Our 40k TT training plans are suited to any cyclists looking to grow their sustainable power/FTP, but they're especially suitable for time trialists, stage racers and multisport athletes from sprint-distance to full-iron distance triathletes.
Riders have the option of completing the entire 12-week plan which includes Base, Build and Race phases, or they can bypass the initial 4 weeks of 40k TT-specific Base and dive right into the Build and Race phases, each 4 weeks long.
Three Primary Components
Initially, these training plans consist of 3 primary workout types, each targeting a specific yet overlapping training adaptation.
- First, Sprint workouts seek to grow a rider's capacity for speed.
- Then, VO2max workouts take some of this speed and carry it into longer but still high-intensity efforts.
- Finally, Threshold workouts aim to fold both benefits into efforts which target improved muscular endurance.
Even riders who will rarely, if ever, rely on well-developed bursts of explosive power, i.e. sprints, sprint workouts are still tremendously beneficial to all types of riders.
By opening up dormant lines of communication between your brain and existing muscle fibers, you can effectively increase the number of available muscle fibers you use to turn the pedals.
What's more, you can do it without adding any dreaded muscle mass or weight since you're simply activating muscle that's already there.
In its most useful sense, this increased neuromuscular communication can distribute the workload more evenly over more muscle mass - mass you're already carrying around yet underutilizing - and consequently reduce overall muscle fatigue and extend time to exhaustion.
Another of several benefits of sprint training, speed work can vastly improve the efficiency with which you pedal by training your muscles to fire more efficiently, relax more effectively and eliminate or reduce wasted motion.
In much the same way sprint workouts don't seem as though they'd offer any clear benefit to steady-state athletes, VO2max workouts definitely have their place in a 40k TT training plan.
VO2max workouts effectively "create space" for FTP growth. When you feel like you've pushed up against your current sustainable-power ceiling, VO2max work can help you raise it in order to accommodate another increase in FTP.
By working well above FTP for short (yet seemingly agonizingly long) periods of time, your mind improves its ability to cope with the discomfort of high-intensity, sustained efforts while your body elevates its ability to sustain higher power output.
As an example, Riders A&B both have an aerobic capacity of 300w (roughly 120% FTP but this can vary a fair amount). But, Rider A is more aerobically fit and can sustain a higher percentage of his aerobic capacity (90%) when riding at FTP while Rider B can only hold 85% of his aerobic capacity.
Rider A can then ride at 270w for roughly an hour while Rider B can only hold his power at 255w for that same duration.
Add to this the change in your muscle physiology which furthers your ability to process more oxygen and spare sugar - at pretty high workloads/power outputs - and it's easy to recognize the benefit of these weekly, high-intensity intervals.
With increased muscle contribution and improved aerobic capacity in the works, it's then time to focus on every steady-state athlete's bread and butter: muscular endurance.
Also referred to as strength endurance, this is quite simply the ability to push the pedals hard for long periods of time. In the case of 40k time trialists, roughly an hour.
But by improving your 1-hour power, i.e. FTP, even full-iron distance triathletes who can be on the bike for 5-7 hours per event can cut their ride time by learning to operate at a higher percentage of FTP.
Using Riders A&B again, say rider A improves his FTP to 330 watts while Rider B plateaued at 300w.
If both riders endeavor to compete over a full-iron distance bike segment and sustain 70% of their FTP's, Rider A will have ridden at 231w while Rider B could only sustain 210w.
You don't need a math degree to figure out which rider is likely to have a better bike split.
For those riders with additional training time who choose the Mid Volume and High Volume options, most weeks will also include some additional Endurance workouts as well as some two-a-day Recovery workouts.
The added Endurance workouts target aerobic adaptation, i.e. how well you utilize oxygen and spare/optimize glycogen usage, and the relatively low intensity means these workouts won't necessarily burn you out and compromise the quality of your interval workouts.
The optional Recovery workouts are even lower on the power output spectrum and compliment an earlier, high-intensity workout. Ideally, they're performed within 4-24 hours of your harder workout and their intention is primarily to enhance a wide range of positive reactions to training.
Recovery rides need only be 20-40 minutes long to have an impact, but riders can extend them up to 60 minutes if they don't incur any negative training impact, primarily residual fatigue during next interval workout.
The effort is low, really low, as these rides are about little more than logging time in the saddle in order to foster certain adaptations which typically only come after much longer periods of time in the saddle.
Progressing Toward your Time Trial
As riders work their ways through the optional, but highly encouraged, Base phase (weeks 1-4), each interval workout grows in severity, and the endurance workouts grow in duration.
Later, as riders progress to/and through the Build phase and through the Race phase, all workouts become increasingly specific to your ultimate goal: increased power at your functional power threshold.
This specificity is vital and will set the stage for what's sure to be your best 40k or stage race time trial, local hill climb or triathlon bike split.