Plateau in Build - every time

The short version: I have reached to conclusion that TrainerRoad Build plans (Mid Volume) are too much for me and thus cause me to plateau.

But please, read the longer version and comment, if my conclusion seems to be right and what I should change in my training.

The longer version:
This is my second year training and third time I have started from a Base and completed a Build block (at least 4 weeks). Road cycling background I have four to five years.
The first time in 2018 from winter to spring, I did the Sweet Spot Base Mid Vol all 12 weeks and my FTP went in the SSB1 from 257w to 270w and in SSB2 from 270w to 276w. I’m 64-65kg so we’re talking about 4.25w/kg. However, after moving to the General Build MV I got no gains in FTP. At that time, I switched from 2x8min test to the Ramp Test, and my results in the Ramp Test stayed the same from the test in the middle of the GBMV to the test in the beginning of Specialty. This is a bit odd since all the VO2Max intervals and the greater training load should give you the best gains in FTP. When I think about the stress the Build did put on my body, I was quite tired in the end and, e.g., couldn’t complete fully the last Thursday VO2Max training.
I get that you can improve only that much in one season and my number are already quite good. Thus, if this had been the only time with plateau in Build, I would not be writing this.

The second round was in 2018 from June to August. I did 4 week Traditional Base MV and 4 week GBMV (the last 4 weeks). My FTP was down from the peak 276w to 265w when I begun the TBMV. During the base I did a bit more LSD outside, and my FTP went from 265w to 275w. So, a proper jump with just 4 weeks of Traditional Base. Again, I continued with the General Build MV. This time there was also some road races to replace the Sunday intervals and my TSS was up around 10%. This time I didn’t only plateau but my Ramp Test result came down from 275w to 269w – and this was in only 4 weeks! When it comes to my feeling, I was truly tired in the end of the Build and the rest week started to feel good only in the Saturday or Sunday ride. If I remember correctly, I had also some very small flu symptoms in the end and during my Ramp Test (e.g., sore throat).

Then my third run was in 2019 during winter and early spring. I did the same SSB1 and SSB2 with added 15% in TSS to address the plateau. My FTP came flying up (again) in SSB1 from 251w to 264w and in SSB2 from 264w to 274w. Then it was Build time, this time Short Power Build MV with around 10% added TSS. The result was similar as last time: my Ramp Test result after 4 weeks went down from 274w to 272w. This time too I was properly tired in the end of the 3rd week and it took until Saturday for the recovery week rides to feel like Zone 2 should feel. Again, during the 3rd week and still after the recovery week I had small flu symptoms (e.g., a little sore throat and runny nose – nothing truly major).

To summarize: I have done three times first Base followed by Build and got proper gains in the Base and plateau or even drop in FTP during Build. In every Build I have been rather tired (to the point of small motivational problems) and had small flu symptoms that wont go away.
I know that I’m pushing proper numbers (4-4.25w/kg) with so little background in structured training, and that will affect my abilities to get gains in Build. However, I have a pretty good VO2Max tested in lab, 70ml/min/kg, and I’m sleeping and eating well, and avoiding drinking. I also understand that my gains can get smaller from test to test as the training season goes on. However, from 10w gains to plateau of losing watts seems too much of a difference to be just diminishing returns.

As stated in the beginning, my conclusion is that the Mid Volume Build (General and Short Power) are too much for me. Specifically, I would say that the VO2Max intervals run me down to the extent that I don’t get benefits but only begin to get sick. I can take quite a lot of Sweet Spot, Threshold and Over-Unders, and I can take even the once-a-week VO2Max training; but having three proper high intensity sessions in a week is too much.

What am I going to do? I was thinking about switching to longer Base followed directly with a Specialty Plan. My format would be something like: 6 weeks of Traditional Base MV with added SST, then SSB1MV, and finally SSB2MV (maybe with volume added). Specialty would follow directly.
I basically feel that I don’t have to do huge amounts of intensity but instead I have to get enough training weeks back-to-back-to-back and my FTP will surely come up. Of course I can’t do 18 weeks of same thing – but SSB1 and SSB2 are already quite different to each other.

I hope you got this far.
Comments? Ideas?

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Posting just to follow along for some hopefully interesting discussion.

I always plateau in build as well. SSB is where my gains come

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I’m not able to find the topic but there are a lot of people in this forum telling the same thing: plateau in Build. Would really like hear if they have got past that with some changes.

Certainly love to see where conversation goes, and I’m always tweaking plans myself.

