Sweetspot Base vs Less Intensive Endurance blocks

Possibly a contentious topic and one that is very much down to the individual, but I’d be interested to hear the opinions of athletes who have done TRs SSB plans and also blocks of just Zone 2 work.

I’ve done TRs SSB numerous times and seen good FTP gains were others wouldn’t, but this doesn’t surprise me with the threshold work and VO2 later in the SSB2. So with this in mind I’m wondering that whilst my FTP is increasing, during what I’d consider the base phase, am I throttling the size of my aerobic base?

I’ve then, as always gone from the SSB into the build phases and continued to see FTP gains, BUT the gains are usually at the same rate I’d see during SSB. Again, have i throttled my base fitness and the ceiling isn’t as high as it could be?

Irrespective of my experiences. For those who have experience of both SSB and just Zone 2 endurance work, did you notice any significant difference when you went into the harder, build work off the back of each type of ‘base’?

How many hours per week do you average? Why zone2 only?

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Average around 8 hours and i think i know where this is leading… :slightly_smiling_face: = On that many hours SSB would be more suitable.

I suppose it doesn’t have to be only Z2, but a lot less intensity.

I’ve edit the post title so not to be solely about Z2.

On 8 hours per week I’m averaging 60-80% zone2/z1, depending on block focus, and the remainder is higher intensity. With SSB my ftp was capped around 250, and going more z2 it went up 15W.

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You probably already have data to answer your question. How do you hold up during efforts at or above 3 hours? Do pedestrian workrates feel unachievable in the 3rd hour of a ride? That’s probably a base that’s too narrow. Does your heart rate start to skyrocket after 90 minutes of threshold work? That’s probably a base that’s too narrow.

In general, if I spend a couple blocks doing 90 minute workouts…regardless of the intensity…I start to struggle during the third hour of a race. So I’m a proponent of doing some longer duration efforts during base. Doesn’t have to be every ride but for sure consistent periodic efforts.

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IMO an effective Z2 base needs to overload the Z2 volume. If 8 hours does this, then no need to worry about the intensity. If 8 hours is your usual volume and already includes Z2 and intensity, then I don’t see much to be gained by just doing Z2 (other than freshness).

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I’ve done SS plans and polarized training over the past few years.

My personal experience was that early on I had fantastic gains from SS training. FTP increased from 230 to 320 in about a year on a background of no endurance training ever in my life, and riding around 5-7000k a year.

However, after maybe 2-3y of SS training I plateaud. No more FTP improvements, and no real-world performance improvements either. In fact, sometimes I would lose fitness doing SST.

The solution to continue to get faster was more volume. 12-15000k a year, 8-10h plus weeks. You can’t do sweet spot for all of the extra volume as the recovery time is too long. You have to do it z2.

As a result, my experience has been that after a certain point, you just need to do more volume. You can’t do the necessary volume if the intensity of the sessions is too high. As a result, your VO2 and threshold sessions stay the same. SS gets replaced with lots of z2, and you’re left with a polarized plan even if that’s not what you were planning to do.

I still like to do some SS somewhat regularly, as it helps TTE I think. But this benefit is transient and not long-lasting. And I don’t use SS work as the foundation of my training anymore.

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this year I’m trying more of a hybrid SS/Z2 base to mix things up. I’m using SSB1 HV as the foundation, but subbing in endurance on Tuesdays and Sundays. The challenge was picking ride lengths that were sustainable, as I don’t always have the time to be able to do 4+ hr rides, and I don’t both bigger endurance rides on the weekend because I work from home so I actually have a bit more flexibility when I’m home alone. Anyhow, I wasn’t unsatisfied with doing mainly sweet spot as the basis of my training, I found I had great results with building endurance. Jury is out as to whether this approach works, but hopefully this is a good balance between some beneficial z2 and sweet spot.

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I think a lot of it depends on how much time you have to train. If you are ‘time crunched’, then doing sweet spot work will get you WAY more benefits than simply endurance work. However, there does come a point where doing more volume at lower intensities WILL give you other benefits.

There is some debate about whether high volume SSB is an ideal training method. If you have sufficient time to do HV, then you might do better with traditional base. However, for most athletes who can’t dedicate the 10+ hours/week, the higher intensity of SSB will net more benefits.

Also, sometimes ‘doing something different’ is enough to grab some positive adaptations, simply because it’s a new type of stimulus. It might be that doing a traditional base phase once every 3 years is a winner for you.

I think it’s been covered, but as above. If you’re looking to ride 8hrs Z2 and compare it directly to 8hrs of SSB, it’s unlikely the straight Z2 will elicit a greater fitness base unless you weren’t recovering from the SSB.

You can combine the two if you want, but you’ll need to still factor in progressive overload and whether you have the time/motivation/whatever to go and ride increasingly long durations.

and your physiology, and how you progressively organize the intensity, and your ability to recover, and …

In my experience, on a relatively fixed time budget over 6 hours/week and under 10 hours/week, the 60-80% of z2/week becomes a long-term play and therefore is mostly about conditioning to support the intensity. YMMV.

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Exactly - building the fundamentals to support later loads.

Focussing on SS is like dumping a Ferrari engine in a Skoda chassis.

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:rofl:

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Last year and in the first 3-4 months of 2021 I did a 3-month block of just Z2 focusing on fatmax with very good results. I was able to peak at least three times during the season, beating my PRs, placing 2nd in my AG in a local 2-day race late in the season. In my training I was pushing 10-12 up to 15 hours per week.

By now I am back to following the AT plan and I miss being able to just do 2-3 hours in Z2 every day.

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What do you mean here with higher intensity? SS, FTP or above? (In base period)

Yes to all intensity, depends on the focus of the block. No classic vo2max intervals but a fair amount of work above/below threshold.

I did sweet spot base low volume last year over the winter for my triathlon training. I was super fit in May. I was still ready for races in august/ September but darn I was tired, and technically my ftp was lower then. This year I’m experimenting with traditional base low volume for the winter base season. It’s a little bit more on bike hours but I’m finding I’m overall less fatigued after workouts for my swim/run/strength sessions and life. My hypothesis is that my FTP may not go up much if at all but I hope that intervals starting in March or April will yield larger gains. I’ll try to remember and report back the results of my experiment in a year or so.

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Report from Traditional Base Low volume, as it’s only a month long. I had plenty of energy for swim/ run/ lifting, and still had a bump on my next ramp test. I had a pretty decent drop, ~260 to ~230 for taking two months off consistent bike training (October - November). I got back up to 247 watts. I’ve never had these massive FTP gains other have even with consistent training, so I’m happy to see a bump like this with pretty much only endurance training.

EDIT: I plan on continuing with parts 2 and 3 for traditional base as well so will have more thoughts coming later.

I had random thought on today’s bike I’ll throw in here. Doing purely endurance is equivalent to doing an isolation workout for bodybuilding, like a bicep curl. If you don’t activate your lactate threshold, uh, stuff, during your workout all of your ride’s benefits go into the endurance/ aerobic system. Doing a higher Z2 or sweetspot workout is like a compound life in this analogy, like a pullup. That’s great and as TR explains there’s a lot of benefit to this, but as the higher level energy systems activate the burden of the workout is spread across those systems instead of isolated to the endurance/ aerobic system. Nothing groundbreaking I just like the bodybuilding analogy I came up with. Sweet spot is the compound lift of endurance training.

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I think plenty of people would see it the other way around. Z2 / aerobic endurance is the compound lift equivalent and sweetspot / threshold / vo2max are the isolation workout equivalent.

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