The S:6 Base Builder Program: Block 3

The S:6 Base Builder Program: Block 3

  • January 15, 2018
  • Blog

Happy New Year! January brings block 3 of our Off-Season Base Build Program with our local in-house athletes in Denver. We meet 4 days a week, most weeks, for 6 months for indoor gym sessions, trainer sessions, and testing. Weekends are for getting outside on your own and going longer to build endurance. We also offer the very same program as a 24-week Base Build Training Plan, as well as a more condensed 12-week Base Build Training Plan, to follow on your own where ever you live.

Upon conclusion of Block 2 we took a little recovery time through the New Year holiday window and returned on January 2nd for our second of 4 testing sessions within our 6-month program. Our first test was at the end of October right before we kicked off official training; test two was 8 weeks later right after the new year, tests 3 and 4 will follow in 8-week cycles at the 2/3 point of the program and conclusion of the program. We prefer testing every 8-weeks as this provides enough time for fitness to evolve and provides a carrot of sorts to keep your training consistent so you make the improvements you’re looking for.

With test results in-hand we can check progress, reset training zones, keep motivation high, and get ready for further improvements over the next blocks of training.

Block 3 builds upon Blocks 1 & 2 with continued progressions in the gym and on the bike.

The weekly routine remains the same in the third block. Creating a consistent daily routine of the training pattern is an essential part of the program. Knowing exactly what you’re doing on any given day of the week: gym day, interval day, endurance day, recovery day; helps to establish the consistency in training that is so critical to progression and success.  In the following paragraphs I’ll break down the subtle progressions to be made in each of the three domains of training days. Block 3 makes up weeks 9-16 in the 24-weeks of the Base Build Program.

 

Block 2: Gym Sessions

Block 3 brings the final big push of heavy strength work in our primary movements for cycling specific strength: the Back Squat & Deadlift. Over the first 8 weeks of training, we’ve methodically increased the training loads, and allowed adequate recovery/adaptation time, to allow for a final build towards peak movement strength in a 1 or 2 rep max lift by the end of this block. Rep schemes become less and less as loads increase over the final 3 weeks of this build. The goal of the heavy lifting is to reach maximum, or near maximum, movement strength prior to shifting the focus towards single-leg stability movements and more explosive plyometric training in the second half of the Base Builder Program.

Along with the two key strength key movements, the Push & Pull movements for the upper body are further increased in loads and/or complexity of movement for continued progression. Core strength follows the same pattern of increased reps and/or complexity of movements that target all the muscles surrounding the hips: the low-back, glutes, and abdominal muscles for linear movement, and the glute-medeius and obliques for lateral movements.

Lastly, we begin to introduce more dynamic drills in to the session warm-ups that include “plate agility drills” (very low-hight jumping, landing and rebounding movements), and Depth Jumps (stepping off gradually higher heights to learn “landing mechanics”) to train the eccentric absorbing of plyometric impacts before learning the more explosive “rebound” jumps in the next block of training.

 

Block 2: Structured Trainer Sessions

The structured interval sessions become more power based in block 3. In the two previous blocks we trained the aerobic system with increasing duration Aerobic Threshold and Aerobic-Strength intervals. The lower-intensity Aerobic energy system is best trained via heart rate. As we progress to higher intensity energy systems, power becomes the focal point to set training loads, while using heart rate to identify adaptation (or lack there of) and future progression in loads.  You can read more about this concept in a previous post: Training Heart Rate & Power.

In Block 3 we progress to the next higher energy system: Anaerobic Threshold (aka. Zone 4, Lactate Threshold or just “threshold” training).  This energy system targets power levels between 32:00 and 64:00 power. The workouts in this program are designed to be performed on the indoor-trainer so we target the shorter duration 32:00 power (more powerful) to allow for shorter intervals (less mind-numbing).

We begin with just 18:00 of work in the first session, as 3×6:00 to ease into the effort of the new energy system, and progress over the weeks as through 24:00 of work and finally 32:00 of work at max 32:00 power. Each riders 32:00 Power is identified from our Testing Protocol and provides them with an exact workload to be training at. We can further manipulate things with the amount of recovery time between intervals, beginning with 3:00 and reducing down to just 1:00 in the last session of the block for the most demanding workout. Here’s how it looks in our Wahoo Kickr Trainer Studio at Sessions:6:

  • Session 1: 18:00 (total work duration) as 3×6:00, with 3:00 recoveries

  • Session 2: 24:00 as 4×6:00, with 3:00 recoveries

  • Session 3: 24:00 as 3×8:00, with 3:00 recoveries

  • Session 4: 32:00 as 4×8:00, with 3:00 recoveries

  • Session 5: 32:00 as 4×8:00, with 2:00 recoveries

  • Session 6: 32:00 as 4×8:00, with 1:00 recoveries

In addition to the Anaerobic Threshold intervals, we keep up with single-leg ILT intervals for one last block in order to reach peak effort for strength development. This coincides with the peak strength being achieved in the gym sessions. It is here that the complete connection between the knee and hip extension while maintaining proper shoulder and back stabilization in the Deadlift in the gym, and the hip-knee extension with proper core tension and pull on the handlebar on the bike in the 60 rpm high-tension ILTs is most apparent.

