Musing on Progression Levels

I thought I’d share a few thoughts with regard to workout levels having started a new block of training. But first a bit of background:

I’m in the military and last year while on a deployment was able to commit 6 months to structured TR training and managing my diet. I managed to increase FTP from about 260 to about 320 whilst shaving about 13lbs off my bodyweight. When I went home I was so much faster than when I left and had a nice shiny new Dogma F10 to spin around on. I spent the next 6 months doing a lot of outdoor riding, some structured outdoor workouts, a few indoor trainer sessions and quite a few fast group rides where I was able to hang comfortably with the hitters in my area. I felt extremely fit and thought I’d pushed my fitness on in the 6 months since I came home.

I’m now deployed again and started off with a ramp test to baseline, getting 319 so figured that made sense. But I am really surprised to find that I’m really struggling with the durations on the threshold workouts in SSBMV1 whilst I find that that I am comfortable in a couple of VO2max sessions that I did last week before I started the plan. I reduced the FTP to 305 as I knew the threshold work was killing me. Putting that in terms of levels, I’m finding that I can comfortably complete a 5.8 VO2max session at a FTP of 320 but really struggled with a 4.0 threshold workout even having reduced my FTP to 305. To me that’s a pretty significant difference.

So what? Well aside from the known fact that ramp tests can be over inflated by an anaerobic component, I just thought I’d add my N=1 experience into the knowledge well about levels to say that:

  1. riding around in an unstructured manner, no matter how much you think you’re putting in hard rides is not the same as structured training
  2. performance doesn’t degrade in a linear fashion across all energy systems. Levels now shows that in a very easy to understand fashion.
  3. linear performance across endurance, SS, threshold and VO2max is unlikely.

Interested in your opinions or if others are finding the same thing going back into structured training after a period of just having fun riding outside.


I envy your achievements. I am nothing in cycling: 6 months of structured training brought me to max 235ftp coming out of 180.
Maybe because I have never done weight training and cycling ever before I hit 43 years of age?

So congrats! That’s dedication and excellent genetic.

It is late and I can’t nevertheless to talk science but imo, your struggle is expected. Firstly, anyone could not achieve such a incredible increase in performance like you did continuously. There are riders that are doing your numbers after years and years of training.

2nd, you probably got the fast performance achieved by new comers, where the gain is huge and then stabilize.

3rd and final, as you are hitting bigger ftp now, you can’t continously train at such intensity, meaning that your training should fall into polirized rather than pyramidal or SS forever.

Yes, there’s a lot of talking about how the ramp test over estimates one’s ftp… And it is true.

These are my two cents, keep up the good work, it just need to be reorganized and accept that as you go higher so thus becomes harder and harder to gain any 3% increase in performance.


First thing I’ll note is that Nate mentioned a level 5 Threshold workout won’t be as equally challenging as a level 5 VO2 Max or level 5 Endurance workout. Each zone’s perceived difficulty is independent of the other zones, so you cannot really equate them laterally. Just because you can do a level 5.8 VO2 Max workout doesn’t necessarily mean you can do a 5.8 Threshold one at the same FTP. And that’s kinda the whole point. To challenge those systems independent of one another because of the shortcomings that exist with testing protocols.

Secondly, I will add that I experience the same thing as you. Sharper efforts are easier to do when I’ve been doing hard group rides and races. Those kinds of rides are all about the micro accelerations and micro power adjustments with micro rest in between. It’s rare that I am holding a steady level of power in the draft, so when I go back to doing those longer steady threshold and sweet spot efforts, they become quite challenging, namely because I am not getting those mini doses of low power or coasting to clear the legs so I can keep pushing.

For my personal experience, I always feel like my muscular endurance (which I associate with sweet spot and threshold) fades throughout specialty and I have to rebuild it again after specialty concludes. I just don’t feel like I can hold the power targets as high for as long once I leave build phase.


This makes a whole lot of sense! Have you been watching me ride - I’m the king of the draft!

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That’s just smart riding!

