What is Sweetspot Training?
Sweetspot means training just below your threshold (FTP). It’s a moderately hard effort that you could sustain for long periods of time. It was popularised by Dr Andy Coggan in his book “Training and Racing with a Power Meter”, which suggests sweetspot strikes a balance between physiological strain and training duration to achieve a maximum training effect.
"sweetspot strikes a balance between physiological strain and training duration to achieve a maximum training effect"
To work in your sweetspot zone, aim for roughly 88-93% of FTP or 85-85% of your threshold heart rate.
Why do Sweetspot Training?
Sweetspot training has a wide range of benefits for your aerobic engine – increases in blood plasma volume, mitochondria, glycogen storage and muscle capillarisation, for example. It’s also an enjoyable level for training where the athlete feels they’ve had a great workout without the mental fatigue of maximal efforts. Don’t discount the value of motivation!
This means sweetspot is a great option for those on a limited time budget, especially during a base phase of the season.
"sweetspot is a great option for those on a limited time budget"
Sweetspot intensity, especially combined with low cadence / high torque work, is also effective in decreasing the amount of energy you produce through an anaerobic glycolytic pathway (referred to as your VLamax). It might seem counterintuitive to want to decrease your energy production, but according to sports scientist Sebastian Weber, your FTP is balance between lactate production and lactate clearance. Reducing your VLamax can, therefore, increase your FTP without changing your VO2max or aerobic capacity. This means sweetspot should be a regular session for steady state athletes like time triallists, triathletes and duathletes. However, sprinters would be advised to stay away from this kind of work, especially close to race season. Finding the delicate balance between VO2max and VLamax has helped shape the training and success of Sebastian Weber’s elite riders like Tony Martin, Peter Sagan and André Greipel.
"sweetspot should be a regular session for time triallists, triathletes and duathletes"
However, sweetspot training will only get you so far. To reach your potential you’ll also need to incorporate other low and high intensity sessions, especially if your event demands include bursts of power like in road racing, criteriums, cyclocross, MTB, track sprinting or draft legal triathlon. Also, for most athletes, two or maybe three sessions a week is enough. Remember sweetspot does have a metabolic cost, so there is a limit to how much you can or should do.
"two or maybe three sessions a week is enough"
How to do it
Sweetspot work can be part of a longer endurance ride or a dedicated session on the road or trainer. Completing sweetspot work on long hills or on the trainer also allows you to get the added benefits of sustained low cadence work.
Sweetspot Hills – Include 2-3 climbs of 15-30 minutes at sweetspot intensity during a ride of 1.5 hours or longer.
Trainer workouts – make sure you bookend these intervals with a suitable warmup and cooldown