Over Under Intervals

Mimic the power demands of road, mountain, gravel, fondo and several other types of bike races...

Over Under intervals mimic the power demands* of road, mountain, gravel, fondo and several other types of bike races. In this training tip, we’ll describe the how, what, where, and why of over under intervals and give you three example workouts. Our sweet spot part 3 training plan incorporates over under intervals (as well as criss cross intervals).

*surges in the peloton, bottom and tops of climbs, switchbacks, and technical singletrack.

Over under intervals are structured tempo, sweet spot or threshold intervals** with an anaerobic effort > 120% of FTP for 20-180 seconds, at the beginning and end of each interval. After the "overs" the athlete returns to the under wattage until the next "over." Over unders are what we call variable power workouts that have 2 benefits:

  1. specificity of real world conditions
  2. Help the time pass quicker during indoor training sessions!

Over unders replicate the power demands of a surging peloton or aggressively attacking a hill: out of the saddle in zone 6 at the bottom to carry your momentum up, settling in the saddle for the middle rhythm section of the climb and getting out of the saddle to carry speed over the top, for example.

Here are three example Over Under workouts, progressively getting more and more difficult, up to the 'diabolical' over under, which mimics Zwift racing.

Zone 6 > Tempo > Zone 6 (20 seconds): 2 sets of 2 x 3 min On 2 min Off with 20 sec "Overs"
This is a basic over under workout with the majority of the time spent at tempo wattages except for the beginning and the end 20 seconds anaerobic.

Sweet Spot Over Unders: 5 x 5 minutes This is an intermediate level over under workout because there's a minute of zone 6 combined with 4 minutes of sweet spot for each interval. There's 30 seconds of zone 6 work at the beginning and at the end that bookend 4 minutes of sweet spot work. The challenge is to not go TOO hard for the first over so that the sweet spot feels too hard and consequently the final over can be managed full gas at 170% of FTP!

This intermediate level workout may be made advanced by increasing the sweet spot 'under' to threshold wattages. Power data analysis of the beginning to end average power puts reveals a VO2 Max interval.

Threshold Over Unders: 4 x 10 minutes (1 minute Over/1 minute Under) *** Diabolical ***

This is the advanced level over under workout and honestly mimics zwift racing: surging at 110% FTP of FTP or 'sitting in' at 90% of FTP. 100% difficult.

Our sweet spot part 3 plan and the FasCat Coaches take athletes through the above Over Under Intervals once a week as they progress and are finishing up their base and CTL build. The intensity from the "overs" is just enough to bridge the gap from base training to full on, full gas high intensity interval training. As described in our recent WinterTime Intensity training tip. Over under intervals are also great for:

  • bridging the gap from base training to high intensity interval training (the 'Overs')
  • generating larger TSS's than traditional Sweet Spot and Tempo advance aerobic endurance training, and thus raising CTL even higher
  • help the time pass quicker during indoor training sessions!

Additionally, Over Under workouts may be 'enhanced' by increasing the length of the "overs" from 20 seconds to 30 seconds and even on up to 1-2 minutes of the "overs"

The most diabolical Over Under Interval workout we've ever prescribed is the following containing a 2 minute anaerobic over at 125% followed by a 30 sec 150% FTP effort to simulate the climbs at Liege Bastogne Liege and the Amstel Gold Race:

World Tour Over Unders: 4 x 5 (2 minute) minutes (1 minute Over/1 minute Under)

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To talk with a FasCat Coach about Over Under intervals for your training and racing, please fill out a New Athlete Questionnaire to set up a complimentary coaching consultation.

Additionally our sweet spot part 3 six week $49 training plans has weekly over under workouts designed in an easy to follow weekly training calendar.

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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