8 Sweet Spot Myths Debunked
The Sweet Spot training concept is used all the time by riders around the world. Countless riders have improved because of it. But sometimes the term gets used incorrectly — and sometimes the ideas on how and when to Sweet Spot also get muddled.
So we’re going to clear that up here, tackling 8 Sweet Spot Myths with answers provided by the creator of Sweet Spot himself, Frank Overton.
First things first, what is Sweet Spot?
Frank Overton: Sweet Spot training is a balanced amount of intensity and volume that increases an athlete’s threshold power (FTP) and improves endurance. Sweet Spot occurs between a high zone 2 and low zone 4, or 84-97% of one's FTP. We’ve circled the Sweet Spot in our Sweet Spot graph showing the relationship between training benefits and recovery needed from training in zones 1 - 7.
Between the Sweet Spot ranges, athletes will stimulate a great deal of physiological adaptations that increase endurance and power at threshold. Sweet Spot is the one training zone where you get the most bang for your buck, and thus the nickname.
Sweet Spot came out of the development of the Performance Manager Chart in 2004 & 2005 with Dr. Andy Coggan. You can listen to the “How I invented Sweet Spot Training” podcast here.
Sweet Spot Myth #1: You should 6 Sweet Spot workouts a week
Absolutely not! In fact when I heard other platforms were recommending this, I made a video during the pandemic titled “Sweet Spot Training the FasCat Way” that talks about how we design two days of Sweet Spot training per week that coincide with two days of zone 2 training per week. This is what I call a Fatigue Dependent Training Plan Design.
Further customization and days of Sweet Spot comes from one-on-one coaching or self-coaching experimentation. Our Sweet Spot training plans have one structured Sweet Spot workout per week and one long unstructured Sweet Spot endurance ride on the weekend.
This ‘How Much Sweet Spot Should You Do?' training tip is based on the time of year, your ability and then power demands of various types of events, from road to fondo, gravel, mountain biking and even multisport.
For example as a masters criterium racer you should be able to 60 minutes of Sweet Spot in a race and therefore need to work your way up to that in training. However if you are a Cat 2 mountain bike, you need to be able to do two continuous hours of Sweet Spot because that’s what you’ll have to do in a race in order to do well.
Sweet Spot Myth #2: You should Sweet Spot year round
Au contraire, mon frère. We see athletes achieve the best results from periodizing their annual training into Fall Foundation phases, a weight lifting phase and base phase, and an interval phase. The base phase is where we apply lots and lots of Sweet Spot training. In an interval phase athletes will do little to no Sweet Spot training. This is what many call polarized training. We call it ‘fresher is faster’; having more rest days means athletes can belt out the watts.
Sweet Spot Myth #3: Sweet Spot is a training theory that is contrary to pyramidal zone training
Also false! Pyramidal training is a training intensity distribution model that includes Sweet Spot training. That’s also why the whole ‘Polarized versus Sweet Spot’ is a false debate. It really is ‘polarized versus pyramidal’ and Coach Christian and I recorded a podcast on the topic.
Coach Christian and I referenced a 2022 publication in the Scandinavian Journal of Sport Science from Roberto Codella and his research group where they formed 3 training groups:
- A Polarized Training Group for 16 weeks
- A Pyramidal Training Group for 16 weeks
- A group that did 8 weeks of pyramidal training followed by 8 weeks of polarized training
Guess which group improved the most? That’s right - the third one. This also supports how we have helped thousands of athletes: built a big base with Sweet Spot training and then switch from base to race with interval training - that happens to be similar to a polarized training intensity distribution.
So the question is not either pyramidal or polarized training, it’s both.
Sweet Spot Myth #4: Sweet Spot is not base; it should not be done in the winter
False. Sweet Spot training is base training. It’s advanced aerobic endurance work. Athletes will achieve more physiological adaptations from training in Sweet Spot than in zone 2.
If you look at the chart from the table “Expected Physiological Adaptation from training in Zones 1 - 7, you’ll see more ‘x’s’ in the Sweet Spot column than in the zone 2 column. And we are talking about physiological adaptations like:
- Increased Plasma Volume
- Increased Mitochondrial enzymes
- Increased lactate threshold
- Increased muscle glycogen storage
- Increased muscle capillarization
- Interconversion of fast twitch muscle fibers
- Increased stroke volume
- Adaptations that lead to a greater increase in VO2 Max.
Sweet Spot is great for your base and even has some fringe benefits for your VO2 max. Truly, truly the best bang for your buck.
Sweet Spot Myth #5: Sweet Spot is overtraining
False. Overtraining is overtraining. One can overtrain from too much zone 2 volume. Generally overtraining occurs from too much riding at any intensity not one specific intensity. If one were to overtrain from doing too much Sweet Spot that would be better measured from their training load as opposed to too much time in one training zone intensity.
A wise man once said, there is no such thing as overtraining but rather under-recovering. So get your 8 hours of sleep, do your meditation, do your yoga, and pay attention to your HRV. Use Optimize when it comes out in the next few weeks!
Sweet Spot Myth #6: All Sweet Spot training is the same
No. For example, a set of 3x15 intervals at 95% vs a Sweet Spot group ride are not the same. They are going to feel very very different.
One thing we see a lot of is athletes doing Sweet Spot group rides indoors with constant pedaling. The longer the Sweet Spot effort is, the harder it will feel!
So a 15-minute Sweet Spot interval feels way easier than holding Sweet Spot for two hours indoors; that is really, really difficult, downright diabolical.
Even when an athlete does a 2-plus-hour Sweet Spot ride, there are micro breaks, coasting, drafting, downhills, stops and intersections - that create a much more palatable training experience.
Sweet Spot Myth #7: Riding at the top of Sweet Spot is better than riding in the lower end of the zone
The physiological cost - the amount of recovery needed from riding at the top of one’s Sweet Spot is much greater than the middle. Thus, since Sweet Spot is all about the balance between a lot of physiological adaptations without the penalty of a large amount of recovery - one is setting themselves up to upset that balance by riding high in the Sweet Spot.
Sweet Spot Myth #8: Sweet Spot training plans only include Sweet Spot workouts
False. They include zone 2 and tempo rides as well. We don’t even call zone 2 a workout; it’s a ride. In our Sweet Spot Part 4 Polarized Plan we even have VO2 max and threshold workouts alongside long Sweet Spot TSS endurance rides on the weekends. Sweet Spot part 4 is more of an in-season training approach or the final build of a longer Sweet Spot base phase.
Read more about Sweet Spot training from the Coach who invented it here.
And if you really want to improve from Sweet Spot training the FasCat Way follow one of our Sweet Spot training plans. Don’t take our word for it, read the over one thousand reviews from pros to us master Joe’s how they have benefitted from Sweet Spot training.
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