Threshold Progression


There is plenty of research available on how to develop FTP. One just have to search for MLSS, FTP it not a term used in research. They even looked at steady MLSS intervals vs over-under MLSS intervals (no difference in outcome variables). Interestingly a lot of research on runners and not on cyclists. Not sure why, coincidence? One of my favourite studies is by Billat, Masters runners, MLSS training. Did not improve speed at MLSS but TTE at MLSS.

A lot of research had been conducted before podcasts had been invented and before concensus was reached that we should all train like Norwegian XC skiiers.

I guess one of the drawbacks of studying MLSS is the cumbersome test protocol. Vo2max can be measured quickly in one setting.

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Sryke, could you link to papers comparing continuous and intermittent protocols? I found a couple but interested in reading more. This one was on cyclists:

Don’t know if I would consider 5min bouts with 1min rests intermittent though.

Fair enough, maybe I just haven’t dug deep enough or been around long enough. Edit to add these articles:

“FTP intervals: Building functional threshold power is more a case of building endurance at high percentages of VO2 max.”

Hopefully we get some people to share their threshold progressions here and we can quantify some things. I’d be curious to know what effect pushing duration @ or very close to FTP has on the actual increase in FTP. Example: will doing a progression at 95% of FTP actually improve FTP or will it just improve the duration at which you can ride at 95% of FTP? (essentially one of Tim Cusick’s prescribed workouts from the WKO5 webinar screenshots above)

Or, does one actually need to start riding at 100% of FTP or slightly higher to eventually increase FTP in terms of raw wattage? Seeing as Cusick’s range for the above mentioned workout is 94-105% of FTP, which is a really wide margin.

I’m not really aware of specific studies on cont vs intermittent at MLSS. I only saw this one on cont vs over/unders. And these were “proper” over/unders, not sure this would qualify as intermittent

5:1 was a setup used by the Hawley/Noakes group and others in the 1990s. Or similar to Stepto/Hawley later. Work intensity was more or less MLSS/threshold. (which is obvious to anyone who has done these)

for example from Hawley et al.Journal of Sports Sciences, 1997, 15, 325-333

I think the best way to increase FTP is to train at FTP. As with other training, RPE will go down, you’ll get more adapted to riding at that level, and as it feels easier, you can push harder. That’s bread-and-butter training adaptation (without the fancy scientific terms!).

As others mentioned, threshold changes day-to-day, so some days you might feel MLSS at 102% whereas others it might be 97%. I think prescribing a target of 102-105% for sustained intervals is probably suboptimal training, personally, but there have been days - very recently - where I’ve ridden extended time at 102-103% of my training FTP because I was strong and because my FTP had increased. In that specific case, I was targeting a 45min threshold effort and riding by feel.


My progression started towards the end of my base phase. Tues was SS building from 3x20min → 2x60min all at 90% FTP. Friday was 4x10 threshold intervals between 97% - 99% FTP. Mostly to remind myself what threshold ‘feels’ like. I had not done threshold intervals in a while and found my pacing for longer threshold efforts was way off.

My current threshold block is steady-state intervals on Tuesday and Over/Unders (blocks of 2min at 95%, 1min at 105%) on Friday. Mon / Thurs are active recovery. Sat / Sun are 3-4hrs aerobic endurance.

Tues current planned progression: 4x10 → 4x12 → 3x15, rest, 5x10 → 4x12 → 3x15
Thurs current planned progression: 4x9 → 5x9 → 4x12, rest, 4x12 → 3x15 → 3x18

My original plan was more aggressive, I was derailed a little bit due to a strong reaction to my second Pfizer shot. I think the last O/U workout is more of a ‘stretch’ workout. I generally don’t dial down my power targets but don’t consider occasional backpedals to be ‘failure’ as long as I don’t do too many.

Based on my experimentation I think I respond better to loads of sweet spot and a little threshold work. I don’t think I need ton of threshold work. My FTP is at an all time high so I am not expecting it to increase, but if it does that is great. Current FTP was set based off a 40ish min effort of Alpe de Zwift and how it felt (could have kept going but couldn’t go any harder, but plenty happy to stop. :slight_smile: ). FTP is around 84% of my MAP / 5min power.

