Sweet Spot Progression

I hear this sentiment more often, for example in this article about no-go zones from Hunter Allen. Yet Trainerroad prescribes loads of these intervals where the duration is apparently insufficient and so does Join Cycling. So I was wondering if there is some science backing up this sentiment that intervals have to be of a certain duration to trigger certain adaptations (beyond a certain level perhaps) vs. just accumulating enough time in zone. Anyone knows of any studies in this area?

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I don’t think you necessarily have to do long SST intervals, as with extensive work like this, TiZ is what matters the most. That said, doing 10x8 min doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, and longer intervals push endurance and other adaptations such as sheer mental toughness that an 8 minute interval doesn’t.

There are coaches out there who do 5x5 threshold and 4x8 threshold workouts. Others won’t give you less than 10 or 12 minute intervals. All roads lead to Rome, but frankly I’ve found a lot more success with 4x15 and 3x20 type workouts for me and for my athletes than with the shorter stuff. Sometimes it’s as simple as maximizing TiZ for the time available.

A 3-hour ride with a bunch of ten-minute efforts at threshold/SST is a tremendously effective workout… but so is a 2-hour 3x30 at 90% on a weeknight.


I’ll be returning to a block of this later in my Base.

6 - 8 weeks of increase volume first (with a bit of over threshold intensity, cos Im old )

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Beginning mine in 4 weeks time - excited, like a kid waiting for Crimbo! :laughing:

In the blocks I did this past season I built up to 1x105 minutes @92%, which served as excellent mental prep for grinding out the 2hr Alpine climbs I was targeting. I reckon these SS blocks have done wonders for my muscular endurance and the associated mental aspect of staying “on it”.


Can you expand on this?

For example… how does 2 x 30 with a 30 min recovery compare to 2 x 20 but only 5 min recovery? How does length of recovery come into this? Is time in zone the priority?

Yeah, it makes you strong :muscle: and mentally strong as well.

The last time I did it properly and comitted was 2019 into 2020… hit all my all time PBs over an hour, even after 10 - 15 years at it. Sadly then Covid happened and with events cancelled I lost motivation.

Spent a few years running and the last two year dabbling in triathlon, and while still decent on the bike I have been way off my best, so trying to get back most of the bike fitness and blend the others… the run and swim. The run is currently my strongest (always though it would be the bike.) Hope to make it the bike and no drop off in the run.


Interesting questions and something I’ve never thought about as I only ever have 3 minutes between reps unless the reps are over 45 mintues (2x 45’ or 2× 60’ I’ll use 5 or 8 minutes)

Out on the road I just use the road and don’t care about the rest interval length, I just get back into the next repeat as soon as possible but if it needs to be 10 minutes so be it.

Physically you shouldn’t need more than 3 - 5 mintues according to Tim Cusick, I tried this and I agreed. Actually you find apart from a mental break or taking in a bit more fuel, straight through is almost easier

Basic answer though imo is tiz is the key driver, no need for long rest intervals… tag more easy endurance work after (or before dependant on goal for the session, fatigue resitance for example)


If you’re doing extensive sweet spot work, IMO TiZ matters more than work done in a certain period.

So a 3 hour ride with a 20-min sweet spot interval each hour is a better workout (IMO) than a 3 hour ride with a 2x20 on 5 set in the middle. Why? Sometimes more is more - it’s just more work in this case. Physiologically you’re training the ability to do more work - “Spicy endurance” to use Kolie’s term. So obviously if you’re training endurance, doing more trains endurance better! (all of this is “within reason” of course).

If you’re looking to train for a specific TT, you’re going to want to do more work on a lot less rest, but that gets more into your race-specific training than your general aerobic adaptation IME.

As @Bbt67 said, in a lot of cases, the rest intervals are simply mental breaks. If you can do 40 min of work at 250, you can do 40 minutes. It just sucks a lot more to do 1x40 than 2x20. Within certain bounds, you can push TTE by breaking it into intervals, e.g. 2x25 vs 1x40 is more work, right? So that 3-5 min break allows you to do 10 more minutes of work… and that 10 more minutes is where the gains are.

Finally, especially in the offseason, I am finding and having a lot of fun with rides that are 2 hours, go find 70 minutes at SST tempo in the hills. Unstructured, but you’re still digging the time, and if you can find a long climb to do it on for part, all the better. A lot of people can get 70 min TIZ in that manner a lot more readily than they can doing intervals on the trainer.


Those Z2 with intervals every hour were the workouts that benefited the most to my aerobic engine (when I’ve got one year ago). 3h Z2 with 20min threshold/ou each hour were usually 10 in TiS score in wko, and done great job for my durability.


