Masters Base Building

Hey guys, I am new to all of this and returning from a 5 year hiatus and knee surgery. I have no plans to do any type of race for say 9 months, and was wondering the best place to begin. There is so much info now around traditional vs SSB, its hard to know where to begin. I was thinking of jumping in with 4 weeks of traditional to begin, and then switch to SSB and go from there. Ultimately hoping to increase FTP and be able to comfortably ride 100 miles. Thanks for any insight.

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Your plan sounds like a great place to start to me.

I am even thinking about a reset with TB1 Mid Vol before my SSB MV start in late November. I had some sickness followed by an injury and that has lead to more time off the bike than usual for me.

I want something a little different and easier to roll into my next season prep.

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Oversimplified (mid volume):

  • TB1 is aerobic endurance workouts
  • TB2 adds long tempo workouts and a little bit of sweet spot
  • TB3 adds sweet spot and threshold

Coming off 5 months of low to no riding, I decided to do TB1 and TB2 at a minimum, and then go to SSB1.

Added an extra week to TB1. Adding two weeks to TB2, in the middle of that right now. Ask if you want details.


that sounds very logical, Good luck and you’ll be riding 100 miles in no time!!



Me too. Doing TB will give you a chance to rebuild and be ready for the SSB.

I am hoping to get some TB in before starting. Got to get the calendar setup.


Also in the TB before SSB camp. I finish up TB1 next week, plan on TB2 and decide whether I do TB3 or jump into SSB. For TB I’m doing mid volume. For SSB I’ll do low volume and supplement with outdoor rides or longer indoor endurance rides.


I’m finding TB1 and TB2 are building a strong aerobic base :muscle:t3: which will perfectly tee me up for sweet spot base. Doing 20 weeks of base - 8 weeks TB1/TB2 and 12 weeks SSB1/SSB2 - is a good amount of base building when coming back from injury or long hiatus.

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I’ve (kind of) done both TB and SSB.

Increase FTP
It took me twice as long doing TB to raise my FTP to the same level as it did doing SSB. During TB, both physiological and biological stress was very, very low; the body can do a lot of Z2 work. During SSB the stress was definitely present.

Comfortably Ride 100 Miles
TB eventually enabled me to do 100mi/5hr rides at Z2 pace. I never did long rides during SSB thus never developed that ability. IMO, the 100mi ride is mostly about mental strength (and bum comfort), unless you are doing an actual 100mi race.

The big limiter with TB is time; you probably need to do a lot of volume to make it really work.
The big limiter with SSB is recovery; make sure you sleep and eat enough. Also, don’t forget to eat. A lot.

This. I’ve also built a “base” on exclusively HIIT work…it doesn’t work. :confounded: Almost all your zones are predicated on your aerobic system, the stronger/bigger it is, the more you’ll enjoy riding in those higher zones.

To the OP – like others have commented, as this is actually Base season, doing a block (or two) of TB before moving into SSB is perfectly reasonable.

Have fun!

Just a couple of clarification points, I’m a fan of Joe Friel and his coaching philosophy has heavily influenced my own thinking:

  1. The point of “early base” (TB1 and TB2) is to build an aerobic and physical foundation to prepare you to do more intensity later on. You start by building aerobic endurance and working on speed skills. After those are established you work on muscular force and muscular endurance (long tempo and sweet spot work). The goal of early base is not building FTP, the goal is to build a solid base of fitness as a platform for doing more intensity that will raise your FTP.

  2. Coming off a period of time off, you don’t need a lot of volume in early base to see improvements. Key point is the improvements you seek aren’t measured by FTP. My weekly hours starting from Monday, August 26 are roughly 6.5 hours, 7.3, 9.7, 7.2, 5.0, 7.5, 8.5, and this week I’m targeting 6 hours. Over the last 7+ weeks I’ve seen huge improvements in aerobic fitness. Its even possible to track that with the right tools - my vo2max was borderline poor/fair at 35 coming off 5 months off, and is now up to 40 in lower good range for my age group. All without any real training stress, just enjoying the long fall rides outside. The Garmin Firstbeat analytics do a good job at estimating VO2max - over 4 years I’ve seen consistent estimates between Garmin and WKO.

Again, the goal of early base is not about FTP. You are setting out to build a solid aerobic foundation for future training phases (SSB, Build, Specialty).

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To the OP - I’ve been doing LV Trad Base with additional workouts/outside rides sprinkled in and I’m having a blast. I’ve done SSB the last two years and if you’re not ready for it, it’s a real kick in the gut, IMO :grinning: plus I needed some variety to keep my mind engaged.

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I have a couple questions here, as I’m tentatively planning on doing a block of traditional base for a number of reasons, after CX season and a brief break. Primary reason is really to drop 5-10 difficult to lose lbs, but also a breather from more taxing workouts before I get at it again.

Can someone more knowledgeable than me define EXACTLY what aerobic endurance is? This gets thrown around quite a lot…and I think it is just assumed that people know what it is. I doubt I’m the only one who is a bit clueless.

It seems to me that any intensity level below something exceeding something above lactate threshold qualifies as aerobic endurance riding. So…is ‘aerobic endurance’ training simply increasing the power you can put out at threshold and below? It honestly is very confusing…and I’m not exactly poorly read on the subject.

