A Rant on Power-Based Training

A light bike doesn't replace good fitness.

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iheartbianchi
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by iheartbianchi

Nefarious86 wrote:
Tue May 28, 2019 5:54 am
So what you're saying is you don't like shitty coaches spreading misinformation. It just took 120+ posts to get there.

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Basically. And I do hope that at least one person who watched these Youtube videos or read those articles stumbles upon this thread, has a second thought about things, and decides to continue using their HR monitor with their fancy new power meter when he/she otherwise would not have.
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by mattr

Nefarious86 wrote:
Tue May 28, 2019 5:54 am
So what you're saying is you don't like shitty coaches spreading misinformation. It just took 120+ posts to get there.
Nope, page 2.

And dozens of other threads.

AeroObsessive
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by AeroObsessive

853guy wrote:
Mon May 27, 2019 3:09 pm

Even in sports in which power is very relevant in terms of actual force applied (lifting, sprinting), it must still be coupled to another metric, since weight lifted and time spent are what ultimately define progress/results. No-one cares about the watts expended, only about whether the athlete lifted the weight off the ground (how heavy) or finished before the others (how quickly).

I post this as a clarification, not a criticism.

Best,

853guy
Yep, power in complete isolation does provide very little.

IIRC XC skiing, swimming, and running have tried to develop power measuring devices. However this has had varying degrees of success last time I checked. Combined with other metrics I can see how it could benefit if such a tool could work.

As for weightlifting, force plates are also becoming a key tool to improving lifts. Very niche, I know. But the measuring the lifts in this way can help identify key issues.

Ultra niche - crew on super maxi yachts use power meters for training - but hardly surprising given the similar mechanical interface.

I know sprinting for track cycling and track and field are different but there could be some real benefits if power could be accurately tracked, especially for pacing (yes, pacing still applies in a sprint event).

Certainly for other sports, I agree the benefits of monitoring power (if you could) would be of limited or no value.

TheRich
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by TheRich

iheartbianchi wrote:
Tue May 28, 2019 5:54 am

No it's not silly. You literally have hundreds of online coaches and Youtube coaches and channels telling you how to train with power without ever mentioning the use of heart rate monitors.
You're listening selectively to justify your strawmen
iheartbianchi wrote:
Tue May 28, 2019 5:54 am
You literally have hundreds of online coaches telling you that power meters are an "improvement" or a "replacement" for HR monitors.
They are an improvement. Just using HR is like going to a gym that has weights with no markings on them.
iheartbianchi wrote:
Tue May 28, 2019 5:54 am
I'm pretty sure that is the worst possible advice you can give to someone about to do an FTP test. Would you tell this to someone who took 2 months off from cycling? Or a swimmer who is now trying to become a cyclist and just bought an ill-fitting bike with a power meter? Or someone coming back from injury? Or someone who went really hard two days before? Good luck with those FTP results...
Where did you get this sense of superiority? This is like an entire field of strawmen that is not worth the effort to unpack. Guess what, ftp can be retested, resetting the metric.
iheartbianchi wrote:
Tue May 28, 2019 5:54 am
Testing outdoors on a bicycle is notoriously inaccurate, especially for unfit cyclists who may lack the basis muscle power to do a full 20 minute time trial.
Again, you act as if everyone is an idiot and you alone has found the path.

This is all just motivated reasoning in order to justify your theory of only riding easy. Guess what, people do this stuff, follow the supposedly bad advice, and they get results. Results are what count, not your feelings of superiority from brushing shoulders with the greats and ideas from the past.
Last edited by TheRich on Tue May 28, 2019 3:38 pm, edited 1 time in total.

TheRich
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by TheRich

Nefarious86 wrote:
Tue May 28, 2019 5:54 am
So what you're saying is you don't like shitty coaches spreading misinformation. It just took 120+ posts to get there.

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Is it "bad coaching," or are people simply getting what they pay for?

If you want an actual coach, real coaching, that's going to cost some money, because it's very time consuming for the coach. However, if what you want is simple guidance, basic structure, and bare bones feedback (or just the idea that someone is watching to keep you on task) these plans are great. (I don't use them, but I know people that do)

Plus it's not as if the OP is above giving bad advice, worse advice, either. Pot, kettle, and all that.

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by iheartbianchi

TheRich wrote:
Tue May 28, 2019 3:07 pm

Where did you get this sense of superiority? This is like an entire field of strawmen that is not worth the effort to unpack. Guess what, ftp can be retested, resetting the metric.

This is all just motivated reasoning in order to justify your theory of only riding easy. Guess what, people do this stuff, follow the supposedly bad advice, and they get results. Results are what count, not your feelings of superiority from brushing shoulders with the greats and ideas from the past.

Again, you act as if everyone is an idiot and you alone has found the path.
Now you're just getting defensive. And no, I don't have a theory of only riding easy - I don't even know where you go that idea.

Let me ask, can you provide any support to any of the below statements, other than your personal beliefs:

-most people will achieve better results using FTP zones than if they followed an HR-based program (with or without a power meter)
-most people will achieve better results using FTP zones than if they simply rode more and faster without a power meter
-using a power meter does not result in any increase in overtraining or injury risk
-an average amateur cyclist today is fitter and faster than an average amateur cyclist from the 90s (on an indoor ergometer)

I hate to ask a lot of questions, and I apologize I'm about to get a bit philosophical here, but, are power meters worth it? Please don't jump to a quick conclusion. Let's think this through...if so, what value or benefit do they? Simply as a measuring tool, or the basis of a training program? Can such value or benefit be measured or proven? More specifically now...are FTP zones as effective or more so than HR zones? Based on what? How much more so, if at all? I actually don't have the answers (I don't think anyone does), and I've looked far and wide for several years.