The strength and power on the bike achieved through he strength work in the gym becomes so clear at this pointing the program!

Block 2: Endurance Sessions

Our outdoor endurance sessions continue to lengthen in Block 3. Adding 10-15 minutes per weekend ride is a great place to be. You’re likely feeling your fitness really improving around this time of the program and getting more and more eager to test it out. Adding in a faster paced group ride on one day is a great option  for getting in some unstructured intensity to the program. Just keep it minimal and don’t smash yourself on any given ride where you need 3 days to recover from it. Keep things in moderation so daily recovery is achievable and you can keep your training consistent day to day.

Another great option, included in the training plan, is an aerobic-strength session, indoors or out, to maintain the aerobic-strength gains made in the previous block. Taking aerobic-strength outside on a local climb is often more challenging that indoors, so start with shorter durations, like 6×3:00, and build weekly from there. Again, the goal is to gradually build rather than smash yourself, so be conservative and patient and gains will be made safely and soundly.

At this point in the program, make getting outside and getting in longer rides (or hikes/skis if weather is poor) in on the weekend a priority to build your endurance.  If unsure if you should add in the group intensity to aerobic-strength, it’s better to stick with just going longer and longer and building up that fatigue resistance. These easier, long sessions should not require much in terms of recovery and you get the full endurance benefits. If getting outside or going longer, is not an option on a given day, then hit the trainer with some Aerobic Threshold intervals (from Block 1) to build endurance through a more time efficient manner at 80% max HR.

Block 3 brings max efforts in strength and the beginning of power-based training on the bike.

 

Interested in giving it a try yourself?

  • Download our complete 24-week Base Build Program on Training Peaks HERE.

  • Download our more condensed 12-week Base Build Program on Training Peaks HERE.

Programs include:

  • All the strength training details, including videos and set/rep schemes and calculated loads specific to your ability.
  • Full Testing Protocol and Training Zone Calculator to identify HR and Power zones and track progress.
  • Structured training sessions uploadable to your app of choice (Zwift, Wahoo, Garmin, Trainer Road, etc.)
  • Bonus weekend training ride suggestions for either indoors or out.

 

Written by Cody Waite, professional endurance athlete, endurance sport coach and founder of Sessions:6 Sport Performance. Looking for help with your endurance sport training? Check out S:6’s Training Plans, Team Programs, and  Personal Coaching options created to fit your needs and budget.

 

 

 

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The S:6 Testing Protocol, Part 1:

The S:6 Testing Protocol, Part 1:

  • October 24, 2017
  • Blog

There’s More to Power than Just FTP.

Before diving into another season of training on the bike, or jumping into serious training for the first time, it helps to know a few things about your current fitness as you get started…

  • Where is my fitness at right now? Identify a baseline from which you plan to improve.
  • What are the best ways to spend my training time? In order to maximize your improvement.
  • What effort levels should you should be training at? Set your training zones.

These insights can be found through power testing on the bike. For many years, a rider’s FTP (Functional Threshold Power) has been the focal point of where a rider’s fitness is and from what to set their training zones from. FTP works well. It shines light on one area of fitness and can be re-tested again and again to check for improvement.

By definition, your FTP is the power you could sustain for one hour, full gas. I say could sustain because who’s going to go all-out for an hour to find this value? So it’s become common place to go hard for 20-minutes and subtract 5% from your average power. Pretty much the Gold Standard, and everybody accepts it. Even going all-out for 20 minutes is pretty tough on your own, so more recent models are doing either one or two 8-minute intervals and subtracting 5-10% from those averages to estimate FTP. All said and done, these methods of FTP testing highlight one energy system (v02 max) and calculate the FTP from a “one size fits all” percent reduction from the test effort. From here, it doesn’t tell you much else. Does it work? Sure. However, if you’re like me, you would likely prefer more.

What if we said we can offer you another, possibly better, way to test on the bike to gain insight on your fitness, set zones, and track progress?

Over the last 10 years of training and coaching with power in our trainer studio environment, and out on the roads and trails, we at Sessions:6 have found a different way to perform power testing that presents us with more insight on a rider’s fitness and sets more personalized training zones.

