Sweet Spot Training Can Benefit Any Rider
Sweet spot workouts improve a rider’s sustained power. This means that at a given level of effort you’re going faster. Even if you don’t use a power meter to measure it, increasing your sustained power improves your general riding, climbing and riding into a headwind. For example, if you usually do a local 20 – 30 minute climb at 7 mph increasing your power may mean you can climb at 7.5 mph. Because sweet spot workouts improve your sustained power they also improve your cruising speed.
If you normally do an endurance ride at 14 – 15 mph, sweet spot training may improve your speed to 15 – 16 mph. How much you will improve depends on your current fitness, the specific workouts you do and a variety of other factors, which vary among individuals. Sweet spot training will improve your riding; however, it may be more or less than the two examples.
Here is a column I wrote that explains in detail what the sweet spot is and how it can benefit every rider:
Increase Endurance Base First
You’ll achieve better results if you focus on just one aspect of riding at a time starting with your endurance base, which is the foundation for harder kinds of riding. Building your endurance means doing progressively longer rides and more volume. These stress you physiologically and when you allow time for recovery you get fitter. You can only handle so much stress at a time lest you fall into overtraining. During base training, endurance (not power) is the priority so use your training capacity to ride endurance miles. Here’s a column on:
In general you should do at least a couple of months of endurance training before you start sweet spot training. If you’re an endurance rider then do endurance training for three or four months until you’re approaching the distance of your planned summer rides. For example, if you will be doing 60 to 70 mile rides this summer then your longest early season training rides should be 2/3 to 3/4 the distance of these, i.e., about 40 to 50 miles.
Improvement depends on an upward slope of training overload and recovery. To allow sufficient recovery some weeks should be harder and some weeks easier. Depending on your age and fitness one of the following is applicable:
Older more experienced riders and younger newer riders: Several progressively harder weeks and then an easier recovery week. Typically you’d do three progressively harder weeks and then an easier week; however, it could be four harder weeks and an easier week or two harder weeks and an easier week depending on what fits your schedule. For example, for a four-week block you could ride:
- Week #1 – 75 total miles
- Week #2 – 85 total miles
- Week #3 – 100 total miles
- Week #4 – 50 miles
Then you’d start a second four-week block that’s harder, e.g.,
- Week #1 – 85 total miles
- Week #2 – 100 total miles
- Week #3 – 115 total miles
- Week #4 – 65 miles
Older less experienced riders: In general you need more recovery and alternating harder and easier weeks produces better results. For example, for a four-week block you could ride:
- Week #1 – 75 total miles
- Week #2 – 50 total miles
- Week #3 – 90 total miles
- Week #4 – 60 miles
Then you’d start a second four-week block that’s harder by increasing the miles per week by 10 to 20%
How to Incorporate Sweet Spot Training
Sweet spot workouts increase the training load by a lot so you should reduce your endurance training. As a rough rule of thumb for every hour of sweet spot workouts (including warm-up and cool-down) you add in a week decrease your endurance riding by about 1:30 to 2:00 hours. This is sufficient endurance riding to maintain your endurance.
Another alternative is to do a couple of months of endurance training, then shift gears to sweet spot training for a month or two while reducing your endurance training. After a month or two of SS training then cut back on your SS training and ramp up your endurance training again.
One Sweet Spot Workout or Two a Week?
If you do two somewhat shorter sweet spot workouts in a week you’ll have more total time in the SS than if you do one longer workout. E.g., if you do one session with 30 to 35 minutes of SS (plus warm-up and cool-down) you’ll have less total SS training than if you do two sessions of 20 to 25 minutes of SS (plus w/u and c/d). The two sessions don’t have to be the same length. Allow one or two recovery days between SS workouts. If you’re an experienced rider then the recovery days can be active recovery days on the bike. If you’re a relatively new rider then the recovery days are off the bike.
Progressive Sweet Spot Overload
Doing sweet spot training you follow the same patterns of overload and recovery as with endurance training.
Older more experienced riders and younger newer riders: For example for a four-week block you could ride:
- Week 1: two sweet spot sessions with a total of 50 minutes in the SS plus warm-up and cool-down
- Week 2: two SS sessions with a total of 55 minutes in the SS plus w/u and c/d.
- Week 3: two SS sessions with a total of 60 minutes in the SS plus w/u and c/d.
- Week 4: two sessions with a total of 40 minutes in the SS plus w/u and c/d.
Then you’d start a second four-week block that’s harder by increasing the total SS time per week by 5 to 10%
Older less experienced riders: For example for a four-week block you could ride:
- Week 1: two sessions with total 50 minutes in the SS plus warm-up and cool-down
- Week 2: two sessions with total 40 minutes in the SS plus w/u and c/d.
- Week 3: two sessions with total 55 minutes in the SS plus w/u and c/d.
- Week 4: two sessions with total 30 minutes in the SS plus w/u and c/d.
Then you’d start a second four-week block that’s harder by increasing the total SS time per week by 5 to 15%.
In another column I’ll share with you the sweet spot workouts my clients do.
This column describes how to do sweet spot training by perceived exertion, heart rate and power. I explain how to determine the right initial workouts for you and give sample structured and unstructured workouts:
You’ll get the most out of your sweet spot training if you do it correctly. This column describes
My eBook Intensity Training: Using Perceived Exertion, Heart Rate and Power to Maximize Training Effectiveness is written for health and fitness riders, recreational and club riders, endurance riders and racers. I explain in much more detail how training at different intensities brings about different physiological adaptations. I guide you through the process of establishing your own training zones so you can train at the proper intensities for your specific training objectives. I include sample year-round plans so you ride at the correct intensities at different times of the year. I provide over 50 structured and unstructured workouts at different intensities for different training objectives. The 40-page Intensity Training for Cyclists is $4.99.
My eBook Cycling Past 50, 60 and Beyond: Training with Intensity explains what happens to your body as you age and the physiological benefits of riding with intensity. I give you five progressively harder levels of training and for each level of training provide three to five examples each of structured and unstructured workouts, a total of almost 40 workouts. The 27-page Cycling Past 50, 60 and Beyond: Training with Intensity is $4.99.
Coach John Hughes earned coaching certifications from USA Cycling and the National Strength and Conditioning Association. John’s cycling career includes course records in the Boston-Montreal-Boston 1200-km randonnée and the Furnace Creek 508, a Race Across AMerica (RAAM) qualifier. He has ridden solo RAAM twice and is a 5-time finisher of the 1200-km Paris-Brest-Paris. He has written nearly 30 eBooks and eArticles on cycling training and nutrition, available in RBR’s eBookstore at Coach John Hughes. Click to read John's full bio.