Sweet Spot Training: Advanced Aerobic Endurance

In January of 2005 I was working with group of coaches and sport scientists developing a new power based impulse-response performance model.

While we were keeping a lid on it publicly, its revelations influenced my monthly training tips dramatically. Privately we coined the term Sweet Spot training described below. After we had developed the concept, below we share the Sweet Spot "worldwide release".


What is "Sweet Spot" Training

Sweet spot training is a balanced amount of intensity and strain that produces a maximal increase in an athlete’s power and endurance. In the figure below, the “sweet spot” occurs between a high zone 2 and low zone 4 or 84 - 97% of threshold power and heart rate.   

It is within these ranges that you will build your base the most and simultaneously increase your power and endurance. Sweet Spot Training gives you more bang for your buck, and thus the nickname, “sweet spot”.

Sweet Spot is the perfect balance between Intensity & Strain

In the graph above, notice how the training effect increases as one increases intensity from zone 2 to tempo and then threshold.  Simultaneously notice how the physiological strain increases as intensity increases.  The sweet spot is the point on those two cures that produces the greatest training effect with less physiological strain.  When we say Sweet spot training is a balanced amount of intensity and strain, these are the two curves we are referencing.

Sweet Spot is more productive than Zone 2, especially for time crunched cyclists. 

Additionally, sweet spot is race specific

Sweet spot training is more specific to racing than level/zone 2  When was the last time you raced at a zone 2 pace? The point is that sweet spot training specifically addresses the physiological requirements during the majority of your racing. It is not, however, a substitute for VO2max, anaerobic or neuromuscular intervals. Sweet Spot Training Builds an aerobic engine capable of comfortably handling the large majority of power demands in your races. By doing so, you are setting yourself up well for when the smack goes down during the crucial make or break moments in a race.

Sweet spot produces more physiological adaptations than zone 2, which is why its more produtive for tie crunched athletes 

In this graph below, you'll also notice how sweet spot training produces more physiological adaptations than zone 2

How do I find my sweet spot?

Perform a 20 minute threshold test.  Take 84-97% of your threshold and that is your sweet spot!   See you sweet spot zones in the Profile tab of the Optimize App 👇

Essentially any type of training that accumulates lots of Optimized Training Stress  (OTS), kilojoules, time, hours, and miles falls within the parameters of sweet spot training. Most athletes enjoy the freedom that comes from such a wide range of training options because this is what we do best. During your sweet spot training, use as many tools and ways to quantify your workload as possible because the rules of classic periodization still apply.

At the end of the day OTS is the ultimate way to measure your training workload. In much the same way a physician prescribes a precise amount of medicine, a coach, sports scientist, or experienced athlete can plan out exactly the right amount of daily training with OTS.

Here is an example 4 week mesocycle using a powermeter, OTS, and your sweet spot: These are arbitrary numbers and will vary highly depending on how much time you have to train and how hard you ride. The table is mainly put forth to illustrate how you can use sweet spot training with a powermeter in an example mesocycle.

No matter what training tools you have, everyone can plan out their weekly hours as a starting point. And if you have a powermeter you have no excuse; for goodness sakes download your files and quantify your training!!

Sweet Spot as "Base" Training

We recommend 16 weeks of sweet spot training during the base phase. 

The Evolution of "Sweet Spot" Training

Back in January of 2005, I wrote about building your “base” by riding tempo. Now the same concept applies to your training as you begin to re-load your aerobic arsenal. Out of that January Toolbox, several esteemed coaches, colleagues, and sports scientists began calling this approach to aerobic endurance as “sweet spot” training.

"Pro" Applicability

For years I never knew what the pros were talking about when they spoke of finding their legs, or honing their form. When you read about the Pro Tour Euro dogs quoted as using a race, a block of races, or a stage race to find their legs, they are hitting their sweet spot by doing some steady or higher intensity work at race pace. Right now at the Tour de Suisse and last week at the Dauphine, all the GC contenders, sprinters, and domestiques are honing their form with event specific sweet spot training before the Tour de France. If we all could only be so lucky! However, a Tour de France camp or summer stage race will yield similar aerobic endurance gains relative to you, of course. Even multiple back to back long rides will go a long way towards building your aerobic engine this summer.

Consistency is Key

With the long days of summer upon us, get out there and ride your bike consistently on a day to day basis. Even if you can only ride for an hour on Monday go a little harder than you would normally. Strategically use compact spirited group rides and training races Monday thru Friday and incorporate longer rides on the weekend. Hit your sweet spot and in no time you will be well poised with an aerobic engine as good or better than the beginning of your race season. Once you’ve accomplished this, you’ll be able to sit back with all the hay in the barn and enjoy thinking about which races you want to slay in the second half of this season.


Download and join Optimize, your Year-Round Training Solution where Coaching is included, and we have two meal plans and 30 recipes for you to eat right and lose weight! The training plans are unlimited and there's a 14-day trial to see for yourself!


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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