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Sweet spot - intervals vs steady state

roburobu Posts: 26
Can anyone shed light on the relative merits of sweet spot intervals vs sweet spot steady state.

Is there any physiological advantage or disadvantage of doing 1x60 minutes @ 85-90% FTP instead of the 6x10 minutes @ 85-90% FTP (with, say, 3-minute 50% FTP 'rests' between the intervals) advocated by a training programme such as Trainerroad?

The longer session elicits a lower TSS, but at a higher IF, which surely isn't a problem as it's still all aerobic and sub-FTP?

And wouldn't a single long interval provide more 'bang for buck' in training terms than a series of shorter intervals?

Posts

  • imposter2.0imposter2.0 Posts: 11,729
    Depends what you're training for - or what your performance goals/objectives are...
  • rdtrdt Posts: 869
    Performing AxB (eg. 6 x 10min) intervals at a given intensity level is much easier to complete (because of the recovery valleys) than doing all the work in one AB (eg. 60min) block at that same intensity level.

    By breaking it down into intervals, you can do more work, thereby spending more time at a given intensity level.

    For example, I did TrainerRoad's Kaweah workout:

    Screenshot-2019-01-13-at-20-20-18.png

    ...described as "5x10-minute intervals between 96-99% FTP with 5-minute recoveries between intervals."

    During the final minutes of each of the 10min intervals, I was just hanging in there. It would be impossible for me to have completed one single 50min block at 96-99% of FTP. In order to do 50mins continuous work, it would have to be done at a lower intensity level (lower % of FTP), which would deliver a different training effect...

    So by splitting up the work into manageable intervals, separated by recovery valleys, I've managed to spend more time at that target (96-99% of FTP) intensity level.
  • I personally always enjoy doing longer duration sweetspot intervals, however as rdt said, intervals are a good means of acquiring time in a given zone. So for example, if you wanted to do a workout with 2 hours worth of time spent in sweetspot, you would probably want to do it in intervals. 2x60 @ 90% is pretty darn hard, but possible if fresh, however 4x30, or 6x20 is far more attainable. These are still hard workouts, but you really would get a lot of volume in the given zone and could be achieved during a 2.5-3 hour ride.

    The same logic can be applied to subsequent days of training too. If you planned on doing multiple sweetspot sessions day after day, then you would probably want to dial it back a bit. Unintentionally, my commutes end up tending to be sweetspot, as this is my enjoyable cruising pace, however, given that only about 30 minutes of the hour journey can be done in a consistent block, I tend to do one 20-30 minute interval each way.

    The other thing i've enjoyed doing recently, which has really improved my training is that i've just simplified it to trying to accrue as much intensity in higher zones as I can, in the shortest span of time and thus have really enjoyed over-unders.

    So for example, I initially set myself the challenge of spending 40 minutes at 300w+ during an hour long session (110% FT). This would be flat-out impossible for me to do as one interval, but doing it as either 2 min on, 1 min off, or 40s on 20s off makes it far more attainable, and I've had a very good response from doing so, despite it being mentally quite a bit easier.
    Similarly, did the same for 400w, but targetted 30s on, 30s off to accrue 50% of the time during a workout at 400w. Granted, this one I hit a hard leg fatigue wall after about 20 minutes, despite the off interval being easy, so will adjust it down a bit.

    So in conclusion, I would say that if you are only planning on doing an hour at sweetspot, just do a straight hour, however if you are planning longer, or plan on doing 2-3 back to back days of sweetspot, then intervals would definitely allow you to accrue a larger % of time in the target zone during a whole workout.
  • joe2008joe2008 Posts: 1,531
    rdt wrote:

    It would be impossible for me to have completed one single 50min block at 96-99% of FTP.

    Then your ftp is set too high.
  • joe2008 wrote:
    rdt wrote:

    It would be impossible for me to have completed one single 50min block at 96-99% of FTP.

    Then your ftp is set too high.

    Not necessarily. And whilst this is purely a personal anecdote, my ability to hold power for longer durations has improved through my ability to tolerate high levels of discomfort vs. my actual level of fitness. Anyway, here’s Trainnerroad’s take on it:

    https://support.trainerroad.com/hc/en-u ... our-Power-
  • joe2008joe2008 Posts: 1,531
    joe2008 wrote:
    rdt wrote:

    It would be impossible for me to have completed one single 50min block at 96-99% of FTP.