I’ve noticed my time in zone for workouts is a bit below what Tim Cusick recommends (65-70% of total SS volume in biggest workout.). With 2x60 that is 78-84min TiZ in threshold workouts. That sounds horrible. I generally am going to try to get more than 40min and would cap them at 60min.

I’m also curious what kind of progressions people are doing with their O/U workouts and the structure of the blocks. I’m considering higher overs or longer overs as part of the progression in my next block.



Not currently doing over-unders, but I earlier in the year I did a progression at 90%/105% (3x10, 3x12, 4x10, 3x15). The unders were always @ 2min and the overs started at 1:20 and worked up to 2:00. I’m in “race prep” mode right now with 25 days to go before I race and plan on working in a couple of over-under sessions where I ride the under @ FTP and the over @ VO2max.

So @ 3x10 that looks like:

2 min @ FTP
30 sec @ VO2 (120% FTP)
2 min @ FTP
30 sec @ VO2 (120% FTP)
2 min @ FTP
30 sec @ VO2 (120% FTP)
2 min @ FTP
30 sec @ VO2 (120% FTP)

If you’ve done any, do you get a lot of time with HR above 90-95% MHR with these intervals? These sound similar to the Bossi intervals Brendan Housler talked about in a recent video and pretty similar to the format to the variable power VO2max intervals Bossi used in a study described in this article:

Your FTP level efforts are longer and those intervals have a hard start so maybe it doesn’t have the same effect. I am considering experimenting with threshold burst intervals / Bossi intervals in my next VO2max focused block.

My attempts at doing lots of over-unders crushed me. In particular 2x20 with 2:00 at 95%, 2:00 at 105% basically was like a really hard VO2 max interval by the end. However, I might fare better now I’m only doing intensity twice a week…

That’s a really hard over-under, that’s why it crushed you! :blush:


This is strange thing I have recently also experienced - 1 min overs is “meh” but those 2 minutes are basically like you said vo2 max feel at the end. I have recentlu done 3x16 2min@90% and 2@105% and it was VERY hard session. It was harder than 2x30 90% with 30s (120÷-130%) bursts every 2 minutes.

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My Velocious and FasCat plans have intervals like that but call them criss-cross intervals. The hardest one I read about was Frank Overton’s 3x15 with each 15 minute done as a repeating 4 min @ 100% and 1 min @ 150%. Personally I’ve only done the tamer ones like repeating 3-4 min @ 85% and 1 min @ 112%. So many ways to arrange this style of interval.

Interesting this. In mid December I embarked on a 10 min threshold protocol and it was more aggressive…basically increasing wattage by 5W every week. Starting at 230W I was able to work up to 285W before running out of steam. 290 was the max I could get on a ten minute effort. It seems that sweet spot endurance was pretty dismal as I had not really done any for about 18 months.

So I had to recalibrate, bringing in the 2 x 20s and 4 x 5 min Vo2…over the last four weeks. I will see if this gets things going forward again soon.

Thanks! Will take a look at it.

This year I’ve done some tempo with 20s bursts but my bread and butter over under session started with:

2x20: 2:00 at 92%/30s at 5min power

This week I’m doing:

3x16: 3:00 at 92%/1:00 at 5min power

It’s been a productive but manageable lactate shuttle set for me so far. As I progressed I aimed to keep the ratio between 3:1 and 4:1. The much higher over (works out to 120%+) is a good race simulation for me , generates a lot of lactate, and helps to touch up anaerobic energy systems during threshold blocks.


Hey Craig, I haven’t tried one yet. I’m debating on starting with the 30s over, and then under as that will kick start the cardiovascular response and O2 uptake. Either way, these are gonna be tough. The key is to not do too long of sets because these will suck.

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For comparision these are 90% with 30s bursts:


Thank you for the info.

That is kinda what I would expect with the base of the interval being sweet spot / 90% FTP. Not a lot of time at high HR relative to total time in intervals, though the longer intervals are better. But I think the intent of a tempo burst or sweet spot burst workout is different from a closer to 100% threshold burst workout.

The protocol @anthonylane described uses 100% FTP for the base to burst from. Bossi was studying a similar type of interval in the context of VO2max work. I don’t want to cross streams with the two threads, but I am thinking of trying threshold burst / bossi intervals as part of my next VO2max block.

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2x 4m 100% 1m 130%
1x 4m 100% 1m 150% (full gas)

Its hard… had scheduled this session for Tuesday but probably wont be doing it.