Trying to understand Sweet Spot


My post was in a discussion on FTP estimation, and isn’t relevant to you if you are happy with whatever estimation protocol you’re using.

Fair enough. But I’m really responding to the general tendancy of this forum to tell people that their FTP is wrong even when they feel it works for their training routine or what have you. I know that there are people on here that would say my FTP is set too high because I’ve marked sweetspot workouts as hard (even though that’s middle of the survey!) without even asking about the circumstances of the rating.

Also, I was curious in case Coggan had any thoughts on judging accuracy of FTP based on how over unders feel.

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We are on the same page here :slight_smile:

  1. the above definition from coggan is tempo. you can give it a different name, but anything from border between level 2/3 up to just under FTP is Level 3. the special name implies that it is somehow different.

  2. the above definition (of tempo) notwithstanding, numerous coaches, industry services, etc. have very much promoted the notion that it is different/better/special/something else

As such, why further sub-divide it? It has really just served to create a bunch of FUD among a competitive-minded community (bike racers) who are already prone to being overly precise and pedantic about one watt here, two watts there. It will not end anytime soon.

Also, I’m not arguing about FTP as a concept (as others are doing)…it’s a thing, I get it. It’s useful. Thank you. Sincerely. Years ago I had questions about what to do once it more or less settled (given a certain weekly load), but I’m good now. I’ve seen less conflict over jazz harmony, and that is a significantly more complex topic to dumb down that FTP. Baffles me.

I have experienced first hand how riding lots of tempo can benefit my fitness. I have yet to see (and have personally experienced the pitfalls) of further sub-dividing it up into a “magical” subset at the upper end of what is already a fairly generous and productive range of effort.

After all these years, I’m still trying to understand Sweet Spot. I AM NOT trying to understand tempo. It’s clear enough, and has been for a long time.


When I see a rare sweet spot workout on my calendar, I know its a benchmarking effort at 92% ftp. Not because its a magic intensity, its a benchmarking effort over time and I can easily pull up previous ones and compare. It is not magic, it is benchmarking and looking for improvements. Thats the way my coach rolls.

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Seems that this is dependent on which training “philosophy” you adhere to…I don’t think there has ever been consensus on how many training levels exist.

Ok, I can see that. But to me that is a benefit or a use of FTP. Your coach is basically saying: “let’s get you just under threshold see how it goes / benchmark it”. Makes sense.

I don’t follow what he means by that, but it’s fine. I think it’s just “it’s all the same irregardlessly” idea (with regard to sub-threshold physiology), but no doubt there is more nuance.

Agree, so let me add: within the context of the current thread. If we’re discussing sweet spot and moreover doing so in the presence of the coggan bot, might as well use the de facto standard zones.

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OK, I think I see where you are coming from…using a Coggan 6 Level training regimen, SS falls in between Level 3 and 4, but not residing squarely in either one.

Am I understanding your point correctly?

Exactly, and without (or at least with less) snark, how does that help me? Or how should it have? Because ultimately I just got tired and mad LOL. I’m certainly less frustrated by it now, but in 2018 it drove me nuts. I imagine there might be others who have the same experience.

I can still recall debating “sweetspot” with Hunter as we were leaving a restaurant in Boston after a USA Cycling coaching webinar. He was advocating for a discrete, narrower “zone”, whereas my counterargument was that there was nothing about the classic 7 levels to stop him from prescribing training at that (or any other) particular intensity if he wished to.

That said, one difference between the “sweetspot” concept and any ol’ training intensity is the notion of cost vs. benefit, something that isn’t true (or goes unspoken) for levels 1-7.


This isn’t true. It’s the power at a metabolic quasi steady state. Most people can hold it for about an hour. But “about” can typically range from like 45m to 75m. The “your FTP is your one hour power” was an over simplification.

This of course is where it gets interesting. Is there a use for Sweet Spot? Sure, for some coaches. If you give it a reasonable range then its under threshold, advanced aerobic work, many can hit some reasonable numbers outside without getting freaked out they aren’t riding at some exact %. And then a Tempo workout would sit below that, again advanced aerobic, but a little lower stress yet more load than doing just endurance. Its playing the game of aerobic loading while balancing stress/recovery across 3 intensities (endurance, low tempo, upper tempo/low threshold).

But you could easily just divide tempo in half (or thirds) and not get OCD by strict zone borders. Upper tempo outside, with excursions into low threshold (90-94% ftp), as long as you don’t freak out about “border crossings” - well thats basically sweet spot. A little more load, a little more recovery, and depending on the athlete, more or less benefit.

So I’m with you now, I’ve dropped sweet spot from my vocabulary.

Over time I’ve come to view my training as follows. Spend a lot of time working on limiters. For myself that means lots of endurance rides around the z2/z3 border, and then whenever possible adding some ‘junk miles’ (lol) to the end of rides to increase volume. Moving up the intensity spectrum… Tempo work. For myself its often low tempo to add a little extra load without ANY perceived recovery cost. Every once in awhile I’ll go out and do upper tempo (SS) 1x30 or 2x30, or if I’m feeling good just pop out a 1x60 upper tempo, or hit a climb and do 1x90. But with upper tempo there is a higher recovery cost, I might need to swap some workouts around and do endurance on Monday instead of intervals. I know the recovery cost appears to go down if I do extensive work here, but I’m not targeting events that need much of this and I can get plenty of muscular endurance at lower recovery cost. Regardless, personally I don’t seem to benefit much from investing time doing a lot of tempo. My limiter is anaerobic repeatability and my compressed top-end (relatively low vo2max, high fractional utilization), and we work on that by doing as much volume as I can manage, with some HIIT work.


Unpopular Opinion:
Since most everyone’s FTP is a vanity number inflated by poor testing methods and ramp tests, what you think is sweet spot is really threshold anyways. :grin:


so for me, sweet spot is about being able to ride hard but steady for a long time. I’d say I can do 2hrs at 90%, although the most I’ve done this year is 90mins. And I don’t think this is otherworldly by any means, in fact I think, with a properly assessed ftp this should be quite doable during a build up block. I think people have disagreed with me on this, but if someone can’t do 3x20 sweet spot, they may want to revisit their FTP setting.


Totally agree. I was doing this my first year of cycling but didn’t have a fancy name for it. I can still go out and pop out 90 minutes of “sweet spot” without any special training or special recovery.

Sweetspot is just a label for the concept. Not technically needed, but I’m sure it helped communicate the concept because it gave it a special name that could be referenced.

If the term wasn’t coined, someone else would have come up with another term later for this intrazone, such as ‘uptempo’ or something.

There are actually 7 levels. Yes, level 7 isn’t referenced to FTP, but saying 6 levels suggests that you’re talking about a different system entirely.

As for sweetspot, to repeat what I have said before, it is primarily a concept. When pressed, though, I say that it extends from about the level 2/3 border up to FTP. So, it’s not really between levels, but spanning over them (i.e., all of level 3 and most of 4).

Others may define sweetspot differently, but since they didn’t come up with the concept, I don’t listen to them, and maybe you shouldn’t either. :wink:


We can mince word choice, but I don’t see a substantive difference here….spanning or between, the idea that it doesn’t for into your defined levels seems to be correct.

As for the number of levels, I got 6 from TP…see attached screenshot. Maybe you can discuss it with them. Pretty sure you know a couple of people there. :wink:

I don’t think that it is “mincing words” to differentiate between “between” (narrower) and “spanning” (broader).

As for TP, that’s far from the 1st thing that they have f*cked up. I would suggest not fully trusting anything on their website, even if they have attributed it to me.