Science behind Sweet Spot Methodology


As mentioned, not all TR users are untrained. To wit, I’ve been training and racing for about 13 years before coming over to TR, two of those working with a coach, many of them self-coached, but I also coach runners and am building my base of knowledge to work with cyclists as well.

Sweet Spot training has been a foundational aspect of my training for the entirety of my time owning a power meter, now going on ten years. I don’t believe - I have no peer-reviewed studies to back this up - that there is any long-term consequence of SST that’s not a carry-over from doing any endurance sport for decades.


Yeah, exactly. It’s so hard to control these types of experiments with certain types of training because of all the other factors involved - sleep, recovery, nutrition. It’s likely to take two decades to prove or disprove any training style because it just takes that long to gather enough results-based data from individual athletes over the course of many seasons.

What you end up with is a coach working with higher level athletes who tries something new, and it works… or it doesn’t… and then others pick up on it and try it and it works for them… or it doesn’t. Their method is based on sound theory, but none of them are out there testing control groups vs their athletes and documenting their trials. They’re just pointing at their individual athletes results and exclaiming “Eureka!” for the most part. Nothing wrong with that; “Trial and error” is an accepted scientific practice, albeit not an efficient one!


No one I ever ran with or was coached by. Totally agree about that study. It really just shows that higher intensity work (to a point) will yield better performance in a roughly two month time frame. Well, duh. We all know that. :smile: -)

More than likely similar enough to what your “real” people do. No doubt they’re rockin it. I’ve been increasing my volume and am currently in base. I’d like to find an optimal distribution depending on the time of year, goals, etc. I’m doing what ppl do: making a training plan. Previously that plan involved lots of 88-92% FTP for 12, 15, 20 mins segments --> rinse, repeat --> tired? back off --> now not tired, do that again. Oh and when you’re done, you better change the stimulus. Cool! Time for threshold and Vo2 intervals.

Me too. See above comment about “elevator pitch”.

Why 88-92% is so special (or sweet). And not a diagram…papers.


And if that’s the answer to all this, then great. It’s anecdotal, but maybe that’s all we have.


totally agree.

It has been great for me, as it prioritizes muscle endurance over aerobic endurance. I can give you a bunch of n=1 over 3 seasons, however the bottom line is that TR’s SSB-HV does a fantastic job (for me) at developing the muscular endurance needed on long rides and long 30min - 2.5 hour sustained climbs. And same for TTs.

I’ve tried traditional base a couple times before TR, and just within the last month. From what I’ve read, it priorities moving your bodies fuel burning preference to the right on the power curve. That certainly helps with long distance riding, but is not a substitute for muscle endurance.

Conceptually I like how Friel has an early base for aerobic endurance, and then a middle/late base for muscular endurance. Thats the approach I’ve now taken for 2 seasons and it has delivered improvements. Is it the approach, or fact that I’m new to cycling? Not sure, but the fundamentals make sense so I’m sticking with it until some compelling evidence comes along to change my mind.


depends on how close you think the sweet spot is to MLSS. True sweet spot is pretty close, like the workouts in SSB1, but the stuff in SSB2, are about half at or above threshold, so can be 95-105%

There are articles about MLSS, but I don’t know if they’re really looking at the physiological indicators, or just increases in performances. I don’t have too much time, but I did find a few and if you know how to search journal articles (by the citations and cited by links) you can get somewhere.

Another thing to use in the search is ampk, since that is the cellular signal to produce the changes to adapt to endurance activities.

Maybe this opens up another discussion, but MLSS is IMO in Seiler’s zone 2.


Boom! Now we’re talking. Thank YOU! sir :smile: (yeah, I know how to search. MLSS and ampk give me someplace to start)


Probably worth reading Friel’s series of articles on intervals, with references:


no references, but worth a read:

which is followed by:

No sport science references in either, AFAIK.


You might consider joining the “wattage” group on google groups. Over the years there has been a great deal of sweetspot discussion, and plenty of comments from Coggan who posted there pretty regularly.

Searching sweetspot just now I’ve got posts going back to at least 2005.


Yep. I’ll likely follow this approach. I’ll just need to decide the right timing to make the switch to including more SS/THR.


RE: wattage group. Cool. Thanks. I’ll check that out too.


This famous SST table is probably simply a summary of Coggan’s long term research in the field. And knowledge of the literature, he was quite a review papers author. He’s own research was mainly about carb and especially glycogen utilisation.