Every endurance athletes is different. Each comes to the sport of cycling or triathlon from different backgrounds of sport, and a different set of physiological strengths and weaknesses.

To generalize, we can look at endurance athletes as two types:

  1. Strength/Power Based Athlete: strong, powerful, can crush it for a few seconds (sprint!) to a few minutes, but then power drops off rapidly and they slow down from there. These athletes typically come from power/speed sports like soccer, football, or wrestling, or were “sprinters” on the track or in the pool in their youth; often larger and more heavily muscled builds.
  2. Aerobic Based Athlete: not particularly snappy, but can churn out the steady power and can go all day long with minimal drop in speed/power. These athletes often were the “slow” kid on their teams growing up, enjoyed hiking or longer distance running and swimming events, or as adults have only done long (slow) endurance training/events over the years; commonly a smaller and leaner build.

Have each of these athletes perform an 8 to 20 minute power test you will be taxing them in different ways. While you may come up with an FTP that is accurate enough to calculate their training zones from, the “Power Athlete’s” test results will likely result in the Anaerobic Threshold and sub-threshold power values to be a bit high and the top-end power values to be a little low; whereas the “Aerobic Athlete’s” test results will likely result in power values on the top-end being too high and on the low end to low.

This may be “splitting hairs” a bit, but what’s more important to consider here is that for endurance athletes of all types, the primary goal is to be able to produce the most power possible over the duration required for the event. Put another way… maximize the power, while minimizing the decline in power as durations extend.

In general, those that typically win endurance events are the ones that SLOW DOWN the least!!

Our testing protocol takes this concept into account by identifying the individuals rate of fatigue (how much their power drops between test intervals) to calculate their power training zones (including an “FTP”) and at the same time shines some light on where they are at on the “Power vs. Endurance” scale to better show where they should focus their training efforts. The short duration testing intervals we use for this part of the test allows us to specifically identify and track the riders top-end anaerobic power capabilities, and at the same time determine their rate of fatigue. To keep tabs and monitor progress on the other end of the spectrum, the aerobic endurance or “fatigue resistance” end, we include an Aerobic Threshold (AeT) Test interval as part of our testing protocol as well. As you can see, there are two parts to the training equation, Power vs. Endurance, so we should have two parts to the testing protocol.

Your Aerobic Threshold, the key to Fatigue Resistance

As discussed in a previous post, Training With Power or Heart Rate?, I mentioned a few of the primary objectives of aerobic training: improvements in cardiovascular infrastructure (stronger heart, more blood vessels, more mitochondria, etc), and improvements in energy metabolism by increasing the use of fat for fuel and sparing glycogen at higher and higher outputs. Big power numbers are flashy and cool, but in the endurance sport world fatigue resistance is king.

Aerobic fitness is essential in cultivating endurance, the ability to resist fatigue, and minimize one’s Fatigue Rate.

With a lower Fatigue Rate an athlete’s power drops more slowly over time and therefore they can keep pushing the pedals harder, creating more power, for longer.  Improving or maintaining that balance between power and endurance is crucial to your success. If you improve power a the sake of a loss in aerobic fitness you may not have actually gotten any faster at your target race intensities. This is why you must always keep tabs on your power at Aerobic Threshold (AeT) to be sure you aren’t increasing your Fatigue Rate any more than necessary.

In training our goal is then two-fold: to improve both your top-end speed & power through strength and plyometric training in the gym, and through high-intensity intervals on the bike; AND to improve your aerobic fitness so you can utilize more of that power over longer periods of time by minimizing the decline that occurs as you fatigue.

To test an athletes AeT power, we include an AeT test interval in our testing protocol. The test requires an athlete to focus entirely on riding at their identified AeT Heart Rate for an extended period of time. Then we look for the average power that was a result of the aerobic effort. The overall goal is to improve your aerobic power to keep your Fatigue Rate as low as possible while at the same time increasing your anaerobic power to give you a higher starting point of power to utilize across all durations. There in lies the tricky balance of training and maximizing performance!

Curious to give our Aerobic and Anaerobic Power Test at try? Schedule your testing at Sessions:6 HERE

Part 2, of our Testing Protocol Series will lay out our exact testing session procedure and provide some real world examples from some of our athletes.

 

You can also purchase our 24-Week Off-Season Trainer Series from Training Peaks that includes our testing protocol as well as a complete build through each energy system to improve your top-end power and fatigue resistant endurance. Check it out HERE

 

Written by Cody Waite, professional endurance athlete, endurance sport coach and founder of Sessions:6 Sport Performance. Looking for help with your endurance sport training? Check out S:6’s Training Plans, Team Programs, and  Personal Coaching options created to fit your needs and budget.

