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Criss-Cross aka OU - My favourite turbo workout

bahzobbahzob Posts: 2,195
Over the course of the last 10 year or so I've tried lots of different workouts. There is one that stands out, both because it delivers in terms of performance improvement and (for me at least) it is enjoyable to do. It's especially good for turbo sessions and I would recommend everybody try it out some time over the winter. While it's probably stretching it to say that it's the only workout that's needed it can for sure, with a little imagination, be used for a wide variety of purposes.

This is the "crisscross" or "OU" workout. (Actually the name should really be the less easy to pronounce UO since the session consists of intervals each of which alternates a series of micro intervals Under FTP with Over FTP.

See here for a basic guide (workout #1)http://home.trainingpeaks.com/blog/article/3-top-indoor-cycling-workouts-under-1-hour


There are a number of reasons why I think it's excellent:

> It's at threshold. There is no getting away from the fact that if you want to improve your power you need to spend time in this zone and this can be tough. The standard workout for this is "2x20" or variant that requires you to hold threshold power steady for an extended period of time. When done on a turbo I find just staring at a wattage number for this length of time pretty mind numbing . "Criss-cross" is more engaging since it breaks the long interval down into more manageable "really hard"/"slightly less hard" chunks. In terms of the end result the average power/training benefit will be the same.

> It's very time efficient. In terms of training stress/minute or calories burned/minute it's amongst the highest you can do. Because the first part is slightly under threshold you can get away with a short warm-up (or even skip warm-up altogether and do the first "Under" as a fast ramp up to threshold.). Also you can cut recovery, the description recommends 4 minutes, I find 3 is more than enough and this can be reduced further so you can really push the training impact of a sub hour session.

> It's good race preparation. The article mentions one, working in a small race group, but that's not the only example there are others. In the real world any course will have some bits that are tougher than others. The best way to pace these once they start requiring 20 minutes or more of effort (like TTs and long climbs) is go a bit harder on the hard bits and a bit easier on the less hard bits. In the case of TTs the reason for this is basic physics, for long climbs its better not to change gear every time the gradient shifts since this wastes power. Also starting slightly under threshold is a good idea for events like this. You are unlikely to win them during the first 60 seconds but may lose them if you go off too hard and have nothing left for the hard bits/end. Even doing the workout skipping the warm-up can be handy, for the time a screw up of some sort or other you can't follow your usual warm-up routine and have to start from cold.

Also the U sectors will feel, comparatively, easy. This helps with pacing as you can push harder for a bit if you know you will have a bit of a "rest" shortly. Having this in mind is also helps if you pop during a threshold effort. If you can fall back to an effort that's still comparatively high then you finish better than if you crash right down to your endurance pace. You can see this happen in races like Froome in last years Vuelta where he was dropped but then his way clawed back.

Since it's more realistic its possible to imagine doing a favourite ride. If there is a particular course, e.g, a 10TT or climb then you can set the O/U to correspond to its contours. If you imagine this while riding it also helps make the session more fun and will help when tackling the real thing.

> It's hugely adaptable. You make lots of tweaks to keep the sessions varied/interesting and/or extend the focus zone. Just some e.g.s
---> VO2 Make the U lower (around top of Temp) and the O higher (well above threshold).This really will feel like being in a tiny group trying to get to the finish ahead of the pelaton.
---> Tempo Make U high sweetspot and O low threshold and increase the length of each work interval and reduce/eliminate rest. Eventually it's even possible to do a full 60 minutes this way.
---> Race prep Make some of the Os much higher than the others and imagine you are in a race. Maxing out the first "O" could be trying to get a gap with a couple of others then hold it. The maxing out the last O is the final effort to get to the finish first or lap bonuses.

> You can use the different sections to work on other things as well. E.g. varying cadence. One set can be done by keeping cadence constant and increasing resistance. The next vice versa. Or start the first section at 50rpm then increase 5 rpm each time until you max out. Or try getting the extra power for the Os through a specific muscle group, e.g. push harder with your glutes or concentrate on "scraping the mud of your soles" a la Greg LeMond. Some combinations may feel more comfortable than others, which ones may surprise you. Even if not just doing this will make the time pass quicker.

For real example of the above in practice see here https://app.strava.com/activities/243530337/analysis/1574/5150

The main session consists of 5x9 minutes criss-cross. Power ranged from 90% under 105% over, so not too extreme as main objective was just to accumulate early plan threshold time and set a benchmark for the future. I'll include a session like this each week, firstly increasing to 5x12minutes then reducing recovery with target being non-stop 60 minutes. In a couple of weeks I'll do another session on a separate day that will keep interval/recovery length constant but ramp up the power.

The first set of 3 was done increasing power by increasing cadence, then a second set of 2 keeping cadence more constant and varying resistance (which felt easier). Interestingly the HR for each set shows how each U has a bit of recovery following it being pushed up by the O. Quite apart from anything else this gives a handy check that my current FTP guesstimate is in the right area and is a pointer that I could/should increase the power a bit to really push threshold.
Martin S. Newbury RC
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