Choosing Higher Level Productive Workouts - Will this Increase My FTP Faster?

I have now completed all three base phases and I am beginning my build phase plan soon. I wanted to start by saying that the three-week on and one-week off base plans are much more manageable than the previous five-week on and one-week off ones! Coming to the topic, I started this season in December '23 with an FTP of 274W, and my FTP has so far increased by 19W, currently at 293W. While I am satisfied with the progress so far as I have been very consistent and haven’t skipped a single workout, I was honestly expecting a higher number (> or = 300W).

So far, all the main workouts I have done in my base phase were in the ‘productive’ range. I wonder if I can choose other workouts of the same duration that are also in the ‘productive’ range but at a higher level.

For instance, on Monday, I have a Vo2 max workout level 4.5 (productive) scheduled. Can I choose and do a level 5.2 workout which is also productive? Would this contribute to a quicker increase in my progression levels and, in turn, my FTP? I feel like workouts at those levels seem doable, and I am not sure if they will cause me to have undue fatigue. I guess there’s only one way to find out? I have the build phase left, which is an opportunity to increase my FTP before I get to the specialty phase. Would you folks recommend this approach?

I can confirm, on training blocks where I maximize the increase in PL for each workout type, I get a larger bump in FTP. For me, it isn’t sustainable. Probably because that large of a FTP bumps isn’t my actual FTP. But sounds like if you can handle it, that would be a fast way to increase your FTP. For me, I find, if I set a goal to increase PL over a training block, then the next training block, I’ll focus of maximizing volume. This way, I’m not training on the limit every block. Seems to be a bit more sustainable, at least for me.


“Brittle fitness” comes to mind.


Adding volume, rather than intensity sounds like it might be more sustainable in the long run and easier to dial up and down.


How are you rating your workouts? Or rather, how does your workouts feel? I ended up rating many of my VO2 and anaerobic workouts as moderate in my last build phase (because they were, not trying to game the system) and i was given stretch workouts left, right and center.

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No, this isn’t how it works.

If you want to do a VO2 block to increase FTP, just do any combo of workouts with 3-5min intervals, generally with a total time of 20-25mins, just do max effort with each one, without erg. Forget progression levels with VO2 stuff

Where does this assumption come from?

Based on my understanding from listening to previous episodes of the podcast, brittle fitness is something that occurs when one does not spend enough time in the base phase and instead does some random workouts like they’re in a spin-class without following a structured plan, correct? I completed all three parts of the general base plan, and by now, I would have built a sufficient base from which I can add some high-intensity workouts to enhance my fitness. My base would ensure that the fitness I’ll gain is long-lasting. Wouldn’t that be the case now?

When I first started doing some Vo2 max workouts in general base #3, they felt quite easy for Vo2 workouts. My max HR is around 205 bpm, and based on my past experience, Vo2 max workouts get me close to or above 180bpm for the most part. The ones that were given to me by AT only got me to 150-160bpm, and I wouldn’t personally classify them as a Vo2 max workout. I rated them as “moderate” because they required some effort. Eventually, AT started giving me challenging enough workouts that were classified as ‘stretch’ that would make me dig deeper.

Four years ago, I peaked at 311W at the start of the century specialty phase plan. So based on that, I was expecting a number close to that now. In my past three years, I wasn’t able to get over 300W because I either wasn’t consistent with my training or just burned out. Now with the RLGL feature, I feel like I have some better checks and balances to guide me.

By increasing volume, do you mean increasing the duration of the prescribed TR workouts or to add on additional endurance rides, or a mix of both? I am following a mid-volume plan, FYI. I remember Nate saying on the RLGL thread that one thing that commonly results in athletes burning out is doing a 3+ hour long endurance ride during the weekends and not recovering sufficiently after that. Going back to my previous years, I noticed that I did TR workouts on yellow and red days after 3+ hour rides, which caused me to burn out. While I personally would like to do these long endurance rides, I feel like doing them every week is quite unsustainable. Once in two weeks seems like a reasonable approach for me. However, I am open to increasing the duration of my prescribed TR workouts from 1 hour to 1h15 or 1h30m. So how do you go about increasing volume? Would increasing the duration of workouts as a start do?

There is presumably some volume and intensity you can sustain which will maximize your fitness gains. But there’s no way in general to say whether a plan is over or under that (if there was, TR would probably adjust the plan); it depends on the specifics of your body.

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This is where users have to realise/remember that AT doesn’t know you.