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There’s a couple of articles in the TR blog about detaining and workout levels. You will have seen or should see in your career page if you are on AT the levels you have achieved in each of the 7 metrics which will be at different values depending on which energy systems etc you’ve been working in your workouts and at what level.
My endurance is a much higher value than my threshold at the moment based on my last workouts. The idea is to progress through them in isolation. So you’d do say threshold 3 then 3.4, then maybe 4 point something but your sweetspot could already be at a much higher or lower level by comparison.

Try reading these and see if it makes any more sense. Detaining is simply not training so - unstructured riding. :grin: :+1:t2:

Edit - there’s also a thread on AT progression levels that’s worth reading…

Here - AT: Progression Levels


Thanks @Johnnyvee. Unfortunately I’m not in AT which is a shame as I’d be a great guinea pig whilst on deployment as I don’t have a regular schedule without the burdens of Dad life!

Don’t compare a VO2 5.0 to a Threshold 5.0. They aren’t the same. I’ve made the argument they should be relative, but TR has been adamant that they won’t be, so for now, avoid the comparison. Think of them as totally different scales.

I think to make the levels useful, TR needs to provide some rationale for what at a few levels for each power range means. For example, when the chose / set specific Sweet Spot workouts to be a level 5.0, why those? Does this mean that if your FTP is set “correctly” you should be able to do:

  • Sweet Spot 5.0
  • Threshold 4.0 or whatever

That is: what additional information is conveyed in the level? If it is just arbitrary, then I think this takes away a lot of meaning from the levels.

Or if the only point of the level is for AT to be able to rank workouts, then I would have hid them, and left them as something for AT.

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I’m not sure the best place to post this, so ended up revising this old thread. Also, not looking to solve any problems…just to muse a bit with others…

I’ve noticed a trend in that the longer the workout, the higher the workout level I tend to be “comfortable” with. For example, a Level 5 threshold for 60 min often looks scarier to me than a level 5 threshold for 90 or 120 min. I’ve wondered if this is just due to the fact that there are clusters of people that tend to do 60 min workouts and those that tend to do 90-120. The longer the workout, the lower the intensity generally, for the same workout level in a zone. Additionally, it takes me 30-40 min before I feel like jamming. Those 60 min workouts always start out hot from the start!

Within this same context, today i was scheduled Sloan +3, a 90 min level 8.0 sweet spot workout:

That workout was just above my current SS PL of 7.8 and didn’t look too bad, except the hot start. And for sure those 95% efforts were gonna sting for me, even once I got warmed up.

I looked for a 120 min alternative and only one showed up:

That looked much more doable to me, and exactly my preferred way to get into a workout - easy warm-up progression, clear legs, do some hard efforts with full recovery, then start jamming. But the workout level is 8.8 compared to 8.0 for Sloan +3. Kashagnak was certainly hard, but I had more to give if I needed it. Just a slow cook really.

So, am I just a weirdo? Is the example I posted an edge case for the workout level classifier? Thoughts on differences between workout levels across different workout durations?


I’m the same way - I need a bigger / longer warmup than TR workouts normally provide. Which is one of the reasons that even when I’m doing a TR workout, I usually customize it to add my preferred workout.

A big reason I wish TR would add “playlist” functionality so you could string 2, 3, … workouts together into a single workout. So I could always add my preferred warmup without having to customize the workout.


Yes, I think the warm-up is a major issue for me. Which pre-erg days was an easy fix by adding time. Now erg has made me super lazy and I get annoyed trying to hit the increase intensity button a bunch of times, or keep my eTap batteries charged so I can pop into resistance mode to hit some efforts. For sure a first world problem…


Yep that would be good. Stack your preferred warm up with follow on workouts so they auto play, (and crop all the long endurance zone stuff off the end of some of the workouts too.


It’s funny how many of us struggle with threshold PL’s primarily. I’ve set my FTP about 5-10W lower than my actual FTP and 16W lower than my estimated FTP and still struggle with threshold 5+ workouts (Particularly O/U) - I find that threshold progressions levels really de-motivating - either that or I am just really bad at threshold work.

My PL’s -
level 10 SS at 285 FTP
level 6 V02max at 285 FTP (Rarely train V02max nor have a history of training V02max)
level 5-ish Threshold at 275 FTP :open_mouth:

Also O/U at the same PL as regular threshold intervals don’t add up.

When I was a PL6 threshold doing standard threshold intervals around FTP vs doing O/U at the same PL - I completely died!

Another thing - as pointed out above is that generally my threshold sessions are 60 minute sessions on weekdays - which is all that I have time for - the 120 minute sessions seam much much more doable for the same PL.

I may just set my own threshold progression based on the ‘threshold progression thread’ starting out at 5x10min @ 97% and building form there - I think TR should have a protocol on minimum PL for correctly set FTP’s so we know how to progress.

Threshold is a fine line, and a correctly set FTP is vital - PL and estimator allow for a tolerance in FTP inaccuracy which works for all zones other than threshold imo.

*Edit - I’d love to see a bellcurve of PL’s like the bellcurve of FTP. See what PL the average TR user is training at to see the comparison between zone PL’s

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The margin for error on FTP setting goes way down as you get into 5+ threshold workouts. I’d argue whatever setting is needed to hit level 7 or 8 workouts is pretty close to anyone’s “actual” FTP. I.e., what they can hold in a 40-70 min effort in a decently rested state. That’s also assuming you aren’t drilled coming into those workouts, which if you are, you need to knock a couple percent off.

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Disagree - Level 7 or 8 is out highly out of reach unless you are trained.

For example - (Star King +4 ) 3x20 at 100% with 2 minute rest in between for a PL 7.4 workout.
If you can do that in a typical workout (say Tuesday after Monday rest) - I’d bet your FTP is higher than what’s set - unless you are well trained in threshold or are towards the end of a training block. It is unlikely you will start or if at all reach PL 7-8 once you start a training block at a new FTP, even if correctly set.

FTP isn’t a number that one can ride for 60 mins - it’s a range as you are saying

The ‘Threshold Progressions’ thread is a great resource to how people are progressing through their threshold training.


Lamarck is a threshold 4.9 workout with 4x10 at FTP with 2 minutes rest. Workout captions by coach Chad say this workout can be considered a FTP test or as a guide ensuring you have a properly set FTP.

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I think PL’s in late 4’s and 5’s is a close benchmark to correctly set FTP for MOST people - Maybe if you are well trained you should probably be able to bang out 2x20’s (Gray + 5 at PL 5.9).

I generally start a training Block at PL 3.9 to 4.1 and aim to end in PL 6 to 6.5
4x10 @ 96-99% and work my way to 2x20 @ FTP or 3x20 at 96%

This works for me and resides closely to what is a very classical approach to threshold progression.


Indeed, those are very high PL’s. I’m not a trained athlete myself, just a LV-enthusiast.

On february 8th, I completed “Eagle” and managed to raise my Threshold-PL to 7.1. One week later - on february 15th, my plan presented me with the suicidal “Nelson” in order to reach a PL of 7.5, but I failed that workout.

Today my Threshold-PL suddenly dropped to 5.7 because “two weeks without a productive threshold-workout” … whilst only 15 days ago I succesfully nailed a 7.1-workout. This has got me puzzled somewhat. Isn’t that drop a bit harsh, given my previous achievement?

The PL 7-8 workouts tend to be race simulation workouts for TT. So I do think they are highly indicative for one’s FTP. And yes, you need to be highly trained at threshold - both to understand what your FTP truly is and also to get used to the sensations at FTP.

Getting 2x2 min of break does not equate to 60 min power. One should be able to do at least a 2x20 on two min rest at their FTP. 3x20 isn’t completely out of the question either. The problem is people grossly over-estimate what their FTP is. You may not agree with that statement, and that’s fine. We wouldn’t be the first.

At the end of the day, for TR purposes, “FTP” is only used as an input for setting training zones. And out side of TT specialists, and maybe some other folks, it really isn’t that important to know what 40-70 min continuously sustained power is. If I were going to try to pace a 40-70 min effort, I’d try to do it off of other projections unless I was really gunning for a TT as my A-race. Then I’d be pushing my threshold PLs as high as possible.

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