Training With Power Or Heart Rate?

Training with Power or Heart Rate?

  • October 19, 2017
  • Blog

We get this question a lot…

What’s the better metric for training on the bike: Power or Heart Rate?

Since power-based training has risen to the status of “must have” for effective training for serious cyclists, the use of heart rate as a training metric has been tossed aside by many. The power meter is a wonderful tool, and one we strongly recommend (in fact all our Personal Coaching clients are required to use power), without the simultaneous use of heart rate you are only seeing half of the story and getting half of the benefits.

So our answer is: BOTH power & heart rate are needed for maximum training effectiveness!

Using one without the other is a mistake. Here’s why…

  • Power (watts) is the direct measurement of the amount of work that is being done. Many will say, “a watt is a watt, and watts don’t lie”. This is true, power is an absolute. You either have it or you don’t on a given a day. However, the effort required to produce those watts on any given day is effected by many variables, and that is where HR comes in.
  • Heart Rate (bpm) is an indirect measurement of your bodies response to the work (power) being done. You might hear people poo-poo HR. They’ll claim that it’s affected by so many outside variables, such as sleep, hydration, elevation, temperature, fatigue and so on that the usefulness of HR is no longer valued. But…why are these affects considered a negative attribute? When in fact, it’s these very affects wherein the value of training with HR comes in!

Let’s look at this example of a training block using both power & HR…

  • Your Vo2 Max training block calls for multiple sessions of 8 x 2:00 at your 16:00 max power (or appx. 110-115% of FTP), with 2:00 recoveries, over a 21 day period. Here’s a possible scenario…
    • Session 1: you hit your power numbers and heart rate reaches 169-173 bpm by the end of the intervals 3-8. Good start.
    • Session 2: similar results.
    • Sessions 3: you’re having a stressful few days a work, not sleeping well. You’re able to hit your power numbers, however your HR is 172-176 for the last few intervals. This is indicating you are putting out more effort to do the same amount of work. Do this for too long and you risk overdoing it.
    • Session 4: you decide to skip in favor of more recovery and do an easy ride.
    • Session 5: you’re back to similar results as 1 & 2.
    • Session 6: you hit your power targets, and notice your HR is only 165-169 bpm for the last few intervals. This indicates you’re adapting to the workload (power requirement) and now it’s requiring less effort to hit same power. Improved fitness! You’re ready to increase load (as in higher power, more reps, or shorter recoveries).

Now granted, this is a simplistic view of things. Do, however, consider that in this example the power reading remained the same the entire time. Had you not had a HRM you would have missed the higher HRs when stressed and maybe dug a hole of fatigue early on. Or you might have missed the lower HRs at the end that indicate you may be ready for a higher training load. Both super valuable in making adjustments in your training for continued improvement.

 

Power should be the primary metric for high-intensity training at and above our Anaerobic Threshold.

You then gauge how your body is responding to the workload by using heart rate as the secondary metric. You should always be looking for improvements in lower HR compared to same power outputs as a sign of positive adaptation. Use both together to be able to gauge your fitness vs. freshness levels on a day to day basis. This will allow you to know when you should back off or ramp up based on your body’s response to your training program.

So yes, there are many variables, like sleep, hydration, elevation, stress, and diet, that can affect HR. But these same variables affect how you are able to train and more importantly absorb, or adapt to, your training that you’re doing. If you just stick to hitting the power numbers, how do you know when you’re improving and you’re ready for an increased load? Or on the contrary, how do you know when you need to back things off a bit because hitting those numbers is more difficult than it should be due to fatigue or a change in training environment?

Our preferred method of testing for anaerobic power development and setting power training zones is doing a Power Test, that requires you to perform test intervals of 1:00, 2:00 and 4:00 in duration for max power. As a result you identify both your Fatigue Rate and max HR to set your power and heart rate based training zones.

With Aerobic Training, Heart Rate becomes Primary Metric.

When you train to improve the aerobic energy system you’re looking for two primary adaptations, one in cardiovascular infrastructure (stronger heart, more blood vessels, more mitochondria, etc), and the other in energy metabolism of using fat for fuel and sparing glycogen at higher and higher outputs. The aerobic energy system requires longer and lower intensity outputs to train for these adaptations. For this reason heart rate is often more useful as the primary training metric, with power used as the secondary metric to look for improvement in (increase) over time.

