Criss-Cross Intervals

Criss-Cross intervals mimic the power demands* of road and mountain bike races. In this training tip, we’ll describe the how, what, where, and why of criss cross intervals and give you some example workouts plus a 4 week interval progression to follow and a link to our sweet spot part 3 training plan that incorporates criss cross intervals.

*surges in the peloton, steeper pitches up climbs, switchbacks, and technical singletrack

Criss-Cross intervals are structured tempo intervals with a “cross” up to harder intensities for 60-180 seconds, every 2-5 minutes during the tempo interval. After the "cross" the athlete returns to tempo wattage until the next "cross." Criss Crosses are what we call variable power workouts that have 2 benefits:

  1. specificity of real world conditions
  2. Help the time pass quicker during indoor training sessions!

Here are our four example Criss-Cross workouts, progressively getting more and more difficult, up to the 'diabolical' criss cross:

Criss-Cross, Tempo > Sweet Spot: 3 x 10 minutes ON 10 minutes OFF with a 1 minute "cross" at 4 & 9 minutes

As the athlete and training progress, one can increase both the length of the interval and the intensity of the "cross" from Sweet Spot to Threshold > VO2 > Zone 6/Anaerobic. Here's the same 3 x 10 Criss-Cross interval workout as above except the "cross" is now at FTP watts:

Criss-Cross, Tempo > Threshold: 3 x 10 minutes ON 10 minutes OFF with a 1 minute "cross" at 4 & 9 minutes

Criss-Cross, Tempo > VO2: 3 x 10 minutes ON 10 minutes OFF with a 1 minute "cross" at 4 & 9 minutes

Criss- Cross, Tempo > Zone 6/Anaerobic: 3 x 10 minutes ON 10 minutes OFF with a 1 minute "cross" at 4 & 9 minutes

I like to take athletes through the above Criss-Cross workouts once a week as they progress and are finishing up their base and CTL build. The intensity from the "crosses" is just enough to bridge the gap from base training to full on, full gas high intensity interval training. Criss-Cross intervals are also great for:

  • bridging the gap from base training to high intensity interval training (the crosses)
  • generating larger TSS's than traditional Sweet Spot and Tempo advance aerobic endurance training, and thus raise CTL even higher
  • help the time pass quicker during indoor training sessions!

Additionally, Criss-Cross workouts may be 'enhanced' by increasing the length of the "criss" interval, number and intensities of the "crosses. For example, progressing to a sweet spot interval that crosses up into Zone 5 and even Zone 6. There are so many possibilities I encourage you to customize & diversify your Criss-Cross intervals.

The most diabolical Criss-Cross Interval workout I've ever prescribed is the following:

Threshold > Zone 6, 3 x 15 with three 1 minute "crosses" in Zone 6 at minute 4, 9 and 14 minutes. Note how the 3rd "cross" of each interval is full gas (150% of FTP!) to mimic a race winning move.

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To talk with a FasCat Coach about Criss-Cross intervals for your training and racing, please fill out a New Athlete Questionnaire to set up a complimentary coaching consultation. 

Additionally nearly all of our road and mountain bike $49 training plans have criss cross intervals designed in an easy to follow weekly training calendar. 

About Frank Overton

Frank founded FasCat Coaching in 2002 and has been a full time cycling coach since 2004. His educational background includes a Masters degree in Physiology from North Carolina State University, pre-med from Hampden-Sydney College. Frank raced at a professional level on the road and mountain bike and currently competes as a "masters" level gravel and cyclocrosser. Professionally Frank comes from medical school spinal cord research and molecular biotechnology. However, to this day it is a dream come true for Frank to be able to help cyclists as a coach.

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