Only doing all-out efforts isn’t the key to getting faster. Athletes can get faster with a structured training plan that develops multiple energy systems and promotes long term adaptation.

For more training tips check out Ask a Cycling Coach Ep 251.



You Shouldn’t Just Do All-Out Efforts All the Time

While all-out efforts have their place in a well-structured training plan, athletes shouldn’t just do max-effort repeats. Making these efforts your primary form of intensity doesn’t sustain adaptation over a prolonged period of time or train all the necessary energy systems. Eventually, an athlete will experience diluted stimulation and their performance will plateau. Athletes need to train multiple energy systems and build on their progress over time before they integrate all-out efforts into their training.

Diluted Stimulation

When all-out efforts are your primary form of training, over time, you’ll experience diluted stimulation. Diluted stimulation happens when you place too much emphasis on one power zone and it progressively becomes more difficult to stimulate adaptation in that specific energy system. To continue progressing, athletes have to add more and more time spent training, with less and less reward. The adaptation achieved is ultimately not proportionate to the amount of training and work demanded of an athlete.

This doesn’t just include hard efforts. Spending all your time in any one zone isn’t productive. The more adapted you become at any given type of training, the more stimulus it requires to further that adaptation. This is why athletes need to complete workouts in a range of zones and work on training multiple energy systems.

Energy Systems

Athletes need to develop and reinforce multiple energy systems in order to fine-tune the fitness and power they might need in a race. Max effort intervals really only train one energy system, which prevents athletes from developing the fitness range they need to be successful in any type of event.

This is why we emphasize the importance of training and improving different energy systems. Athletes can promote more physical adaptation across the spectrum by progressing through different levels of intensity at the right time. Your training plan will progressively integrate intensity as your fitness and training builds.

Base, Build, and Specialty

Athletes can find this type of structure in a Base, Build and Specialty progression. Base, Build and Specialty are structured to stimulate different energy systems efficiently and effectively. In the Base phase, athletes train the energy systems used to establish endurance and aerobic fitness. As athletes progress through the training plan and work through the Build phase their workouts will become increasingly more specific to the type of racing that they do. Finally, the Speciality phase sharpens your fitness for race day, while shedding fatigue. That way, you’ll be in top form for when it counts.

The Time For All-Out Efforts

That’s not to say that workouts with race-specific intensity don’t have their place in a training plan. When you reach the Specialty phase you will refine your power with workouts and intervals that incorporate race like intensity. This intensity will be specific to your discipline of racing so that your power is refined for the demands of your discipline.

This is the time to benefit from workouts max-effort repeats. You’ve spent weeks and months beforehand, training different energy systems and building the foundation needed in those energy systems to refine your racing energy system. 

Trust The Process

As you get faster, it can be tempting to go outside and put your fitness to the test. While those all-out workouts might seem productive, they aren’t beneficial for the longevity of your progression. Save it for race day, Ramp tests, and the Specialty phase, and focus on investing in the progression of your energy systems now.

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Meghan Kelley

Meghan Kelley is a writer, XC MTB racer and trail enthusiast. Her years spent racing XC and working at TrainerRoad has translated to a passion for all things cycling.