How do I improve SST/THR-TTE without hurting my short power?

I often hear there’s a trade off between the long steady efforts vs the short punchy efforts, of course mediated by our own genetic predisposition.

I’m not talking about the extremes of the spectrum, think about the difference between Pog and Vinegar. I’m really strong at the 30s-12,15 min. My FTP is decent 4.2 w/kg at peak last year, with a 35-40m TTE.

Where I feel I lack is the high tempo/SST for longer durations. Granted, I admit I don’t do a lot of these efforts in training. But I wonder, IF I start training these duration/intensities, will my short power suffer? What is the physiologic reason for this?

Is it possible to eat my cake and be strong in both areas?

Thanks a lot!

I think you likely answered at least part of your question yourself in your post here – it sounds like your longer sustained power isn’t as strong because you don’t train it very much.

If you’re in the northern hemisphere, now is actually a great time to be hitting those tempo and SST workouts. If you’re not near any goal events at the moment, then it would be fine to dial down the shorter, more intense efforts in favor of working on your longer power.

The main reason shorter/longer power tends to suffer is because we train with specificity in relation to our goals. Why do you want to be stronger with your longer power (besides the obvious answer of “getting stronger,” of course)? If your goals happen to be longer hill climbs or TTs, then it would make sense to work on that part of the power curve.

As for eating your cake and being strong in both of those areas, it could be possible with some balance. Our Rolling Road Race plan, for example, mixes in VO2 Max sessions as well as some longer, sustained threshold workouts because many road races feature both types of efforts. Following such a plan would likely get you pretty strong at both short and long efforts, but it may not get you quite as strong at either of them if you were to focus on one of those types of efforts instead of both.

I think this is why we see much more specialization in the top level of pro cycling these days. There aren’t as many “all rounders” like Eddy Merckx who would dominate all types of races – instead, riders seem to focus much more on getting the most out of themselves while targeting a certain style of riding/racing.

I personally can’t get super deep into the physiology here as I’m not an exercise scientist, but I know we have some forum members who have much more experience with that than I do – hopefully they can chime in!

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Thanks. My target events are on the opposite side of the spectrum. One Ultra and one short XC climb. Mentally wise, I don’t want to go real hard more than 90min.

What is time period between these 2 events? You could pivot from one training approach to another if you have time. I have done this for TTs then Hill Climbs. Very similar needs - long TTE then short power

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Anecdotally I haven’t found that those longer SST rides would hurt my shorter efforts. I have thought of myself always as a punchier rider, with a one-minute max of 620W last spring much better than my FTP of around 300W at the same time. My 5min max was also over 400W. This autumn I have trained my threshold a lot by extending my sweetspot rides to 120min at 92% while also increasing my FTP to 340W. No training for shorter anaerobic efforts yet because it’s the middle of winter. However, I did a one-minute test, and while I completely busted up at 45s in (started too hard), I still ended up with over 650W for a minute despite nearly stopping for the last 10s! So no adverse effect for building up the aerobic engine. I am now starting a vo2max block for a few weeks, and I hope I can bring up my 5min max to ~470W. After that, it’s again time to build up a long TTE.

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Similar anecdotal evidence here, especially when the short power in question is 30 seconds to 15 minutes. Even at 30 seconds there’s a huge aerobic contribution. If we were talking about pure sprint power for 5-10 seconds then maybe there’s a bit more of a trade off.

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Yeah, that 5-10s sprint might possibly suffer a little, but I’d guess that it’s more than offset by the improved ability to actually get into the end of the race in a fresh enough state with the improved aerobic engine :wink: My pure sprint power sucks (something like 1100W for 5s despite being a strong dude at 84kg/190kg, deadlift PR 200kg etc) but I blame not training it as much and having poor technique over SST training inference, haha.

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As mentioned by others, there’s always some trade off: we get better at what we train. That doesn’t automatically mean we get worse at what we don’t prioritise, though, especially for those of us not at/near our genetic ceiling, because a) there’s considerable overlap between the adaptations, and b) because energy systems aren’t switches.

However, the closer to one’s own limit one gets, I would guess, and/or the higher the level, the more important specificity becomes.

I’ve trained almost exclusively for 6hr plus events from late 2022 and - though the context that I’m now the wrong side of 40, and on immunosuppressants, must be considered - my max power numbers for just about every time period under an hour have dropped by about 5%, more like 10% for 3 minutes and below. However, my ability to ride at 0.7-0.75IF more or less all day, with minimal stops, and my ability to put in extended tempo/sweetspot efforts after 4+ hours in the saddle is hugely improved.

After my main event for this year, April, I’m planning to try and get ‘punchier’ again. It will be interesting to see if I can get back to the same sort of numbers for <20m that I was hitting mid 2020-mid 2021. My gut says maybe not (age, mainly) but I’ll be at least trying the reverse of the OP.

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7 weeks. Seems perfect, from a periodization standpoint.

Ok, maybe this is what they meant. I last heard of this in the last episode of @empiricalcycling podcast.

Yep agreed. You could pivot post event…some rest then circa 6 weeks specific prep.

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Well since I’ve been tagged in… in the short term (weeks to months) the biggest reason peak power suffers is fatigue, so freshen up and you should be fine. Other reason it tends to suffer is lack of practice, since there’s a big technique component in making big watts. If you did a basic gap analysis and are finding you need more endurance, hence the thought to train your endurance better, you should do that since there’s no reason to have big watts if you’re not making it to the final.

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Thanks for chiming in. The interesting thing is that my endurance at LT1 and below is pretty good. Just did 6h at 3 w/kg and felt fresh afterwards. But don’t have a lot of history of say >2h of SST …. Like you said it might be just a matter of practice.

LT1 endurance would be slow twitch, and SST endurance would be fast twitch, two different types of fiber muscles endurance no?

so we are now considering 30 sec to 15 mins as short efforts? 15 mins? really?

no. slow twitch fibres have no idea what LT1 is. and SST has nothing to do with fast twitch.

But I wonder, IF I start training these duration/intensities, will my short power suffer? What is the physiologic reason for this?

It’s an interesting question because at the extremes the answer is yes, if you are doing a lot of training SST you have some fibre type switching over especially in an older athlete.

Day to day it’s pretty negligible when you can rest and train both in a week

Within a race, yeah your punch will be lower if you have to tempo for 2-3 hours as opposed to 2z in the wheel for 2-3h.

Is it possible to eat my cake and be strong in both areas?

Barring something extreme, I don’t think shorter power will suffer, especially in absolute terms. However, Sweet Spot work and working on your time-to-exhaustion is in my experience complimentary. Base blocks with sweet spot intervals raise my FTP much more than e. g. polarized blocks that improve my TTE. But in both cases, I don’t think your short power will suffer in absolute terms. Perhaps relatively speaking it might decrease, but in my mind, short power is trained during the Build and Specialty phases.

Wonder if @The_Cog has anything to add to my query.

Can you clarify… are you talking about pure sprint speed or training your sprint at the end of a race or short power up punchy climbs in the middle say a MTB race?

Yes, short power 30s - 8min