Training in TT position - does it limit gains?

I’m a roadie but enjoy our monthly TT events. I’m going to start SSB soon and compete in these monthly events during this training.

What I’d like to know is, if I train predominately on the TT bike, assuming that I am say for example 10-15% lower power output in the TT bike vs road, am I risking not maximising potential gains. Am I instead closing the gap between the two rather than pushing my body and increasing my ftp? Or would I in fact find that when I get back on the road bike my power has gone up proportionately?

I am not close (I assume) to my limit, at around 3.2w/kg at the moment I should have room to grow. I would definitely rather choose the road bike if that’s going to push me the most and then switch to the TT just before and for the events and just accept the delta between the two.

Anyone have specific advice or experience in this?
Thanks

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I train in aero on my tri bike, and mix it with upright.

I can’t use my results to support it, but the theory is that you are using similar muscle sets but with a different emphasis. In other words, you will get better at both when you train in aero, but you will improve your aero ability more than your upright ability, And vice versa.

So if you’re a pure TTer, train as much in aero as feasible, if you’re a pure roadie, upright. If you want a bit of both, do a bit of both :slight_smile:

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Check out this topic

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Same here,

VO2 I do upright but sweet spot and less I do in aero.

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Thanks everyone for the input, I don’t think it’s answering my question though. Maybe no one knows the answer for sure?

I realise that there is always a difference between the two positions and that you should ride more in either of the positions depending on your specialty. And yeah if I purely did aero TT I’d get pretty good at that.

What I want to know is, if I did the exact same workouts either in aero vs upright with the higher and lower ftp settings, which would give me the best overall ftp gains?

Pure speculation on my part, but I see sticking to TT as limiting your ultimate potential. Meaning that your absolute peak FTP with no position limits will not be as high if you stick to TT position training only.

  • It’s kind of like applying a rev limiter on a car. In that TT position, you are not allowing yourself to reach a maximal peak. You are hitting a peak, but one that is lower than you can do when unlimited by a restricting position.

  • If the limiter idea above is valid (and I have no idea if it is), you are not applying a stress that is at the true top end of your ability. That stress is what drives the adaptations. So I see a reduced peak stress leading to a reduced peak adaptation.


Another analogy could be a “ceiling”.

  • If you train in an upper road position, I expect that you will have a higher ceiling. Again, driven largely because you can hit higher peak power (as compared to TT position).

  • Once that “road ceiling” is set, you train in TT position with a goal of lifting it up to that higher point, or close to it. This assumes that the “TT ceiling” is lower than the road one (and we see that it true for a large number of riders.

  • If you only use the TT position, I see that “ceiling” as being a TT one and not as high as road.

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With no evidence other than personal opinion I think there’s a lot of truth to this.

If you have the ability to train to higher power levels in a road bike position, with a few races and rides outdoors on the TT bars it is possible to move power in that position closer to the position on a road bike.

If alternatively you train to a lower power level in the TT position it might be more specific at that time, but ultimately you may limit the potential headroom for improvement in the future.

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I have given this a lot of thought as well, but, have not found anything to substantiate my suspicions, BUT, Use your upright FTP and do all endurance rides and/or intervals (<75% FTP) in the aero bars. If you are on a road bike, do the same in the drops. You can always come up for air and do higher intensity on the hoods.

It’s going to be pretty difficult.

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Yep I’m of the same opinion, wondered if there was any evidence to back it up.

I think of it similar to when you do your intervals in a workout. Early on in your training you want to do them when fresh at the start of your workouts so that you can push your best watts and complete each interval (making the biggest adaptations).
As you get close to specialty you might want to do them at the end of your workout when more fatigued to mimic your priority event(s), but you might not necessarily be able to push the same high watts than if you were fresh.

I think that I’ll generally stick to the road bike for any hard workouts and TT bike for the easy stuff to keep my body being used to the position. And then maybe the week leading up to the TTs do one or two hard efforts on the TT for race day practice.

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Everyone seems to be assuming that the difference between a TT position and a road position is a matter of the upper body and how well you can breathe, but there is also the matter of saddle position relative to BB.
If your TT position is also significantly forward of your road position, then the pedalling mechanics may be noticeably different too. How much impact does teaching your body to ride with the nose of the saddle 15cm forward of where you would have it on the road have (on both road power and TT power)? My feeling is that the TT position doesn’t feel as smooth as the road one when on the trainer.
If saddle position is an additional limiter, is it one that is worth working on to ensure your TT FTP is as high as it can be, or would you be better off dragging your road FTP up and then hoping you can hang onto more of those gains (than the gains you would have otherwise achieved in TT position).
My FTP has stagnated since I got a new seatpost and moved the saddle forward a lont way, so I’m kinda invested in this question!

