Sweet Spot Base vs VO2

Quick summary - I’m 41 / 75kgs / mostly into mountain biking - just using my road bike and the turbo to get fitter for mtb. I ride with some quick guys (up and downhill) and at least want to get nearer the front of the pack on the uphills.

I bought a turbo last year when I weighed 84kgs and started with an ftp of 225 - got a Kickr Core and a Cannondale caad12 disc.

I’ve done a few TR training plans but tend to move the rides round a bit / sometimes have to take a shorter alternative to fit a session in due to kids / work etc. Last year was mostly about losing weight - I’ve settled around 74-75kgs and I can’t see myself getting much lower because cake (I have a really sweet tooth and have had to use ‘Lose It’ and count calories to get this low). As well as cycling I do some weight training and a bit of swimming.

I’m currently on my best followed TR plan - low volume and selected ‘enduro’ as the event I’m aiming at. Actually it’s a 3 day mtb weekend at the end of June with a mate who is generally under 69kgs without even trying. He’s naturally athletic / a good climber on an mtb and I’m always miles behind on climbs - but quite a long way ahead descending.

So I’ve come to the end of a big chunk of SSBLV training and had a week of proposed low key spins on the turbo – I skipped these a bit and had a few rest days / couple of mtb rides.

Today sees the start of a few weeks of vo2 then sweet spot, before a ramp test and then a solid block of vo2 training leading up to the ‘event’ I input as the training plan purpose.

The SSBLV has made a really good difference – I’ve never felt fitter tbh. I can hold a higher intensity for longer – on a group ride a few nights ago with a pretty decent pace up the fireroad climbs (between off piste trails) I kept up with the group nicely – lastyear I would have failed horribly and been dropped off the back / bonked in short order.

What can I expect from the vo2 sessions – is this just going to build higher effort capabilities or bump up my watts etc?

I did Sleeping Beauty -4 today and found that quite easy. I think mentally I find vo2 sessions easier than sweet spot - I struggle most on long intervals - I think it’s almost more mental than physical.


Chart below might be useful. Different training stimulus is always good both physically and mentally, doing the same thing over and over is a recipe for getting stale and plateauing. I would think the different stimulus would give you a bump in watts, but might also manifest itself in different ways e.g. better recoverability between efforts, reducing the RPE of your SS intervals when you get back to them, being better able to spike above threshold, etc.


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Sleeping Beauty -4 will feel pretty easy. It’s a 1.5 and VO2 scales pretty high relative to Threshhold. High 6’s and 7’s are probably equivalent to high 4’s and 5’s of Threshold. I think the general thinking is easy VO2Max workouts aren’t really VO2Max workouts and are merely preparing you for harder VO2Max workouts. So that mental feeling may last until it doesn’t and when you are gasping for air on a 3 or 5 minute interval at 125% you’ll definitely know it’s physical. VO2 trains up pretty fast (and is lost pretty fast). It should raise your aerobic threshold so that you can hold threshold for longer, which may increase your FTP, but should make it so you can hold your FTP longer and it should make it so you can repeat those steep short hill climbs on the mountain bike at a higher power.


Thanks both - sounds like the vo2 will ramp up for longer periods of time and then it’ll start to feel properly hard as I go through the plan.

Some of my mtb rides are shorter more intense hills in groups (Forest of Dean) and others are proper size hills that are steep and / or long like at Cwmcarn and Risca. Those latter hills are less of a consistent gradient so constantly challenge you and stop a rhythm building - sounds like the vo2 intervals should help nicely with this.

This table gets posted all the time. But what is the source?, what are the references?, is it validated? How did complex physiology got simplified to “XXX’S”? …or is it one of those “because Coggan said” type of things?


One likely source (I am guessing) is the FasCat page on Sweet Spot:

Then see the footnote on the table itself that points to “Training and Racing with a Power Meter” by Hunter Allen and Andrew Coggan PhD as the original source. I think Frank (FasCat head) may have added the SS zone, but I don’t know without finding the official table (I am looking for it right now).

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Thanks Chad


The table is not in the latest edition of the book. I guess the editors and Coggan himself can’t bring themselves to publish that.

  • Really??? That is interesting indeed. I wondered if someone would have that handy and check. IIRC, there are 3 editions to that, and maybe only the 1st still has it now?

  • In my searching, I saw a number of versions that seemed like ones built by the person behind that given article. I haven’t seen an “original” as presented in the book (and maybe that’s due to copyright issues).

  • Not sure on that take. I can imagine at least a couple of reasons it is omitted. I wouldn’t read too far into it without more info.

