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Optimal Training Volume  
By Coach Jerry Jacobs

When is More Better?  
We get many questions from our coached athletes about how much volume they should ride.  What is the optimal point? How do they know what is enough and when it is too much?
For starters, we have attached this excellent video from Dylan Johnson on this subject.


DJ Optimal Volume


While this video is awesome in terms of accurate science, he begins by saying he will not provide a number of hours or volume. This depends on too many factors including, but not limited to, genetics, training history and target events.
We want to get more specific. How much do you need to do? How do you know when it is too much?
To begin to frame an answer to this question, we must evaluate the athletes' target events. Crit specialists (that are targeting 40 minute races) should be training differently from those targeting a 100 mile Gran Fondo. Ultra-endurance athletes are in a whole different zip code.  Events over 8 hours do require big miles. Even here, that does not mean every day. More about that later.

Let’s begin to get more specific by using the most common group of athletes that we coach.  These are athletes that have target events from 2 to maybe 5 hours. These can be Road Races or Fondo’s.
Events in these ranges require a mix of volume and intensity. Increasing training volume up to a point can be productive. For most of our athletes that have busy lives and jobs, optimal training volume will center on about 10 to 12 hours per week. Some of our clients have the schedule to  do more than that, but not many. Volume above 12 hours has marginal benefit, in the best case.
In this example, and with most of our clients, this means the weekdays should focus on two days of structured intervals (or a substitute). More than 2 days of intensity during the week does not work, as Dylan points out by the best research.
Weekends should have as much volume as the athlete can handle and fit to their schedule.  We much prefer athletes doing one big ride and then a punchy type shorter ride, versus just pounding the most miles. Four hours on their long ride is really the center for most athletes.  Five hours is great if the athlete can recover from it.

On the other end of the training spectrum, volume is not the answer for our Crit focused race athletes. These events are all about short, variable power. We like these athletes doing some bigger volume during their off season and early season. Once they are in race season, it is all about race specific training. Volume should be capped at about 10 hours, with few exceptions.  Most will have peak race performance with as few as 7 hours per week, so long as intensity is very high and race specific.
In both scenarios, adding volume is helpful up to the point whereby the quality of the  structured interval sessions goes down. Once that happens, the additional volume is  detrimental.

How Does This Translate To CTL? (Chronic Training Load)
CTL is a super valuable measure of training load. Here also, it is not as  simple as more is better.
The optimal number varies depending on many factors. We have athletes that have won  major longer events at as low as about 70 CTL. Others may find their peak levels of  performance as high as maybe about 120. Very few will benefit from anything more.
A good CTL number to think about (for most) is between 80 to about 100 during peak season 

(4 to 6 weeks before target “A” events).  
This number assumes an optimal mix of intensity, volume and rest. For example, adding training stress (TSS points) on a recovery day will increase your CTL. It is also one of the most common training mistakes that we see.  
For our Crit specialists, CTL really goes out the window during race season. All of the focus should be on increasing V02 Max, muscular strength and sprinting speed. A CTL of maybe 40 to 60 (at most) is just fine, unless the athlete wants to be competitive at longer events.

Training Camps and Overload Blocks
Overload blocks can be super helpful, if properly structured. These are especially productive during base building periods. This can be as few as 3 days or up to about 10 days. The  primary focus should be on riding a lot of miles in moderate intensity zones.
For the 10 to 12 hour per week athlete, an optimal 7 day overload can be 18 hours to as many as about 22 hours. Optimal TSS (for most) is 900 to about 1,100 over a 7 day overload block.  
This should not be about going long every day. It should be a few really big days, some recovery in the middle and then a few more big days.
Mid-season camps or trips can also be fabulous. This can be a way to add a big block of training stress that is productive. We encourage our athletes to go big. Challenge yourself with the big climbs in the alps. Push it. Test your limits and overload the systems.
In both cases (pre-season and on-season), there must be enough recovery both before and after a big block of training stress. Hard training should not resume until the block of training stress has been absorbed.

Adding volume and training stress is helpful until quality work deteriorates. At that point, most athletes will be detracting from fitness and race performance.
Further, if you choose to err on the side of too much, or too little, the better choice for most is less stress and not more. The reason for this is that a slightly undertrained, but highly motivated athlete will beat an overtrained and flat athlete……every time.  
All of this assumes that hard work is really HARD. There are just no shortcuts to getting fast.  You must put in the intensity. That is just mandatory. 




Attachments area

Preview YouTube video How Much Do You Need to Ride to Get Faster? The Science


How Much Do You Need to Ride to Get Faster? The Science

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