Volume > Intensity?

You’ll have benefitted from beginner gains, after that gains can be had but it takes increasingly more work to get them. There will be a ceiling for your volume, but increase volume and you’ll break through it.

If you get your training right, there’s a limit to how far you’ll progress this year, but you’ll be able to get further next year and so on.

It’s also tricky because the fitter you get the more volume you can tolerate (and need), and the more volume you get the fitter you get

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Have been watching Icu intervals to give me an idea of how much volume I need to keep increasing my fitness, I find I start feeling like I’m in the red (form) without it showing on the graph, I was only mid green (-19) when I got the adaptive training to drop the intensity, so I guess thats not super accurate for me but maybe the fitness and fatigue are good as I did hit a fatigue of 60, when I felt like I needed to back things down.

Remember that fitness number is not your “fitness” as we understand it, but purely a measure of how much load you are undertaking at the moment (hopefully without injury).


Is there anything I should look to this for in terms of guidance, aside from seeing when my fatigue is too high (can also feel it without seeing the line/number, or when my form is getting too negative?

In case this helps: the Form graph got a lot more helpful when I switched to “Percentange of fitness” in Options. Now it tracks how I feel pretty accurately.


Thanks, that makes a lot more sense and displays much differently!

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The best approach is to balance volume and intensity correctly. You are already above average, and gains above 4.5 W/kg tend to get hard to come by. I’m in a similar situation to you, albeit heavier: I am close to 4.5 W/kg now and I peaked at 4.7 W/kg last season. I find my body does not always need three days of intensity, two days can suffice for me to still make gains.

At such a high specific FTP you will need to think more carefully what kind of rider you are. Looking at your power numbers, it is clear you are a very fit, light rider. So before you change your training, ask yourself what kind of gains you are looking for. E. g. if you are a mountain biker and you like long races with sustained climbs, working on your endurance is a great idea. If you primarily do crit races, then this isn’t necessarily the best thing to focus on.

Generally speaking, you will have to impose a higher load on your body if you want to continue increasing your fitness. That could come either in the form of more intensity, more volume or a combination of both. The catch is that you must stay consistent.

If you can dedicate more time to training, I’d say the safest approach is to add on endurance rides while keeping everything else fixed. Make sure, though, to alternate between easy and hard days. Hard days are workouts that take you more than a day to recover from. Easy days are workouts that you can recover from within a day. Not only days with intensity fall under a hard day, but also long endurance rides.

When you are sure that you can deal with more volume (= time on the bike), you could experiment with replacing 60-minute workouts with intensity by 90-minute workouts with intensity. (That’s what I am currently doing.) However, make sure you can still nail all our workouts and you can recover from the additional stress.

PS One thing that I find is not as important as consistency, making sure you can recover and fueling your workouts is e. g. whether you should do sweet spot base or polarized base. (I incorporate both, so I am against neither.) Yes, these are important, but they are way less important than consistency and nailing the basics.


From my perspective since I am so light my W/kg is almost meaningless in my area where it is rolling terrain of mostly 2-5 min climbs of 5-7%.

As far as rider type, I started out with mtb riding, xco racing but this past season I raced XCO, Road, gravel and CX. I would say I probably enjoy road and CX the most and in terms of what I have an aptitude for it may be road, although I have had higher finishes in XCO, some of the races, I dislike that the features push you to risk injury if you want to finish well, I like that in CX there is a technical challenge but if you crash you just slide out in the mud, in XCO its like I’m gonna go over this bank or skid off of this bridge into a rocky riverbed below or hit those trees if I mess this up.

Looking at the last road race of the year I finished 7th because I was in the back of the pack when the front of the pack made ‘selection’ attacks I bridged to the front group after the first attack and drug too other racers up with me on my wheel but they attacked again as soon as I caught on and I couldn’t hold on or bridge again and the guys I drug up with me on the first bridge couldn’t either. I still ended up finishing ahead of everyone that didn’t make the front group selection but looking at those that stayed in the front group (whose weight is maybe within 10kg of mine) they hit ~750W with each ‘attack’ which is still >3x my current FTP. If I had of been smarter in terms of where I was in the pack (not in the back) I may have made the selection, so it was both race smarts and lack of power.

Last year it terms of training I did Plan Builder starting late April (when I joined TR) to target a XCO A race in late June and an A race Road Race in September.

I have done some crit and circuit road races but find I don’t enjoy them as much as open road racing or XCO, CX, gravel. I’m not great and carrying speed through the corners (in road I generally move to the front to lead through the corners so that the pack doesn’t have a chance to split and drop me there) so crits just seem like they hit my current weaknesses on the road in terms of skill and fitness.

As far as consistency, I’m really hoping to maintain that 6h or > this year with 3-3.5h of LV planbuilder intensity work and making up the difference with Z2 or Z2/Z1 work depending on fatigue (Gibbs -1 seems like a good way to get my hours/volume in even if I’m pretty fatigued, although I recognize with it being a lot of sub-Z2 its less productive). If I do this I will do >40h more of volume over the course of the year (272 to 312), likely more as I start riding outside more as I can see myself doing 8-10 hours some weeks.

I fuel every workout and race at 50-90g of carbs per hour, I think only one really hot XCO race this past season I struggled with this a bit, it seemed like the heat+intensity was making it hard for my GI system to absorb things and started to feel nauseous/burpy.

After I finish the last week of Trad Base LV Block III this week I’m not sure yet if I want to start Plan Builder which I expect will kick me into SSB LV or if I want to do a bit of an off week of endurance work first with no intensity as the final week of TB LV III did have a Threshold session and I have done harder/longer Endurance sessions for the rest of the workouts to get my >6h ( Fletcher, Virginia, Virginia try to target ~0.65 IF workouts). So may do a week of Townsend x4 to get 6h but with a more significant TSS drop than what I will get this week ( 240 vs ~303 this week) given my highest TSS week of this plan has been only 351 and I haven’t taken any week off the bike completely this fall/winter.

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For the purpose of the discussion it is highly relevant: at your W/kg you are no longer in the “easy gains” category and gains will get increasingly harder.

Overall, your race results sound quite respectable. The road race you have recounted sounds logical: you are quick and probably quite aero, but there are bits when absolute power counts, which is your relative weakness. Crit racing is usually flat, which accentuates your weaknesses rather than your strengths. On the other hand, crit racing could teach you to race smarter.

Personally, I’d look into finding events that are fun and emphasize your strengths, e. g. hilly road races, hill climb TTs and, it seems, mountain biking.


The coach I use puts it very simply: unless you’re riding over 15 hours a week, the answer is always to ride more.

Volume is king, and most people need less intensity than they think.

Certainly I’ve had more gains riding 11-12 hours a week with not that much intensity than I saw at 8 hours with 2-3 hard sessions in a week (and I feel much better as well). Having said that, we all respond differently to training, and we’ve all only got so much time. You have to make the best of what you’ve got.

Over 4w/kg on ~8-10 hours a week is certainly achievable if you’ve got above average genetics, but you’ll hit another ceiling after that, most likely.

Good luck with it!


That’s a good point. Even super quick people I know don’t do more than 3 days with intensity per week and 4 hard days per week. (A hard day is a day where it takes you more than 1 day to recover from the workout.) Since you want to alternate easy and hard days (easy = rest day or an easy workout that you can recover from within one day), you can’t really do more than that.

In my experience, unless you are very young and gifted, I don’t think you can handle more than 3 days of intensity.

However, I’d say that it depends on a lot of factors whether you should do 2 or 3 days of intensity at a lower volume. In my experience when you are really well-trained, you can reach very high levels of fitness with only 2 days of intensity. But if you are new to the sport, it might be different.

You can also read the argument above in reverse: if you are already at 3 days of intensity, you basically have to add endurance rides since you cannot handle more intensity.

It really depends on a lot of factors, and I’d just try different things and see what works for you. Consistency is king.


So I was able to do the 3 assigned days of intensity from Plan Builder from later April 2022 till Mid-November. I then went outside Plan Builder and did Trad Base LV I, II and III (ended last week). So I’m starting Plan builder LV again focused on XCO and Rolling Road (same as last year but will try to add 2 Endurance workouts per week to add 2.5 to 3.5h of Z2. To eventually work up to 400 TSS weeks of TR work along with whatever outside riding I do (so 6-7h with no outside riding, maybe up to 10h with more outside riding), will taper back some on race weeks of course but will still try to get at least 6 hours of riding in (including the race).


Yup, cycling is an endurance sport. Don’t expect to have a big endurance engine if all you do is rev the nuts off it three days a week.


But don’t be misled into thinking riding lots of volume will increase your FTP and ability to ride quickly. You also need intensity. There is no magic bullet here. You need some volume, you need some intensity but you may be surprised at how little intensity compared to some of the TR programs you actually need to get you to your goals. Two hard interval sessions a week with some good road riding over the weekend can get a lot of people to where they want. Road riding being a good mix of pushing on, climbing and sitting in the group or taking it a bit easier if you’re solo.


~57kg is pretty light, though I don’t know your gender or height. If your BMI is on the low side, and your goal here is to hang on better in the flats (and racing up 10% gradients isn’t a core part of what you do), your best gains might be achieved by simply gaining weight. Absolute watts are way more important than w/kg in essentially every situation in cycling other than prolonged steep climbs.

Volume (relative to you) is important until it affects your ability to train glycolytic and ATP-CP energy systems. I think that’s where most amateurs and masters get it wrong. Me included.

I’m sorry but this is just factually wrong…people have ridden high volume, low intensity for decades and raised their FTP / performance levels. As noted multiple times above, cycling is an aerobic sport and building your aerobic engine yields performance gains.

Now, whether that is the most effective training option is another question entirely (as well as questions re: training goals, etc). But for long-term gains, nothing beats volume.

You’ve got to do the right thing with your volume. Just riding around in Z2 will not improve anything other than your ability to ride around for a reasonable amount of time at Z2. I’m a time trialist. Lot’s of people think because I focus on short distance TTs 10, 25 miles that I can’t ride 100 miles or more. Of course I can because that is a lower intensity ride. But asking my friend who rides 15 hours at Z2 to knock out a time trial, not particularly fast let’s say 30 minutes for 10 miles, and they struggle or they can’t because they don’t do any intensity.

Cycling is an aerobic sport but you need some intensity to get the gains that the majority of TR users are seeking.

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Not true, riding lot at Z2 does improve your mitochondrial function and lactate threshold, albeit at lower rate than training at Z4, same time with less fatigue. This in turn means that it helps you ride at all intensities, up to level where lactate production greatly exceeds consumption rate i.e. ~1h TT.

For shorter, higher intensity rides, sure, you need Z5+ training as well, no question about that.