Need Help - FTP Regression: what do I change?

I started to train again about two years ago (Summer 2018).

  • First 12 months: FTP went from 175 W to 275 W (tested using the 30-minute British Cycling protocol).
  • Months 12 to 18: my FTP fluctuated around 275 W (BC protocol)
  • Months 18 to 24 (last 6 months): my FTP has been dropping steadily…
    Ramp Tests:
    Today - 227
    Wednesday, Jun 3, 2020 - 250
    Monday, Mar 16, 2020 - 256
    Monday, Feb 24, 2020 - 262
    Monday, Jan 13, 2020 - 281

I’d need help reviewing my training and deciding what I should focus on for the next 6 months to go back to 275-ish and hopefully improve.

Here is what I have done for the first 18 months and then for the past 6 months:

  • First 18 months - Rinse/repeat the following template week for three weeks and recovery for one week:
    Mon: VO2Max (e.g. 8x3 or 5x5 intervals)
    Tue: Sweet Spot (e.g. 3-5x20)
    Wed: Easy Spin (e.g. 30-45)
    Thu: Threshold (e.g. 2x20) or Super Threshold (e.g. 3x10)
    Fri: Sweet Spot (e.g. 3-5*20)
    Sat: Long Slow Ride (e.g. 2 to 4 hours)
    Sun: Rest
  • Last 6 months - Two periodised cycles generated by the Plan Builder:
    . Base - High Volume Sweet Spot
    . Build - Sustained Power
    . Specialty - Climbing Road Race

Besides training protocol, most everything stayed fairly the same: similar training hours, similar TSSs, similar indoor/outdoor ride ratio (5 indoors, 1 outdoors), similar diet, no weight gain/loss, same life/work balance. C-19 brought some disruption but my fitness started to drop before.

My rider profile would be puncheur or time trialist. I have a hard time with sprints and even higher range VO2Max; Sweet Spot and Threshold efforts are “easy”. (Not just cycling: running, swimming, rowing, etc).

I got some tips from the forum (FTP Regression: Any Idea on what I can do/change?) but I would appreciate any imputs that the Ask a Cycling Coaches might have:

  • Is periodisation somehow wrong for me and do I need to keep some VO2Max workouts even during base?
  • Is High Volume Sweet Spot base consisting of nearly all sweet spot workouts counterproductive for me since it’s already my strong suit? Should I switch to Medium Volume Sweet Spot as it offers more variety?
  • Am I overtrained? Was my body able to take the first 18 months of training but reached the end of its rope in the following 6 months?

Thanks in advance for any input from the coaches and/or the forum!

Two words: Progressive overload. Same training = same result

Thanks. I thought this is what I was doing.

The Weekly TSS did change during a 4-week training block - for example:

  • Week 1 - 575 TSS
  • Week 2 - 650 TSS
  • Week 3 - 700 TSS
  • Recovery Week - 350 TSS

And the workload increased from block to block as I got fitter at first.
(TSS, being a function of FTP, seemed like it was not increasing but that’s the way it’s supposed to be, right? A 200-TSS day is a big day whether you are a n00b (NP = 150) or Wout van Aert (NP = 350), right? Maybe I don’t understand how TSS works.)

Not sure the issue is doing too much of the same training - that would tend to lead to a plateau, or maybe a slight decline, not the ~20% drop in FTP that you’ve experienced. Does seem that the drop was initiated when you switched from your “rinse/repeat” approach to a Plan Builder approach so that’s the obvious place to look. I doubt that periodisation is somehow wrong for you, but maybe the way you’ve been doing periodisation isn’t working for you.

I know that personally I don’t get on well with SS high volume, just wears me down both physically and mentally doing a diet of that much SS. I’ve found 3 SS workouts per week to be about right for me, with 1 harder day (normally a group ride with some punchy sections) and the rest being z2-3 stuff. And Sustained Power is pretty tough as well with a lot of threshold workouts. So maybe you were over-reaching a bit during SSB, and you’ve just been gradually digging yourself into a hole and now into or close to overtraining.

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Have you ever just taken 1 or 2 weeks completely off the bike? Your body needs time to fully reset. It’s impossible to just keep on building throughout the years. Even pro’s have an off season.

What does your rest week look like? Imo it’s easy to overdo it on rest weeks and 350TSS is still a lot if that’s the only rest your body gets during 2 years of training.

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It’s a bit far fetched to claim that you need to take two weeks completely off the bike in order to keep progressing. Recovery and rest are highly individual. One might be able to recover on 400 TSS while others cannot recover on 200 TSS. Either way, key is listening to your body. As long as we that it’s all good. :man_shrugging:

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Well, he’s obviously not progressing, that’s the whole point of this thread. If he’s indeed been going at it for the past 2 years non-stop I don’t think it’s too far fetched to think his body might need a break. Like I said, even the pro’s have an off season. Taking 1 or 2 weeks off might just be what his body needs to reset. Maybe even take 1 week fully off the bike followed by a few weeks of just having fun, not focusing on power targets, could work to freshen things up.

I take 1 week of the bike after a full plan cycle (Base --> Build --> Specialty) for this specific reason.

Couple vids regarding the off season:

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It is far fetched because it’s super generic and not applicable to everybody. Some need more rest some need less. It’s as simple as that. The only valid answer hence is, it depends. Your pro preference isn’t any helpful in that respect either. Those guys do way more TSS then the average Joe does.

Looking at his career, it seems like he was floating between 250 and 260 watts year round. I haven’t seen a single workout where he ran at 280+ Watt FTP. (see edit).

Until June he was doing well. He did big sweetspot workouts that month with his 250 watt FTP. He had nailed most of them.

In July he then shifted his training to mostly outdoors and it didn’t benefit him at all. Quite the opposite actually. You can see him falling apart as the weeks progress. In terms of training stimulus there is no real quality there. Only lots of endurance riding.

Which brings me to what I think the real problem is . He was a bit fatigued and had a bad test (see edit edit). I would suggest keeping his old FTP and keep on working with more structure after an easy week or two.

Edit: He did some workouts (3?) with his 280 watt FTP but couldn’t finish the sweetspot + intensity ones.

Edit edit: It is also worth to mention that a ramp test after weeks of no VO2 work (SSBHV) can be a bit disappointing.

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Guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree on this one.

You’re right about me mentioning pro’s though, not really comparable. My point still stands, taking some time off the bike can be hugely beneficial both mentally and physically to anyone that takes his training seriously as explained in the vids I linked. That’s not far fetched, just science. OP has been racking up some serious intensity over the years. VO2max + Threshold + 2 long SST workouts in a week is a lot of intensity. As is SSBHV and Sustained Power Build.

I’ll wait for the OP to answer my questions before I continue contributing to this thread.

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To make sure we have a common understanding of each other’s points. I didn’t and don’t argue that rest is important and required. My point was that your advice of taking two weeks of was a bit too generic. :blush:

In this case, it’s not at all far-fetched. Based on the information provided, I think long-term fatigue is the problem here, and a week or more off the bike would shed that. The thing many people miss about periodization is that it requires you to back off periodically. It is a mistake to think you are going to progress by simply progressing your TSS. This individual has been doing a lot of volume and intensity stacked for months on end, and is seeing a precipitous decline in performance. That is likely caused by long-term fatigue. The best way to shed that is to completely rest. Most people aren’t disciplined enough to just ride really easily for a few weeks, and most people benefit from the mental break of not having to get on the bike for a period of time.

I’d say take as much time off as you need to feel truly motivated to get back on the bike - not the feeling of guilt from not riding, but really WANTING to ride and feeling motivated. There’s a difference. Some people gain that freshness and motivation over two or three days. For people in deep holes, several weeks off might be the solution. Many very successful athletes take a full week off midseason so they can otherwise train consistently for 10-11 months. Many less successful athletes try to plow through training plans without ever actually periodizing rest/recovery.

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@kurt.braeckel You should have also quoted the rest of my comment. Especially the last sentence. :joy:

True, but it’s really, really hard to do that and be objective when it pertains to your own training. We are wired to think “I can do more.”

