Breakthrough workouts?


With my current plan (I’m still in ‘build 1’ phase) I am doing a lot of sweet spot /over under type stuff.
Looking at my history, I am not breaking any power records with this. Yesterday was ‘Geiger+1’ - 4 12-minute intervals. I guess I never split my work like that, but I ended up not breaking 10, 20, 30, 40 or 60 minute power record.

As I understand some harder workouts are meant to be to ‘breakthrough’ ones where you do push the limit and break those records.
Anything I should do differently with that to actually have gains?
My feeling, after the workout was that I could have pushed myself harder, although it wouldn’t be ‘sweet spot’ training anymore I guess.
With Geiger in particular, as the workouts were still under (my hopefully previous) FTP, I’ve felt that 5 minute rest between intervals was a bit long, but maybe necessary.
Should I try higher power, longer interval or shorter rest periods next time?

How long is your history?

One way of setting a new power PB is when you raise your FTP, chances are your 5 min power for example might be a PB for you, assuming you’ve never reached those kinds of numbers before in your training history.
Another way is to go a test your best ‘x’ minute power by riding flat out for that duration of time.

You can try longer intervals or shorter rest periods which is what I prescribe for my athletes but they’re not following a TR plan. I guess you need to decide whether you’re happy following the TR plans for you fancy mixing your own into the equation.

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Of course with workouts like Geiger you can push more power but then, like you said, it is a different workout. To be honest PR on workouts are comming naturally but do not change nature of the workout. If you want you can shorten the breaks between intervals - this change should be enough. Of course with workouts like 30s/30s you can go as hard as you can :slight_smile: With sweet-spot workouts - change the rest between intervals or find a workout with longer intervals - but stay in SS zone. Of course if it at the end of your training block, and you feel big gain in FTP you can push a little harder (but this I would try on threshold workouts - not SS. With SS go for longer with shorter brakes).

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What do you mean by “gains” exactly? Geiger +1 might not give you a PR in the workout itself, but assuming your power zones are set up correctly, it stresses your body in a way that will push adaptation and growth.

Exactly. You’re training and growing your energy systems, not playing whackamole with your power curve :smiley:

Whether your workouts will give you a new PR depends on your training history and how recently you increased your FTP setting, but literally none of them are designed to do that on purpose. The only workouts that even tell you to push to failure are the FTP tests, because everything else is about endurance and sustainable strength and repeatability.


I’m willing to stick to it and give it a try but so far I’m seeing that none of the workout really push me past my FTP so it’s a little unclear to me how am I supposed to gain a new FTP level just from that.

My next FTP test (week 7) is in 10 days so I’m definitely stick to the plan at least until then.
If I see gains (i.e. higher FTP, lower HR at a given power etc) than that’s great news.
If not, I’ll adjust my workouts to be more intense I guess…

You can increase your FTP even using traditional base plans that never exceed zone 2, so you don’t have to work above your FTP to improve your FTP.

I mainly see PRs on ramp tests and outdoor rides, not typical workouts because they are not designed to produce PRs. Stick to the plan, you will notice improvement. And don’t be discouraged if your FTP doesn’t go up as much as you think it should, it’s not a linear progression.


Agree with the consensus here. You won’t be constantly breaking power records throughout the plans, because the workouts are split into intervals so you can do more work. Although it’s nice to get power PRs in TR, I don’t use that as a measure of my progress. Whenever I get PRs in TR, it tends to be in the final few hard workouts of a block (Leconte, Baird Peak, Ansel Adams +4 spring to mind).

Outside on a hard solo ride, chaingang or KOM hunt, you’re way more likely to set PRs, as you’re more likely to be pushing unsustainably hard at times. Using a personal example - last year I did 102% FTP for 24 minutes to get a local KOM. I got it, I was pretty cooked, and I did nothing else useful on the bike that day (albeit I was less fit back then). In TR there are no workouts in the plans that are 24 mins at 102%, but there is 3 x 20 @ 95, 97, 99% (Galena +2). This workout might not give you any power PRs because I the 3 intervals are shorter and lower in power than the hard one I did once. However, (I’m not a coach so grain of salt time…) I’m pretty sure 60 mins accumulated of Z4 work are far more useful from an adaptation standpoint than 24 mins at 102%. This is where you derive benefit from TR.

So my advice is not to sweat about your power curve - as someone said earlier, it will naturally bump up and right as your fitness improves. Again in my case, I finally wiped that old ride off my power curve the other week when I did 2 x 30 @ 98% in a custom work block (even though it was a lower % of FTP, I still beat the old record comfortably because I have a higher FTP from TR).

