How Much Sweet Spot Training Should You Do?

How much sweet spot should your sweet spot workouts have?

Sweet spot training is a balanced amount of intensity and volume that increases an athlete’s functional threshold power (FTP) and improves endurance. In the figure below, the “sweet spot” occurs between a high level/zone 2 and level/zone 4 or 84-97% of one's FTP. Between these ranges athletes will generate large Training Stress Scores (TSS), increase their Chronic Training Load (CTL) and simultaneously increase power at threshold. More bang for your buck, and thus the nickname, “sweet spot.”

 How do I find my sweet spot? 

The first step in finding your sweet spot is determining your Functional Threshold Power. This can be done with either a 60-minute maximal field test, a 20-minute maximal field test or a Maximal Lactate Steady State test (MLSS).  Armed with your newly found FTP, your sweet spot training level is 84 to 97% of your FTP.

We have four six week sweet spot plans, parts 1, 2, 3and 4 designed for the athletes that have 4- 8 hours, 8 - 12 hours and 12+ hours per week to train. Plus an all new for 2022 16 week sweet spot plan

For further reading on the types of sweet spot training you can do visit the sweet spot training section of our website with over 8 sweet spot training tips!

Now that you've established your FTP, how much sweet spot should your daily workouts contain? That depends primarily on 3 characteristics:

  1. Your ability level
  2. Time of year
  3. The type of event you are training for, particularly its duration

It is important to note, we are not advocating one should sweet spot train every day; your training plan determines when you'll be sweet spottin'. Read our fatigue dependent training plan design rationale for more about how and when and how much sweet spot training integrates into proper training plan design. This is typically 2-3 times per week depending on the above parameters and the time of year. In this training tip we are explaining how much sweet spot training you should be (or will be, if you are following a plan) doing on the days your training plan prescribes sweet spot training.

Sweet Spot Duration = # of Intervals x's Interval Length [ 3 x 5 minutes = 15 minutes]

Cyclists of all ages and abilities should be able to complete a basic 3 x 5 minutes on 5 minutes OFF sweet spot interval workout.  To calculate the total sweet spot workload, simply multiply the number of intervals x the duration: 3 x 5 minutes = 15 total minutes at a sweet spot workload.  So 15 minutes is the lower limit and 3 hours is the upper UPPER limit our coaches have an incredibly motivated, professional, & well-conditioned cyclists complete in training.  The highest known upper limit of sweet spot comes from professional cyclist Matthew Hayman who did close to 6 hours of sweet spot to win the Paris-Roubaix.  In the chart below you'll find example durations in minutes FasCat has their athletes train daily in the sweet spot:

When athletes are building their aerobic endurance, pre-season, (raising their chronic training load or "CTL"), the more sweet spot the better. Sweet spot training is incredibly time efficient and produces rides with larger Intensity Factors (IFs) and TSS's than with less intense rides.

As such, sweet spot training is a valuable tool for raising an athlete's training load measured by their CTL. Our coaches prescribe sweet spot volume and monitor the athletes training to determine how much more sweet spot volume is beneficial.  It's an experimental process to prescribe the volume, analyze the data and listen to the athlete report "how that felt".  Then the coach will add more or less using periodization and TSS (Training Stress Score).

For example, a 3 x 10 min (30 minutes total workload) would progress to 4 x 9 min (36 minutes total) and then onto 3 x 15 min (45 minutes total). However, once the season begins, our coaches use the power demands of the athlete's goal event to dictate sweet spot training volume.  Road cyclists and mountain bikers tend to ride in the sweet spot more because we know from their power files that they race those durations in their sweet spot wattages.  Conversely, since cyclocross races are a maximum of 60 minutes, a cyclocross athlete will ride less sweet spot once the season has begun.

Sweet Spot for Road, Time Trial and Criterium Racing

15 to 240 minutes, total workload - a broad range depending on ability level and the distance/duration of their competitions.  In the early part of the offseason, we have athletes start with a basic interval workout and increase their total duration by increasing the duration and number of sweet spot intervals.  During the season our coaches will prescribe sweet spot workouts specific to the amount of time they'll race at sweet spot in their goal events.

Sweet Spot for Mountain Bikers

Sweet spot should be a Mountain bikers' bread and butter training, especially as the race durations exceed traditional 2-hour cross country durations.  Pro's that race for 5 hours should prepare by riding in their sweet spot for as close to those durations as they can. Amateur riders should use sweet spot intervals to progress with as much sweet spot workload as they can and then use the knowledge of their limits on race day.  For example, if a category 2 mountain biker can only perform 90 minutes of sweet spot intervals in training, they should pace a 5-hour race so that they do not exceed 90 - 110 minutes of sweet spot intensity.

Amateur riders should use sweet spot intervals to progress with as much sweet spot workload as they can and then use the knowledge of their limits on race day.  For example, if a category 2 mountain biker can only perform 90 minutes of sweet spot intervals in training, they should pace a 5-hour race so that they do not exceed 90 - 110 minutes of sweet spot intensity.

Sweet Spot for Gravel 

Most if not all gravel grinder events are all about who can sweet spot the most.  So when you sign up for a gravel event how much sweet spot should you do is not based on your age or ability, its how hard and long the course is.  Thus - start with a healthy 60 minutes and raise your CTL by building with as much sweet spot as you can handle (120 minutes) to prepare for you event that is going to be 5, 6, 7 hours +. Hey you signed up for it!

Sweet Spot for Triathletes

The biggest consideration for how much sweet spot triathletes should incorporate on a daily basis is whether or not they have a run workout afterward or if they are managing their fatigue downstream.  In season the bike leg distance dictates how much sweet spot athletes need to incorporate in their training.  Sprint and Olympic distance competitors actually race more in sweet spot than 70.3 and Ironman competitors so they'll utilize more sweet spot training.  The power demands of an Ironman are closer to tempo than they are to sweet spot and as such need to incorporate more tempo than they do sweet spot into their training.  Sweet Spot becomes non-specific to IronMan in season.  During a build however, it is wonderful training for all multisport athletes especially time crunched IronMan triathletes.

Sweet Spot for Cyclocross Athletes

Like roadies and mountain bikers, when 'crossers are building a hemi-powered  aerobic engine, the more sweet spot the better [see Build Phase].  However, once the season begins, since a cross race will only be an hour, not as much sweet spot is necessary in  training.  Unless the athlete is rebuilding CTL during a non-competitive phase such as a mid-season November training camp.  See the Belgian Majorca Training Camp training.

Overall, the amount of sweet spot an athlete can and should perform in their daily workouts depends on the distance, intensity and duration of their goal event(s).  Start small, build on that and finally train in the sweet spot specific for your discipline and goal event. The chart above will help athletes and coaches determine how much sweet spot they should do.

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About Frank Overton

Frank founded FasCat Coaching in 2002 and has been a full time cycling coach since 2004. His educational background includes a Masters degree in Physiology from North Carolina State University, pre-med from Hampden-Sydney College. Frank raced at a professional level on the road and mountain bike and currently competes as a "masters" level gravel and cyclocrosser. Professionally Frank comes from medical school spinal cord research and molecular biotechnology. However, to this day it is a dream come true for Frank to be able to help cyclists as a coach.

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