Struggling with over-unders in plan

oddly enough my best 5, 20, and 60 minute W/kg on Coggan’s chart are all lower Cat5. My sprint power (raw power) on xertonline is 80th percentile, but on a W/kg its not even Cat5. And 1 min is lowest of all.

but yeah, I’ve had to work hard to improve VO2max efforts as an old dude going into 4th season.

Don’t forget the mental aspect. Next time you’re on a ride or in a race, things are getting tough and you’re not sure what you’ve got left. Take a moment, focus the mind and remember that set of over unders you smash. Everything seems doable then. I’ve managed to chase back on using this tactic. The minds a weapon!


More difficult for some than others, yes… but that doesn’t mean we should train this.

I know a few people who have ascertained that they are naturally not very good at over/unders and this, for my way of looking at things, makes it even more important to do them!

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Yeah agreed. These suck. I don’t really suggest just keep trying until you pass. You definitely need to retest or turn down intensity if it’s a consistent problem. I just found thatbit actually helped my confidence to get back on there a few days later and then tell that MF who is boss. That felt pretty good.


I’m one of those ascertainers and I’ve since done a semi-deep dive as to why I naturally suck. Turns out doing more O/U-Threshold work is only half the story. Doing a lot of Z2/Endurance work will also give my O/U-Threshold ability a big boost.

I’m kinda more inclined to believe the POL group in that one’s ability to work at Threshold is a direct result of Z2/Endurance work due to specific physiological adaptations (it’s also why seasoned pros can ride at a higher % of their VO2max).

That’s my take on it, anyway. :man_shrugging:

Follow up:
I did a ramp test last week and my FTP was pretty much exactly where I had it set in TR. Last night I successfully did Avalanche Spire +1 O/U workout.

Two conclusions I am drawing.

  1. I am thinking my initial assumption at the start of SSB1 was to use my last ramp test result was flawed. A couple of weeks of light riding at the end of my season probably dropped it by about 10%. I had optimistically assumed that had not happened as I had trained a block then rested, my assumption was it would have gone up during the block then back down, the net effect being it would be about the same as my last test.
  2. I bought a fan. It is big and kinda noisy, but I no longer get extremely hot and lose half my body weight in sweat. I think overheating was a big factor in my previous failing of these O/U workouts.

Some really great discussion on over unders to be listened to on the latest podcast @1h04m02s

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As mentioned on the podcast, a large degree of lactate processing is handled by the aerobic system, e.g. a lot of Z2/Endurance work. Nice to know that my understanding of my O/U suckage isn’t out to lunch.

Also good to know top riders such as Nate & Jonathan suffer from the unders just as much as us mortal cyclists.

Over/unders are the worst. I look at the interval time, and no matter how long it is, I wince. This weekend I managed to complete Carpathian Peak +2, 3 x 16min o/u.
I try not to let the thought of the pain get to me ahead of doing the workout. Instead I just tell myself that 8/12/14/16min isn’t a long time and I’ve done longer intervals at that intensity, also that it’ll be all over after 90mins and then I can relax. During the intervals themselves I just focus on the interval at hand, and ignore how many remain. Head down, some banging music. That seems to work for me.

Why didn’t you test at the start? If you can’t get through the workout your FTP is too high, especially if you can’t get through more than one workout. Lower your FTP or re-test.


Agree, and it really resonated with me.

You do the ‘over’ and mentally you think the ‘under’ is a break, but it isn’t. It still really hurts and you only get a small relief at the end before you have to push ‘over’ again. But the under is perfectly achievable if you can cope with the discomfort. And it’s the discomfort that proves you are working in the optimal zone.

Easier said than done obviously, but rule #5 applies here


Joe or Pro, if you work hard around your ftp and above it’s gonna hurt the same, I might not be fast but I can suffer like a pro!


THIS exactly.
Over unders are HARD. Employ a few backpedals if you need to, give yourself a 10s backpedal break in the next set if that’s what it takes, focus on the fact that you will have recovery coming soon and in the moment where you feel it getting harder and the desire to bail rises… you are getting stronger.

I often use that to push myself both on the trainer and out on rides/races where I know I’ve done harder efforts, and survived.

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I’ve read that Alex Dowsett rarely finishes his O/U workouts…guess we all gotta suck at something. :rofl:

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The fun thing about these topics is that they really make me think back and wonder if I could/should have done some things differently. I went back and looked at some over-unders I did back in Feb/March of this year. I had set my FTP to 280 for build (I did general build high volume), and looking at some over-under work I did, I’m seeing mixed results.

Feb 17: Palisade - only failed last interval once during the last under, but rebounded to do the over
Feb 24: McAdie +1 - bailed early, I remember doing this in my parents’ garage and didn’t have my usual fan situation, it felt like crap
March 3: Picket Guard: failed once on 4th and once on 5th sets

Not great, but maybe not terrible either. I see a south twin +6 workout (3 mins @ 120%) on March 27 that I really struggled with, and I think soon after I made the decision to back off to 275 FTP, under which I’ve been operating since to pretty good success. Just wondering to myself now if I should have tried to stick out the 280 as the standard for anything threshold-ish and just dialed down the stuff for vo2 work. I may bump it up to 280 for SSB2 to give myself some time to acclimate and then see how it goes for build when I come to that point

Why does SSBHV have no over/under workouts, yet LV & MV do?? :man_shrugging::thinking:

Thought you’ve seen this, maybe not

SSBHV contains lots of only SS…which doesn’t train your body to handle lactate like O/U do.

If SSB is just about raising FTP, then why would LV and/or MV contain VO2 and O/U workouts?

Seems like HV is the base Base plan and LV and MV try to make up some of the difference with higher IF workouts.

For me there’s a bit of a disconnect in the logic behind the design of the SSB plans. The high volume plan is not very appealing to me and if I had that much time I wouldn’t choose to train like that. It is far too monotonous.


I’m sure @chad can chime in with some of the science behind it, but I believe the case is that on a HV plan you simply can’t add that kind of intensity combined with that kind of volume and have it be beneficial over a sustained period of time.
The O/U are meant to “fast track” aerobic capacity gains by focusing on work right around threshold with an O/U. You can get a similar benefit through higher volume by working at a slightly lower % of FTP for longer at sweet spot, still with your body adapting to shutting lactate, just not happening in such a pronounced state as during an over/under…hence high volume.