    Then your ftp is set too high.

    Not necessarily. And whilst this is purely a personal anecdote, my ability to hold power for longer durations has improved through my ability to tolerate high levels of discomfort vs. my actual level of fitness. Anyway, here’s Trainnerroad’s take on it:

    https://support.trainerroad.com/hc/en-u ... our-Power-

    Even taking that into account if a rider can't hold 96-99% for 50 minutes her/his 'ftp' is too high.
  • rdtrdt Posts: 869
    edited January 2019
    joe2008 wrote:
    Even taking that into account if a rider can't hold 96-99% for 50 minutes her/his 'ftp' is too high.


    "FTP" in the context I used it is simply the number calculated using TR's ramp test, which is subsequently used to calibrate the workouts for me.

    The Workouts are doable at that calculated FTP, meaning it's correct for the purpose in which it's being used, whereas a 50min continuous effort at that calculated "FTP" would be impossible for me as stated.

    If I were to do a 60 minute maximal one-hour effort in order to determine an ""FTP" would I get a different, lower number? Undoubtedly. But it's irrelevant, as the FTP number I use has a single purpose: to calibrate TR workouts. It is the correct number for that purpose - it's a tool, not a badge.


    Debates about whether a ramp, 8min, 20min or 1 hr test would give me the same or different results isn't relevant to my use case of an FTP number, or, more relevant to this thread, to the original point made about being able to do more work at a higher intensity level if that effort is broken down into intervals separated by recovery valleys.
  • wavefrontwavefront Posts: 269
    joe2008 wrote:
    joe2008 wrote:
    rdt wrote:

    It would be impossible for me to have completed one single 50min block at 96-99% of FTP.

    Then your ftp is set too high.

    Not necessarily. And whilst this is purely a personal anecdote, my ability to hold power for longer durations has improved through my ability to tolerate high levels of discomfort vs. my actual level of fitness. Anyway, here’s Trainnerroad’s take on it:

    https://support.trainerroad.com/hc/en-u ... our-Power-

    Even taking that into account if a rider can't hold 96-99% for 50 minutes her/his 'ftp' is too high.

    Look at the general context of what's being asked and understand what other sessions are being done before fixating on the technicality - have you never found that some days you can barely turn the pedals due to fatigue? I'd have also have said doing 50mins at 96-99% was impossible for me - yesterday. Today is a different day. Tomorrow I'll be more rested, and my legs should have returned. That one statement alone doesn't suggest ftp is set too high if you put it in context of the other training being done.
  • joe2008 wrote:
    joe2008 wrote:
    rdt wrote:

    It would be impossible for me to have completed one single 50min block at 96-99% of FTP.

    Then your ftp is set too high.

    Not necessarily. And whilst this is purely a personal anecdote, my ability to hold power for longer durations has improved through my ability to tolerate high levels of discomfort vs. my actual level of fitness. Anyway, here’s Trainnerroad’s take on it:

    https://support.trainerroad.com/hc/en-u ... our-Power-

    Even taking that into account if a rider can't hold 96-99% for 50 minutes her/his 'ftp' is too high.

    But ftp isn't hour power. Andrew Coggan has specifically stated that.
  • joe2008joe2008 Posts: 1,531
    joe2008 wrote:
    joe2008 wrote:
    rdt wrote:

    It would be impossible for me to have completed one single 50min block at 96-99% of FTP.

    Then your ftp is set too high.

    Not necessarily. And whilst this is purely a personal anecdote, my ability to hold power for longer durations has improved through my ability to tolerate high levels of discomfort vs. my actual level of fitness. Anyway, here’s Trainnerroad’s take on it:

    https://support.trainerroad.com/hc/en-u ... our-Power-

    Even taking that into account if a rider can't hold 96-99% for 50 minutes her/his 'ftp' is too high.

    But ftp isn't hour power. Andrew Coggan has specifically stated that.

