The blog for serious cyclist

February 10, 2021
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How to Improve Your FTP with Sweet Spot Training?

Unless you are a professional cyclist, the chances are that you do not spend anywhere near as much time on the bike as you would like. Although having a home trainer can help you increase the time you can spend training, you need to train a little smarter for maximum results. One way to slingshot your fitness to the next level is by training in your sweet spot. Sweet spot training will increase your FTP (Functional Threshold Power) without spending hours on your bike or indoor trainer to improve cycling performance.

Structured workout for cyclist in Wattrainer

Tailor-made training

What is Sweet Spot Training?

Sweet Spot and Training Efficiency

Hunter Allen, Andrew R. Coggan, Stephen McGregor. Training and Racing with a Power Meter. VeloPress 2019.

The clue is in the title. Sweet spot training is when you find the perfect balance between intensity and time efficiency. It is that feeling when you feel powerful, your legs are pumping, and you know that you can sustain the effort for longer than a few minutes. Sweet spot training can be challenging out on the open road, but on a home trainer, you have no distractions and can maintain your effort for as long as your structured workout tells you.

By sustaining an effort that is 85% - 95% of your FTP (Functional Threshold Power) if you use a power meter or 75%-85% of your maximum heart rate if you prefer training using HR zones. The sweet spot is somewhere between zone 3 Tempo and zone 4 Lactate Threshold. While training in the sweet spot, you maximise the training effect while sustaining the effort for a long time, without causing physiological damage. This perfect combination results in an improved Functional Threshold Power while minimizing rest time.

5 reasons why Sweet Spot an effective training zone

1. Time efficient workout

We all have enough going on in our lives, so we need to maximise the training effect of the little time we have on the home trainer. By utilising your sweet spot training zone, you can make sure that you get the maximum return for the time you have in the saddle. It is not easy. However, a sustained 60-minute ride at your sweet spot is all you need a couple of times a week to result in improved cycling performance.

By utilising your sweet spot power zone, you are putting your body and legs through quality training for a sustained period of time. It means that you do not have to rely solely on longer rides to build up your endurance. Or go 110% on short quick intervals in the understanding that is the only way to improve your FTP with a finite amount of time to train. If you instil sweet spot power zone workouts into your training schedule, you will save time without compromising results. It is, however, still vital you incorporate workouts using other power zones throughout your training plan.

2. Increase your power at anaerobic (lactate) threshold

In zone 4 or Anaerobic (lactate) threshold zone, the amount of lactate in your blood is increased but is still under control. Sweet spot training forces you to be at the lower end of zone 4. The result is that you train your muscles to use more lactic acid as fuel. With time this will mean that your functional threshold power increases.

This, combined with your muscles improved carbohydrate metabolism increases your FTP, as you can maintain a higher power output for sustained periods. This will not only enhance your performance on race day by improving the pace you can keep, but it also helps you to power through shorter time trials or attacks. As your FTP increases, you will be able to maintain higher power output and smash your time trial personal best.

3. Sustain less intense efforts for longer

Once you have instilled sweet spot workouts into your regular training schedule, you will notice that club rides and longer spin sessions start to get a lot easier. Think about it. If you can increase your FTP by just 10%, it means that next time you go for a more leisurely ride, you will be in a lower power zone. This will result in faster recovery and more enjoyable leisurely weekend rides with your mates.

Not every bike ride has to be a race, and it is healthy to sometimes just jump on your bike for a ride, without having the pressure to maintain and push the limits of your power zone. Finally, you can relax and revel in your ability to improve your cycling performance during the off-season by training smart on your home trainer.

4. Faster recovery so you can get back on the bike the next day

Sometimes it is great to push your body and train in zones 4, 5 and even 6. Pushing your body and muscles to the absolute limit. Of course, power zone training has meant that we know a lot more about the benefits of using zone training to maximise the training effect. However, as soon as you get to the higher end of zone 4 or 100% of your FTP/Max HR, you start doing your body just as much harm as good. Although our bodies are amazing and they will fix themselves, the physiological effect of training at 100%+ for any sustained period means that it takes you longer to recover.

Unfortunately, longer recovery just means longer off the bike. That is why sweet spot training is one of the most effective training workouts. You are on the limit of the point at which you start to cause yourself more physiological damage. Basically, the intensity of sweet spot training balances recovery time with training benefits. That means you can jump back in the saddle and go again sooner, therefore getting more bang for your buck compared to zone 4 and high-intensity interval training.

5. It reminds you why you fell in love with cycling

Using power zone training to do a sweet spot workout is more than just great for your fitness. It is that perfect level of sustained effort where you are trying hard enough that you can feel you are getting a great workout, without feeling completely knackered and spent once you jump off the bike. Cycling is a great low impact form of exercise, and you do not have to wear your body out every time in order to reap the tremendous physiological benefits of cycling.

How to train in Sweet Spot using Wattrainer

By plugging into Wattrainer, you can get the benefits of sweet spot workouts in the comfort of your own home. All you have to do is pair your trainer with the app, select the sweet spot workout that suits your busy schedule and let the app tell you when to pick up the pace or take a rest based on your current FTP. The Wattrainer app is intuitive and clearly shows you when it is time to increase your watts so that you are in the sweet spot and reaping all of the benefits listed above.

Looking for a longer sweet spot workout and need a little distraction while you maintain your power zone? Don't worry, Wattrainer has you covered. You can simply minimise the training stats and graphics so that you can watch your favourite film or series on Netflix, Youtube or any video file. Your stats are discreetly overlaid so that you can make sure you are maintaining your sweet spot workout throughout.

Structured workout for cyclist in Wattrainer

Tailor-made training