Why are our Progression Levels only as high as our hardest workout?

If I do a 5.0 Sweet Spot workout, I get a Progression Level of 5.0. The only way to increase that is to do a harder SS workout.

I go and do a week of 4.9s and 5.0 SS workouts, my aerobic capacity will inevitably increase, but it won’t be reflected in any way in the Progression Levels. Sure, AT will take it into account, but why is our ‘level’ only as high as our highest completed workout?

Shouldn’t our Progression Level be an estimate of the highest workout we could achieve?

It also affects the way workout levels are described. ‘Productive’ is currently reserved for workouts which exceed our current Progression Level, which suggests that anything below our current level is ‘Not Productive’.

Instead, shouldn’t any workout which theoretically improves our performance be ‘productive’, and push up our Progression Level, even if the workout is below our current level?

This a good point. the terminology isn’t 100% clear as has been pointed out by TR.

“Achievable” workouts can still be productive (eg you keep training around your current level).

“Progression level” means where you are currently at, not where you could go (that is what the “productive” label says). You can read the details on the website help section.

I let others chip in with more.

I think progression levels indicate how hard the workouts are (higher levels havr higher power targets, longer duration intervals, more intervals, shorter rests, hard starts etc etc)

Our own progress is measured in FTP progression.


No, WLs (workout levels) indicate how hard the workouts are and relate only to the workout’s difficulty. PLs (progression levels) relate solely to the athlete’s performance, their grade if you will. The continued conflation of PL and WL muddies the water, particularly for new folks.

So, rather than highlight a problem (albeit a very minor one) and walk away without proposing a solution, I’ll offer a self-evident one: just use the right terms.

  • Not in my opinion. It is a “mile marker” indicating a point that that you have reached, not your upper limit.
  • Broadly speaking we can likely exceed that level (with plenty of unstated assumptions ignored to save time), but the actual amount we can exceed is unknown. Depends on those factors I ignored and will vary from day to day if nothing else.
  • With respect to your “highest workout”, looking to the Difficulty Level below is a better indication, at least within the TR universe.
  • Easier said that done. First is a need to define the “performance” in question.
  • Second is to determine if any workout below the current PL is actually achieving that “performance gain”. There is likely a real difference between a Workout Level 0.0 to 0.5 below your current PL compared to one 1.0 to 3.0 below. Some may serve as mere “maintenance”, especially if we are only talking one workout vs multiples closer to the current PL. Others are potentially legitimate at improving your “performance” if the conditions are appropriate.
  • Main point is that “it depends…” as always. There is no easy 2+2=4 solution here. I do think there is room for TR to improve on this, but it’s almost never simple as we might like it to be.

When in doubt (and we should often be in doubt) the official support articles are beneficial. There are three “Levels” that get intermingled at times, but each has a unique definition and purpose, according to TR themselves.

Progression Levels are a dynamic, real-time representation of your fitness and ability to express your FTP across each training zone.

Workout Levels are a metric within TrainerRoad that provide a way to easily compare the difficulty of workouts. Workout levels compare the relative difficulty of workouts within each energy system and training zone.

Difficulty Levels are a ranking system to determine how challenging a workout will be in relation to your current abilities. They are determined by comparing the workout’s Workout Level to your Progression Level in the workout’s respective training zone.

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The trouble with ‘difficulty levels’ is that they are a static descriptor based solely on an arbitrary difference between your Progression Level and the proposed Workout Level. Going back to my example at the top, if I am at a 5.0 Progression Level in Sweet Spot, do heaps of threshold and sweet spot work around that 5.0 level, a 6.6 Sweet Spot might go from being ‘incredibly challenging’ (IE “Breakthrough”) to “totally achievable” (IE “productive.”)

Here is my original response.

The concept you are discussing, while not dispensable, is not entirely what the PLs are aimed to reflect. And to be fair, I think the marketing of PLs has led to a ton of confusion (something I have argued since their inception).

PLs reflect the “difficulty” of a workout within a zone one can consistently complete during a training plan. In my opinion, this is exactly what they ought to do. The marketing of them has discussed how they are a way to monitor progress. IE my FTP did not increase but my PLs did, therefore I am faster (or better within a zone). This, however, is not necessarily true. I brought up an example before where someone doing two vo2 exercises a week and has progressed up to PL 4.0 might have a better vo2 max than their clone doing one vo2 workout a week and progressed up to a 5.0. Indeed, if both clones had their vo2 max measured, it could very well be the case that the clone doing two a week has a higher vo2 max.

In my view, this example is at the heart of your question - you posit PLs ought to capture what could be considered an “ability level” (correct me if I am wrong as I am putting words in your mouth :slight_smile: ).

After writing this, here is my second response:

PLs do what you are asking in a certain sense. Suppose your SS PL is a 5.0. Further suppose your next “productive” SS workout has a PL of 5.5. In this scenario, 5.0 reflects your highest achieved level and 5.5 is AT more or less predicting the level you could achieve. Now, if you stay at 5.0 for a week before doing your next productive workout, the 5.5 might still be true. Or, if you mark the 5.0 as “easy” after a week of doing them, maybe AT will actually give you a 5.8 instead of a 5.5?

Last thought: What is the value of knowing the hardest workout you could achieve?