    But I didn't question that; what I said was that if you can't hold 96 - 99% of ftp for 50 minutes then you're 'ftp' is set too high.
  • joe2008 wrote:
    joe2008 wrote:
    joe2008 wrote:
    rdt wrote:


    But I didn't question that; what I said was that if you can't hold 96 - 99% of ftp for 50 minutes then you're 'ftp' is set too high.
    Not necessarily, if a 20 minute test is performed today and gives a value x 0.95 then that is your ftp today, that doesn't mean you can ride at 96-99% ftp for 50 mins, maybe you should but a test value is a test value and gives a number to set zones by. There are any number of reasons why you may not be able to ride for 50 mins including psychological.#

    Though theoretically you should be able to of course
  • joe2008joe2008 Posts: 1,531
    OnTheRopes wrote:
    joe2008 wrote:
    joe2008 wrote:
    joe2008 wrote:
    rdt wrote:


    But I didn't question that; what I said was that if you can't hold 96 - 99% of ftp for 50 minutes then you're 'ftp' is set too high.
    Not necessarily, if a 20 minute test is performed today and gives a value x 0.95 then that is your ftp today, that doesn't mean you can ride at 96-99% ftp for 50 mins, maybe you should but a test value is a test value and gives a number to set zones by. There are any number of reasons why you may not be able to ride for 50 mins including psychological.#

    Though theoretically you should be able to of course

    Yes, but back to the original statement which was that he/she split his/her sweetspot effort up in to 10 minute intervals because he/she would have found it impossible to ride for 50 minutes at that intensity.

    Not that he/she had a psychological reason, or had just done another effort, or whatever...

    So I said that his/her ftp was too high.
  • rdtrdt Posts: 869
    joe2008 wrote:
    Yes, but back to the original statement which was that he/she split his/her sweetspot effort up in to 10 minute intervals because he/she would have found it impossible to ride for 50 minutes at that intensity.

    Not that he/she had a psychological reason, or had just done another effort, or whatever...

    So I said that his/her ftp was too high.


    Boring! I've already addressed your points, so I suggest you re-read my prior post.

    Instead of arguing pointlessly that the estimated determination of my "FTP number" doesn't match your preferred definition for FTP as being the highest average power sustainable for an hour*, why not post something useful in response to the OP's original question?


    * It is completely pointless arguing about such things; any and all tests are simply methods for obtaining an approximate number, an estimated abstract value, the purpose of which is to calibrate subsequent training efforts. All that matters is whether the number derived achieves that goal.
  • joe2008joe2008 Posts: 1,531
    rdt wrote:

    Boring! I've already addressed your points, so I suggest you re-read my prior post.

    Instead of arguing pointlessly that the estimated determination of my "FTP number" doesn't match your preferred definition for FTP as being the highest average power sustainable for an hour*, why not post something useful in response to the OP's original question?


    * It is completely pointless arguing about such things; any and all tests are simply methods for obtaining an approximate number, an estimated abstract value, the purpose of which is to calibrate subsequent training efforts. All that matters is whether the number derived achieves that goal.

    I like this definition of FTP:

    "FTP is the maximal quasi steady state power one can sustain without fatigue for a long time. Typically, time to exhaustion at FTP is in the 40 to 70 minute range."

    Therefore you shouldn't find it impossible to hold 96 - 99% of FTP for 50 minutes if your FTP is correctly set.
  • Steady state is better and faster for developing fatigue resistance.

    Intervals are better for accumulating more time at sweet spot because you will be able to do more.

    Regarding FTP bickering, FTP doesn't matter. Just do as much as you can and adjust your interval structure to achieve your goals.

    You can only do what you can do. The bigger risk is leaving too much in the tank.

    FTP doesn't matter. Steady state vs intervals is way more important than %FTP which is a construct.
  • joey54321joey54321 Posts: 1,297
    The accuracy of your FTP estimate may well matter as of its off significantly your training could well be in another zone then intended. For example, if your doing sweet spot intervals with a too-high FTP you'll end up doing threshold intervals which might reduce the effectiveness of the plan as a whole.

    Some good tests for accurate FTP is,imo, back to back long sweetspot works on subsequent days, 2 X 20 @ FTP and vo2 max work.
  • joey54321 wrote:
    The accuracy of your FTP estimate may well matter as of its off significantly your training could well be in another zone then intended. For example, if your doing sweet spot intervals with a too-high FTP you'll end up doing threshold intervals which might reduce the effectiveness of the plan as a whole.