The SST Methodology - if there is such a thing - is probably simply scaling up these physiological details to mesocycles. And as alluded to before, probably too complicated to be captured in a study design as it’s effects do not come within a few weeks. A foundation is built over years.

Two sample reviews by Coggan, some of this went into the table:

1991.Coggan&Coyle.Review.Carbohydrate Ingestion During Prolonged Exercise Effects on Metabolism and Performance.pdf (1.9 MB)

2014.Coggan.Review_history_Metabolic_systems_substrate_u.pdf (985.7 KB)

and here one by himself, substrate utilisation by trained cyclists during 3-4hours at tempo/SST:

1986.Coyle&Coggan.3-4hrs slightly below lactate threshold_trained cyclists.pdf (2.3 MB)


@sryke Thanks for the resources. And I understand what you’re saying about the model and him and reviews. Makes sense


According to Mark Liversedge, Coggan “admits there is no study or empirical evidence to support the claim that SST is the best bang for buck” in this online discussion.

Liversedge (leads the development of Golden Cheetah) also has an interesting tabulation for POL pros and cons here


:grinning:That’s not exactly how I read the discussion leaning toward argument they’re having there.

Dr Coggan:

As far as I am aware, no study of humans has directly addressed the effects of intensity per se on performance while controlling for confounding factors (e.g., total work). Moreover, not all studies are necessarily in agreement, as the few citations I pointed towards were meant to illustrate. You therefore have to rely on a synthesis of the literature, including studies of rats, which among other things nicely illustrate the issue of motor unit recruitment. What such studies also demonstrate is that, within certain limits, there is a trade-off between duration and intensity, with the end result being the same. It therefore logically follows that the best “bang for the buck” in terms of improvement per unit time is at the highest intensity that still falls within said limits. IOW, there is a “sweetspot”, training below which requires significantly more time and training above which results in significantly different adaptations. As I have said many times before, I consider this to be as much a concept as anything else, but if people twist my arm and ask me to guess where the “sweetspot” (as Frank Overton termed it) lies, I place it between the level 2/3 border and FTP itself. Most importantly, this concept was introduced (enunciated, actually, as it was in response to a question I got at a USA Cycling coaching clinic at M.I.T. in Boston around 2000) to encourage people to move away from “training faddism”, i.e., the mistaken belief that training at particular intensities is “bad”, i.e., that there is a “no-go” or “grey” zone that should be avoided at all costs.

As for your summary, it contains several apples-to-oranges comparisons that make it far less useful than you wish to pretend it to be.


I hear this a lot. People tend to forget about the FTP gains you get. So while you might not be changing how well you process fat as a percent of FTP you’re actually increasing your FTP, so at the same wattage as before you’re more aerobic.

Athlete 1:
250 FTP, aerobic ceiling at ~ 70% - 175 watts
Lets say they train lots of slow stuff and get their aerobic ceiling up to 75% of threshold - 188 watts

Athlete 2:
250 FTP, aerobic ceiling at ~ 70% - 175 watts
Focuses on raising their FTP and goes up to 300. Same 70% aerobic ceiling at ~ 70% - 210 watts

I know that’s a generous FTP increase but most of us have some room to grow in FTP. Athlete 2 could also ride at 188 watts but probably go much longer than athlete 1.

I did almost all of my training indoors for Leadville. I find the 2 hour sweet spot workouts (like wright peak; but build up to it) work really well. I did a few longer rides outside and they were tied to races. 5-6 hour training rides are so brutal for me.

My Polarized Training Experience (Chad McNeese & others)

there’s some bad blood between the two :slight_smile:

What, I think, does come out from Coggan is that there seems to be no clear definition of sweet-spot range.


Hi Nate

This is a reasonable assumption, but FTP is an “hour” metric. Is it not also possible that we become better at producing more power (ie via more efficient fast twitch muscle fibre) for the same amounts of glycocen? I am way out of my league here but can’t help wondering if any “hour” (like FTP) metric is not skewed by abundant glycocen stores.


Thanks for the insight Nate. Appreciate you taking the time to read through all these posts and contribute like this :+1:t3::grin:

I’ve got enough time before Leadville where I can spend several months doing lower intensity endurance sessions with the goal of improving my aerobic base (which is underdeveloped).

I then still have the time to transition to more sweet spot and threshold sessions to drive the benefits you mention above. So hopefully I’ll get the best of both worlds here.

I don’t mind the long training rides - as long as I can do them outdoors!