Is the number of sessions per week an important variable?

This is something I always wondered, as I am in the low number of sessions group. Imagine the following thought experiment:

  • 2 Identical individuals (experience, genotype).
  • Both do 7 hours a week, both do 500 TSS, both spend same time in zones, for simplicity think 2 hours of threshold, 1 hour of tempo, 4 hours of endurance.
  • One does it in 2 days == 2 rides. The other does it in 5 rides == 5 days.
  • Both subjects comply to the program 100% for equal length period.

Theoretically, what are the trade offs between the two approaches?. It’s one superior? Who do you expect to sustainable improve more?


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Consistency is critical to any training program…you are better off doing multiple, shorter / smaller days than fewer, longer days.


Ok, you went around the key issue. I added that to the scenario: Both subjects comply to the program 100% for equal length period.

My query assumes that you can isolate the key variable to the number of sessions. I’m sure this has been studied formally or informally by coaches.

If in several of the 5 sessions you achieve the minimal effective dose, then 5 sessions will see more improvement.

Also, you haven’t accounted for density. You can manipulate that too (more so) with 5 per week.

Also, same continuous TiZ? That matters too. Sprinkling in a bit of threshold here and there doesn’t count. Mismatch between intensity and duration (junk).

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No, I got that…the answer remains the same. Consistency in this case would be defined as “more frequent workouts over a period of time vs. fewer workouts over the same period of time”, not compliance.

Working out consistently over that period of time will yield better results than training less consistently.


Ok, let’s roll with your definition, it’s good you have an opinion, but the key is why?

What is the physiological reason for the plan with more frequent workouts to have better results?

Remember that both plans have equal time in zones. So same output measured in watts

Could you elaborate?

Also keep in mind that I’m talking about identical output in watt - zones. Your sprinkling threshold comment doesn’t apply here.


Is this like going out once a week and thrashing yourself compared to several smaller rides. I thought doing more often gives a training stimulus for the body to adapt whereas the other session is overloading the body. Could be wrong I’m sure someone more sciencey will be along soon. Think the point is that most people will have a point where the TSS is too much and won’t bring about adaptations. Only guessing. :thinking:
:grin:In truth perhaps no idea… :joy:

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Yes, some ppl will say that more frequent workouts are better bc you can fit more work. That is true. But that is also no the question at hand here. H

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Actually it might be - you go bash out a 250 TSS ride like Disaster - something and share how you feel. :joy:

500 TSS is quite a chunk. Think your question is flawed in that for any adaption to take place it has to give enough but not too much stress on the fuelling system and muscles. Too much you’re body is not going to respond well. Too little and it doesnt adapt.

Surely the body with the most manageable TSS loading will adapt more. And TSS must be linked to fueling ie Glycogen so would have to be limited by fuel on board at start and what your body can tolerate.


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There are threads already on not all TSS being equal and the bodies three energy systems - on my pnone so can’t link but think if you find that thread it may answer the question.


Disclaimer: I’m no physiologist, and much of my training knowledge is old-school received wisdom, but…

I was always told that that the more often you can create a training stimulus, provided that you can recover from that stimulus, the better results you will see. Moreover, once you go past a certain stress, you are not increasing the adaptation stimulus, but you are increasing recovery time. For example, a session with 250ss does not, I imagine, provide twice the stimulus of a ride of 125ss, but with your condition of matched time in zones, may well need over twice as much recovery.


Right but you are not fitting more work in your scenario. So you’re correct. You are, however, fitting more frequent doses, which gives you more frequent responses.

The “sprinkling” comment gets to minimal effective dose in each session, not just overall time in zone. It is at the heart of your question. 5 min + 5min + 5min … etc. does not equal 1x60 mins continuous. So provided you are saying that—-and I think you are—-then more doses :+1:

Density is stacking sessions back to back. You are taking advantage of the previous days session causing you some slightly tired legs. The next days session is different on fatigued legs.

And if what you’re getting at is that TSS doesn’t account for any of this, welcome to the club.


Thanks, this is very useful, and starts to make sense. This issue is important to me as I made the decision of mostly train 2 days a week, but they are monster days that take me 2 days of recovery. So Id like to understand better the tradeoff Im making.

Indeed. The problem is we need some way of quantifying training stress, in order to manage it, but no one measure seems adequately to account for all of the variables.

I think you’re slightly going at odds with the TR philosophy, at least as I understand it, which is (to oversimplify) fairly short workouts that provide the most bang-for-buck for people limited on time.

In an ideal world, I’m sure many of us would love to have 20 hours a week that we could use just for training, and to organise much of the rest of our time around recovery. As most of us don’t have that luxury, we need to make the best of the hour or so we can carve out however many days a week.

Yes, however, my party of going for 6 hours is about to end. Winter is coming, and I will be domesticated, locked inside, staring at some screen and following some algorithm orders. Can’t wait!

What is driving this decision?

You don’t have to dude! :rofl:

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I think it also depends on what systems you’re targeting, and ultimately what your goals are. For example, you’re looking at like 15-24 minutes of v02 work per session, so you’re going to get more high-quality stimulus simply by doing more sessions. To be clear, I’m not advocating for doing v02 work 5 days a week or whatever, but 2 big z2 rides per week is a very different question than trying to cram a weeks worth of build into 2 sessions- the latter would likely result in diminishing returns at some point during the ride. Also can’t remember it off the top of my head, but there was some discussion about certain energy systems being kind of conflicting, hence why you don’t see too many “kitchen sink” workouts in most structured plans.

Entirely personal opinion here, but doing shorter, more frequent sessions sounds a lot more bearable if you’re riding on the trainer. Epic rides don’t exactly translate well to indoors.