Limit to number of threshold sessions per week?

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Limit to number of threshold sessions per week?

Postby Mca.and » Tue Apr 30, 2013 7:23 pm

I have seen numerous reports that have listed threshold training sessions (i.e. 2x20 close to threshold power) to be at most 10% of training load per week (time). I find this concept interesting as many individuals may be able to handle more than 10%. Also, this 10% rule seems extremely generalised as some individuals may be training 15 hours a week, others 5. The person training 5 hours may spend 40 or 50% of their time doing threshold workouts.

My first question is - how do you find a good balance? If you feel like you can do 2x20 minute efforts at 90-105% FTP twice or even three times per week, then why not go for it?

Second question is - wouldn't doing frequent threshold training sessions (as in question 1) be the fastest way to increase threshold power? The training is highly specific and once you have boosted threshold you could move on to build VO2 power etc. You may have a drop in endurance but cant this generally be maintained with one long ride per week?

What I am thinking:

Mon: Rest
Tues: 2x20 min @90% FTP `- 1 hr
Wed: Moderate ride 1.5 hrs
Thurs: 2x20 min 90% FTP - 1hr
Friday: Reco ride 1 hr
Saturday: 4x10 min 90-105% FTP - 1hr
Sunday: 3 hr ride slow

This is close to 25% at FTP. You are getting rest on friday from the tues,wed,thur sessions. You are also getting a day off monday for the sat and sunday sessions. I am guessing that your TSS would not be too high for these sessions so you may not get large improvements in CTL due to increased volume, however you are maintaining a high amount of specificity to increase FTP.
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by BNA » Tue Apr 30, 2013 7:43 pm

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Re: Limit to number of threshold sessions per week?

Postby toolonglegs » Tue Apr 30, 2013 7:43 pm

You said you had just done 6 weeks of FTP work ? ( with no improvement on actual FTP )... I would personally be going a lot harder than this then (but depends where you are with your training / goals ) ... 90% FTP isn't that hard... I would be doing much more time at threshold and more VO2 work as well ( you have no Vo2 work in there )
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Re: Limit to number of threshold sessions per week?

Postby Mca.and » Tue Apr 30, 2013 7:57 pm

This would be an increase in FTP work. Before I was doing a threshold session and some sweet spot (1 hard and 1 hard-medium). I am thinking 3 hard sessions a week (2 FTP and 1 VO2 would be better).
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Re: Limit to number of threshold sessions per week?

Postby toolonglegs » Tue Apr 30, 2013 8:03 pm

90% FTP is sweet spot... So in the above you have 4x10 minutes at threshold and no work at VO2
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Re: Limit to number of threshold sessions per week?

Postby Arlberg » Tue Apr 30, 2013 8:39 pm

Sorry to interrupt this thread, but once you have built up a solid base, why wouldn't it make sense to just ride as hard as you can all the time? Wouldn't this also lead to improvement?
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Re: Limit to number of threshold sessions per week?

Postby jules21 » Tue Apr 30, 2013 9:35 pm

Arlberg wrote:Sorry to interrupt this thread, but once you have built up a solid base, why wouldn't it make sense to just ride as hard as you can all the time? Wouldn't this also lead to improvement?

no. your muscles respond differently to different loads. you need to stimulate them at the full range of loads. recovery riding has a different effect on muscle rebuilding than FTP, and than VO2max intensities.

i'm no expert mind you, i'm just a MAMIL who is getting back into racing after a long lay-off. but i can certainly attest that riding around at a single intensity won't get you far.
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Re: Limit to number of threshold sessions per week?

Postby trailgumby » Tue Apr 30, 2013 10:15 pm

jules21 wrote:
Arlberg wrote:Sorry to interrupt this thread, but once you have built up a solid base, why wouldn't it make sense to just ride as hard as you can all the time? Wouldn't this also lead to improvement?

no. your muscles respond differently to different loads. you need to stimulate them at the full range of loads. recovery riding has a different effect on muscle rebuilding than FTP, and than VO2max intensities.

i'm no expert mind you, i'm just a MAMIL who is getting back into racing after a long lay-off. but i can certainly attest that riding around at a single intensity won't get you far.

+1. Riding at different intensities for different periods of time broadens your capabilities.