Personally, I just respond well to SS work, and slower to VO2Max. I use build as more of a sharpening exercise like specialty than a true build.

When you put it like that: “respond better to VO2Max”, it reminds me of another idea I had.
Since I have already quite high VO2Max (70ml/min/kg), high intensity intervals may not help me that much.

Maybe not enough actual LSD Z2 rides. Might be some good insight here: https://www.evoq.bike/blog/2019/2/19/how-to-overcome-a-cycling-plateau

They may be able to do a data eval (for free) and pick out where things are going sideways.

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You may not actually plateau in Build even if your FTP doesn’t raise. You are training different physiological systems with VO2 and anaerobic. So if your are getting through GB and SPB I imagine your ability to hold those VO2 and anaerobic efforts has increased, as well as your ability to repeat efforts has greatly increased. So I’m thinking you have not plateaued and are likely fitter after finishing these Build plans. Not all fitness is expressed in FTP, that’s only one piece of fitness.

However, mid volume may be too much TSS for you in Build and you are overreaching, thus getting sick. As a result you are not fully rested/recovered and by the time the ramp test comes along you can’t express your new fitness because you are physically and/or mentally still fatigued. It’s possible that V02 and anaerobic efforts require you to take more rest and recovery. This is where listening to your body and adjusting the plans comes in. It could also be that your have been slowly building fatigue throughout the 12 weeks of Base, that by the time you reach Build it’s compounded to the point where higher intensity efforts exposes your fatigue. SS workouts may be more tolerable when you are fatigued, but you just can’t handle it come Build. I’d also compare your HR and cadences in Base versus Build to ensure they are consistent.

Lastly, if you are somewhat detrained from an off season of cycling, you are likely to see your biggest gains (FTP) in Base. During Base you are working towards recapturing your fitness from the previous season. If you are already fit and haven’t dropped much off of last season’s peak, then you may see your biggest FTP gains in Build. However, many TR users state that they see their biggest gain in SSB.

I recommend really digging into your previous Base and Build seasons and see when and where it started going wrong. Analyze when workout’s started requiring lowering intensity, backpedals or if you cut short and/or failed workouts. Then see what if anything you did proceeding those workouts and then what during the following weeks you did to properly recover, or did you just grind yourself through the Build plan without adjustments.

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[Off-Topic]: Just a heads up, you can do that by changing the “tracking” field at the bottom of the post to “watching.” That way, you’ll get notified for new posts without having to post a “watching” post. :wink:

12%20PM

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If you’re doing the same plans year after year and starting at roughly the same fitness you can’t expext much more of a gain. Your post says that this year was your lowest starting FTP. If you want to improve you can’t detrain and expect more results from similar work.

As you’ve mentioned, you’re at a fairly high level already and you may well need to add more volume and maintain more consistent TSS and fitness year round to see further improvement and break through this plateau.

If you can’t train more or year round, I’d say be happy with your current w/kg and how quickly you seem to get there.

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Yeah, this is kind of what I was getting at earlier.

If I look at the SSBMV, I already see a lot of VO2max and FTP work. So you trained this system already, so not a lot of gain possible. Maybe try to do real sweetspot work with longer blocks (30 minutes) for several weeks

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Except that the ramp test is not measuring FTP, but is an indicator of VO2max.

for the OP, at 70 ml/kg, I would expect to see more power at VO2max, you might have some rather low cycling efficiency. Some researchers think that there can be an inverse relationship in many people between gross efficiency and VO2max.

Some what. But that isn’t what I was talking about. I was talking about using build for different power durations, like 5 min power

Thank you for the points! This seems to be a subject where it’s very difficult to know, what is actually happening and what are the biggest driving factors behind my experiences.

I have considered the options you bring up. Here’s my thinking:

It is true that the effect of Build might be more in some other area than in FTP. However, the purpose of the Build is stated to be that you get your best FTP gains there. Thus, it seems odd to me that I would get all my improvements in zones other than threshold. Also, as I understand it, one of the great benefits in VO2 training is that while improving VO2Max it “pulls” all the power levels up. This is why, again, I expect to see at least some gains in FTP. In the other way around, if my FTP is decreasing or stagnant, it’s hard to see that my VO2Max would be increasing – at least as rapidly as the huge amount of high intensity work would suggest.

Being still sick and not fully rested during the test is an issue that is very likely. That is why I’m having a week off the bike to get rid of the flu symptoms and get my motivation back and after that I’ll repeat the Ramp Test. Of course, I may lose the potential gains I have got during the Build because of the rest week. However, that would indicate that the situation is not much better from plateau if recovering from the Build causes me to lose significant amount of the positive adaptations. Let’s see next Tuesday how my test goes.

I did consider the fact that I have already trained quite a lot during the 12 weeks before my build. However, during the last weeks of my Base (SSB2MV) I was able to do quite easily 3 workouts during the same week that are clearly harder than the original plan (see my Leconte +1, 3 x 22.5 mins of over-unders: https://www.trainerroad.com/career/matiassaarinen/rides/48971937-leconte-1, or 5x10min at 100% FTP: https://www.trainerroad.com/career/matiassaarinen/rides/48262539-darwin-2). Thus, it’s not very likely that I would have been carrying a lot of fatigue from the Base blocks. Also, my motivation was good when coming to the Build and the first workouts didn’t feel as daunting as towards the end of the 3rd week in Build.

Coming from off season definitely has an effect to my development during the SSB1 and SSB2. The aspect that makes me suspect that there’s something wrong is the sudden plateau or drop in FTP: If my gains went from 10w in 6 weeks to 3w in four weeks of Build, it would be easy to accept the diminishing returns. However, seeing no improvements in FTP or actually losing watts indicates to me that this is not only about rapid development turning into slower gains.

When it comes to being tired and in the need of recovery or rest: there were very few workouts during which I have had to turn down the intensity, quit intervals early or quit the workout entirely. That can be an indication that I am actually improving or at least not losing fitness. The workouts have become increasingly more difficult for me during the Build, though. That is, I’m not sure if the 3rd week workouts felt much easier compared to if I had done them during the first week.

Having already done a lot of over-unders and also some VO2 work before the Build is a factor that I have considered. Actually, one of the main points in my “alternative” training program in my post is that I would reduce VO2 work from the Build and instead add LSD and SS to the beginning of my training season.
If I have understood correctly, the benefit in LSD (or Zone 2 training) is that, while the improvements don’t come quickly, the returns don’t diminish very quickly either.

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I have considered (quite a lot actually) the potential issue that I can’t get improvements from year to year with the same amount of TSS (or generally, with the same training). Thus, I did increase my TSS in Base from 2018 to 2019 with 15%. This seemed to work as I got my fitness rapidly back, at least. However, my feeling is not that I should be doing more work during the Build but doing less work: while during the Base I didn’t have motivation issues, they appeared during the Build. Also, during the recovery week I noticed that it took surprisingly long for the (easy) workouts to start feeling properly easy. Finally, I feel that I wasn’t recovered and ready to go even when I did the Ramp Test after the recovery week.

In a nutshell: there’s always the possibility that you just have to train more; but it can also be that you are already training a bit too much.

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Considering the compliance you had in the first 3 weeks or short power build, I would chalk up the lower ramp test last week as a bad day. Unless you’re having calibration issues… Perhaps you need to take it easier on the rest weeks? I wold just try it +5 or +10 watts and see how the 2nd half goes. Now with the 1 week completely off the bike, your ramp test will be off.

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Bad day in Ramp Test is something I have to take into account. As you mentioned, repeating the test also has its problems. However, I’m looking this from the perspective that the same thing has occurred three times for me now. That is why I’m having a feeling that there’s a pattern here.

One question here is what I’m going to do with the second half. Basically, if I just had a bad day, my Ramp Test result should be around the same considering that I have most likely lost some fitness during this rest week. If my results have gone down even more, I’d say that it wasn’t just a bad day but my FTP actually went down during the Build. If my power numbers are up, however, I can definitely accept the bad day and go on with the Build to get more gains.

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Then listen to your body and spend more time developing base. TSS doesn’t only mean harder riding, just more overall training stress. It could be all Z2 and SS. Lots of people burn out on the Build intensity.

What I’m curious about is that you keep starting from the same point (250-270w FTP) doing Base then Build and then allowing yourself to detrain to where you started and beginning again. Your improvements aren’t bad. Plenty of people don’t see big jumps during build.

I’m still left wondering if you just keep hitting your genetic limit at the training volume you’ve been doing. Given your fitness you may need to bump up volume to see much improvement. I saw a plateau myself during GBHV (at similar fitness to you) and have since improved dramatically, but it took a fairly large increase in volume and TSS. HV Build used to burn me in the third week and I just finished up a 1250TSS overload week feeling reasonably fresh.

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