Cycling workout of the week #11: Sweetspot blocks [1hr] - AKA ‘the best bang for your buck’ training

Do if… you want to boost your power in sustained, hard efforts

Image shows a rider completing sweetspot training efforts.
(Image credit: Future)

Sweetspot has often been referred to as ‘the best bang for your buck’ training. It enables us to accumulate the most training stress within the shortest time sustainably. With this session, you’re really making the most of the time you spend churning away on a turbo trainer.

Working close to – but not above – Critical Power means that the effort is sustainable for periods of up to an hour. It is also useful for improving our pain threshold.

After a 10-minute warm up, you’ll be sitting at sweetspot (88-92 per cent of Critical Power) for 15-minutes. Then it’s 10-minutes easy before repeating the 15-minute sweetspot block.

The workout

To download the session click on the embedded graph above. If you’re not already set up on TrainerDay it’ll ask you to register for an account - it’s free to do so and it’s free to download the session.  

Golden rule

It is important with these efforts to start at the right intensity and not to go off too hard. For the first five or 10 minutes this effort will usually feel pretty sustainable but, as the duration of the effort continues, the rate of perceived exertion will likely increase. Try and maintain a cycling cadence of 85 to 95 rpm while keeping your body stable and your breathing controlled.

Simply explained

Sweetspot is a level that is upper cycling training zone three and lower zone four when using a six or seven zone power model. You might also hear it being referred to as between a ‘tempo’ and ‘threshold’ effort. 

Using physiological domains, it is the region that sits just below and around Critical Power, in the heavy intensity domain. This means that, theoretically, the effort can be maintained almost indefinitely as long as fuel is consumed and heat stress is controlled. 

It is often used as a cycling workout to accumulate a great amount of training stress in a short amount of time. For example, when we only have one hour available to train due to other commitments.

Let’s geek out…

Image shows a rider completing sweetspot training efforts.

(Image credit: Future)

Physiologically, this session elicits a great amount of training stress and can also be useful for time crunched cyclists to boost their fitness. The exposure to a high level of training stress is useful for eliciting aerobic training gains, including mitochondrial biogenesis and angiogenesis.

Another benefit of working at this intensity is that it is heavily reliant on fuelling with carbohydrates for a long period of time, so can assist in improving our capacity to break down and utilise carbohydrates at a higher rate.

However, it needs to be balanced with different training stimuli and one problem with sweetspot training is that it is often overprescribed, which can result in a fitness plateau occuring due to the lack of variance in stimuli. 

Another benefit of sweetspot training is that it improves our resistance to pain while cycling at an intensity very close to threshold. This is hugely beneficial if you do a long range attack in a road race as you would want to be maintaining sweetspot intensity for the entirety of that breakaway.

Even if you are just targeting completing what is usually a two hour loop on your local roads as quickly as possible, likely the fastest way to achieve this is at sweetspot intensity. This is because the effort will be sustainable as long as you fuel sufficiently throughout but won’t be so hard that it elicits a higher level of fatigue which would not be maintainable for two hours.

Sunny out? How about…

Image shows a rider completing sweetspot training efforts.

(Image credit: Future)

These efforts are fairly straightforward to complete outside, either on a climb or on a long rolling stretch of road. The intensity should be maintainable on steady descents, but it will be important that you find a stretch of road that isn’t too technical and doesn’t have too many junctions to negotiate. Just make sure that you have brought enough food and drink with you, especially if you’re doing a longer version of the cycling workout which lasts over 90 minutes.

Looking for another? How about...

- Cycling workout of the week #1: 20/40s [50 mins]

- Cycling workout of the week #3: MAP (Maximal Aerobic Power) efforts [1hr 5 mins]

- Cycling workout of the week #6: 1 min on, 1 min off [45 mins]

- Cycling workout of the week #7: Pick ’n’ Mix [1hr 1 min] 

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