When you go for a longer ride, or even longer intervals, focusing on a specific power number requires to much effort and can be frustrating. Instead, focus on a HR range to target. Training to a specific HR for the longer, lower intensity work is easier to maintain and less affected by the immediate terrain and weather. With aerobic training, you’re either targeting a specific duration of riding to achieve your training load (ie. 4 hours at aerobic HRs, where power isn’t very relevant); or you can get more structured with say 4 x 10:00 at Aerobic Threshold (AeT) HR where you target a specific, more narrow HR zone for the intervals. Here you check progress by looking for improvements of average power for that HR zone and or less power-fade or “decoupling” between the HR and power measurements as duration increases.

Our preferred method of testing for aerobic development is doing an Aerobic Threshold (AeT) Test, that requires you to perform the test interval to a specific HR, and then reference your power for the test interval as your measure of improvement.

In summary, your training program can be far more effective, informative, and engaging if you use both power and heart rate as metrics to gather data.

  • When training the top-end energy systems (ie. Anaerobic Threshold, Vo2 Max, Anaerobic Power and Peak Power) you use power as primary metric to target workload and use heart rate as secondary metric to see your response to that workload. From here you are able to make adjustments on the fly (mid-workout even!) and in your extended planning.
    • You can utilize a Smart Trainer, like the Wahoo Kick’r, for power-based indoor workouts if you can’t have a power-meter on your bike(s) for both indoors & outdoors.
  • When training your lower-end aerobic energy systems you’ll switch things around to focusing on HR while using power as secondary reference to measure your aerobic progress and stamina.
    • This works well for longer rides outdoors where a HRM is easy to have along for the ride and power isn’t a necessity.

 

Are you looking to train more effectively with both Power & HR this Off-Season?

You can purchase our 24-Week Off-Season Trainer Series from Training Peaks that includes our testing protocol as well as a complete build through each energy system to improve your top-end power and fatigue resistant endurance. Check it out HERE

 

Written by Cody Waite, professional endurance athlete, endurance sport coach and founder of Sessions:6 Sport Performance. Looking for help with your endurance sport training? Check out S:6’s Training Plans, Team Programs, and  Personal Coaching options created to fit your needs and budget.

 

The S:6 Off-Season Base Builder Cycling Plan (a Deep Dive!)

The S:6 Off-Season Base Builder Cycling Plan (a deep dive!)

  • August 18, 2017
  • Blog

The stationary trainer is one of the best tools in your training arsenal.

The highly controllable environment makes it one of the most effective ways to improve your cycling power. By allowing your workouts to be controlled using variables like time, gearing, cadence, power and heart rate you can more easily execute precise, repeatable intervals. On the trainer you can eliminate the uncontrollable variables found in outdoor workouts like varying terrain, wind, weather, traffic, etc. You can focus solely on the work you are performing to make the most out of the time you are putting into your training.

Our 24 Week Base Builder Program/Plan, as well as its condensed little brother: the 12 Week Base Builder Program/Plan, are both designed to be performed during your “off-season”. The term off-season is referring to time off from racing, as opposed to time off from training. This concept is explained in a previous post, Ideas for Your Off-Season.  During this off-season base-building phase your primary objectives are to develop a strong aerobic system and build sport-specific strength.

Training Blocks

Our 24-week Base Builder program is built around six 3-week training blocks. Each block has a specific training focus that builds upon the previous block in intensity and training load. Within each block there are three weeks of loading (training) followed by one week of recovery (low-intensity), before getting into the next block. Each training block targets a specific energy system and the overall progression is from lowest intensity to highest intensity before reaching a peak at the end of your base build.

The energy system block progression on the trainer includes the following:
  • Block 1: Pedaling Skills/Aerobic Intervals
  • Block 2: Aerobic Threshold/Aerobic Strength 
  • Block 3: Anaerobic Threshold (including FTP)
  • Block 4: Vo2 Max
  • Block 5: Anaerobic Power 
  • Block 6: Peak Power 
In our off-season Base Build Program we leave zone 1/2 aerobic endurance training to longer outdoor rides and/or other extended aerobic endurance building activities such as skiing, hiking, running, etc. as time and weather permits.

The primary difference between our two programs, 24 vs. 12 weeks, is that speed at which the progressions through energy systems occur. The 24-week program allows for a more thorough off-season build and deeper base development for those that have the time and/or interest. While our condensed 12-week program goes through all six of the same energy systems as the longer version, it does it at much faster rate allowing for fewer weeks of training for those that don’t have the time due to an extended previous season of racing (or period of inactivity or training) or an earlier upcoming season of racing.

Upon completion of our 24-week or 12 week Base Builder programs, you will be ready to transition into your Race Season and/or more specific Race Preparation training phase.