For example, while I put most power out at around 100-105rpm, doing low cadence hill repeat work (~70rpm) helps me smoothen out my pedal stroke, and also trains me to handle the higher torque loads you typically are required to deal with mountain biking. I hate those sessions, they're horrendous, but they work. On your approach, I'd just ride 100-105rpm to get up those climbs quickest all the time.

Also, riding flat out all the time just empties your tank, making it harder to back up for the next "quality" session, usually 48 hours later. I find a nice relaxing cruisy spin on the middle day (Wednesday) for a longer period (eg 2 hours) helps with endurance and the legs are fresh for another flogging on Thursday, where I will go on the flat-out hill repeats again but at 100-105rpm this time.

Mondays and Fridays and Fridays I have off, Saturday is a bit of fun skills practice for an hour or so, and Sunday is the main training ride, usually 60-80km off road.

You need to remember, it is the rest-recover supercomensation training couplet that boosts your fitness.

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If you go too hard or don;t allow adequate recovery, you end up burying yourself into what's called overtraining, and that is a deep dark hole you want to stay out of.
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Re: Limit to number of threshold sessions per week?

Postby Arlberg » Wed May 01, 2013 7:15 am

Interesting.....

How does one calculate their optimal cadence for maximum efficiency and power output? I assume it is different for everyone? 100-105rpm seems way to high to me. My usual cadence is about 80rpm on the flat and less than that going uphill. Any cadence higher than that and it feels like I am wasting energy by just spinning quickly and not thrusting forward enough.
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Re: Limit to number of threshold sessions per week?

Postby filip » Wed May 01, 2013 5:03 pm

I've read in other forums that you kind of have to weigh up what is best for you :2x20 SST (90%) which you can do every day (giving you volume and consistency) or 2x20 FTP (95-100% giving you quality) which you need 48 hours to recover from before you can do the next quality session. Of course you don't have to stick with the 2x20 format, I've also read that 6-8 x 5' intervals (AT) 106-108% with 1' rest in between are also effective for improving FTP
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Re: Limit to number of threshold sessions per week?

Postby vander » Wed May 01, 2013 6:22 pm

filip wrote: 2x20 FTP (95-100% giving you quality) which you need 48 hours to recover from before you can do the next quality session.

This just straight up is not right. Different people respond differently there is nothing to say that you need 48 hours to recover. These sort of set rules are what causes problems.

On the other note I used to do 2 sets of 5x5mins with 1min rest between as you have described and this is extremely tough, good session IMO. Should do some again.

Personally I would never do 2x20 (AT) 90% of FTP unless you were not feeling great, I just feel its not tough enough. I generally aim for 2x20 (AT) or above FTP you need to really push yourself but after there first 3-4 sessions I have found it actually gets a lot easier (even while upping the power) the first few sessions are a struggle.
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Re: Limit to number of threshold sessions per week?

Postby march83 » Wed May 01, 2013 6:50 pm

One of the big problems with large servings of interval training is, as someone had already alluded to, the cadence. If you look at the quadrant analysis of an interval session compared to a hard road ride or a crit or whatever, the interval session is like a sniper rifle with hundreds of shots in a tiny range of pedal force and velocity while the crit will be a shotgun spray all over the place.

Basically, spending big chunks of time doing any sort of roller/trainer work is going to rob you of opportunities to develop neuromuscular/cns adaptations. It's a trade off so for some, depending on where they're starting from and what they're training for, a lot of trainer work may reap benefits or it may not.
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Re: Limit to number of threshold sessions per week?

Postby Mca.and » Thu May 02, 2013 7:28 am

vander wrote:
filip wrote: 2x20 FTP (95-100% giving you quality) which you need 48 hours to recover from before you can do the next quality session.

This just straight up is not right. Different people respond differently there is nothing to say that you need 48 hours to recover. These sort of set rules are what causes problems.



I completely agree with this. I have found there is so much literature going around saying x is optimal or this is optimal. Or you need this many hours to recover and your training should be in x range at this time. While these are good in general, I have seen some strict guidelines. I am now having way more fun mixing up my sessions with FTP work and VO2 work. Doing 3 hard sessions a week if not racing or 2 a week if racing. Seems to be going well so far. Never bored either!
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Re: Limit to number of threshold sessions per week?

Postby filip » Thu May 02, 2013 11:23 am

Never thought about the cadence problem at intervals march83 is referring to. Would you not have to compare an interval session similar like a crit (like for instance the hour of power) ? In that case cadence would be also all over the place as well, granted less than a crit ?