    Interval structure can govern intensity. 4x4 MSI = VO2. 4 x 8 MSI = LT. 2x20 MSI = SST.
  • joe2008joe2008 Posts: 1,531
    joey54321 wrote:
    The accuracy of your FTP estimate may well matter as of its off significantly your training could well be in another zone then intended. For example, if your doing sweet spot intervals with a too-high FTP you'll end up doing threshold intervals which might reduce the effectiveness of the plan as a whole.

    Interval structure can govern intensity. 4x4 MSI = VO2. 4 x 8 MSI = LT. 2x20 MSI = SST.

    But it's possible to do 4x8 at VO2 or 2x20 at LT without too much trouble.
  • and how do you know your sweetspot if you don't know your ftp, surely sweetspot is derived from ftp?
  • robu wrote:
    Can anyone shed light on the relative merits of sweet spot intervals vs sweet spot steady state.

    Is there any physiological advantage or disadvantage of doing 1x60 minutes @ 85-90% FTP instead of the 6x10 minutes @ 85-90% FTP (with, say, 3-minute 50% FTP 'rests' between the intervals) advocated by a training programme such as Trainerroad?

    The longer session elicits a lower TSS, but at a higher IF, which surely isn't a problem as it's still all aerobic and sub-FTP?

    And wouldn't a single long interval provide more 'bang for buck' in training terms than a series of shorter intervals?

    There's *potentially* an advantage of doing the work as one continuous effort
    There's *potentially* an advantage of doing the work as a dis-continuous effort

    Confusing, eh!?

    1) in the continuous effort, the continuous nature of the work will fatigue your motor units (which 'operate' your muscles), forcing you to work in a more depleted state which is one of the ways that adaptations take place
    2) in the discontinuous effort it's possible (?) you're riding at a higher intensity than the continuous training, which will also provide more adaptations

    Which is better is impossible to say, because it depends on other factors. For e.g. if you do the continuous effort maybe you need 3 easy days after it, whereas with the intervals maybe you're back on it the next day (or vice versa). maybe you've had a tough day at work etc and the continuous effort trails off after a few minutes... maybe you're stressed and can't deal with the higher intensity etc

    The reason why i often say that there are no magic training sessions are that training shouldn't be thought of as a single session but what happens over days, weeks, months, years, etc and how it all fits together.

    i'd suggest that building a continuous sweetspot session on a regular basis is quite useful, building it to be a longish time is in general good for you.

    however, that said, you need to evaluate things in terms of your goals and the time you have available etc
    Coach to Michael Freiberg - Track World Champion (Omnium) 2011
    Coach to James Hayden - Transcontinental Race winner 2017, and 2018
    Coach to Jeff Jones - 2011 BBAR winner and 12-hour record
    Check out our new website https://www.cyclecoach.com
  • rdt wrote:
    joe2008 wrote:
    Even taking that into account if a rider can't hold 96-99% for 50 minutes her/his 'ftp' is too high.


    "FTP" in the context I used it is simply the number calculated using TR's ramp test, which is subsequently used to calibrate the workouts for me.

    The Workouts are doable at that calculated FTP, meaning it's correct for the purpose in which it's being used, whereas a 50min continuous effort at that calculated "FTP" would be impossible for me as stated.

    If I were to do a 60 minute maximal one-hour effort in order to determine an ""FTP" would I get a different, lower number? Undoubtedly. But it's irrelevant, as the FTP number I use has a single purpose: to calibrate TR workouts. It is the correct number for that purpose - it's a tool, not a badge.


    Debates about whether a ramp, 8min, 20min or 1 hr test would give me the same or different results isn't relevant to my use case of an FTP number, or, more relevant to this thread, to the original point made about being able to do more work at a higher intensity level if that effort is broken down into intervals separated by recovery valleys.

    As i explained to TR they're working things out not quite correctly. As the person who developed the guidelines for ascertaining FTP and training zones from a ramp test i explained that they really need to estimate FTP based on a range rather than a specific number, because, simply, not only does FTP differ from person to person as a % of MAP, it also differs for the same person at different phases of training/fitness.