This is when your training become more specific to address the demands of your goal race(s): road cycling, XCO mountain bike racing, endurance mountain bike racing, triathlon of all varieties and durations, etc. But before you can bring your race fitness to a peak, you must establish your base.

As a general rule of thumb, the longer, bigger, deeper more thorough base of fitness you can develop each year, as well as over many years, the more demands you can apply on yourself in your race preparation training and on race day. Most everyone is aware of this concept; however it is surprising how few racers actually apply it. Many racers hinder both their development and performance by not doing the specific training required in the off-season to build a prober base from which top-end fitness can be achieved.

 Training Zones & Testing

Our Base Builder programs/plans uses two primary metrics for training progression; one for measuring actual workload (power) and the other for measuring your body’s response to the workload (heart rate). You’ll ideally want to be equipped with both metrics to make the most of the training series (ie. power-meter and/or smart trainer AND heart rate monitor). To use one without the other shines light on only half of what’s really going on! Learn more about training with BOTH power and HR in a previous post: Training with Power or Heartrate? 

Within the 24-week program you will perform 4 tests; the first to establish your starting fitness and training zones, and 3 re-tests (one every 8 weeks) to track progress and adjust zones as you increase fitness. Within the 12-week program you test in week 8, but can opt to perform an earlier test in week 4 if you feel improvements have been made.

Our Testing protocol differs from many of the popular methods you may be familiar with. Our S:6 Testing Protocol includes a 20-minute sub-maximal Aerobic Threshold Test, to identify your Aerobic Power and track aerobic development; while three short maximal test efforts identify your Anaerobic Power, to determine your rate of fatigue as durations increase to used to calculate your extended training zones. With these data points we can more accurately calculate your training zones and better track improvements in fitness.

With your test completed, you will enter your result data into our S:6 Training Zone Calculator (Excel Spreadsheet) to receive your personalized Power & Heart Rate training zones pertaining to each energy system to be trained.

  • Aerobic Threshold HR (AeT HR)
  • Anaerobic Threshold HR (AnT HR)
  • Fatigue Rate
  • Your Individual Power & HR training zones
  • Functional Threshold Power (FTP) 

From here you simply enter your FTP number into your Training Peaks account to have your individual training sessions adjusted specifically to you. If using a Smart Trainer, you then can download the workout files to match your device and the power loads will be adjusted specifically to you as well. All super slick and takes the guess work out of everything, and you know every session is dialed in specifically to your current fitness.

Training with Power & HR

Training with power is one of the best things to happen to indoor training since the trainer itself. With power you can target specific workloads in a highly repeatable fashion and relate the workload to how your body responds to it via heart rate to track progress and performance. Today power-meters and power based “smart trainers” have become more affordable, easier to use and are widely available to any serious cyclist looking to improve their performance. This training series is designed around power to make it individualized to each user.

There are two heart rates that will be referred to in the workout series, and you will want to figure your specific HR’s out and memorize them.

The first is your maximum aerobic heart rate or aerobic threshold (AeT). The primary objective when building aerobic endurance is to improve your ability to burn fat for fuel while sparing glycogen (stored carbohydrates). The higher percentage of fat-to-carb you can train on, the faster and longer you will be able to go on race day as you will be relying less on sugar for fuel, which will increase your maximum sustainable power cycling. By training at (and a range of 10 beats below) your aerobic threshold (AeT) you’re training at your highest output while burning predominantly fat and keeping sugar-burning to a minimum. As you become more fit at this pace you will be able to train longer and longer distances on less and less energy (or go the same distance faster!).

The second heart rate that is referred to is your Anaerobic Threshold Heart Rate or AnT HR. This is your 1-hour race-pace heart rate. The balance point between lactic acid being metabolized for energy and accumulating in your blood. Train at or just below this effort level and you can increase your race-pace at any distance; go above this threshold for an extended period of time and you risk damaging your hard-earned aerobic development and will require significantly more recovery time between training sessions. You will likely spend more time training in this zone in your race specific  preparation following your base training, but you will hit this zone in small amounts in this series of workouts to prepare the body for the more extensive AnT training throughout your racing season.

The relationship between power and heart rate is super key in identifying training adaptations and knowing when to make progressions.

Power measures the output of work you are doing. Heart rate measures the response your body has to the work that is being done. When you can do the same work (power) with a lower response (lower HR), you know you are adapting to the work and making fitness gains. If you are doing the same amount of work (power), but working harder to do it (higher HR), then you have a problem that needs to be addressed by slowing down or resting. By using both metrics in your training you can make better decisions on when to increase workloads and when to back off.

