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If you’ve never come across the term ‘sweet spot training’ before, you may be justifiably confused and also intrigued. It’s a type of training that is unique to cycling and won’t be found in training plans for other disciplines like running or swimming. We dive into the world of sweet spot training and explain everything you need to know from what it is and how to work it out, to advantages and disadvantages of using it in your training.
Put simply, sweet spot training refers to a specific training intensity. If you’re going to incorporate sweet spot training into your cycling, you’ll need to first know about cycling power zones and Functional Threshold Power (FTP). The sweet spot training zone is generally found at the upper end of Zone 3 and the lower end of Zone 4 when talking about cycling power zones. This will be around 88-93% of your FTP or 75-85% of your maximum heart rate (MHR) - but we’ll get to that later on so don’t worry if it makes no sense to you now. The goal of training at sweet spot intensity is to put your body under enough stress to make positive physiological adaptations while still being able to sustain the efforts over a longer duration. In other words, you’re at the sweet spot between endurance and intensity.
Before you delve into sweet spot training, you’ll need to do an FTP test. As we mentioned earlier, FTP stands for Functional Threshold Power and is the gold standard for measuring cycling performance. Once you know your FTP, you will be able to determine training zones, work out your sweet spot, and set pacing strategies for upcoming events. If your FTP increases with time, this is an indication that your training is working and you’re becoming a better, more efficient cyclist.
In order to do an FTP test you’ll need a power meter, but the best way to do it is on an indoor bike trainer that measures power output, like a Wattbike. There are several tests you can do to determine your FTP, so take a look on the Wattbike Hub app to find what may work best for you.
Once you have your FTP, you can calculate your sweet spot power zone, which will be 88-93% of your FTP.
Sweet spot training is often described as the most efficient way to see improvements in your cycling. British Cycling Licensed Coach Lisa Thake says, “I would love the luxury of having multiple hours or days to spend on the road but as I don’t, I use structured training sessions on an indoor bike trainer focusing on the sweet spot to achieve the results I am looking for.”
Sweet spot training is time-efficient and helps with the mental strength required to maintain power over the duration of the effort. When it comes to the question of how often you can do sweet spot training, “Think quality over quantity”, says Lisa. “You should not do too much sweet spot training in any given week, otherwise you will feel the effects of muscle fatigue and end up with the opposite of your desired result.”
One of the biggest advantages of sweet spot training is that it builds aerobic capacity, but it should be supplemented with other types of training sessions such as intervals and easy rides to really see the benefits. Lisa goes on to say that, “Individual goals and objectives are important because these will determine if sweet spot training is right for you. If you just ride for fun or shorter distances, you may not need to incorporate sweet spot sessions into your training.”
The result of doing consistent sweet spot training throughout your training block should be an increase in your FTP, meaning you can ride at a higher power and pace for longer durations.
If you’d like a sweet spot training plan, check out the Wattbike Hub for a collection of expertly written training sessions which include sweet spot training sessions.
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