I have to admit I don’t really understand what the table is meant to show. I’m new to a more scientific based training - I’ve always just tried the ‘cycle more’ method - which is fine if you’ve got loads of time, but sadly I don’t have that luxury anymore.

The shorter TR focused sessions have really worked well for me - I guess sweet spot is meant to do roughly what longer Z2 sessions do - in a time shortcut sort of way?

In short, the chart is showing what potential benefit you get for time spent in each of the various Training Zones (top columns). More ‘x’ marks in a cell means more “reward” of Adaptations that category (side rows).

What is lacking from that table is the “physiological cost” of efforts in that Training Zone. It is an important factor in considering when and where to spend your time training.

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Pretty sure this particular version of it is meant to show that “Sweetspot is awesome” :wink:

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Indeed. Read the article I linked, and keep in mind that Frank Overton is basically the Father of Sweet Spot, and applies it in specific aspects of the training he offers.

As with many aspects of this sport, his take and general claims about Sweet Spot training are hotly debated and criticized from a number of angles.

Yup, key takeaway for me from this chart is actually a reminder of just how much the zones overlap in terms of training stimulus, and therefore there’s no right or wrong answer, it’s about using zones in appropriate proportions depending on where you are in the season and how much time you have to train. I find SS really useful in small to medium doses, can’t handle more than 2 sessions/week of it, but am lucky to have enough hours to train that I can do sufficient Z2/3 work to still build a decent base the more traditional way. I don’t like doing sweetspot-dominated training at any point in the season, but if I could only train 3-4 days/week I suspect I might have a different view.

Yeah I defo don’t have time for long Z2 training sessions. Broadly on this training block I’ve done 2 sweet spot sessions a week, plus one evening mtb ride of about 1.5 hours and the a longer / hillier weekend mtb ride of 2-3 hours. The only time this has been different is if I’ve commutes one day a week to the office - in which case 1’of the sweet spot sessions sometimes had to give. I’ve then gone the longer way to the office (15kms each) and in that case I’ve looked to hit an average cadence of 90rpm (I don’t have a power meter on the bike) and just got as hard as I can both ways. Like a tt effort I guess!

Over-unders, ramps, and mixed intervals really help with gradient changes.

I don’t think I’ve had under overs for a while - there were some in the last training plan but I don’t think there are any in this one :man_shrugging:

One big issue with how people apply the table is they forget the ‘units ot time’ eg they look like this table somehow says you get ‘more’ XXXs for certain zones and they are therefore better, BUT they forget it is describing what happens for a ‘set unit of time’.

Frank himself says in his article that for example, FOR A 1 HOUR SESSION you’ll get more benefit from sweetspot than z2 but he never says its better than LONG z2 sessions for example. In the book Coggan actually says you cant use this table to compare workouts of different durations and zones.

The table might be helpful to understand exactly what is happening when you do different types of training, IF its actually correct, and I have seen several sources question some elements of the data in the table itself, so who knows how accurate it really is person_shrugging:


I think that’s the thing with sweet spot - if you’re time limited for getting some base going it’s a good option. If you’ve got time then maybe longer Z2 rides are better.

For the time being the sweet spot is working for me - the vo2 switch in my plan is just starting so will see how that works out.

One thing I haven’t had in this training plan is any over unders or laddery kind of thing where it goes up and down a lot. Definitely had those in the last plan - both were set with ‘enduro’ in mind so same purpose / but perhaps this one had a longer time to play with so ramped up sweet spot more :man_shrugging:

Either way - I’m newbie enough still that’s it’s making a meaningful difference. Took my road bike off the turbo and actually did a quick training ride on it yesterday. Wanted to ride up Lansdown Lane (near Bath) and the climb from Langridge (other side of Lansdown Hill) to see where I am vs last year. Pb’d both and took almost 2 minutes of my Lansdown Lane time - the final 18% ramp up right near the top still hurt me quite a lot and was a standing up grind in the easiest gear - but prior to that I’d spun up at a much higher cadence than I’ve been able to hit it with before. Maybe it’s the outright power I could have done with for that top ramp so I could stay seated?

That specific chart is meant to show that you get the most bang for the buck doing sweet spot. FastCat though over markets the term but when you drill down into their plans, they are only suggesting 1-2 days of sweet spot at certain times of the year.

Their plans call for fatigue dependent training. Their working mans plan is Tues-Thursday

Tues: sweet spot
Wed: tempo
Thurs: endurance
Friday: rest
Weekend riding
Monday: rest

I think it helps to think of SS as threshold training. When you are getting to 90% of FTP you are training your threshold TTE with SS.

Replying to myself, but I stumbled on another site reference of the Coggan chart on training zones & benefits. Turns out that TrainingPeaks has it on their Training Zones / Level info page: