High Volume SSB Feedback

Hi all,

Just after a bit of feedback from those of you who have done the High Volume Sweet Spot Base (1&2) phase.

Basically, I have completed blocks 1 and 2 at 100%, no deviation from the plan at all and am a bit puzzled as to how my FTP has dropped (albeit only slightly) between finishing block 1 and 2. When I finished block 1 my FTP had risen (280w to 286w), not a big amount but still an increase. However, after finishing block 2 and testing at the start of Sustained Power Build my FTP has dropped to 281w.

Not a massive decrease but I just wondered if anyone else had encountered a similar drop and how you proceeded if so? I’ve retained my old FTP for now and will adjust on the fly based on how tough I find the workouts but would welcome any views from others in similar situations.

Thanks in advance.

Thoughts and possible questions:

  1. Have you maintained / gained / lost weight?

    • This can lead to changes in Watts/Kilogram, that can mean overall improvements even if you hold FTP steady or drop a bit. Look at your W/Kg before and after for a point of comparison beyond simple FTP.
  2. You say you completed the blocks at 100%, no deviation. Did you feel “challenged” in the any workouts?

    • The SSB High Vol plan is unique in that it is purely SS workouts with no VO2 Max or Anaerobic work. This is done because of the high TSS and may not be the best approach for some riders who need more variety in stimulus.
  3. Beyond the workouts, has stress from life, work and such impacted you at all?

    • Sometimes these influences can dampen our gains.
  4. What is your next step?

    • Assuming you are moving on to a Build Phase, you can do the same basic evaluation of those early workouts with whatever FTP you choose. Read the descriptions, look at the Intensity Factor and consider how hard any workout should feel. If you don’t come close to that, adjust as needed.

Some possible reading:

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Setting aside the testing: how do the intervals feel? Do you use HR as well as power? I’d go back and look at week 1 of SSB2 and see how you HR compares to similar intervals at the end of week 5. While it’s tough to evaluate HR on a day to day basis, you can definitely observe some trends if you look at it across a longer period of time.

If you see my recent posting history, you’ll see me go on about my ramp test from yesterday. I tested 268w, and had done SSB1 HV at 275w and felt really good throughout. I had to ignore the test and kind of go off feel. I set my ftp to 285 and did a workout today and felt good, so I’ll stick with it for a bit to make sure it sticks.

While I think there’s value in the ramp test (or other types of testing), I think a lot of folks are getting way too caught up in them and the results rather than trusting how they feel when doing interval workouts and tracking HR and RPE as they progress through plans.

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Thanks for the quick replies guys. Definitely some good points there.

I was hoping not to fall into the trap of getting caught up in the FTP number. However, after battling through SSBHV2 I suspect I was hoping for a bit more reward for the suffering, haha!

It’s good to know that there are plenty of valid reasons for a FTP decrease from the Ramp Test. I presume I’m correct in thinking that my true FTP won’t really have decreased considering I felt properly challenged throughout the phase, particularly from the likes of Tallac +4 and Wright Peak -1. Those 2 workouts in week 11/12 were properly taxing, both physically and mentally.

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Keep in mind pure variability. You could test all in the same week and likely end up with some variation (up and down). This could simply be the result of variation. Maybe you missed on fueling, hydration, motivation or any other combo of influence.

We all want to see the large steps in the upward direction (myself included), but they don’t happen every time. When that is the case, you have to step back and try to see the bigger picture.

Also note, that you may well be gaining fitness despite an “unchanged” FTP. You may have improved stamina, duration or power at different points than what is shown in the ramp test. Doing a hard effort on something you know may shed a light on any differences you have made outside the FTP area.

280 / 286 / 281 are all within the margin of error, IMHO.

Even if your ftp stayed the same, you should have improved:

  • aerobic endurance
  • strength endurance

both of those are harder to measure and stick a number on it. Instead of a number, consider that strength endurance is increasing if you were completing more and longer intervals during the later weeks of SSB2-HV.

You should now have a fantastic base, and vo2max work during build will likely deliver ftp gains unless you’ve hit a limit (genetic limit, training time limit, etc).

For some perspective read this: https://www.powertap.com/post/blog-my-ftp-wont-go-up and this: What workout did you do today?

Hope that helps, and ride on!

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Agreed. Despite a lower ftp and lower W/kg, I’ve seen better climbing results on long (30 min to 3 hour) climbs after completing SSB-HV. And I’m able to repeatedly take hero pulls on group rides.

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I just finished my modified version of SSBHV 1&2. So I’m not in the exact same situation. Some of my highest TSS weeks ever, I was actually surprised how much my body could absorb. My ramp test 1, test 2 and test 3 ended exactly the same. I too was slightly disappointed but then again I feel like I built a very strong foundation for the Build phase. So I’m staying with it and trusting now that I’m doing Threshold and Vo2 I’ll see a gain in the next ramp test. Although I do feel like that test exploits my weaknesses. I’m better at riding right on the redline but not great at going over it.

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Thanks for the Powertap link. That’s a really good article, and echoes a lot of the comments in this thread i.e. improvements in fitness aren’t all about numbers, specifically FTP.

