6.5 hours per week on average and distribution ended up being 73/22/5. Pyramidal. That’s SSB LV1-2 and Sustained Power Build LV, plus unstructured trainer time and some outside riding.

Switched to mostly outside unstructured riding for 9.25 hours per week average through November and it ended up 73/23/4. Almost exactly the same TIZ with no thought to optimizing TIZ whatsoever.

Not saying it’s optimal, just that it’s natural (but I do believe it’s optimal for me anyway).

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as any training question, it depends on the athlete, but for anyone, 5x a week Sweet Spot is wayyy too much in my opinion, especially from the mental stand point. Who wants to ride one zone over and over and over? And, what type of progression are you getting from these sessions?

Zone 2 has much less fatigue and provides incredible adaptations, and then add in 2 sweet spot workouts. Problem here IMO is that SS can be high tempo or low to medium threshold, all very different and serving up much different durations. ie athlete can gain a lot from 45-60m of tempo right now, but wouldn’t need to do that at 97% FTP! unless they’re racing in February, so again, depends.

Plan backwards, when are the races, what are you missing from achieving the goals, and what workouts do you need to do? You’ll find better answers that way and you’ll find a good distribution that always you to progress and get faster versus just “working out”

Good luck!

Brendan

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Its been a year since I started this thread and I’ve had a couple take-aways from my training in the time since:

In 2020 I was writing my own programs to follow the Pyramidal distribution and I made some fatal flaws that took what should have been a manageable workload and made it unmanageable.

  • I rarely took a day completely off the bike - Even though the recovery rides I did were extremely easy, I’m sure that I would have been better off not riding for at least one of my two easy days in the week.
  • I didn’t respect the endurance rides - Even though I did fuel them, I rarely ate “enough”. Additionally I don’t think I had enough mindfulness while riding.
  • I focused too much on sweet spot and threshold - Even though I only did two interval days a week, they were almost always SS or threshold. I did do VO2 workouts but they were once every three weeks or so, I never dedicated a block to them. I was so eager to increase my sustainable power I forgot about balance.
  • I was using the ramp test - I cant be sure, but I think that the ramp test over estimates for me. If so this was causing my Z3 & Z4 work to be a bit harder than intended, and although I didn’t sit at the floor of Z2 on my endurance rides, I don’t think I would have been capable of doing 2h 0.7IF rides day-in day-out at that time because 2h at 0.6IF was just about what I could handle on a regular basis.
  • I didn’t have a set weekly schedule - I thought I was doing myself a favor by making myself more flexible but now I realize I was just allowing problems and inconsistency to creep into my training.

Now, in the 2021 season, I have been working with a coach and the zone distribution of my training is quite similar to last year, pyramidal, but the attention to detail in the plan addresses everything from time management and dealing with life to building my engine in a sustainable way. The biggest thing that 2020 has hammered into me is that focusing on FTP alone is a fast way to burn out. My take-away from all of this is that a well balanced endurance based training plan is probably the best way to sustainably grow your physical capabilities as a cyclist. Like most good things, it’s not extremely complicated, it just takes hard work and patience.

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6 months ago I started working with a coach and like you said the attention to detail has led to building my engine in a sustainable way. My coach is great, and its been an eye opener after following off-the-shelf plans for 2+ years.

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I mean no ill will, but you did what a lot of amateurs do. I did the same things for the first 2 seasons of riding where I actually attempted to be strategic. One thing that I’ve really had to be diligent about (2020 helped) is passing up some rides with friends in order to execute a really solid endurance ride.

Discipline is 100% the key. But, it’s also important to take a step back and make sure you’re riding/training for the right reasons and not losing the forest for the trees or so to speak. Have fun and enjoy the process!

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Prior to TR and cycling training, I was doing mostly endurance and HIIT at my local gym. I got serious about cycling and started TR in November with Sweet Spot Gran Fondo HV. Wow… not easy! Based on intervals.icu, I was always in Threshold.

For Base 2, I toned it down to MV and ended up with some weeks in Threshold and some Pyramidal. I also added in extra rides. In Build MId Volume, it was the same.

I saw a nice jump in FTP since November and I think my aerobic base is much better now than when I did HIIT. That said, I plan to move to Polarized splitting 3x VO2 sessions to differing intensities.

My question is, is there an easy way to build a plan and add workouts or I just have to use the workout filter and manually estimates the total minutes in VO2 and anaerobic vs total ride time.