Training Plan Progression (Traditional Base or SSB?)

Looking for some guidance on my training plans over the next year.

Some info:
-I race XCO and XCM mountain bike races in the Spring and cyclocross in the fall with some road races sprinkled in.

-Cyclocross is my main discipline and main goal for the 2019 season.

-I have a decent history in competitive endurance sport (running track and cross country) but have only been racing bikes for 2 years.

-My FTP is 287 and I am a 29 year old male. 3.98 w/kg and I live in Canada so all of my rides will be on the trainer/rollers from now until about May.

Right now I am thinking that my progression will be as follows:

Traditional Base High Volume 1
Traditional Base High Volume 2
Traditional Base High Volume 3
Short Power Build Mid Volume
XCO Specialty Mid Volume
Short Power Build Mid Volume
CX Specialty Mid Volume

I am struggling to decide which plan progression and volumes would produce the best improvements for me?

Would it be beneficial to replace Traditional Base plans for the SSB plans?
Should I just be doing mid volume for all base and build plans? I generally have more time to train in the winter which is why I have high volume base and mid volume build/specialty.

Any help would be appreciated!

1 Like

If you have the time for traditional base high volume then I’d say go for it

the time…and mental fortitude to sit on a trainer for hours at a time at pretty low intensities. I would say indoor only traditional base is definitely not for everyone.

1 Like

I can spend the time and have the mental fortitude (…i think) to complete the plan but just want to make sure that it is more beneficial than sweet spot base or am I just wasting my time in the pain cave!

Yes, traditional base will deliver a better aerobic base than sweet spot. The sweet spot base was created for time crunched cyclists, that can’t put in 10+ hours a week to develop base aerobic fitness.

1 Like

A lot of it comes down to choice. For sure there is some low intensity riding in the Traditional Base but there is a good amount, especially after the first few weeks, that while not super intense can’t be considered ‘easy’.

If you have the time and can cope with the volume your plan looks fine I reckon.

And then the follow up question is there any issues with High Vol. base plans then Mid Vol. Build and Specialty?

During those times mid volume would be the most training I can likley fit into work/life.

  1. I’ve always read and heard “you can’t get enough base”
  2. The training stress of build and specialty are different, and training stress drops from base to build even if you are doing mid or high volume throughout the base/build/specialty (there is an FAQ article on that)

For those reasons, and the ones you cite, I’m also doing high volume base and then switching to mid volume build/speciality (and adding in mid-week race and longer weekend rides).


Thanks! Good to hear I am on the right track.

I just posted something similar and I’m glad I found your thread @Jamie_Weikum! I have almost 10-12 weeks of extra time before my peak in aug 2019 and doing two speciality plans and two builds sprinkled throughout will solve my issue and having me ready for CX. I think I’ll also go with traditional base as well.

1 Like

There is a point of diminishing returns with base. Once your FTP starts pushing against your VO2 max you need to shift your focus to raising your VO2 more, then come back for more base.

Yes, and I’m considering doing a base-build and then repeat as per TR’s suggestions. In fact in TR’s 4 week traditional base 1 it seems I picked up some aerobic gains, but lost some ftp. It was an experiment and I decided that doing long rides on the trainer wasn’t for me, but next season I’ll find a way to do traditional base outside where I’ll naturally pick up a little high-end work.

Glad I found this thread. I, too, have been contemplating this. In summary, if you have the time and mental fortitude, Traditional Base creates for a wider aerobic base than Sweet Spot Base. So if you can, Traditional Base is the way to go. Hope I got that correctly.

Yes, that has generally been the recommendation. This past winter in preparation from my XCO and MTB 100 season, I followed the below:

  • Traditional Base MV 1, 2, 3
  • General Build MV
  • SSB1 MV (last 4 weeks)
  • SSB2 MV (into 3rd week now)

  • General Build MV
  • XCM Specialty
  • “A” Race MTB 100 (September 21, 2019)

I will say coming off Traditional Base into General Build was brutal and a shock to the system. I tested high on my FTP, but could NOT complete the workouts over Threshold. I had to lower my FTP and then build it back up over General Build. I wondered if just doing SSB low volume would have been better instead of Traditional Base. It certainly would have been more engaging as 3:30 on the trainer in z2 is NOT fun.

1 Like

Thanks @MI-XC! As for the the workouts over threshold being challenging, could it be a matter of rider disposition, where you’re just naturally better at other areas such as maybe sprinting or sweet spot work? I’m curious to know if it’s caused by this or is down to the training plans’ sequence.

I just think 3 months of z2 with a little tempo thrown in did not prepare me for the intensity of GBMV. I needed a gradual introduction in intensity and GBMV is not that, expecially since I had a 8% FTP increase coming out of Traditional Base 3. SSB2 in contrast eases you into intensity, so your Build phase is a natural progression.

To correct this I cut my FTP increase in half (only 4%) and that made GBMV more manageable. Midway through Build I ramp tested +2% and then again +2% at the end of GBMV. So essentially I started and ended GBMV with the same FTP, but towards the end of that build I had no problem finishing the workouts.

Probably Traditional Base 1, 2, 3 and then SSB 1 & 2 would be a better transition. I suspect doing SPB after Traditional Base would also be more appropriate than Builds with higher intensities.

1 Like

My understanding after deep diving on this topic (vo2 is my weakness) is to keep ftp setting for threshold and below, and reduce power in vo2max workouts. In fact that recommendation is in the vo2max workout descriptions — dial down intensity to find repeatable power for vo2 work.

Another way to bridge gap between base and build was recommended by Coach Chad — a short 2-3 week booster block of vo2 work. I used this approach in February and it helped quickly improve my ability to do vo2max workouts.

Even after doing SSB2 and booster block not everyone has the physiology to do longer vo2max intervals at 120%. For those of us that struggle, those initial longer vo2max intervals in build are about a) finding a repeatable power above ftp to put your body in a state of high/max oxygen demand (aerobic uptake), and b) over weeks of training growing time at vo2 before concerning yourself with power at vo2.

Complicating things a bit - without a mask (or perhaps muscle oxygen sensor) to measure oxygen consumption it’s difficult to know if you are actually working at 90-100% max aerobic uptake.


Thanks @bbarrera! Sorry but what exactly is a booster block of vo2 work? I’m unfortunately not familiar with the concept. :slight_smile:

Discussion started here:

and example booster plan:

1 Like

This is still one of my favorite threads. Is there any chance that any of you could report back on what you ended up doing and how it is working out?