I could be hitting a limit, though I hope not a genetic one just yet! I’m at 4.2w/kg at the moment and am well aware that FTP gains will not be big and will be very hard earned moving forward.

I think my query regarding improvements generally stems from the (perhaps naive) assumption that high volume = higher gains -i did mid volume last year-.

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That depends a ton on prior history as well as the ability to properly recover and absorb that additional stress. Too often, it seems that some people actually self-destruct and end up regressing.

It can and does work, but the HV approach seems to really be something that is for a select few of riders. Depending on your prior training history (inside and out) you could well be served better by lower overall stress.

It sounds like you handled the HV OK, but it’s not a bad idea to take a real look at it in perspective of your past.

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I must admit I was a little concerned about self destruction in SSBHV2, block 1 was far more manageable. Mid volume was tough last season but although I managed it, high volume seemed a BIG step up in terms of effort/fatigue etc.

I guess the only way to know whether HV is a workable solution is to try it. Whatever happens at least I’ll have some solid data to help me decide what works best for me in the future I suppose.

I do think there’s a case for a mid volume+ plan. But then I suppose with the calendar anyone can create that for themselves.

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FWIW a year ago I saw a 4% bump after completing SSB1-HV (with a few dropped workouts and outside substitutions). Started riding outside and didn’t continue with SSB2. However it did wonders for fitness starting at end of week 5 - including best HC climb (despite lower ftp), and first 20mph metric century (flat terrain).

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I do the high volume plans and have done SSB1 & 2 a few times. Never had a FTP decrease as they get you working pretty hard, arguably harder than the build and specialty plans as there’s almost no easy days apart from the usual Friday easy ride. It’s relentless.

Now what I have found is the Ramp test doesn’t suit everyone, not me anyway as it favours high revving engines / those good at VO2 Max intervals. I’ve done the Ramp test a few times and found it gives a lower result than the regular tests. I’m actually doing someone else’s ramp test that has 2.5 minute ramps. I find this gives me a higher FTP and more in line with what I think my FTP is. Workouts done at this FTP seem right.

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I might be over simplifying things but I don’t believe that anybody really likes being tested. It’s almost as though you’re being placed into a category.

In my first year of TR usage, I’d use the 2x8 minute method. My FTP was marginally higher than it is this year. Looking back, I think that has a lot to do with how the session looks. It resembles a pretty standard workout.

The Ramp Test has no resemblance to anything else. Coach Chads intro even serves as a warning. ‘It’s easy, until it isn’t.’ You have to fight the urge to tense up.

I love VO2 work but struggle with the Ramp Test. Hitting that sixth step with no break is a massive challenge. My HR is through the roof and my legs are literally screaming, then it’s done.

For me, the Ramp Test works. I have to mentally accept that this will break me and understand that it’s designed to break me. I also tell myself that during my events the hills in front of me of the rider breaking away won’t let up, just because I’m at my limit. I need to get stronger both mentally and physically to challenge them.

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My take is that if I had completed the 2 High Volume phases I would have been disappointed if my FTP had not gone up, never mind fallen.

Personally I have always done a 20 minute test and the one time I tried the Ramp test I failed miserably. I think that is because you are expecting to fail and perhaps I am not as mentally strong as I should be (the anti-depressants I take certainly do not help in that respect).

I go along with all the other comments that you are undoubtedly a stronger cyclist after completing those phases but the FTP test may not demonstrate that. My advice is to go crush a couple of strava segments.

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Balancing the above comments sums it up. As you say I can’t really see how I could’ve become a weaker cyclist having completed the entire phase. The level of exertion felt as intended by TR too so I’m pretty sure my previous FTP was quite accurate.

I’ve got Wilhelm +5 to do later this evening as the 1st tough workout of the Build phase (still High Volume) so will report back after I see how that goes. Historically VO2 Max is an area of weakness for me so it could be interesting. As a rider I’m definitely more torque than horse power.

On another note, the community on here is awesome. Got to say I’m quite impressed by the swiftness of your helpful replies, guys. So thanks to all who have responded thus far. :+1:

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Right then, just an update. I did Wilhelm +5 last night (threshold repeats, 7 x 5mins @ 108% followed by 30 mins @ 65% FTP). I think FTP must be correct, or possibly even on the high side as I did it at my old FTP and it was very hard, the 7th interval in particular was getting on for 10/10 difficulty.

On the positive side I did complete the workout at 100% but I will definitely not be manually bumping the FTP up. Still puzzled by the fact that my FTP has stagnated over the base phase but hopefully that’ll change throughout the build phase.

We are both in similar phases of training and our w/kg is pretty much the same. As I mentioned earlier I saw no gains from SSB but coming from a running background the base phase was always termed as “building the foundation” for future gains. So it will be interesting to report back to this thread in a month or so and see if the build brings out a few more watts. I’m not ready to hit my genetic limit just yet!

This, definitely this!! I’m not expecting any huge gains at this stage, those days are over but small steps in the right direction will do.

Given our similar stats and training phases I’d definitely be interested in hearing how you get on over the coming months. I’ll update this thread as and when necessary anyway but it would be great to hear from others in a similar situation.

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I am interested on your progress could you please update with your build training phase?