I spend quite some time on my trainer for intervals, even in summer, as it easier to hold a certain wattage for a certain time and get structure, while on the road i’m all over the place. The last couple of months i dropped my trainer time to time on the road and it feels that i lost fitness, falling short in vo2 max race situations and even in some cases struggling to maintain pace, where normally i would be in the thick of it. Getting rained out 4 times in a row for racing and then having daylight saving hasn’t helped i suppose, but it all started playing on me. Went back to the trainer the other day and my ftp (on the trainer) had fallen from 298 to 255 as well my vo2 max. As Mca.and, i’m now working mixing ftp (mostly SST though) and vo2 max (3’ intervals), and in my head, i’m feeling am getting stronger. Mentally it’s easier to ride on the road then on the trainer, but it doesn’t seem to generate the results for me.
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Re: Limit to number of threshold sessions per week?

Postby trailgumby » Thu May 02, 2013 1:03 pm

Arlberg wrote:Interesting.....

How does one calculate their optimal cadence for maximum efficiency and power output? I assume it is different for everyone? 100-105rpm seems way to high to me. My usual cadence is about 80rpm on the flat and less than that going uphill. Any cadence higher than that and it feels like I am wasting energy by just spinning quickly and not thrusting forward enough.

It's not really a "calculation" ... it varies for each person, and I've found from experience that it's what works and is comfortable for me. Low cadence stuff burns me up. Yet some of my mates pull taller gearing no problems. I can't sustain it.

Lance famously used to spin up the mountains at ~100rpm, while Jan Ullrich used to grind at a low cadence and bigger gear. He is reported to have tried spinning but didn't get on with it. Given they were both on the Edgar I don't think you can say that was the reason :lol:

While the high RPM short gearing does feel like you're not going anywhere, that "not going anywhere" sees me pass a lot of folks who took off ahead of me on the lower reaches of the longer climbs.

Find a cadence that's comfortable, lock it in, and run it 8)
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Re: Limit to number of threshold sessions per week?

Postby vander » Thu May 02, 2013 1:28 pm

march83 wrote:One of the big problems with large servings of interval training is, as someone had already alluded to, the cadence. If you look at the quadrant analysis of an interval session compared to a hard road ride or a crit or whatever, the interval session is like a sniper rifle with hundreds of shots in a tiny range of pedal force and velocity while the crit will be a shotgun spray all over the place.

Basically, spending big chunks of time doing any sort of roller/trainer work is going to rob you of opportunities to develop neuromuscular/cns adaptations. It's a trade off so for some, depending on where they're starting from and what they're training for, a lot of trainer work may reap benefits or it may not.


Cadence is very much overrated. If you FTP goes up from 250W-300W that is much more beneficial then being able to hold a variety of cadences. On the road you have gears a lot of people do not use them in races it always helps. How much time do you think it takes to get these 'neuromuscular/cns adaptations'? Generally 1-2 group sessions/races you will be up to pace with this more varied cadence stuff. The problem is less the cadence and more the varied power its not as steady as on the trainer this can stuff people up. As I said above a couple of these more varied session you can usually adjust to it, if you have the power in your legs.

Cadence has much more of a focus then it deserves. The only time I have found cadence to be a problem is on the track as you only have one gear there, if you are going to do races on the track then a different approach is advised but I still do most my training for it on the trainer. In the end if you can put out the power then you will be ok, if you cant you will get dropped. In a race if you are spinning too much change up a gear if you are grinding too slow go down a gear, its not too difficult.
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Re: Limit to number of threshold sessions per week?

Postby Arlberg » Thu May 02, 2013 1:58 pm

Trailgumby some great points there, thanks.

I find I tire more quickly going up a hill in a higher cadence and smaller gear than I do with a lower cadence and bigger gear. Not only that by my times with the lower cadence and the bigger gear are also faster. So I get to the top not only faster but also less tired. A win win.

As others have mentioned, if you find yourself spinning too quickly go up a gear and if your legs are tiring drop down a gear. That's all there really is to it!
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Re: Limit to number of threshold sessions per week?

