Sweet Spot training is hyper-efficient for getting faster on the bike — here’s how much you should do
How to find your Sweet Spot, and how to determine the right amount of training.
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Sweet Spot training is a balanced amount of intensity and volume that increases an athlete’s Functional Threshold Power (FTP) and improves endurance. Sweet Spot training is done with a power meter to gauge intensity. It is hard enough to facilitate rapid adaptation, but not so hard as to require extensive recovery. Thus, the ‘Sweet Spot’.
How do I find my Sweet Spot?
The first step in finding your Sweet Spot is determining your Functional Threshold Power. This can be done with either a 60-minute maximal field test, a 20-minute maximal field test or a Maximal Lactate Steady State test (MLSS).
Armed with your newly found FTP, your sweet spot training level is 84 to 97% of your FTP.
- What FTP means, how to test for it, and how to improve it
- Cycling training zones — and Sweet Spot — explained
How much Sweet Spot training should I do?
Now that you’ve established your FTP, how much sweet spot should your daily workouts contain? That depends primarily on three things:
- Your ability level
- Time of year
- The type of event you are training for, particularly its duration
Cyclists of all ages and abilities should be able to complete 15 minutes of Sweet Spot broken down into three intervals of 5 minutes on, 5 minutes off.
At FasCat Coaching, 15 minutes is the lower limit and three hours is the absolute upper limit we will prescribe in a day’s session, even for incredibly motivated, professional, and well-conditioned cyclists. The biggest amount of Sweet Spot I know of is now-retired pro Matthew Hayman, who did close to six hours of sweet spot to win Paris-Roubaix.
In the chart below you’ll find example durations FasCat prescribes for various types of athletes.
When and why you should Sweet Spot
When you are building your pre-season aerobic engine, the more Sweet Spot the better. Once the season has begun, training needs to be tailored to your target events.
Sweet Spot for gravel
Most gravel grinder events are all about who can Sweet Spot the most. So when you sign up for a gravel event, how much Sweet Spot should you do is not based on your age or ability, but instead on how hard and long the course is. So, start with a healthy 60 minutes and raise your Chronic Training Load by building with as much Sweet Spot as you can handle — perhaps up to 120 minutes — to prepare for your event that is going to be five, six, or seven hours long. Seven hours? Hey, you signed up for it!
Sweet Spot for cyclocross
Like roadies and mountain bikers, when ’crossers are building a hemi-powered aerobic engine, the more Sweet Spot the better. However, once the season begins, since a ’cross race will only be an hour, less Sweet Spot is necessary in training.
Sweet Spot for road racing
I recommend anywhere from 15 to 240 minutes, depending on ability level and the duration of target events. Obviously this is a huge range, but it’s all about specificity to the athlete and their racing. In the early part of the offseason, start with a basic interval workout and increase your total duration by increasing the duration and number of intervals over time. During the season, do Sweet Spot workouts specific to the amount of time you expect to race at Sweet Spot in your goal events.
Sweet Spot for mountain biking
Sweet Spot should be a mountain biker’s bread-and-butter training, especially as the race durations exceed the traditional two-hour cross-country format. Pros who race for five hours should prepare by riding in their Sweet Spot for as close to those durations as they can. Amateur riders should use intervals to progress with as much specific workload as they can and then use the knowledge of your limits on race day. For example, if a Category 2 mountain biker can only perform 90 minutes of Sweet Spot intervals in training, they should pace a 5-hour race so that they don’t exceed 110 minutes of Sweet Spot intensity.
The Sweet bottom line
Overall, the amount of Sweet Spot you can and should perform in you daily workouts depends on the distance, intensity, and duration of your goal events. Start small, build on that and finally train in the Sweet Spot specific for your discipline and goal event. I hope the chart above will help!