Feedback on pyramidal training

Posted above:

But more info on the target event would help.

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Not really. I’m not a big believer in specificity at my training level. I try to raise the roof (FTP) and then fill in the house (TTE).

Don’t get me wrong, I think specificity has it’s place for certain riders and certain races – but all of my best results have come when my engine was big and I was well rested. I do gravel and road racing (mostly) so perhaps this is why the big engine philosophy serves me well. They are races of attrition, generally – not strategy and attacks.

If I had to specify a single goal – much like the famous Stephen Seiler being discussed on another thread – I would like to have an FTP of 300, and I would like to be able to hold that 300W for an hour.

Currently I’m training at an FTP of 290 … and I probably could hold 280 - 285 for a full hour.

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I would be worried that the intensity is too little for a build phase. Here is what I would do. Perhaps it’s of help.

I would do Tuesday (VO2), Wednesday (threshold) and Saturday (threshold). Perhaps all just one hour long though. On Saturday I would add on endurance time after the threshold session. For Monday and Thursday I would add active recovery workouts. Friday and Sunday endurance.

Before starting the build I would do a KM test to have a good estimate of FTP.

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This is my next week FWIW.

Basically: O/Us, Threshold to TTE, Threshold TTE+ with some easy Z2 to plug the gaps


Here’s how I’m designing a repeating structure for later this year

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That would be too much work at threshold for me (age 47; skew fast twitch).

When I’ve done a lot of threshold intensity in the past, I haven’t seen much gains and it has tired me out.

A better solution for me seems to be sweet spot rides (85-90%) instead of threshold. And longer VO2max interval rides for the above threshold stuff.

Townsend FTW! I am finding myself adding that one and the -1 variant quite a lot during hard weeks.

Indeed - horses for courses.

During this threshold build stage I’ve been experimenting adding in some O/Us for the first time and finding they really wear me down. It seems I can get away with several just sub-FTP workouts ~TTE at a much lower cost. It’s a bit of a balance of trying to address the weakness, but not make subsequent workouts too unpleasant. I’ll then go into some much less stressful Sweetspot work after this block

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First, I agree with you that specificity is overrated in some respects (e.g., focusing on two minute repeats becase your road race course has a two-minute hill, probably overrated), but i think you still will get better results by targeting your training interventions. Raise FTP and extend TTE, those are pretty general goals and a lot of different trainings will help you get there. But i think the “art” of programming is, what’s the specific stimulus that, right now, will best help you get from A to B.

For example is Vo2max your limiter? Or do you have a fairly high FTP but lower ability to maintain it? Different answers lead you to different programming choices. And you make those choices at different times because different adaptations have different time courses before you hit diminishing marginal returns for your energy investment. This is the basis for periodization. FWIW, this might work okay for you, but i have found that trying to cover too many goals at once doesn’t work because it’s impossible to tell which training intervention is the one that’s making the difference.

so specifically, if this were me, i would start by focusing on threshold and sweet spot and tempo intervals until you can extend out that FTP over an hour and hopefully raise it a bit. Then do a vo2max block of only two or three weeks but with only vo2max for hard days and doing it real hard. Then rest, go back to a bit more threshold work and test and see where you’re at. In short, specific, targeted interventions focused on exactly what you think you need right then to keep improving.

I think this will probably be more effective than mixed weeks of some vo2max, some sweetspot, as discussed above. And bear in mind that when we observe a pro’s intensity distribution as pyramidal, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the distribution within each week is itself pyramidal.

The other thing to think about is, i would guess that when these pros are following an intensity distribution, they are not looking from the top down necessarily and saying i’d better make this pyramidal. Rather i think they are choosing the workouts–i.e., how to spend their budgeted hard days–based on what they think they need from the bottom up, and the end RESULT is that it’s pyramidal.


1000% this.

Superb post.

I’ve had great success with a very similar approach. Mixing it all up seems to get too complex. I really like a targeted approach. I would thoroughly recommend not mixing much SS or threshold into your V02 build. Especially, if you’re a masters athlete or fast twitcher.

Forget the pyramidal distribution at a weekly level. Target the weeks for what they are. That all comes out in the wash over the year.

For me,

47yr Male
Road/MTB racing, 6 Years training,
Sprinter, 700+hrs yearly training volume

the ideal V02 week looks like so.

Monday - Complete rest
Tuesday - V02 intervals (The real sustained duration kind)
Wednesday - Z2
Thursday - V02 intervals
Friday - Very easy endurance or recovery
Saturday - Group ride, all zones
Sunday - Z2 Long if possible (fatigue dependent)

This prescription is very dynamic. Meaning I change it at any signs of problems. Be that a bad sleep, life issue, literally anything unexpected. If I’m struggling in a week, I bin the Thursday V02s and replace it with more Z2.

If in doubt, Z2 it out…

This careful approach allows you to do actual sustained V02 intervals, hard as hell. I believe that it’s these precious minutes that have the single largest effect on our overall fitness. I hate even saying that, as I very rarely do them. Normally just 2-4 weeks worth before a race. They hurt, a lot. They have me questioning my life choices on the final interval.

Also, these threads are amazing. We should do more. There’s a lot to be learned.

Each one should start with a super detailed breakdown of the rider and intended race/outcome etc. It’s literally like coaching practice.

I’ve recently started coaching a friend and I’m freaking loving it.


I would suggest to try something different on Saturday - combine Z2 with some efforts. I find this sessions quite hard, but they build excellent endurance (physical and mental) and are a lot of fun:

I am not saying it’s must have, but can add some “spice” to the training week if you want to experiment.