Let’s say that you know from experience that a good first workout for you in a block when you’re going to be doing VO2 Max sustained intervals is - for example - 5 × 2.5 mins at 115% FTP.

AT gives you 5 × 1m30s at 110%.

This isn’t AT being smart because it knows something you don’t.

It’s the opposite of that.

No point literally spinning your wheels. There’s no reason to go nuts and start with something inappropriate, either.

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It’s certainly one way where brittle fitness can develop, but it’s not the only way.

It’s not an official term anyway.

IME what really raises your FTP sustainably is volume (aside from following the plan, as a baseline). Effing around with workout levels and intensity gave me short term gains at best.

Vo2 max workouts should be hard, but not leave you wrecked. I think it’s probably the toughest type of workout to “rate” after completion because they are pretty hard even when they may not be hard enough. If you think they might be too easy, flag them as easy or moderate and you should see workouts get harder quickly. If you get to a point where they are too hard and leave you wrecked (or unable to complete), then respond accordingly and they should adjust accordingly. You aren’t going to do any long term harm stretching yourself for a few workouts to see how you respond.


I think this is key. People in general need to be willing to deviate from the plan a bit, especially early on, and choose workouts that really dial in the PLs. Once you get those right, then TR is really really good at dealing out productive, barely achievable workouts going forward…like scary good.

If a vo2 or threshold workout isn’t hard or very hard, then you shouldn’t be afraid to jump forward a few PLs until it becomes some variant of hard where you probably question a few times during the intervals if you can actually complete the whole thing. Then you actually induce adaptation of the right energy system.

If you start failing workouts, then it’s easy to dial back down and then you know for sure exactly where your PL and FTP lie.


That’s exactly right. Currently doing mid-volume, so when I focus on volume, I bump all the workouts to 90 mins and then bump one of the endurance workouts to 2+ hrs. Because of this increase in volume, I’ll then bump down the PL of all the workouts by a full point or more. Long term, I don’t think this is an ideal way of doing constant improvement. Probably a more optimal way of building is just following the plan. But I do get antsy and want a bigger bump in FTP. Really just sharing my experience.

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Maybe, maybe not. There is nothing magical about the plan, don’t be afraid to make adjustments and try new things. Yes, TR will attempt to adapt the plan to your needs based on workout feedback, but there is no replacement for experience and experimentation and learning how to listen to your body. Like most things in life, you have to break some eggs to get the best results. As much as I think AT is a solid training system, I think it leans a bit too heavily on the “safe” side of training and makes sure to keep folks out of trouble. I get why they do that for the “greater good”, but creates some limitations at the individual level.


Haha. True. Yeah, been experimenting. Trying to figure out what is sustainable for me. This fall was getting 5-7 watts per month bump in ftp. But Janurary, I couldn’t keep up. So this month, I’ve been focusing on volume for two weeks and then chasing PL increase the last week of the block. But I agree, you shouldn’t completely blindly follow the plans. You’ll really learn a lot. I’m finding I feel the best and make really good progress if I hit 8-10 hrs per week and target 380-420 TSS per week. But that’s just me, I’m for others, more or less would be equivalent.

You can choose to do higher-level Productive workouts as long as you feel like you can handle them.

It’s difficult, however, to say for certain if doing so will result in a higher FTP. Ideally, it would, but everyone responds to different ramp rates of training load differently!

You mentioned that the higher-level workouts seem doable, so I don’t think there would be any harm in trying them out. Keep in touch with how you feel if you push the progression in this manner – if you start to feel too much excess fatigue, it would be worth slowing things back down again. This is something to be particularly mindful of, especially as you mentioned you’ve suffered from burnout in past seasons.

Your take on increasing volume gradually looks to be on the right track as well. Even bumping some of your rides up from 1hr to 1hr15m or 1h30m is a good starting point to get in some extra time in the saddle. Again, though, check in with yourself to be sure you’re managing the extra volume without any trouble, especially if you plan to pair that extra volume with a steeper increase in intensity than what’s offered by your training plan.

Hope this helps and feel free to let us know if you have any additional questions!


Thanks! This Monday, I completed a Vo2 max workout at level 5.0. Initially, it felt manageable, but towards the end, I began to struggle. Looking back, starting the plan with a higher-level workout on a newly increased FTP might not have been the best choice. However, if I feel like pushing myself into the red zone to test my limits, I might intentionally choose a higher-level workout that I can handle, especially if I’m nearing a recovery week!

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