Sweet Spot versus Zone 2 Training Plan Design

The physiological benefits of sweet spot training are illustrated in the table below:

As you can see, there are more x's in the sweet spot column than there are in zone 2 and tempo columns for several key physiological adaptations that are fundamental to endurance cycling performance. Therefore, athletes accomplish more with one hour of sweet spot training than they do with one hour of zone 2 training.

However this does not mean that good sweet spot training plans excludes zone 2. When I was asked by the VeloNews FasTalk podcast, which is better, sweet spot or polarized training, naturally I advocated sweet spot but also explained that athletes want to balance out their training with an appropriate amount of zone 2. Listen to the podcast here:

During this podcast I made 2 points that are the secret sauce of using sweet spot training to raise your functional threshold power, chronic training load and build a hemi-powered aerobic engine:

While I am an advocate of sweet spot training, I also prescribe plenty of zone 2 'base miles' training in a fatigue dependent training plan design model (FDTPDM). Sweet spot versus zone 2 is not Mac versus PC or Chevy versus Ford. A well designed training plan like the one below incorporates both! When athletes have generated substantial fatigue in their legs from sweet spot training then an easier workout (requiring less power) is an appropriate workout prescription. Thus the zone 2 ride at the end of a weekday training block or weekend balances out the sweet spot. This approach nets a very successful approach to building your 'base' before moving onto full gas race specific intervals. Overall the secret sauce comes from the training plan design because it blends the benefits of sweet spot and zone 2.

A 2 week training plan example with both sweet spot and zone 2 (and tempo in the middle): 

In this 2-week training plan example the athlete rides sweet spot when they are coming off a rest day and are able to generate higher watts easier. Then as fatigue builds thru the training block the wattage is lessoned finally defaulting to zone 2 on Thursdays and Sundays.

Sweet Spot Training Plan Design

Sweet spot in a training plan design like the 2 week example plan above is a fantastically effective way for athletes to raise their CTL (base) in the off season. In my experience athletes can take a traditional Friel style base build of 24 weeks down to 18 weeks with 3 three week mesocycles incorporating sweet spot training. As such we have built an 18 Week Sweet Spot Training Plan for masters athletes with jobs, families and limited time to train to build up their base, raise their CTL and increase their functional threshold power (FTP) before the season starts.

Our 18 week sweet spot training plan utilizes a fatigue dependent training plan design described above to help athletes achieve all the benefits from sweet spot and zone 2 'base' training. Athletes can raise their CTL's with a ramp rate of 1.5 - 3 for the basic 4-8 hour per week plan, 3-4.5 with the intermediate 8-12 hour plan and 4-6 with the 12-16+ hours per week advanced plan.

To read more about sweet spot training I suggest these four training tips I wrote:

Sweet Spot Training - the original, 2005

Sweet Spot part Deux: How to Sweet Spot 2008

How Much Sweet Spot Should You Do, 2014

How to Sweet Spot on a Group Ride, Jan 2017

Copyright 2021, FasCat Coaching

Frank Overton is the owner, founder and head coach at FasCat Coaching, a cycling coaching company in Boulder, CO. To talk with Frank or a FasCat Coach about sweet spot and fatigue dependent training plan design fill out a New Athlete Questionnaire to set up a Coaching Consultation. Additionally, check out the Sweet Spot Plans starting at $49 that Frank designed!

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.

Hire Coach Frank!