    Due to the newer popularity of ramp/MAP testing i put together a new blog post yesterday https://www.cyclecoach.com/blog/2019/1/13/ramp-testing it also references other articles and if you search my blog for testing https://www.cyclecoach.com/blog?category=Testing there's some more MAP/ramp articles and podcasts

    Ric
    Coach to Michael Freiberg - Track World Champion (Omnium) 2011
    Coach to James Hayden - Transcontinental Race winner 2017, and 2018
    Coach to Jeff Jones - 2011 BBAR winner and 12-hour record
    Check out our new website https://www.cyclecoach.com
  • joey54321joey54321 Posts: 1,297
    Yes, you could do 2 x 20 mins ss or 2 x 20 mins threshold. Both are possible, but if the plan you are following assumes you are doing the intervals at ss and you end up at threshold the ramp rate of the plan and the recovery build in will likely be insufficient resulting in potential injury, illness or burnout.
  • joe2008 wrote:
    joey54321 wrote:
    The accuracy of your FTP estimate may well matter as of its off significantly your training could well be in another zone then intended. For example, if your doing sweet spot intervals with a too-high FTP you'll end up doing threshold intervals which might reduce the effectiveness of the plan as a whole.

    Interval structure can govern intensity. 4x4 MSI = VO2. 4 x 8 MSI = LT. 2x20 MSI = SST.

    But it's possible to do 4x8 at VO2 or 2x20 at LT without too much trouble.

    If what you can do at 4x4 is a good indicator of your VO2 max, I doubt you can do double that at the same intensity. You can, however, work at > LT and what you say about 2x20 is true but your recovery will suffer so you'll know that you have to dial it down.

    FTP has the same problem because it's a mashup of fitness and endurance. A 2x20 workout can be much harder for one person who has the same FTP as another person.
  • OnTheRopes wrote:
    and how do you know your sweetspot if you don't know your ftp, surely sweetspot is derived from ftp?

    FTP is circular math. You do a test and then wonder why a workout is too hard or too easy. Sweetspot is a conceptual in-between intensity with the goal of getting some stimulus without undue recovery. Focusing on recovery will get you the same result but much more accurately.
  • joey54321 wrote:
    Yes, you could do 2 x 20 mins ss or 2 x 20 mins threshold. Both are possible, but if the plan you are following assumes you are doing the intervals at ss and you end up at threshold the ramp rate of the plan and the recovery build in will likely be insufficient resulting in potential injury, illness or burnout.

    Not sure if this is to me or not, but if so then your ability to monitor your recovery is infinitely better than a generic plan based off a single number. No piece of paper knows your tolerance for load or rate or recovery week frequency needs.
  • OnTheRopes wrote:
    and how do you know your sweetspot if you don't know your ftp, surely sweetspot is derived from ftp?

    FTP is circular math. You do a test and then wonder why a workout is too hard or too easy. Sweetspot is a conceptual in-between intensity with the goal of getting some stimulus without undue recovery. Focusing on recovery will get you the same result but much more accurately.
    I'm not sure I even know what that means tbh
  • bobmcstuffbobmcstuff Posts: 10,373
    My 2p. I find Kaweah awful and I certainly wouldn't be able to do 50 minutes at a constant 95-99% FTP.

    However I find "criss-cross" or otherwise varying intervals of similar durations absolutely fine (for example Carillon has 4x 10 minute intervals in a similar range but it goes up and down a lot https://www.trainerroad.com/cycling/workouts/1641 and I find this one fine).

    Clearly this is a psychological effect, because the watts are in the same range and the TSS/kJ work out the same but varying the wattage every couple of minutes is just psychologically easier.
  • Actually I will update my comment to the effect that yes you should be able to do 50 minutes at 95-99% of FTP. Don't forget if you have obtained your FTP from a 20 minute test, then this is your MMP20 , subtract 5% from this gives you your FTP, then subtract another 1-5% as suggested to get 95-99%, this should be achievable for most
  • OnTheRopes wrote:
    Actually I will update my comment to the effect that yes you should be able to do 50 minutes at 95-99% of FTP. Don't forget if you have obtained your FTP from a 20 minute test, then this is your MMP20 , subtract 5% from this gives you your FTP, then subtract another 1-5% as suggested to get 95-99%, this should be achievable for most

    Got there in the end, abit like the 50min interval :lol:
    I'm sorry you don't believe in miracles
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