If you’re hellbent on breaking PRs, then there’s no substitute for outdoor all out efforts if you have appropriate roads for it. There will be certain workouts in the library that you can add to your calendar ad hoc. Look at ‘Banner’ or the Ramp test for 5 mins, ‘Hour Record’ or ‘Unicorn +2’ for 60 mins, ‘Polar Bear +1’ or other long SST for 2 hours.


As @russell.r.sage has already said, you don’t grow FTP by simply going hard. That’s just not how this works.

Also, you might want to review your expectations. It’s not like every plan will give you at any time a bump in FTP. That’s, again, not how this all works.

Personal anecdote: I did base build twice this year.
During the first build I was increasing my FTP every other week but plateaud during the following base. The second time it was the complete opposite. Hardly any gains during build but big improvements during base.

Thanks - I guess I understand that not every other workout I will be getting an FTP bump, but I would just like some quantifiable value to measure my progress (for motivation) - perhaps I should watch at the HR drift or HRV for the same workout across weeks? I assume with similar power, and assuming that I am actually making progress, I should be able to complete the same workout at same power with lower HR or at least less of an HR drift, right?

@xchaotic Now you just shifted to a different metric. :sweat_smile:

It really doesn’t work that way. Trust the plans and test as prescribed. You would be the first TrainerRoad user who doesn’t see gains. :wink:

That being said you could also watch a variety of metrics like you suggested. Though they can and will be flawed.

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Yeah, while in a plan I generally keep an eye out for things like reduced RPE for similar workouts, or I may struggle to finish a 15 min interval one week and then push it out to 20 min a couple weeks later. Things like that will start to happen and be noticeable without pushing all-out efforts. The all-out efforts also cause much more fatigue than they give you in training benefits so they may not be the best thing in the long run even though it is a nice mental boost to see that.

In aggregate, over time, with all else like sleep, fuel, environment, and life stress being equal, yes. (I was all excited about my HR dropping like a stone in December/January/February, only to watch it come right back up as the temperature increased in May, heh.)

On a TR plan, the FTP test is the quantifiable value that measures progress over time (and Amber’s caveats about progress not being linear apply). You can throw in whatever other benchmarks you feel like might work, maybe an outdoor segment or a Zwift route or something, if you’re trying to track progress in some other area than threshold work.

In general, it’s going to be very hard to observe statistically significant gains on a weekly basis. This stuff takes time.

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The best one IMO is to monitor compliance to plan, nothing else.

HR drift, RPE, HRV have too many factors that affect them day to day, so it is easy to get disheartened when a non trending blip occurs. Its often weeks (sometimes) down the line you can see a the clear trend of progress, that is not clear when getting to granular. Don’t try and micro manage it.

Follow the plan, and use ticking off the sessions at a 100% compliance as the goal and motivation.


PS Maybe frame it this way…

DO I want a PR now in training (short term win)

Or a PR in a RACE or event that matters (longer term and the reward lasts for a longer time period as well)

Training should be (just) Training, if you pick up a PR or two along the way great but that is not the goal for long term gains.

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I like the idea of ‘ticking off’ training, but surely this is means to and end, right?
I also agree that there is lots of variability in day to day measurement but over time the trends should be clear - i.e. month to month rather than day to day, right?
I don’t have any events planned this year (both major events I’ve training for were cancelled) so I’d like some level of fitness record to be THE goal this year.
I might go KOM hunting around my local area or something similar to have an actual (still virtual) but based on an outdoor activity achievement to work towards…

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If you don’t have an event to test your fitness coming up then there is definitely a case to be made for testing your fitness at different durations. Maybe make some fake events on your training calendar and just train toward those. Depending on your goals they could be KOM attempts on a local XC trail, beat a PR on a longer road route, etc.

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If you plan on doing similar events in the future, I would try to make at least one of the fake events mirror your planned events as close as possible. Other than that just pick what ever sounds the most enjoyable.

For some people the training is purely to get faster at a goal event but some people like the process of training more than any event. Neither is wrong as long as it keeps you motivated and moving forward.

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You can always increase your workout intensity slightly to make the workouts harder, but I wouldn’t go too high as you’ll change the intention of the workout. Personally, when I get to the last week or two of a long block of training I’ll increase the intensity of the workouts 2 to 3%. This bumps up the challenging factor just enough and confirms that my previous weeks of training are working. I wouldn’t go higher than 5%, though.

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Why not do a 2 in 1 and make your “target event” one of these PR smashers (e.g. one of the Unicorn workouts or the Kolie Moore FTP test)?

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