Feel free to practice on me lol!

42yr old male
276ftp. Or 295…depending on what power meter I trust.
182 lbs
Train ~6-7 hrs week in winter, ~9-12 in nicer weather.
Been riding seriously about 3 yrs now.
Race gravel, crits, and cyclocross, though only really concerned about results in cyclocross. Finished consistently well last year in cat 4, but no podiums…usually a couple minutes behind the leaders. Would like to contest every race this year and cat up.
Time per day limited to 60-90 minutes, with exception of tuesdays and sundays, where I have significantly more, though Sundays I have a group ride I’m not willing to give up.

totally agree with this. I used to try to design weeks that would cover all bases that i could simply repeat, and it never worked! It just ended up being monotonous: easy days too hard and too few, hard days too easy, no progress.

another thing to think about @batwood14. If you are trying to do well at longer events like gravel grinders, you could do efforts within or at the end of a long zone-2 day like @jarsson suggested. Great way to build endurance and i think workouts like this with sweetspot are a big reason pros distribution winds up pyramidal in the first palce.

On the other hand, if you’re trying to be super fit for something like crits, CX or even XCO, you could do a set of hard intervals in the morning, and a 90 minute endurance session in the afternoon.

Both of these are definitely “building the engine” but it’s a different approach.

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I’m doing something not too dissimilar but I am doing a bit more intensity.

Next week I’ve got:

Tuesday Taylor
Wednesday Virginia
Thursday Antelope
Saturday Matanuska
Sunday 3h z2 (outdoors if I can)

Same pattern each week with progressive increases in TSS of Tuesday Thursday and Saturday. I’ll then go onto build after 6 weeks. In that block I’ll do extra z2.

This is a incredibly good point, and I think one that is lost on many people here (myself included!)


The 1000ft view.

First, the most obvious limiter is your winter volume. That’s definitely going to be your easiest gain. A very easy fix. Just do everything possible to inch up your winter training volume.

Maybe try a very simple approach of just beating your own winter volume from last year. I use monthly hours on Strava and a superb plug-in for Chrome called Elevate. It has a simple graph comparing yourself, to yourself.

If you want to be better than last year, you have to train harder, longer or smarter. Any combination works. It just has to be better than what you’ve previously done. You are competing with last years version of yourself, smash that fool. :smile:

I’m certain that if you continue to train in the manner you’ve currently been training, but keep your winter hours higher, you’ll see improvement. If you make further improvements, for example, better distribution of training and better nutrition, you’ll improve further.

You’ll also be benefitting from already having the adaptions from your previous years of training. It’s basically a case of the rich getting richer.

The easiest option is literally what TrainerRoad often recommend. Just add more Z2 to your existing training. It could be as simple as adding just 15mins onto 4 workouts a week. There’s 1hr more aerobic training a week. Per year is the interesting bit, it’s 52hrs more. That’s substantial.

It’s my experience that many, if not virtually all amateur cyclists are lacking in base aerobic fitness. It can almost never be deep enough. It’s surprisingly more important in cyclocross than I previously understood. Having a well developed base aerobic system greatly effects the speed of your recovery between efforts.

This is almost the entire game in cyclocross. Punch, recovery, punch, sustain…repeat.

NEVER give up your group ride. This is supposed to be fun.

Hypothetically something like this for ‘general’ structure.

Monday - Rest
Tuesday - Z2 Longer workout, tempo intervals if feeling strong
Wednesday - Z2 Endurance
Thursday - Hard day, intervals, hard ride outside, whatever is relevant
Friday - Z2 Endurance or recovery day
Saturday - Z2 Endurance or recovery day
Sunday - Group ride, pick segments, race, sprint, attack, have fun, go nuts

You be the judge on what day you choose for recovery day, Friday or Saturday. Base it on weather, fatigue, goals, life stuff, everything. You should be well rested for your group ride. It’s one of only two key hard days per week. Your other hard day is either Tuesday or Thursday. You’ll be well rested on Monday after a day off. However, it is not far removed from Sunday’s group ride. You need to experiment with either day. Also, when you are feeling strong and well recovered, you could add an additional hard day occasionally. Be careful with this though.

Remember, only you truly know your own body. The more aware you are of your own fatigue levels and general well being, the better you’ll be able to adjust your own training prescription. This is vital, as no pre prescribed training plan can possibly factor in your unique life situations etc.

Good luck. I hope you crush your 2020 self :grin:


I would suggest changing out the 30/30 sessions with something that gets HR up above 90% - something like blocks of 30/15s or 4x4 or 5x6 or 4x8. Or maybe alternate the 30/30 with a different workout on alternate weeks. 30/15s push your HR above 90% for several minutes

This. Couldn’t agree more — again, me being a perfect example of this in the past.

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In the podcasts I have listened to with Inigo San Millan, he emphasizes aerobic base as the most important type of fitness to have for cycling, and the importance of endurance-paced training to build it. Seems obvious, but something that took me a few years to fully believe/understand.

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The reason it’s so hard to train is because a self-coached athlete without much experience doesn’t have the courage to train so low for so long. We feel like we need to feel the burn to make gains. Again, formerly me.

Repeatable power is so cool when you have it … 2 hours into a 3-4 hour race, you’re not dishing out any more power than you were in the first hour, but the pack just starts dropping like flies on every hill. I had this in 2019 … I felt like Superman. Damn, I miss racing …

Turns out, teaching your body to use fat for fuel has a ton of upside🤘