At least outside, its more fun to do 1x30 or … 1x90 … or 1x120 because, IMHO fast is fun. And I don’t obsess about taking a short minute or two break to eat and drink. Sometimes I’ll do book-end rides, with 30 minutes at the start and 30 at the end. Whatever. Just ride your bike and do the work.


Exactly the point of those unstructured type rides. Let the terrain dictate, and if it’s flat, go hammer. Nothing wrong with that at all. Get the time in.


I started with a coach from Empirical Cycling this fall and we’ve made tremendous improvements with sweetspot progression, I thought it’d be interesting for others.

On September 9th, we tested my FTP. I managed a total of 48min at just under 330W, starting 8min at ~315W and then doing 330W for 40min. After that we started doing sweetspot intervals twice a week, with three easy endurance rides on top (10-14h total riding per week). First week, I did 2x40min at 310W and 2x45min at the same wattage. Hard but manageable. Next week, I did one open-ended sweetspot ride, 1h33min at 310W, and 2x55min. The next week, I managed 1x1h44min at 310W and 3x40min sweetspot with over-unders. After that, we decided that it wouldn’t really be worth it to extend TTE any further and started a VO2max block. Unfortunately I got sick in the middle of it, but I still managed to gain some fitness, as now yesterday I could complete 1h33min at 317W, having tested for a new FTP of 340W a few days ago.

The point being, I saw tremendous endurance gains from doing very simple but obviously effective workouts. I never had even dreamt that I would be able to do over 1h30min sweetspot, yet it only took a few weeks of riding to get to that level! And I’ve never been a diesel engine, I’ve always thought of myself as a puncheur or sprinter first and foremost, haha. I think the trick is actually testing your FTP properly and not pushing too high power in those sweetspot intervals. I’m doing about 93-94% FTP and it seems to work wonders. Also, I’m doing my endurance work really easy – averaging 180-190W most of the time, or under 60% FTP. Sure it’s boring to do easy endurance indoors, but it really seems to help with this TTE work.


Good going! I am a fan of this as well. I don’t extend further than 1,5h of SS. Anything above that I drop down to tempo (81-87%). For my part it is specific training for ultra endurance MTB racing, but you build a huge engine by doing this stuff. Makes 10min threshold intervals feel like a snap. :laughing:

I much prefer long SS or tempo work indoors, than endurance riding. If the weather is really bad I still do endurance indoors, but I try not to. But I guess these type of efforts is an acquired taste. Anyone with an over estimated FTP will hate it, or never be able to complete it. You most likely need to do an extended FTP test, like you and your coach did, to make this happen.


Never tried longer tempo rides before, but I am certain their benefits are very similar :slight_smile: I have only competed in a handful of races, but they are all 2-3h or less around here, so probably that 1.5-2h is the most needed if talking about breakaways etc. For ultra-endurance, I can definitely see the benefits of really extended tempo rides!

Riding endurance outdoors would be so much better, that’s for sure. But the Finnish winter isn’t really making it easy for me – slushy roads, minus degrees, it’s always dark after 4 pm – the list goes on :smiley:

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I’ve ridden 4-5 hour events at tempo (0.86IF) but usually winter events where I’m not too bothered if I blow up and have to slow down. Just a little stretch of the legs if they are feeling good.

For my tempo training sessions I’ll usually do 20-30 min intervals, then 10 mins endurance, then go again. If im out longer endurance I’ll usually just do the tempo once an hour with large gaps between.

That Scottish fellow is pretty good lol

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Tell me about it!

I coach myself but I’ve learned a lot from him and him and Kolie are the first people I recommend and would work with if I were to need a personal coach.

As for the sweet spot, I just finished a block where I started at 3x20 and did 2 workouts a week and finished with 2x45. I’m going to do another block where I’ll reach 120mins of sweet spot and then likely move on to a vo2 block. The fun part of doing sweet spot this year is my wattage is up 15w from what I was doing last year. It’s not anywhere near what you’re doing but doing 45min at around 285/4wkg is quite fulfilling!


Once you leap 1x90 → 1x105 at 90%, going further is more holding mental focus issue than muscular endurance (at least for me). I did not bother at that point anymore and started new progression at 98% instead, using roughly same intervals as SS90 (up to 2x40min)

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45min at 4w/kg is very good! My absolute watts deceive a bit, I’m a tall bloke and weigh 84kg so my FTP is only around 4w/kg.
Your plan of the block periodization sounds good to me, I hope the vo2max can further up your ceiling. 15W in a year is very good considering you have many years of training already! I have only trained for 2 years now, FTP has improved from around 250W to 340W but I hope I still have good room to improve over the years :slight_smile: