Progression Levels - Useful or not useful?

I think a lot of people, including you, see Progression Levels as Performance Levels. But I think there is a good reason why TR did not name them Performance Levels (even though they share the same abbreviation): their main purpose is to help you choose appropriate workouts. Yes, it might feel gamified at first that you need to “unlock” workouts by doing workouts that are sufficiently hard. However, it tells you which workouts are doable (Achievable), which would push you further (anything above achievable). It also identifies workouts that are so hard that it would not recommend them to you.

Progression Levels have been a huge deal in my training, and really made TR better for me. Even if AT wasn’t a thing (I realize that they are linked), I used PLs to make smarter choices when choosing alternate workouts or (in the past seasons) adapting my Polarized blocks (back then single blocks did not use AT, only complete training plans created with Plan Builder).

E. g. the last few weeks I wanted to replace 1-hour sweet spot workouts with 90-minute sweet spot workouts of roughly the same difficulty. It is super helpful when either overriding AT (as it tends to underestimate my abilities), it helps me choose a workout that is definitely quite a bit harder, but I still have a reasonable chance of completing it.

I noticed that you brought up endurance workouts. Here, most people are time limited: if you only want to spend, say, 3 hours on the trainer, then you cannot do workouts harder than a specific progression level. And even then, perhaps it would be better to reduce the intensity slightly to allow for a speedier recovery. PLs are in a sense least helpful with endurance rides as here the progression is quite different and usually capped.


PLs and TrainNow are why I use TrainerRoad, along with the barn full of workouts that feed them.

I’ve been coached well and coached poorly. I also can no longer afford a coach.

But TrainerRoad isn’t spendy and the PLs are what keep me in line. They act as guard rails and guides. Or like an IKEA store path: a suggested experience but there’s always a secret opening to skip ahead or back.


I like them, in addition to all the excellent insights given already. When I see a PL at .2 above a workout I just completed, my mind goes. I think I can do that. Then I optimistically approach the ride rather than have a bit of dread.


I absolutely LOVE Progression levels. When they came out it was a game changer for me. Here’s why i love them.

  1. I use it to see i’m making progress within a certain energy system (Sweet spot, endurance etc).
  2. It builds confidence. Being able to see i’m progressing from level 1 to 2 to 3 etc etc keeps me confident that i’m improving
  3. It takes a lot of mental guess work out of it. Pre progression levels there was a lot of searching going on to see what other workouts i could do which was annoying. Now i just search within the level i’m at to find something similar. Workout alternates serves this role as well
  4. I worry less about FTP gains and focus more on the workout. i.e. helps manage my expectations

There are still some wonky edge cases progression levels. An example, Pioneer +1 is a 1hr Sweet Spot 3.9 which has you holding 85-90% of FTP for 45mins straight, no breaks. Whereas the 1hr SS 3.7-3.9 all have some sort of break within the interval.


After my son was born, I tried to grab 30-60 mins a day to just try and keep my nose in the wind a little bit. To that end, without using a training program, I would train 1x endurance, 1x tempo, 1x vo2, 1x anaerobic and 1x sprint (or another endurance) a week, just trying to improve on my progression levels. It worked really well and I enjoyed it, if anything, much more than the specificity of the training programs that I usually run (criterium or climbing road race, depending… training for the Mallorca 312 at the moment so am on climbing road race, but not really adhering to it at all, just going by vibes)

My FTP went up actually from about 340 to about 350, although that may have been the 4 months of racing I did beforehand settling in in my body.