Postby march83 » Thu May 02, 2013 4:58 pm

vander wrote:Cadence is very much overrated. If you FTP goes up from 250W-300W that is much more beneficial then being able to hold a variety of cadences. On the road you have gears a lot of people do not use them in races it always helps. How much time do you think it takes to get these 'neuromuscular/cns adaptations'? Generally 1-2 group sessions/races you will be up to pace with this more varied cadence stuff. The problem is less the cadence and more the varied power its not as steady as on the trainer this can stuff people up. As I said above a couple of these more varied session you can usually adjust to it, if you have the power in your legs.

Cadence has much more of a focus then it deserves. The only time I have found cadence to be a problem is on the track as you only have one gear there, if you are going to do races on the track then a different approach is advised but I still do most my training for it on the trainer. In the end if you can put out the power then you will be ok, if you cant you will get dropped. In a race if you are spinning too much change up a gear if you are grinding too slow go down a gear, its not too difficult.


this is not necessarily a cadence thing, this is as much a pedal force/torque thing and it all ties back to specificity. the OP wants to know whether spending increasingly more time doing intervals will help: yes, hitting XXX watts at YY cadence and ZZ pedal force for 20 minutes at a time will make you extremely good at hitting XXX watts at YY cadence and ZZ pedal force for 20 minutes at a time. If the OP wants to be better at racing crits then the best thing to help that is racing crits.

this is an interval session. 2x20 (AT) 340W, NP = 309W:
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this is a crit. NP = 316W:
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the crit is all over the place - torque and cadence is all over the place. the intervals on the other hand are the same datapoints hundreds and hundreds of times.

if the OP has the capacity to increase his watts from 250 to 300 then that's probably going to happen whether he spends his time racing or training, but i agree that getting those watts up will make far more difference than just neuromuscular/cns stuff that you will get from spirited road rides or racing. I also agree that the trainer is probably going to happen faster on a trainer than a race track.

very valid point about the track - that's really where i'm coming from. i can do all the work i want raising my FTP, doing vo2max sessions and what-not but if i do them on my roadie with free choice of gearing and leg speed then i will invariably drop the pace to a comfortable cadence+pedal-force which is a very long way from the cadence+pedal-force that i will be using on the track and hence the one i need to be training at to get the training effect and results i want on the velodrome. this is of course an outlier, but it's a really good example of the point i'm making. obviously, there's not heaps of track racing going on all year round so to train for the track getting the sessions to match the real thing as close as possible is really important.

alls that i am saying is, with only so many minutes in the week that can be spent on the bike and of those only so many that can be spent at or above the LT, there is a point at which prioritising time on the trainer over time racing that will be detrimental to training progression if the intended goal is improvement in race performance. If the OP is taking away time on the crit track to do more trainer sessions then i think that's the wrong move. if there aren't any races he can get to then definitely, lifting the watts by churning out intervals on the trainer the next best thing. Just (hopefully) offering a different perspective to the usual, is all...
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Re: Limit to number of threshold sessions per week?

Postby vander » Thu May 02, 2013 6:45 pm

You are definitely overestimating the pedal force thing, for me (all I can really discuss) being able to hit a 20min sesion on the trainer @320W (AT) around 85RPM meant I could hit those sort of watts in a start stop crit, up a hill (AT) 75RPM and a breakaway in a race at over 90RPM as long as I wasnt a long way out of the optimal cadence range I could still hit those numbers, now if you spent every minute on the trainer you might have a problem but noone is saying to do that.

Additionally racing is going to be the best thing he can do to improve his racing, this is a given, not just for the training benefits but also tactics etc. Noone is saying not to race. As far as how much time at threshold if you feel good you can probably do the threshold work if you feel tired you probably should give them a miss. It is impossible to say you can do x minutes as it depends on work stress, proper nutrition, amount and quality of sleep etc. Most people I believe can do a lot more threshold work if they want. Especially if they learn to have their easy sessions actually easy, which is what most people I would say do wrong.
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Re: Limit to number of threshold sessions per week?

Postby boss » Sun May 05, 2013 8:15 am

trailgumby wrote:Lance famously used to spin up the mountains at ~100rpm, while Jan Ullrich used to grind at a low cadence and bigger gear. He is reported to have tried spinning but didn't get on with it. Given they were both on the Edgar I don't think you can say that was the reason :lol:


EPO and high cadence go hand in hand. High cadence shifts the burden of work from the muscles to the heart and lungs. EPO increases red blood cell count, optimising cardio efficiency.
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