Training in the Sweet Spot power zone is one of the most effective ways an athlete can improve their aerobic capabilities.
Sweet Spot training is used to consolidate, or solidify, all the mixed types of training seen in a structured training plan. The idea is that an athlete can use Sweet Spot work to strengthen the base upon which all varied abilities are built on (aerobic endurance rides, VO2max intervals, anaerobic bursts, neuromuscular bursts, etc.).
Sweet Spot Training
If you’re familiar with training with power, then you already know the breakdown of different power zones based on a rider’s FTP. If you aren’t as familiar, learn all about it in our article on training with power.
The Sweet Spot power zone, which we define as 88% to 94% of FTP, is not named by mistake. This type of work achieves more positive physiological adaptations due to its repeatability at such a particular balance of intensity and volume. Compared to training in other power zones, you can prompt more meaningful and sustainable adaptations by continually working in this particular balance.
Training in certain power zones means different things for your cycling fitness, and sub-threshold Sweet Spot work is specifically aimed at improving your ability to resist fatigue at reasonably high power outputs over substantial lengths of time — this has effects on nearly all other aspects of your performance.
Whether it’s low-intensity, long-distance miles, high-intensity VO2max work, or anaerobic bursts, each approach can positively affect aerobic capabilities. This means improving slow and intermediate muscle fiber attributes, increasing fat metabolism via greater mitochondrial proliferation, increasing capillary beds within muscle tissue in order to bring more fuel to the working muscle, higher quantities of aerobic enzymes to break down fat as a primary fuel source, etc.
By following a properly structured training plan, you can implement a mix of training to improve your abilities in a number of ways; and then use Sweet Spot training to provide a better base of support to bring about higher muscular endurance/strength endurance/aerobic strength. All of which mean the same thing: a newfound ability to sustain higher percentages of FTP for longer durations.
Integrating Sweet Spot Work Into Your Training
Given the benefits of Sweet Spot work, you may now be thinking when and how should I integrate it into my training? Firstly, if your aim is to get faster, know that Sweet Spot work can be valuable in all phases — Base, Build and Speciality—of training. Athletes also find it effective when entering into a “re-build” phase to achieve a second peak in a season. Secondly, understanding the efficacy behind Sweet Spot work helps shed light on a number of Coach Chad’s most recent training plans updates.
The Sweet Spot Base plans have already seen these changes, with many of our Build and Specialty plans soon to be released. The logic here being: many of the same aerobic adaptations achieved through longer, lower-intensity rides can be achieved in less time training in the Sweet Spot power zone. For example, the former Sweet Spot Base plan saw a 150-minute aerobic endurance workout on a Saturday; in the revised plan you’ll find a 80-minute Sweet Spot weekend workout instead.
Sweet Spot training strengthens an athlete’s varied abilities to translate into a higher FTP and stronger aerobic engine. By training at this particular intensity, athletes are able to bring together the various ways they build strength in an efficient and impactful way.
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