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Yes, we all are. That’s why it was so important to me that a generic two weeks aren’t necessarily the best advice to go with. :sweat_smile:

Though I guess with OP its ultimately all a bit easier. Likely lingering fatigue and a botched test. After all his performance throughout the year was super consistent at around 250 watts. Obviously, nowhere close to the stated 280. :man_shrugging:

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why not question the generic 1 week then? :man_shrugging: :rofl:

Some good advice IMHO. Heck maybe even see some good gains by taking a month off where most of that month is unstructured riding. Just putting that on the table.

If you give Plan Builder no events, does it still give a full year without a break? If it does, then I can’t believe TR hasn’t fixed it.

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I don’t think it does prescribe complete rest weeks, but Specialty does reduce loading significantly in the final three weeks. That’s the “break” TR builds into their plans, along with the regular recovery weeks. But TR isn’t going to tell you when you need to take more or less, or when you’ve done too much or need to do more. That’s left to the individual.

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One thing I would do is forget about those FTP tests on the BC protocol. They aren’t relevant. Erase them from your memory. Second, were all the FTP tests you took using Trainerroad done on the same equipment/power meter? If not, I would forget about those on the other equipment, they aren’t relevant.

Something wasn’t right about that first test at 281 and I think you knew it as you manually adjusted your FTP down to 265 right away. So we might just say, that is the relevant starting point, not 281, but it’s perhaps high as well, since you arbitrarily picked it and your next test didn’t live up to it. The heart rate for that ramp is also surprisingly low for a Ramp test. 168. Previously you were in the upper 170’s so maybe you didn’t go “full send.” The next test was even more complex as you had a significant drop in power in the final step that undoubtedly threw off the calculation. If not for that 15 second drop to basically 0, you might have had a successful test. Again, heart rate is low, so probably not pushing it the way you should be for a ramp test. Next test, again heart rate. I suspect you pulled the plug on this one way too early. Oddly, the last one and lowest test was maybe your best effort. However, you were definitely fatigued as you took most of the week before off and had been ending your workouts early before that.

I suspect that it’s a bit of both, your FTP was incorrectly set initially, but probably closer to 250. And the high volume of TSS (600-700) is more than you can sustain right now. I think a reset would be the way to go. Take a week or two off. Stick with the 227. Start with some sweet-spot base at perhaps mid-volume. Gain some confidence by completing workouts. Low volume if you are going to continue long outdoor rides, and work your way back up. Also, might need to practice pushing those workouts closer to your max heart rate. Stopping early is definitely the way to stop the pain, but if you are leaving 10 beats per minute on the table, that’s a lot of watts.

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A plan builder without an off-season is a broken plan builder. Sounds harsh, but seriously, think about it.

The ramp test trades off “make testing easy” for accuracy, in my opinion. Would choose the British Cycling 30-minute protocol over the ramp.

Your second point is on the mark, use the same equipment and protocol for all tests. TrainerRoad doesn’t require use of the ramp test. TrainerRoad uses Coggan classic zones, not some special zones adapted to the ramp test. The goal of TrainerRoad switching from 8-min and 20-min tests to the ramp test was to testing easier and encourage more frequent testing. It certainly is easier so mission accomplished on that point, but an estimate of an estimate is inferior to doing a longer test IMHO. Not going to debate that, look at the facts and make up your own mind.

Like making plan adjustments and planning for an off-season, its really up to each individual to decide which test protocol is best and in my opinion “easier to do” is not a great reason to choose a test protocol.

@lxrchtt assuming all tests were done with same bike and power meter, I’d schedule another BC protocol test. And it does look like you could use an off-season break. I’m also a diesel and find sweet spot and threshold to be easy. After a year of ramp tests and some mixed results, have dropped the ramp test and gone back to 20-min (and longer) tests. :+1:

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Except for the fact that it massively overestimated his FTP. Perhaps he didn’t follow the protocol correctly, but it would be hard to suggest that his FTP was ever close to 275.

Well, plan builder asks you for your A events and when you want your plan to end. I think TR is counting on the users to plan when their offseason is, rather than going through and writing a plan builder that simply schedules athlete needs in perpetuity. Most coaches plan on a season-by-season basis; elite athletes and olympians will have longer cycles that will include off-season unscheduled training time, but 99% of us will plan annually or close to that. That’s what I believe TR’s plan builder is based on. I’ve not scheduled anything out for several seasons to check that, but I doubt there’s planned downtime built-in.