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  • Assumptions are dangerous :stuck_out_tongue:
  • As a fitter, I am well aware of the typical position differences and ways to minimize negative impact on power in a TT position. Proper saddle height and setback values for one, then bar position relative to the rider’s physical limits and fit preferences to achieve a “good” fit.
  • What I see, despite attempts to balance the TT position and use of best practices (not simple folding via front end drop), is a common reduction in power (sustainable and peak) for a “good” TT position relative to their “good” road position.
  • I don’t claim to know the specific reasons behind it, but it seems more common to see a reduction in TT rather than no difference.
  • I do agree it is important to work hard on the TT fit, just as I would on a road fit. And recognizing that the two are different is necessary.
  • There is a basic theory that the TT is similar to road, but rotated forward to preserve hip angle, while dropping the front. In reality, it is that, but more complicated when we look at saddle support and the changes to front end support as well.
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So if I’m reading the arguments right for spending time training outside of TT position, you are able to work harder, recruiting more muscle fibers at high intensities resulting in faster* legs. But if you train in TT position, you are not able to replicate the same stress, so your legs don’t get as fast*. So a hypothetical example would be something like this:

TT only training:
Start = FTP of 250W in TT position.
4 weeks of training = 260W in TT position.

Upright + TT training:
Start = FTP of 290W upright, but 250W in TT position due to penalty of around 15%
4 weeks of training = FTP of 305W upright, but 261W in TT position due to penalty of around 15%.

*by faster I mean all the physiological components that go into making you fast on the bike.

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Yeah, something like that is essentially what I mean. The growth we experience from training:

  1. Stress, applied via targeted workouts.
  2. Rest/Recovery, allowing our body to recognize the strain and attempt to rebuild stronger.
  3. The successful adaptation from both above, yielding a “stronger/faster” person.

I probably have that a bit off, but the idea is that if you are effectively limiting the Stress side due to a position restriction, you will similarly limit the effective growth.

If all you do is the one TT position, there is likely not much negative impact. But if you focus on that TT position in all training, and then move to a less restrictive position (road), you may well not have as much growth and top end as you might if you trained partially or completely in the less restrictive position.

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What if say you hadn’t hit a ceiling, and by training a couple months in TT position you increased your TT FTP by 10%.

Would you find that your roadie FTP has also increased 10%, or would it be more a case of your TT FTP moving closer as a % to your roadie FTP, with roadie FTP having only increased day a few points, of at all?

I’d love to see some testing on this. Surely there are loads of TT and Triathletes whom this question isn’t just interesting it’s central to their training and time spent in each position…

I appreciate you know vastly more about TT positions than included in your first post (and far more than I do). :slight_smile:
There seems to be a general consensus that one gets more power in “road” than “TT” positions, and so if you have headroom to drag your FTP higher, it would make sense to do so in the road position. The theory seems to be that it allows for more training load and therefore more gains for the same effort. This only makes sense if the gains in FTP in the road position transfer across to the TT position effectively (eg using the percentages Michael gives). I question whether this this is always the case, depending on how different the pedalling motions are. To use an extreme example - improving your road FTP might make no difference at all to your FTP on a recumbent, because the muscles used and the way that the they are used is subtly different.

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My understanding of the original question is that your power output shouldn’t be any different, it’s just compromised as you’re not used to riding in the position. Your FTP is your FTP.

You may be better off doing a bunch of off-the-bike work, developing your core. Doing planks, mimicing the TT position and of course riding your TT bike.

When it comes to TT you’re likely to rarely go much above FTP certainly never over VO2Max, so focus of sweet spot / Threshold on the skis. Go back to the road for other workouts (Vo2, endurance). That’s what I intend to do this season. As it falls more inline with the riding types.

It seems confusing, increasing your FTP on a road bike, may not necessarily make you faster on a TT bike. You will have to find a compromise you’re happy with.

@mcneese.chad thoughts…say hypothetically a rider can push 300W with a HR of 180bpm on a road bike. On the TT bike they push 270W with a HR of 180bpm (same rider fatigue/freshness). Same CV stress but, less torque. Same adaptations? I don’t even know if this matters. I may be going down a path that is totally irrelevant but, just curious.

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This is exactly it and what I was wondering, because I ride both and if there’s a choice of going for max gains bybtraining in the road bike and then maybe pulling my TT power up as a result, I’d take that all day long.
If I was purely a TTer then I’d just ride my TT bike.

Yep that’s the question. Which position do you get the most adaptations? I’m still going for road bike and therefore going to continuing with efforts on the road bike and TT bike for easy rides to get the fit and comfort side dialled.

FWIW, I’m looking to road race and TT this summer, and aiming to do something along the lines of this in the build-up:

Tuesday: Anaerobic or vo2 burst intervals (road bike, done outdoors or on Zwift on feel)
Thursday: Over-Unders session (TT bike)
Saturday: Punchy club run (road bike) OR vo2max / suprathreshold intervals (TT bike)
Sunday: Sweetspot intervals (TT bike) OR 4-hour steady club run (road bike)

The idea is that all of the road bike work (club runs, anaerobic intervals) can be pretty much done on feel, heart rate, or just by holding the wheel in front - so there’s no need to monitor FTP. After all I won’t be looking at my power numbers too much while racing.
Meanwhile my TT work will be all controlled intervals on the turbo, using the Thursday and weekend intervals from Sustained Power Build. I’ll ramp test regularly to assess progress.

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