Low Volume Gains and Plan Concerns

Hi everyone,

I wanted to ask if low volume is more to maintain your FTP or could you actually grow it with so little volume?

My current FTP is 215w and I would love to be able to get it to 250w. I’ve been stuck on 215 forever now but I only have 3 slots a week to ride. I have tried structured training in the past but I always worry it will do more harm than good so never stick with it! I love the podcast and the idea of adaptive training and all the stats that will feed my inner nerd! But will it work?!

I’m 100% an indoor rider and enjoy racing on virtual platforms and also aiming for PB’s on virtual climbs and routes. This year so far I have focused on consistency and have successfully hit 3 sessions a week all year apart from 2 weeks. I also wanted to lose and stabilise my weight which I have now achieved.

I’m now looking at if and how I can reach my goal of 250w to place better in ITT’s/races and PB attempts (virtually).

My concern is that I may be kidding myself as I can only ride 3 times per week with 90-120 minutes per ride available. Can TR get me there? If I start a plan from the beginning through SSB it means I will drop my TSS for sometime until it builds back up again so worried this will actually make me go backwards.

I’m prepared to commit if it gets me to 250w, but would really like to hear other success stories. Happy to share any info you need for feedback.

Appreciate your help!

2 Likes

I have only ever followed Low Volume, mostly due to life commitments but also there is much positive benefit to me in completing all my prescribed workouts than trying to follow a MidVolume plan and missing a few.

Low volume works. If you have completed the sessions like you say you have then you should be increasing your FTP.

1 Like

To me, you have two different things going on.

  • Can you increase FTP with just a LV plan
  • I like to do virtual rides and races

If you’re just doing TR LV, you can increase FTP. However, I’d venture to guess the people that will see gains this way are coming from either no or a casual cycling background. People that are already racing and doing Ape Du Zwift on a regular basis, might not get enough stimuli to overload the system and see adaptations. Add to that, dropping a scheduled workout to race to climb and I’m thinking you won’t see what you’re after.

Now, if you’re coming from something completely unstructured and the LV plan is going to make you focus on some of the weaker areas of your riding, then you’ll still get benefit.

I use LV M-W-F and ride outside, unstructured, T-Th-Sat. These added endurance rides give me plenty of volume to see fitness increases. If you did TR structure three days a week and did your virtual stuff on the “off” days, you’ll see gains.

So, are you willing to just to TR three days a week? If so, I do think you’ll see gains. (Yes, I know, TSS will drop…not all TSS is created equal.) If you’re going to drop a TR workout for a race every now and then, I don’t think you’ll see the progress you want…at least not at the pace you might want.

3 Likes

Nothing to add to this. Spot on!.

My personal experience:
Started a tr plan LV plan in October last year with a 220 ftp from ramp test after a summer with more riding in many years and at least one proper interval session a week but no long term plan.
Top ramp test before life got in the way in April was 243 which set me at around 3.8w/kg with plenty of punch.
My background is that I’m 41 and have ridden bikes and done lots of other endurance sports all my life.

So for what it’s worth I’d say a structured plan will give you some gains. How much, who knows?

1 Like

Thanks for the reply. I’m willing to drop doing other virtual rides for a period of time and go all in on structured training if I felt I could get to 250 and then maintain and enjoy that strength for a while before embarking on another solid training block to maintain or marginally improve if possible. If it takes 6 months to get there I would commit, I’m just not yet convinced if its possible on this volume or not, and wouldnt want to get to month 6 to find I’ve maintained or worse!

I’ve always wondered if anyone has ever plateaued using the low-volume plan, even if they add 5 to 6 hours of extra zone 2 riding a week.

it’s very difficult to say why you may be plateauing. The volume is a rate limiter, but probably should not preclude you from seeing gains at your level. Are you eating well? Are you recovering well? Are you pushing yourself in the work you are doing hard enough to force adaptations? What plans are you doing? Do you vary those plans? You might even benefit from doing longer intervals than what the plans call for. Perhaps aim for some kind of sweet spot progression until you are riding 60-90’s straight at 88%-94% of FTP. Since you are doing such low volume you really need to try to maximize the work you are doing in that short amount of time?

