Fitness plateu--to train strength (base) or weakness (build)?

Hey everyone!

My question first, background below: Since I have seen small FTP gains (reduction?) from SSB1-2 high vol. the past few months, do I stick to the plan builder’s prescription of SSB1 starting this week (strength) or go my own way and complete a full mesocycle of build instead (weakness)?

I have set up my calendar using plan builder for an A priority stage race in August. I started in training in October with high vol. SSB1-2, and currently I am pushing through a 3-week high vol. build mesocycle prescribed by plan builder. The next series of mesocycles are SSB2, build, specialty, race.

These build workouts are hard, and I find I am failing workouts each week. My legs struggle with the load–more so than I think my breathing. I am not sure if this is from fatigue or a weakness I have to threshold and >threshold intensities. Each workout is a battle of will-power and watts. I do feel like I have a lot of room for improvement. I’ve did mid volume build last year and saw strong gains from it.

Last spring I progressed through SSB1 and jumped from 287 to 309 watts (nice, right!). Next, SSB2 up to 315 Watts, I then took my rides outdoors with unstructured workouts for the remainder of the summer. In September, I then did a month of SSB1 low volume (with supplements workouts) and jumped to 322 watts (most rides were very doable and only 1 hour). The SSB1-2 high volume plans I just completed both gave me calculated FTPs of 315 watts after each ramp test, so I kept the 322 FTP from september. I reckon my weakness is high intensity and I think that my FTP would jump again if I did a few months of build given the large amount of base training over the past months.

Current stats: 5’10, 69kg, 322W FTP, 22 years old, male.

Any help on the matter would be awesome. I look forward to hearing someone’s opinion on this. Thanks for your thoughts guys!

Sincerely,
Ethan

Hey Ethan,

Before more knowledgeable people come and give you better advice, here are my thoughts :slight_smile:

First of all, if two ramp tests are putting you at 315w, then train with your FTP set at 315w. When on a razor’s edge that comes from doing HV AND Build, adding a few extra percent of difficulty by leaving your FTP at 322w can be enough to push you over that edge.

Secondly, when I am failing workouts every week that tells me I need to take a step back; either I need to give myself some more rest in the form of an active rest week, or I am trying to do too much on the higher end of the pyramid (build/specialties) when my base isn’t where it should be yet.

Were the SSB Base sessions you did last year also high volume? It’s a lot of work, and if your diet/rest/stress aren’t supporting you right now, consider thinking about measures you can take there as well (often that means getting more calories).

You’re already very strong, and it’s good that you’re trying to sort this out now instead of just pushing through to catastrophe. Good luck!

+1 on accepting the lower FTP. I am not a HV user but had a serious compliance issue in heading from SSB2 to build earlier this year. So much so I stopped and got off the bike for a week. When I came back most of my VO2max capacity was gone consequently the FTP test came back with a 4% drop. Holding high FTP for ego is a mugs game. There are no end of posts on this forum about that. Of more importance is the direction and where you are in the cycle and the overall metrics. So I set the level to the new value and prioritized compliance. Within two weeks of the original test the value was back up and crucially when I hit next batch of HIITs the compliance was perfect. Hard but doable. So the trajectory is in the right direction.

Hey Ryan,
Thanks for your input!
Fair point about training above FTP and going over by too much. Compliance really is the way to get stronger, so I will heed that advice. I think sleep duration/quality is a limiting factor and probably explains a few things too. And probably nutrition to some extent too: I do most workouts in early AM with gatorade as the go to fuel.
Yes, the SSB last year were high volume. One last thing: would you go through with the base training or build training (against plan builders recommendation)?
Have a good day!
Ethan

Hey Simon,
Thank you for your thoughts and personal experience!

That makes a lot of sense lol. Thanks for that!
Cheers,
Ethan