Is increasing intensity productive or counter-productive?

I’ve just started my off-season base plan with a ramp test in ERG mode and noticed that FTP has dropped by a few %. It’s usually a little bit lower than the results measured with a power meter during outdoor rides, so nothing to be concerned about. However, for the past few weeks, I was doing some Train Now / Favourite Workouts (without any plan) rides, and was able to complete them with the higher FTP setting than I received now, after completing the ramp test.
Sure, some workouts felt really tough, and I was struggling to complete them (especially Threshold ones), but most of them were manageable. So here comes the question - is it anyhow beneficial to ride with a higher intensity than the planned one (and therefore probably also in different HR zones, like +95% instead of ~90% for threshold, etc.) or not?
I’m wondering if I should ever increase intensity for some intervals (or maybe even for the entire workouts/plans) when I feel that it should be doable with a 2% or 5% increased intensity, or is it counter-productive because you’re not really working in the zone that the workout was meant to target?

Rather than fiddling with intensity - which in essence means fiddling with FTP - I had success by choosing a more difficult workout alternate at the same or similar intensity.

For instance, doing 3 × 12 or 4 × 10 rather than the prescribed 3 × 10 at threshold. Or finding some 30/15 on/offs instead of 30/30s.


After an off-season you will likely gain some fitness quickly so it’s a good idea to keep track of your power, heart rate and RPE. Start doing the workouts as prescribed and see if your heart rate is in the intended range. If your hr (and RPE) is lower than it should be at a given effort then yeah, you should increase the power slightly to reach the desired heart rate zone.

VO2max workouts are more challenging to gauge by hr becouse the delay in hr and the short nature of the intervals. However, VO2max workouts should be challenging so if the workout feels easy (and you’re not reaching high heart rates even at the end of the workout) then you should again increase the difficulty slightly.

Ps: Your workouts shouldn’t always be incredibly difficult to complete. If you feel like you could’ve done maybe one or two more reps, that’s usually perfect. Going all-out to near failure is sometimes desired but it shouldn’t be the norm.

I’d say you shouldn’t be pushing the intensity or struggling through any workouts when just starting off season. Plenty of time to progress at a steady and sustainable rate, and much better to err on the side of caution than to push the envelope and overdo it.

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Think it depends a lot on what type of workout.

Vo2 - Yes, bump it up if it’s to easy. The goal of these workouts is to get your HR up and breathing heavy. If you want maximum benefit i think it’s more productive to start hard to get you to you’re VO2max state. If the last set proves to difficult in power numbers, turn the numbers down and you’ll probably still be in that VO2max state.

Threshold - With sustained threshold work i don’t think there’s that much use to increase the power. Does it really make that much of a difference if something is done at 97% vs 100%. I don’t really think so.

Over/unders - This one is the most important to get right imho. The over should feel hard and push you, so that when you get to the unders you feel you legs get a break. If you never get that burning legs feeling at the overs, you’re just doing “regular” threshold work.

Just my 2ct