I was doing LV++ and in the 10-14hrs/week range, of which LV was 3.5ish. I don’t blame TR or LV plans for me plateauing because I’m probably not their target audience with those plans. I was at the point where I was happy with the workout lengths but needed the interval durations and workout time in zone to increase and wouldn’t get that interval progression by repeating the stock LV plans.

One of my hopes for the adaptive plans is that it could push out the interval durations and TiZ that I want / need but keep me only doing 3 hard workouts a week. I still think that even for experienced cyclists and those who do more total volume than HV plans, LV + aerobic endurance / mtb / group rides + active recovery is a great option. I would recommend this approach to pretty much everyone as a way to balance structure, recovery, and still have time to do the things on a bike that made them fall in love with cycling in the first place.

At what point is that no longer an LV plan though? :thinking:

I haven’t plateaued, it was more a general question. I currently follow the mid volume plans but always wondered; if just sticking with the low volume plan with added endurance rides would benefit more than mid volume and long Sunday rides.

That’s kind of what I was thinking/ hoping. I’m self experimenting with the mid volume and long Sunday rides. I’m pretty sure there is a intensity/duration issue. I think it was the book “time crunched cyclist” by Chris Carmichael, where he mentions if you’re doing so much volume you should only do so much intensity. I was just wondering if anyone had reached a point with the low volume plus added endurance where it wasn’t enough stimulus to continue growing their ftp/ fitness.

You’re talking about a 16% increase in 6 months with only 3.5 hours of training a week. That seems like a stretch to me. I’ve gained 30 watts in 6 months before but I was also doing a lot of endurance work outside.

Part of the problem here is that you want a certain FTP number. No doubt because that’s 50% of the equation that determines your speed in Zwift. You could also increase by dropping weight, but if you’re where you need to be, the only option is FTP increase, so I get where your goal is coming from.

Maybe if all you did was SSBLV2 and Build, you could get that kind of increase, but I still think it would be hard with that volume. Even doing that would only be twice through in 6 months. Many of us don’t see any increase at the end of one of those blocks…we’re able to use the power we have better, but the FTP number doesn’t go up…normal outside riding, who cares…but Zwifting, it can make for major disappointment.

I almost think you’d be better off doing some TrainNow progression rather than a plan. TrainNow would allow you to use all your free time and might just get you going farther faster. Got two hours today rather than the one hour the plan calls for, change up the TrainNow workout for two hours. Need to skip a workout to do a race…no problem, TrainNow will be there tomorrow.

Ultimately, I think what you want to do is possible but not worth putting all your eggs in one basket. Do the stuff you enjoy and fit that around structure as best you can. The more structure the more gains, but if you just do structure with this kind of time limit and you don’t get the goal you want, you’re much more likely to drop structure all together.

1 Like

Man, do I understand this! I LOVE the progression of TR plans. I LOVE knowing I just need to show up and Coach Chad will tell me what to do, but I HATE that I can’t make the plan fit into my schedule better. This is why I’m all in on TrainNow and watching the level system.

I want a 1 hour workout three times a week. Plans want to add duration as the week goes on. I get that if you’re inside for 6 months of the year, but I live in So FL. I can ride outside all year long. Getting me an hour of structure 3 days a week coupled with the outside rides does what I need it to do and doesn’t have me constantly pushing my morning back as the week rolls on.

One hour inside three days a week and totally consistent will get me much farther than those 1.5 hour workouts I’d sometime have to reschedule because I just didn’t have that extra half hour on the days the plan wanted it. Yeah, maybe I lose out on some intervals or some warm-up/cool-down time to get the TiZ I need, but that’s ok, because I know I’ll be consistent week after week.

3 Likes

Apologies. My reply was to the OP, not you.

1 Like

All good :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes: