What Build phase, Sustained or Short Power?

hi guys,

I’m 43, in my second year with TR (and third of cycling), ramped my FTP from 230W to 264W ( = 3.72 w/kg). My 1s, 5s and 60s power is rather weak, being 752W, 653W and 449W respectively. My 5 min is 318W.

Goal: of course, I’m looking to get stronger and raise my FTP to 4.0 w/kg or, ideally 4.2, what would put me on “magical” 300W threshold.

I was doing Sustained Power Build (LV) phase in my previous winter season (as that was definitely my weakness I felt on the group rides and as I aim for triathlon / TT ultimately), but now I’m thinking to try Short Power plan (LV) to raise my “ceiling”. Got this idea after hearing in one of the last episodes Coach @chad explaining strength training made quite convincing comparison of two riders - one, having 600W 5s power and 300W FTP operates at 50% max, while another, having 1200W @ 5s and same FTP operates at 25%.

Is it time for me to bump my “ceiling” or I will just derail myself from my primary aim (triathlon/TT) and I should continue with Sustained Power Build phase? Ach, btw, my Garmin VO2max is currently 65 (but reached 68 two months ago).

thanks in advance for all your insights!

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These numbers have no relation to each other in linear way. They are different systems (there is some percentage of aerobic in anaerobic). By doing short power build your FTP can also easily went down, but your sprint and repeatability will improve. For bumping your FTP you want to ride at FTP. If you want to move your celling - do VO2 max workouts not short power build.

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Most people would tailor their training to event specific courses. If you are aiming for TT’s it is recommended to do the sustained build to ensure that your body is adapted to TT efforts. Different people react differently to training loads.

That being said, I am exactly in the same boat as you. roughly the same FTP and previously did the sustained build phase as well. Now that I have completed it, I find myself being quite weak at doing VO2 max interval but much better at long sustained power especially towards the end of a ride.

If you are looking for general fitness increases and have no races in the next 6 months, experiment with short power. I think VO2 max workouts are arguably the best for raising your FTP.

I wouldn’t worry about the short power numbers. those are max efforts and more often than not, you’ll do that a couple of handful times in a year. If you are considering trying short power build it is worth noting that repeatability of short and powerful burst are immensely useful in racing and is highly underrated as compared to max power output.

In short, no, you won’t derail your training, you will probably be better at short efforts instead. If the sole goal is to raise your FTP I would suggest to try it, VO2 max efforts are painfully hard but fun. come back in 6 weeks and let us know how your ramp test went after the short power build. Just a note though, short power build is HARD. so better get used to those 120% ramps. they hurt.


Why not simply go General Build? Best of both worlds, or perhaps “jack of all trades, but master of none”…??

I have roughly the same profile as you, with slightly higher FTP. And I typically “crush” my friends on local longer segments (typically from 8-10 minutes and above), while only seconds set us apart on shorter segments. So while I have a fairly well primed diesel, it’s definitively lacking the “turbo”. Done sustained several times so this year I’m mixing it up with GB. For MV it still has long SS work so hopefully I’ll maintain, or improve slightly, that strength while adding more arrows to my quiver. For the record I don’t race all that much, but when I do it’s typically longer events (Grand Fondos, etc.)

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Thanks for the replies @Muzzaffar and all. I aim for the first starts mid 2021 earliest, so I think I have time to experiment.

I agree with the “train for the purpose” remarks so I sit down to plan how could it be. Being currently mid of the SS base LV I think I could have Short Power Base afterwards (finished ~mid of Feb) and then… I would go Sustained Power Build LV (finished ~mid of April). I would aim to add Z2 Sunday outside ride to these weeks whenever I can (recovery and weather wise).

I think that could bring my ceiling up and then build sustained power on that. Hopefully that will set me up for TT/Triathlon specific training spring and summer and, if covid permits, first starts around that time.

Any thoughts for you guys on that plan?

Working on your weaknesses and becoming a better all round cyclist is definitely a good idea.

In terms of “raising the ceiling” for TT and triathlon performance I’m honestly not sure that 1s and 5s power have any relevance. Those are almost entirely anaerobic efforts, and there’s a big technical component to them as well. Training to improve those numbers is fun though, as is trying your hand at some sprinting in races, so by all means give it a go! I just don’t think that improving those numbers is going to make any different when you go back to TT/tri training.

1 to 5 minute power is much more relevant as those efforts are primarily aerobic, and the VO2 max training needed to improve them will certainly increase your aerobic capacity which will lead to improvements in longer efforts. I’ve always found there’s a significant mental/RPE benefit as well - after a block of doing longer VO2 intervals, threshold and sub-threshold work suddenly feels relatively easy!

Agree with the suggestion above of doing General Build as the best of both worlds. Also really wouldn’t set much store by Garmin VO2max estimates, I’ve found them to be all but useless.

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Two build phases in a row? I would do base phases back to back but 16 weeks of build seems way too much and would be mentally devastating, if not physically, at least for me.


fwiw, I’ve mainly been Sustained Build, as long Sportives/ Gravel Grinders have been my primary focus. I’m planning on mixing it up with General Build after I finish this Base block.

Who knows whether those type of events will happen next year, certainly not sure enough to build a plan (sorry plan builder) for any events. I’m actually thinking I may dip my toes into racing again - more local events, and they did get some action here in Ireland this year. For open racing, a more expensive licence is about all the commitment!