Giant dificulty difference between Sustained power builds low and medium/high. Are they even the same goal?

I am at the end of my first run through SSB. I do low volume but I also run 3.5hr and lift 4 hours per week so my ‘real’ volume is pretty high. I have a fairly real chance of making a 10% ftp jump if I can dig in my ramp test next week. It has become clear to me that sustained work is much harder for me than shorter stuff so i decided I should focus on what I suck at and picked sustained power build. The problem is, I am not actually sure I could do week 1 at my current FTP let alone 10% higher on low volume. Mid and high both look hard but fine.

So week 1 in LV ends with Mount Goode. 15 minutes at 95%, 99%, and 97%. That is a big jump from SSB times, and I am almost positive I cant jump from 10 minutes at threshold to 15 minutes with a 10% ftp jump. Even if I can, 15min at 99% in erg mode is going to have me spending a LOT of time over threshold just cause of power moving around (which is extra sloppy at the end of death threshold intervals). Mid volume ends with spruce knob, tray mountain, etc (2x30@85, 3x20@90). Those are going to be hard but a lot easier, and all that time will actually be sub-threshold.

I am new, so I am honestly asking, is this really going to do the same thing as the sweet spot work in the mid volume? Is it going to do a lot more? Its sure a lot harder so there better be a reason. Long threshold work feels like its the same as over under work unless you can hold EXACTLY threshold, and I know I cant.

When comparing those plans you can’t just compare the days like for like and ignore the rest of the week. The MV plan has the 6-8min intervals @ 108% which are pretty brutal. So when you then do the SS work the next day you are going to be pretty fatigued. So the SS work isn’t trying to emulate the threshold work of the LV plan but it’s just a tool to add more training stress to an already very fatiguing phase without putting you over the edge.

So yeah those FTP intervals are going to be difficult and harder than those SS workouts but overall I think the MV and HV plans are harder.

If you are worried about the 99% intervals turning into over under efforts then you could just knock down the workout intensity by 1-2% for that interval. You would get 99% of the benefit but it could be substantially easier to get through (even if that benefit is mostly psychological).

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Low volume is pretty high intensity to make up for the lack of volume, thats basically what it comes down to. If you only have ~4hrs / week its gonna be full gas to try and stack the most training stress and target the most energy systems in 3 workouts and that short amount of time. With the extra time and volume in MV and HV the intensity of each workout doesn’t have to be as high, but I’m pretty sure that hitting a SS workout the day after harder intervals isn’t going to feel so great. If you’re strictly following LV they assume 1-2 days completely off between workouts, so one should be able to recover for the next one (?). YMMV if you are running and lifting or adding more cycling volume to LV (which I’ve done.)

I found the suprathreshold interval workouts (x min @105%) that come in the second half of SusPB LV to be the most difficult as I had not done those kinds of workouts before. I think if you want to get through SusPB LV you might want to cut back on some of these non-cycling activities, particularly lifting. I had to adjust my schedule and really prioritize recovery to finish it up. Builds are hard!

I am not judging - we need to be aware that our activities outside TR impact our ability to execute workouts and that not everything is the highest priority. If you enjoy lifting and don’t want to stop, that might negatively impact your ability to recover between TR workouts and ability to execute them, and that is fine.

^ this.

TR builds are very hard. Given your lifting and running, I’m going to suggest thinking out of the box and say you might want to look at triathlete builds https://www.trainerroad.com/app/cycling/plans/build The sprint triathlon build is going to have more intensity (12.4 miles cycling target) than the full distance triathlon build (112 mile cycling target).

I had looked at that a few times (Tri plans), and honestly I cant really get myself excited by the options. If i were going to try to modify I think I would probably take the mid volume plan and replace 2 of the rides with runs that work the same energy system. That said, i am going to run this LV plan as written cause I have never done it so I dont know for sure I cant. Its silly to me to modify it before trying it at least once.

The real question I am asking here is: Is the sweet spot stuff actually getting you the same adaptations as the LV threshold stuff? Is the extra intensity of the LV plan going to be lost on a relative beginner and be effort without return? Lets take this to extremes to better ask the question. I could replace the threshold workout with a 6x5 vo2max type workout. It would be 30 min of REALLY hard rather than 45 minutes of threshold. Less time, but higher intensity. Thing is, it trains something totally different so its not really an even swap. At some point less but harder stuff is not a replacement, its something totally different.

Is riding under threshold and dancing above and below it different degrees of the same thing or 2 different things?

This is the part I am trying to pick apart. If you just want to heap it on, you could do ALL VO2 ALL THE TIME but that clearly wouldnt hit all systems (among other issues). If riding at threshold is hard, so your cadence wanders a bit so the power moves +/- 20 watts that threshold workout is really an over under. This LV plan starts with a period of a vo2max, an over under and a threshold workout. Is that threshold workout in this context really a different energy system or is it the same as the mid week over under? Am I missing out on something totally different I would get by riding at 95% and staying under threshold for the whole workout? Is this one of those cases where doing less would result in more gains?

Coggan’s level 4 is called Lactate Threshold and the range is 91-105% FTP. Keep in mind the zones are a bit fuzzy and your threshold can change a few watts day-to-day.

Training at this level includes:

  • upper sweet spot
  • threshold
  • over-unders

Think of it as advanced muscle endurance and also improving ability to tolerate high lactate (shuttling lactate, tolerating acidic conditions in muscles from excess hydrogen, etc).

Except I’d argue that in these plans the SS isn’t trying to really do exactly the same thing as the threshold stuff. The MV plan has more workouts in a week and it isn’t just a LV + some other stuff. It’s a new workout meant to take advantage of the extra time. So it’s not really an accurate way to compare them.

There isn’t a switch that gets flipped right at FTP that makes everything exponentially harder. Wandering a bit above and below a target wattage is totally normal regardless of the zone you are working in. This wandering shouldn’t be anything like a true over/under interval where your actual target wattage jumps up for minutes at a time. If your trainer in erg mode has you doing 10+ watts over (or under) your target for more than a handful of seconds at a time, something sounds off.

So, the power bouncing around a little bit doesn’t matter as long as you are generally on target. There are a couple of causes to this:

  • power meter sampling interval - PM might report results every second or every crank revolution or every wheel revolution or something else, and depending on how that aligns with:
  • display reporting interval - the display is probably updating every second and depending on how that aligns with the sampling interval will cause some variation in the displayed value
  • display avg / smoothing interval - if you’re displaying 3s average vs instantaneous vs 10s average you will see more or less reported variation. I like 3s or 10s. If you look at 1s it is all over the place.
  • we aren’t robots - I don’t think it is possible for the human body to just lock in and produce x watts. You’re good as long as you roughly stay within the right zone and I don’t think it turns a threshold interval into an over/under as we’re talking about short, natural variations in power not sustained for 1-2min like in over/unders.

Re: over/unders vs sustained threshold intervals - If you’re doing the 95%/105% over/unders, that is all in the lactate threshold zone, just like the sustained intervals but I think the intent is different. Just like how you can do 30s/15s intervals at 120-130% for VO2max where the same power targets in a different context are for anaerobic development. I think there is benefit to having both.