Trainer Session Layout

There are several specific exercises that will be utilized throughout the workout series. Each workout is intended to last roughly 75 minutes in duration. With the duration static, the workouts are designed to progress with a higher and higher workload with each successive workout. The basic layout of every workout includes a warm-up to gradually elevate the HR (appx. 15-20 minutes), two to three exercises make up the main-set of the workout (appx. 45-50 minutes), and a cool-down spin to bring the HR back into normal resting ranges (appx. 5-10 minutes). Each exercise has a specific duration, cadence, gearing, HR and power guideline to follow.

The Exercises

There are nine exercises utilized within the workout series. Each one has a very specific protocol to following including variables such as resistance/gearing, cadence, power, HR, work duration and recovery duration. Below you will find a description of each exercise.

Spin-Ups: 

Used in this application as both a warm-up exercise and leg-speed development. These should be performed in your easiest gear with very little resistance. Your cadence will increase per instruction, your HR will rise gradually along with your cadence. HR is to not exceed your AeT HR. If your HR gets too high, lighten the resistance on your trainer or cease cadence increase until you improve your economy over the next several sessions.

Isolated Leg Training (ILT):

This exercise is both a leg strengthener and pedaling efficiency improver. You will unclip one leg and rest it on the back of your trainer (or let it dangle), while pedaling with the other leg. Complete the interval, clip the resting leg back in, pedal easy for a minute, and repeat with the other leg. That is one rep (one left-leg interval, followed by one right-leg interval). The “dead spot” will be noticeable, if not immediately, after a minute or two of the interval. This is where you are not applying force to the pedals and wasting energy. After several sessions your pedaling stroke will become noticeably smoother and “rounder”.

Low RPM intervals are designed to build specific strength. Every few sessions, as your strength improves, you will want to increase the load by shifting to a higher gear. HR should remain under your AeT throughout the interval, finishing right up to your AeT HR by the end of the intervals. If your HR is too high, try a smaller gear, if it’s too low, try a bigger gear. Cadence should remain at 60 rpm for the entire interval.  Changing hand positions each minute from tops to drops and back to tops will engage different muscles and make the time pass more quickly. It is often more difficult to perform ILTs in the drops due to the closed hip-angle and greater recruitment of the hip-flexors.

High RPM ILT intervals are designed to improve your neuro-muscular capabilities. Training the muscles to fire smoothy throughout the entire pedal stroke. These often feel quite easy for the first 60 seconds and then can become quite difficult until you train your muscles to cooperate. You will perform these in your easiest gear, with very little resistance. HR is not a concern here and should not rise much at all. If it does, your resistance is too high. As with the low-cadence ILTs, changing hand positions each minute from tops to drops and back to tops will engage different muscles and

make the time pass more easily. It is noticeably more difficult to perform the 80 rpm ILT’s in the drops due to the closed hip-angle and greater recruitment of the hip-flexors.

Aerobic Threshold (AeT) Intervals:  2-3 Hour Power 

To train the Aerobic Energy System, you want to target your AeT HR. You will pedal in a self selected gearing/cadence to achieve the target HR. Power will be approximately 85% of FTP at this effort level.

Aerobic-Strength Intervals:  

As your aerobic fitness improves you can add “hills” to your intervals for added strength benefits.

“Climbing” on the trainer can be achieved by elevating your front wheel above the rear with a trainer block, block of wood, stack of books or whatever method you choose. This elevated position engages slightly different muscles and simulates climbing on the road. With this exercise you will sit or stand and pedal, as in climbing a hill. This exercise builds both strength and aerobic fitness. The gearing is near your largest gear (high resistance), producing a cadence between 50 and 60 rpm. You will plod along at this low-cadence while changing hand positions every few minutes, from hoods and drops, to engage different muscles and keep things interesting. HR should rise after the first few minutes into your AeT HR Zone. It’s best to let it rise on it’s own and not exceed the mid-point of that zone. Again appropriate gearing/resistance will be the key if you are finding your HR too high or not high enough. When standing, weak core strength will be noticeable while performing this exercise as your back may fatigue before your legs do. If this happens, feel free to sit down for a minute to rest, before standing back up and continuing on.

Stand & Surge:

Once you have built up your “climbing” strength and endurance, you begin to elevate your HR a bit more with the addition of surges. These surges are slight increase in cadence over your “normal” climbing cadence you’ve been using to this point. In the last few minutes of your regular Strength Climb, you will surge by raising your cadence between 10 and 20 rpms for the last 15 seconds of each minute prescribed in the workout. This acceleration will increase your power output for the 15 seconds and raise your HR several beats. The surge is not a sprint or attack, but rather a quick increase in cadence. HR should rise to and slightly above your AeT HR by the last few. Again, not intended to be an all-out effort, just a simple introduction to a higher power workload. In between 15-second surges you will return to your Steady Strength cadence and your HR will recover partially before the next surge. With each surge your HR will rise slightly higher than the previous. Upon the completion of the final surge, stop pedaling completely, sit down and note your “peak HR”. Watch your HR fall and note how quickly it drops to below 100 bpm. Over the course of the series you should see your HR drop faster from higher peak HR indicating improved aerobic fitness.

