Alternatives to over/unders

I have a problem. I hate over-unders.

I’m getting to the point that I’m pretty comfortable with anything below ~90-95% FTP. Above 110% in the prescribed amounts, no problem. Slightly-over-threshold work, including most of Sustained Power Build, is really, really difficult. The format of the TR over-under workouts in particular seems to be tough for me. I have an easier time with something like Mary Austin or Leconte than something like Carpathian Peak or McAdie.

Normally the solution would be to tough it out and get better at them, but my failure rate is high enough that I think doing something else with a lower failure rate would be a better strategy.

I have General Build (Mid Volume) coming up, which has an over-under progression in it. I would have substituted these with local pickup races, but that isn’t happening. I’ve thought about a couple of alternatives:

  1. The first four weeks of Short Power Build (Mid Volume) are exactly the same as General, except the over-unders are replaced by a VO2max-float progression.
  2. Gin up some alternate-format over-under-type progression based on things like Mary Austin and Leconte.
  3. Some kind of simple Threshold block progression.
  4. Zwift races (if the scheduling works out).
  5. ???

Does anyone have solutions or advice?


Have you tried performing them outdoors? I find they are much more ‘tolerable’ when performing them outside.

pick a “-1” version of the over under workout?
we all hate them, but personally they’re the best to improve


I’ve been doing these on the weekend, the past few weekends, doing Avalanche Spire, Fang Mountain +1 and Carpathian Peak +1 (stuff from sustained power mid). I personally found these versions (75mins) a relative gentle entry into this world. I did Palisade this past weekend (90mins with the more traditional over-under of 2min @ 105%) and felt really prepared. So maybe doing a scaled back version of these workouts would give you the feel for it without leaving you destroyed?

Not great advice, I know!

I haven’t, exactly, though with the terrain around here, unless I really carefully engineer a workout setup, any near-threshold longish intervals is going to work out to be ad-hoc over-unders. I’m pretty sure I could bang out 3x12-minute threshold-ish outdoors without any trouble. If the weather cooperates.

Good thought in general. For specific workouts, whether the -X version really helps seems variable. For example, for Carpathian Peak, the -1 is harder (same workout but less rest); the -2 has less rest but the under portion dips down to 90%. Maybe that helps? You can also turn down the intensity – although if I have to turn it down 5%, it seems like I’m stripping the workout of its value. I guess what I’m wondering is how “easier version of the same workout” compares in value to “something slightly different”.

Welcome to the club, member #1,465,728,170.

Ditto. I recall Chad mentioning he created the earlier workouts like CP/McA when he was on an ERG mode kick, thus all the ramping up and down. I gave up on those and stick with “real” O/U step-style workouts like MA/Le.

I’m guessing the ramp style is more difficult because the lactate is in the system for longer and/or you never really get a chance to clear it; they are undulating rides (ABCDE…) vs two-intensity rides (X and Y).

Not sure there is an alternative to O/Us…? :man_shrugging:


This is me as well. In week 2 of sustained build and I’m struggling with the over/unders as well as the sustained suprathreshold workouts. Anything above threshold (108% in my case) for longer than 4mins are really killing me.

Have you tried under/overs? Turns the whole thing on its head.


Is that all such intervals or only those towards the end of a workout? I’m a bit further along the SPB plan than you, my notes for Kaweah start with “Not too bad. Sort of looks worse than it actually is.” (or are you doing the Mid Volume plan? In which case the last bit won’t make sense.) I’m having a slightly easier week though as I’m not sure if I’ve got this damn virus so I’ve got Columbine-2 tomorrow

@Captain_Doughnutman - the ramp style over/unders are hard to follow when you are on a dumb trainer, you end up doing a virtual stepped climb/descent anyway.

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Try them at -3 or -4%. You are still getting most of the benefit. Then if you’re up to it, increase intensity at last intervals. I struggle heavily with o/u as well, particularly this year more so.

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I’m on the mid volume plan. I think this is a just a glaring weakness of mine. My last over/under workouts, I had to take backpedals throughout the sets. I also took off Wahoo’s ERG smoothing off the Kickr Core just to see if I was really going too far over on the ups in between the two workouts. I also might just need to HTFU :sweat_smile:

Avalanche Spire

Fang Mountain.

I prefer stuff like Leconte too, its a 5 person paceline with 30-second pulls and you start at the back:

The point of these workouts is:

  • emulate the demands of riding in a small breakaway
  • develop mental and physical tolerance for dealing with lactate

I have the opposite problem. I found the over-unders the easiest workouts in sustained power build. I really struggled with the supra-threshold ones, and needed four weeks to build up to Red Lake (never did the others in that block). I wonder if it’s to do with anaerobic capacity, the frequent short trips over threshold can be done anaerobically, but the long supra-threshold ones are pure aerobic?


Most people set their ftp too high and therefore struggle to complete u/o sessions. I’ve fallen foul of this in the past. Dial the workout down a few percentage points.


Nobody likes O/U but they work. In my mind training should develop also your weaknesses - it is like not linking long, hard efforts but it is basically essence of cycling :slight_smile:

For me supra-threshold workouts were way harder and more taxating. I find short bursts O/U like Leconte way harder than these pyramidal ones - the sharp accelerations lead to more muscle fatigue, but they resemble real life situations so I am doing only this type, because after 10 or 12 workouts your body and mind is more accustomed to it and it is just another workout in the plan.

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Nice one! Never really thought of it in those terms before. Cheers!

when you master Leconte, its time to move on to McAdie and do 1-minute pulls in a 3 person paceline!

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People also hate things like Mary Austin and Fireworks, but those don’t bother me as much. There are other lactate-tolerance workouts than the OUs in the main TR plans. The question is if that would be more valuable than seriously backing down on the prescribed OUs.

Yes, when I was doing Sustained Power Build, the long suprathreshold intervals also worked me over pretty hard.

Kaweah is subthreshold. The Low Volume workout series that’s the equivalent of what he’s talking about is the Thursday lineup of Washington / Hale / Dicks (and separately, Carpathian / Fang / Avalanche).

That’s certainly an option, but at -4%, the peak for Overs is only 101% FTP, roughly. I’d get more work above threshold by doing a different workout. Starting at a significant -% difficulty and then increasing later would probably be a better idea than my current ill-advised approach of starting at 100% and backing down as the failure sets in.

I might have to count @Captain_Doughnutman and @bbarrera as two votes for substituting a progression kind of like Leconte in place of the plan-as-written OUs. :slight_smile:

I believe I admitted that the correct answer is probably to suck it up, but I’m pretty sure my motivation for doing that in this case low enough that it would end up being a huge performance hit.

Yeah, see, I am the opposite. The short jogs aren’t nearly as taxing as the repeated longer blocks above threshold.

Is McAdie +1 where you’re in a two-man break with someone who’s mostly pretending to work?




I find over/unders to be mostly mental. Not to say there isn’t a substantial physical challenge, but it just feels like an eternity when you’re suffering for a 12, 16, or 20 minute block of them

Try to think of the over portion as what you can do for your 20 minute FTP test - and if you can handle it for that kind of duration, then heck doing it for every other minute, or every third minute…it isn’t so bad