Why does "Build" build? (Purpose of progressive overload)

OK so bear with me, I might be being stupid, but… I’m trying to plan next season, and I’m trying to work out the rationale behind weeks 1-3 and 5-7 of the build cycles increasing in both TSS and intensity.

That is, if you just did the same TSS and intensity each week for 3 weeks, wouldn’t you get the effect of progressive overload just through cumulative fatigue? As in, a 0.92 IF workout on Tuesday will naturally feel harder with each passing week.

Put another way - if I did sustained power build low volume, week 3 would feature workouts at .94, .88, and .87 IF. Why then in week 1, when I’m fresh and raring to go, am I doing way less than that and not maximising potential training adaptations? Why not go hard from week 1 and then just keep going as hard as you can until the recovery week?

(It always seems when I read scientific studies comparing the training effects of different interval sessions, and achieve performance gains, it’s always just the same session or sessions each week. So wondering why this approach wouldn’t work in a build phase.)

Clue is in the name ‘Build’
Try doing .94 IF for 6 weeks even with a recovery week every forth week, you’ll dig yourself a hole and see little to no adaptations. Good way to increase the risk of being ill though.

No. Training causes damage… breaks you down. It is the recovery that makes you stronger. The recovery days each week should be enough to allow adaptation each week so you can work harder the second and third week etc. Note there is not full recovery week to week (but enough to adapt) and general fatigue builds to the point of needing a recovery week to soak up all that training in the preceding weeks.

What you are describing is why not day after day, week after week destroy yourself, break you body down becoming weaker and weaker, progressive fatigue (same training load each week,) and then expect the body to recovery and build itself stronger in a recovery week after three weeks abuse.

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I’m 77.4% sure this contradicts something the guys said on the podcast though, where they suggested your short-term FTP might even go down during the 3 build weeks before adaptations and recovery in week 4. Would have to dig deep to find it though…

I’m 94.77% sure it doesn’t :wink:
Although the end of week 2 - 3 you might not be fresh enough to test well.

Cumulative fatigue and progressive overload are very different measures. You can accumulate fatigue by not giving yourself enough rest, but you are not going to [significantly] improve performance unless you overload the specific amount of intensive training relative to prior periods. [note: It’s similar to weight lifting more reps and/or heavier weights vs just repeating the same routines]

In weeks 1-3 of Sustained Build LV, your workouts aggregate to 821 TSS while in weeks 5-7 they are 902. “All other things being equal” (next sentences explained), upon overload from recovery, you will become faster. Tracking TSS is valuable. But equally, if not more, important is Time-in-Zone for each of the zones you are targeting during the training period. And by progressively increasing your TiZ you will improve. Improvements can be intensively focused (i.e. increasing FTP and short term power) or extensively focused (fatigue resistance and stamina).

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I get the principle, I think.

But just to be clear - does this mean that in progressive overload, you deliberately start at a level that is clearly within your capabilities? So, let’s say that 6x3min @ 120% is your absolute limit, you would start off with 6x3 @ 115% (or whatever), even though that wouldn’t be the most hurt you could dish out?

Would be interested if there are any cycling-specific papers out there (most seem to be about weight training). As I said, your classic Billat / Seiler etc kind of training protocol studies mostly seem to be “hey, do this one particular interval session 2-3 times a week for 6 weeks then come back and get tested”…

It depends. If you are comfortably/recently at what you describe as your max, you could start right from there. But if it has been a few weeks (or longer) since you were there, you should start wherever is “comfortable” and progress from there. Progression can take the form of more intervals, longer intervals, or higher intensity (providing that the intensity is still with your target zone). The first 2 types of progressions (more and longer) generally are targeted at improving extensibility (moving your PDC to the right), while higher intensity generally improves power (moving your PDC up). The reality is that either will improve in both directions over time, but there’s a degree of focus.

I am a huge believer in the work of Dr. Andy Coggan.

While perhaps you can find his research in journals on exercise physiology (15 such papers have received international status and perhaps 5,000 references in scientific papers), the most practical place to learn of his findings are in WKO webinars. Virtually all metrics of importance in training with power (e.g. FTP, NP, IF, FRC, TTE, Stamina, etc) were developed by Dr. Coggan. And, perhaps the most advanced insight, that individuals’ performance above FTP is individual (that led to the 2015 introduction of iLevel) was developed by Dr. Coggan and fellow researchers. In the WKO webinars, Tim Cusick, WKO product leads discusses the insights from Andy and there are several such webinars where Andy himself participates.

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