Sweet Spot Training is widely recognised as being the most effective ways of improving your fitness and ‘getting to the next level’.
Sweet-Spot Training is basically training in the upper half of Tempo and lower half of Threshold. For the sportive and grandfondo cyclist, sweet-spot is the intensity that you can maintain on successive alpine climbs. I like to pitch it at where you can still comfortably drink two or three mouthfulls of water and chew food without gasping for breath. It’s riding hard but not too hard.
After a Sweet Spot ride you should feel pleasantly tired and in a good mood. It could be said that it’s the destressing zone! You can recover and be able train/ride the following day, as opposed to a High Intensity ride which will require a day or two to recover from.
Power Meter : If you have a power meter aim to keep your power between 85% and 95% of FTP. For example, if your FTP is 220 watts then you should aim to keep your power in the range of 187 to 209, or round it off to 190 to 210 watts.
Heart-Rate : If you’re using heart-rate aim for between 85% and 95% of your FTHR (Functional Threshold Heart-Rate). For example, if your FTHR is 160bpm you should aim to keep your heart-rate between 136 and 152bpm, or 140bpm to 150bpm. When using heart-rate you’ll also need to focus on your sensations.
Breathing : Deep and relaxed. If you ride any harder you would start to get out of breath. You can ride at a pace where your breathing and pedalling is in sync.
Feel / Sensations : It’s where you get in the groove on a fairly hard two to three hour ride. Certainly too fast for idle chit-chat. Breathing will be deep but relaxed. Pedaling hard but below an effort level where your legs start aching. Your mind will be quite focussed on what you’re doing but still be aware of where you are in your surroundings. On a long climb your legs will be pedalling quite hard but not grinding the pedals round. It’s sort of where you can start to climb out of the saddle from time to time.
Interval Duration : Usually 8 to 20 minutes. You can vary the length and intensity of your recovery intervals but easy endurance effort for about half the duration of the preceeding interval should be sufficient. So if you do a 10 minute effort you can do 5 minutes at an easy pace.
From analysing the data of successful professional cyclists Andrew Coggan noticed that they spent a great deal of time training between 80% and 90% of their FTP. It’s thought that riding at this intensity creates enough physical traning stress without causing too much fatigue so that the body can recover sufficiently and the cyclist can train again the following day.
At one time this was thought to be an area to avoid during training but since the advent of power meters top coaches have noticed that it can be a very beneficial zone to train in.
When to do Sweet Spot Training
You need to have established a reasonable level of fitness before you start including Sweet-Spot Training into your rides. If you introduce them too soon you may suffer muscle and tendon injuries. Make sure you have a good warm-up for 20 minutes or more then start with three 5 minute intervals with 5 minutes recovery in between.
If you’re aiming to take part in a cyclosportive or have a trip to the mountains during the summer, the aim should be to do two or three 20 minute sweet-spot intervals during a training ride. It’s more-or-less the intensity at which you’ll ride a sustained alpine climb during a cyclosportive.
Indoors, aim to do 5 to 10 minutes with two or three minutes recovery in between.
Training Peaks : Three Ways to Improve FTP
Andrew Coggan: Training in the Sweet Spot
Fastcatcoaching : How much Sweet-Spot Training should I do?
Fastcatcoaching : Sweet Spot Training
Fastcatcoaching : How to Sweet-Spot
TrainerRoad : Sweet Spot vs Traditional Base
Triathlete.com : How to Use Sweet Spot Training