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Coggan’s Power-Based Training

Coggan Power Training Levels

My legs were not sore after Sunday’s ride, but they definitely felt fatigued. On Monday I did a very light recovery ride (45 minutes/11.63 miles), and felt pretty good afterwards.

Yesterday I felt like I was ready to get a harder workout in, and so I resumed my current training plan on TrainerRoad. At 1.5 hours and 27 miles, the indoor workout I did yesterday (called “Antelope”) was a fairly long one. “Antelope” contains 5×10 minute intervals in the Sweet Spot, but I actually spent most of that time riding at Threshold (here’s the actual workout data). The reason I rode harder than my currently measured “Sweet Spot” is because I feel my FTP has improved, and that affects all my training zones. More on that further down.

I’ve had a few people ask me to talk in more detail about “Sweet Spot”, “Tempo”, “Lactate Threshold”, “FTP” and some of the other terms I’ve been throwing around recently, and so I’d like to do that this morning.

All of these terms relate to Andrew Coggan’s “Power-Based Training Levels“.

The foundation of power-based training is the athlete’s Functional Threshold Power, or “FTP”. Functional Threshold Power is, simply put, the maximum average power an athlete can sustain for one hour.

Determining FTP can be accomplished with a reasonable degree of accuracy by performing one of the standardized FTP tests, either the “8-minute test” or the “20-minute test“. You’ll need a bike with a power meter, or an indoor trainer with an accurate virtual power curve to take one of these tests. Both of these tests are available on TrainerRoad.

TrainerRoad has extremely accurate VirtualPower curves for a large number of indoor trainers. I highly recommend the Kurt Kinetic Road Machine, which TrainerRoad fully supports. For my in-depth look at the TrainerRoad software (and a more detailed discussion of FTP), check out my TrainerRoad review. You may also want to give my Bike Torture Chamber article a gander, which has detailed photographs and itemized lists of everything I use for indoor cycling training.

Once you determine your FTP, then you can begin to do power-based training. Here are the Coggan power zones (click to enlarge):

Coggan Power Training Levels

Coggan Power Training Levels


The “Sweet Spot”, which is heavily utilized when doing power-based training workouts, falls between high Tempo and low Lactate threshold–roughly 85% to 95% of FTP. Riding in the Sweet Spot is a little uncomfortable and requires focus, but you shouldn’t be out of breath. Training in the Sweet Spot does wonders for increasing your FTP, and so you’ll spend a considerable amount of your training intervals in this zone.

For example, the six week training program I’m currently following on TrainerRoad (Intermediate Base I), starts of with the 8-minute FTP test (all subsequent workouts are scaled to the athlete’s ability based on the results of that test) and then has a series of workouts that are designed to improve FTP (among other things, of course). This program is working: yesterday’s workout was the halfway point of this training series, and I felt like the Sweet Spot was no longer as challenging as it was when I started the program just 3 weeks ago. When I started the training program my FTP was determined to be 270, and after yesterday’s workout I manually bumped it to 280. The FTP test should be repeated every 4-6 weeks, but TrainerRoad encourages manual FTP adjustments between those test if the athlete feels it’s time. This adjustment will make my workouts harder, but relatively speaking they should not seem harder. That’s because I’m a stronger cyclist now than I was three weeks ago.

When I reviewed TrainerRoad I was quite impressed with the value it provides for such a small monthly fee. Now that I’m seeing tangible and measurable real-world results after just a few weeks, I am even more enthusiastic about the service. If you want to take your cycling to the next level (and don’t want to spend a small fortune doing it), definitely give TrainerRoad a shot. I think you’ll be happy with the results.