6 to 8-minute AnT intervals: 32-64:00 Power 

Finally you are allowed to get your HR up over your AeT for a longer period of time. These intervals begin to touch on your anaerobic system by using a bit more carbohydrate to perform. You will focus on raising your cadence slightly each minute to achieve a gradually higher workload. These are the “comfortably hard” intervals of the series just under and right up to your FTP power (90-100%). Your HR objective is to reach your AnT HR by the end of each interval. First adjust cadence to achieve desired HR (between 90 and 100 rpm), before selecting a different gear if necessary. Recovery time is half the duration of the interval, allowing for 3 minutes of recovery between successive intervals. As with the completion of the final surge in the Stand & Surge above, upon the completion of your final AnT Interval of a workout, stop pedaling completely and note your “peak HR”. Watch your HR fall and note how quickly it drops to below 100 bpm. Over the course of the series you should see your HR drop faster from higher peak HR indicating improved aerobic fitness.

1 to 4-minute Vo2 Intervals:  8:00 to 16:00 Power

With Vo2s you get to open it up even further with shorter intervals going above your FTP. These are the painful ones! You will perform these intervals again using cadence as means to increase the workload throughout the intervals. Although these intervals are short, they will get your HR up over your AnT HR. The goal is not to work any harder than necessary, but to hit your cadence and gearing targets of 90-105 rpm. Your HR should not exceed more than 5-8 beats over your AnT HR. Power levels will be in the 110-120% FTP range. Any more than that and you are working too hard for this objective requiring more recovery and lost training time. Allow equal recovery durations between successive intervals. Upon the completion of your final Vo2 Interval, stop pedaling completely and note your “peak HR”. Watch your HR fall and note how quickly it drops to below 100 bpm. Over the course of the series you should see your HR drop faster from higher peak HR indicating improved aerobic fitness.

15-30-60-Second Anaerobic Power Intervals:  1:00, 2:00 & 4:00 Power

Now you’re bringing the power! These short bouts of intensity reach 130% to 190% of FTP. As the power increases the duration of the intervals continue to get shorter, and recovery times become longer. Gearing and cadence are now self selected allowing you to go hard and simply focus on hitting the target power levels. Recovery durations are now 3x the length of the interval allowing for near full recovery before the next interval. HR becomes irrelevant due to the short duration of the intervals. Despite the high effort, these intervals don’t hurt too badly since they are over by the time they start to hurt!

Peak Power Sprints:  0:05 Power! 

The second to last progression in the metabolic energy system chain (with movement strength (ie. weight lifting) being the last link in the chain). Anaerobic Power at it’s finest. No oxygen needed! These intervals are performed in a larger gear from a stand still or slight “rolling start”. You kick hard and crank up to full power over 5-10 seconds. You’re done as soon as you peak the cadence out and/or reach peak power for the effort. Power will jump towards 300% of FTP!

Steady Spin & Spin Down:

Your cool-down exercise. The Steady Spins gives you a chance to spin your legs out, get some fresh blood in there and begin the recovery process. You are back in your easiest gear with minimal resistance. Hold the specific rpm listed in the workout (or slightly higher if you like) for the time prescribed. HR should maybe reach the lower limits of your AeT HR Zone. Adjust resistance (or lower cadence) as needed. After the extended time spinning, you begin to gradually bring the cadence down (along with HR) with the Spin Down. Bring your cadence back down to 80 rpm over a few minutes until you are breathing normally and no longer perspiring. Wipe the sweat off your face and body, grab your recovery drink and call your workout finished!

Interested in giving it a try yourself?

Download via Training Peaks:

All Programs include:

  • Full Testing Protocol and Training Zone Calculator to identify HR and Power zones and track progress.
  • Structured training sessions uploadable to your app of choice (Zwift, Wahoo, Garmin, Trainer Road, etc.)
  • All the strength training details, including videos and set/rep schemes and calculated loads specific to your ability (if applicable)
  • Bonus weekend training ride suggestions for either indoors or out.

 

 

Written by Cody Waite, professional endurance athlete, endurance sport coach and founder of Sessions:6 Sport Performance. Looking for help with your endurance sport training? Check out S:6’s Training Plans, Team Programs, and  Personal Coaching options created to fit your needs and budget.

 

 

 

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