Help with Sweet Spot Base Mid I

Hey all - new user to TR but experienced cyclist. I was hoping for some advice regarding choosing where to start in my Training Plan approach. I’ve been actively riding indoors all winter so far (with Zwift training plans), so have a really good base established. I started SSB Mid Vol I last week and obtained my FTP (which happens to be a bit different from Zwift’s determination, but that’s a different topic altogether) from the Ramp Test, so I’m thinking it’s not necessarily set incorrectly.

My issue is that all the workouts so far have not been taxing at all. I’ve actually been pushing about 10-15W more than the target power for each workout in order to get a decent workout. I understand the point of “base” is to establish that base fitness in order to build upon it down the road, but I’m concerned that putting in too much time at these lower intensities will have me regress and actually lose fitness.

Should I skip ahead to Mid Volume II? Should I increase my FTP despite what the Ramp Test said? I want to trust the FTP TR provided via the Ramp Test, but my concern is that the workouts are at the correct intensity level, just not at the appropriate time as compared to my fitness level.

Hope this all makes sense.

Was this your first ramp test, or have you done that sort of thing before? If it was your first there is a very good chance that you under-assessed (most people seem to under-assess on their first couple of ramp tests). I would either have another go at the ramp test or try one of the other testing methods (2x8 minute test or the 20 minute test).
For the ramp test, I think you should be hitting (or at least coming very close to) your maximum heart rate at the point at which you break.

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The ramp test is supposed to be hard and some times we are more prepared the second, third time we take the test. It wouldn’t be that unusual for the FTP to be a little low the first time you take it IMO.

Unfortunately you’re the only one that knows if your zwift TSS and workouts were somewhat compareable to SSBMV1. If it was than I guess you could go to SSBMV2. Fair warning; this one is quite a bit harder than 1. My gut feeling is that if you weren’t able to hit the ramp test hard enough to get an accurate FTP you might be better off easing into TR and starting with SSBMV1 and just bumping your FTP a bit.
Disclaimer; I’m really just a noob trying to figure all of this out for myself.

Good points on repeating the Ramp Test. This was my first Ramp Test, but i’ve done FTP test (20min, in Zwift) before. I would use my previous FTP score from Zwift, but it’s clearly apples vs oranges, since the Ramp Test gave an FTP 8W higher than Zwift did. I could have very well undertested, but my heart rate was pretty high - what i would expect it to be around for an all-out effort.

I did bump my FTP up 5W to get more of a workout, for fear of getting hammered later in the program or when i do move to SSBMV2. I suppose I could easily re-test just to be sure.

The different tests, although all purporting to test FTP, actually assess different systems and extrapolate for FTP. For the vast majority of riders this is fine and the result from each of the different tests would be roughly the same, but it does mean that some riders will have substantial differences between the calculated FTPs under different protocols.

I would definitely have another go at the FTP test. You should feel destroyed at the end of the ramp having had a complete and utter blow up. I’m guessing based on your experience that you have a good idea of the FTP level at which you can complete the SSB1 workouts - if the new FTP result is not inline with that (or exceeding it) then either try one of the other methods or just bump your FTP up to the level you think you can do the work at. If you choose to just bump up your FTP, then I would definitely try a workout like Lamark https://www.trainerroad.com/cycling/workouts/1648 or the old 2x20 test https://www.trainerroad.com/cycling/workouts/5189 to try and verify your new FTP

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SSB1 is supposed to start off a bit easy as it’s intended to bring you into fitness at a specific ramp rate. If you’ve been going harder in Zwift, then SSB1 is going to feel like a step back. SSB2 definitely gets harder and is considered more of a pre-build, but you’ll do another FTP test before that, so no worry upping your FTP in SSB1. Like others have said, if SSB1 feels way too easy and more of recovery rides, up your FTP by 2-5%. SSB1 should feel like a workout, but nothing that really pushes you hard or challenges you deeply. During the Build phase is really where you’ll get those demanding workouts and some towards the later half of SSB2.

Lastly, your ramp test should be pushed to absolute failure having nothing left from your heart or legs. You should keep pushing even as your cadence drops until you can no longer turn the pedals. Pro Tip- 19:30 is the break even point on the ramp test. Every second you last after 19:30 is an increase in FTP.

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Thanks, Paul & everyone. When i took the Ramp Test it came on out of nowhere and i completely blew up, so i didn’t necessarily feel like i left anything “out on the road”. That is my main issue and essentially the question at hand: i’m not familiar enough with SSBMV1 to know if it should be feeling this easy (and whether or not that’s the nature of that portion of the program), or if i’ve just got my FTP set too low. I totally understand that the Ramp extrapolates FTP via different aspects than a longer, more traditional FTP test. I’ll retest today and see what i get. My biggest concern is sticking with SSB1, and in doing so wasting time and losing fitness.

Re losing fitness: remember this is a base phase, it’s not necessary about building FTP right now or doing the most TSS you can handle right now. It’s all about the type of work and the progression.

Edit: no harm in throwing in another test to be sure, I would just enjoy the easy first couple of weeks!

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Sure thing, Tom - thanks for the feedback. I’ve got no problem taking a “step back” if it means better fitness later, but I wanted to ensure that’s what would happen, as opposed to perpetually performing lower than every workout in the future (SSBMV2, Build, etc.) suggests.

Two things:

Testing protocol: The Ramp Test works for many people, but not all. Technically, it’s not an FTP test, but rather a VO2Max test from which a discount (75%) is applied to derive a starting FTP. As explained in detail by Andy Coggan in a WKO4 webinar, everyone’s power above FTP is individualized and hence why he came up with Coggan iLevels (to replace Coggan Classic Levels which most people, including TR, still use). Long subject, but the gist is that if you feel that the Ramp Test isn’t delivering you an accurate FTP result, I’d suggest the 8 or 20min test. [FWIW: the Ramp Test was substantially too low for me; I use Andy’s 20min testing protocol (p.46 of Training and Racing with a Power Meter].

Volume: I’m probably similar to you and came into TR as both an experienced cyclist (to structured training) and with a significant volume (CTL = 95). I tried starting at Build and that was a mistake. So I went back to the beginning SSB MVI (a great plan). But rather than doing the workouts exactly as prescribed, I did the +1, +2 versions of them OR imported them into Workout Creator (a fabulous tool) to create a harder version (eg. 2x20s would become 3 or 4x 20s; 5x9s over/unders -> 6x12s, etc). There is a great video by Tim Cusick in the WKO4 YouTube library on Fatigue Resistance that would be well worth watching for you. Bottom line - the structure of SSB MV I and II is great. But it has insufficient volume for experienced cyclists coming in with a strong base.

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Echoing this, although I did 6 ramp tests starting early 2018 and those were good. Then the last 2 or 3 it was bizarre I blew up early, having lost my top-end to doing a month of traditional base. The last couple were 30-50W too low, compared to what I was capable of doing outside for 20 minutes. So consider doing the 8-min or 20-min tests. Or just go by feel and manually adjust ftp.

Regarding volume, also echoing bobmac (the two of us are masters 55+ riders). I started TR at the end of a season with a lot of 8-10 hour weeks of strong riding. My first plan was SSB1-HV and the high volume plan was hard but not too hard. At the end of week 5 went out and had PR’d an HC climb (almost 2.5 hours of climbing - I’m a clydesdale). Saw a 5% ftp increase from SSB1-HV.

I would manually adjust the ftp and continue with the plan. Mid volume II will be more interesting as it brings in vo2max work to start developing aerobic capacity, and over-unders to work on threshold and lactate processing.

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