I am not more knowledgeable than you but there is a TR blog post that defines exactly what they mean when they talk about aerobic adaptation:

Increased capillarization
– Translation: more of our tiniest blood vessels which deliver blood (oxygen & nutrients) to the muscle cells and also remove metabolic waste

Increased mitochondrial proliferation
– Translation: more of the muscle cell components that aerobically process fuel necessary for muscle contraction

Increased aerobic enzymes
– Translation: more of the catalysts necessary to aerobically produce energy from incoming fuel

Increased cardiac output
– Translation: more blood pumped out resulting in greater blood distribution per heartbeat

Increased fat metabolism
– Translation: more fat can be metabolized which reduces the amount of sugar necessary to fuel your muscles

It’s about making your body more efficient at how it uses fuel:

As you focus your training on developing your aerobic capacity, you train your body to become more efficient at turning fuel into energy using oxygen. This transformation takes place within the mitochondria in your muscles. So, as you spend more time stressing your aerobic energy system, your body creates more mitochondria that are more efficient.

Really that whole post is great, gets into Traditional Base vs. Sweet Spot Base and when which is appropriate or not.


It seems not much is written about aerobic endurance, here is what I’ve gathered over the years.

Your aerobic system delivers oxygen to working muscles, it involves the following:

  • drawing air into lungs
  • heart transfers oxygen to blood
  • blood pushes oxygen to capillary beds to deliver oxygen to muscles
  • slow twitch muscles use oxygen with fat and glycogen by-products (from fast twitch muscles) to produce power.

Leaving out fast twitch muscles as they use glycogen without oxygen, however they produce a by-product which is fuel for slow twitch (and of course requires oxygen).

By doing long 2+ hour rides in aerobic endurance zone 2 the following benefits/adaptations will occur:

  • heart/blood will push more oxygen thru body (increase stroke volume)
  • more oxygen delivered to working muscles via increased capillary beds in muscles
  • generate more power in slow-twitch muscle by increasing the number of mitochondria
  • improve fatigue resistance of slow twitch muscles, which is important because when slow twitch muscles fatigue, more fast twitch muscles are recruited and they require a) twice the oxygen to produce energy and b) more glycogen which is in limited supply

By working at lower intensities, over time it becomes easier to go faster. You also get some of those benefits from working at sweet spot.

More takes on the topic:

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The nice thing about traditional base is you really don’t need to fuel your workouts to get through it. So if you have put on some extra weight during your time off the bike, TB is a good way to burn it off.

After doing it for a month I didn’t need to adjust my caloric intake to compensate for the workout. So if my goal was to eat 2500 calories and I burned 1500 on a TB workout I wouldn’t eat an extra 1500 to compensate. I would just eat 2500 and it was easy to do.

SSB with the intensity feels like if you don’t eat extra calories the intensity gets tough to handle.

Short version is TB is a better offseason choice if body composition needs to be addressed while gaining fitness.

Good luck! :four_leaf_clover:


:+1: well said @Stringwise

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I have been doing 2 and 3 hr ride keeping GB pulse 65 % of max. Using erg mode, my power has increased from 100 watts to 135 watts with the same pulse. Cardiac drift has disappeared for those durations. Currently off the bike for an injured calf. Hope all the adaptations dont reverse before I can start up again.

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I went by heart rate for the first week or two of TB1, and then switched to power as it allows easier comparison over a season and season-to-season. That and the fact heart rate is more variable. But every now and then I’ll still look at both heart rate and decoupling, in case of any regressions or over-reach.

Thanks for the reply and link to the blog post.

It does still leave a few crucial questions for me unanswered though.

Mainly: What impact on performance and training do all of those biological changes actually have? As in - will traditional base work make you faster? Will it make you faster, but only at lower intensities? Or are the biological adaptations purely a way to facilitate gains in the future? Or.,.,.does it do NEITHER of those things…but makes your cycling more efficient in the sense of being more fat adapted, which in my mind simply means you can ride longer while eating less on the bike?

Maybe I’m coming across as obtuse with this…but I’ve read a decent amount on the subject, and listened to numerous references from Chad on the podcast…and I can’t recall a direct connection between the adaptations made from base training, and how it actually impacts performance on the bike. Other than vague generalities such as ‘laying the groundwork,’ etc.

Yes, the end goal of traditional base is to become faster. By producing more “going long power” you will raise up power at all levels. The open question is how much time is required to achieve gains. If you already have a really strong aerobic base, then you may need to ramp from 12 to 15 to 18 to 20+ hours to see any tangible gains. On the flip side (detrained / long time off) I’m already seeing gains at all power level in just 7 weeks and doing 5-10 hours/week.

Cool. That’s encouraging.

I’m not detrained…I’ve trained all year, and still have 2 months of cyclocross season to get through. But I HAVE been training fairly low volume. I’m planning on making a conscious effort to increase volume for next season, starting with traditional base probably around new years, and was hoping at the very least I wouldn’t LOSE significant fitness over the 8-12 weeks I’ll be doing traditional base.

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