I mentioned elsewhere, but I work with U21 athletes right now, and I'm looking for every advantage I can find for them. But when we assess athletes and recommend a training program (we of course don't charge the athletes for this since these are university programs), it is critical that we establish clear guidelines and rationales, based on some overarching principle (more on this below). These kids are looking to us and depending on us for their futures, and we can't just recklessly recommend a course of action unless it is supported by something tangible, measurable and an improvement over existing systems. We look at everything with a cynical eye and apply the scientific method. We pose a hypothesis, research the validity of that hypothesis, read the relevant literature and then decide on the conclusion. To you, this probably all sounds like I'm acting superior, but that's not the intent - we take our jobs very seriously and owe it to the next generation to be as careful as possible.

You know what the key takeaway is, having worked with many developing athletes over the years? They are not getting any faster! And I've been involved in this sport since the 90s. I repeat, they are NOT getting any faster. Sure, on the road the aero and better tech makes them faster, but if you put them on an ergometer, yup...this lot is the same as the lot from the 90s. Powers meters haven't made them any faster. HR monitors have been around almost as long as I have so I can't compare pre/post HR monitors. There has been no "killer training tool", at least not since I've been looking (let's not count PEDs).

So what's the point of a training program then? What's our key focus, if we can no longer get the average cyclist to cycle any faster? It's quite simple - get them as close to their genetic potential, with a view towards long-term sustainable results, but minimizing injury, fatigue and overtraining. Try to achieve what took 25 hours a week in 20 hours a week. Less work = less injury and fatigue, but more recovery and a better quality of life. We plan on 5 year horizons. Building base, adding strength, recovery. Repeat. Extremely gradual, but we are looking for measurable adapations (which we measure using a variety of tools (over a dozen actually), only one of which is a power meter), but we care more about their physiological adapations, with HR at various levels being a critical component (hence why serious cyclists tend to hide their HR data).

When they are competing, we generally know what wattage they will need to achieve a certain time, so it's very useful for pacing. We get them used to riding at such wattage, but only in tightly controlled sessions to ensure they don't stay at goal race pace long, and rarely over goal race pace. But does that mean we use this pacing tool (power meters) to design a training program around it? We have considered, but have concluded that it would be too reckless because it is unproven with benefits which have not been measured or compared.

I wish some university would do a blind study of cyclists who train based on HR zones and FTP zones and examine the results, but this hasn't happened yet. You could say I should do this, but frankly there's no interest in this, hence no funding for such a study (which gives you a sense of how little interest there is in FTP zones among the sports science community). What little research there has been done on FTP itself has had very negative results. Frankly, when the research came out that FTP was a poor surrogate for lactate threshold, I figured FTP would die and be replaced by something else. It was that damning of a report. But it seems there are too many vested interests (mostly financial) to keep it going for now. Anyways, if there is going to be some serious power-meter based training, the baseline will need to be seriously reconsidered. How do you establish subsequent training zones, if the baseline itself is not what it purports to be? Are training zones even necessary for power-meter based training, or is it trying too hard to just copy from HR-zones? Why did certain people invent this 20m FTP test (why not 30m, or 60m, or 10m?), rather than relying on say average max power over 60 seconds as the baseline? Or peak power? Has this been thoroughly tested? Who numbered the zones? Why not more zones? Why is Zone 2 so large? In Zone 2, is it better to do 55% or 70%? Does it matter? If we cannot answer these questions reliably, we cannot prescribe such a training program on our athletes.

More worrisome is, power numbers give athletes a real sense of achievement. They want higher numbers. They'll tend to push harder. This is not a good thing. We want to avoid plateaus, and loss of training due to injury or fatigue at all costs. When we studied Kenyan marathoners, we noted that they don't run with watches or coaches. They are naturally great pacers because they have gotten so good at listening to their bodies so they know almost exactly how fast they are going, but they're not staring at a watch to make sure they are "on pace." If they're body tells them they're going too fast, they'll slow down. If they feel their heart pounding when it shouldn't be, they'll walk. The most common type of exercise for Kenyan runners is called the "fartlek." Easy pace followed by short burts from time to time, all unpaced, completely based on feel. If you ask them how many miles they ran on any given day, they'll give you some vague approximation, because they don't really know. And they are the most successful endurance athletes in the history of our species. That's running, this is cycling, but the physiological adapations to aerobic exercise is exactly the same. What can we learn from this? What can be applied to the average recreational cyclist, if anything? Well, I think it's clear that relying on any form of pace-measuring device as the basis of your training (outside of hard interval or sprint sessions) is not necessary to achieve high-level athletic performance. It can help, but it can hurt. A lot of other things can also help, and possibly hurt less. You should consider all options, and carefully make a decision. Have a real honest discussion about why you're doing the training that you're doing, and not some other alternative, with both eyes open with a very skeptical mind.

I apologize for the long post, but there's a lot to unpack here and I thought I'd throw some more ideas into this discussion.
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TheRich
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by TheRich

I don't have anything to be defensive about. Sports science has embraced high intensity intervals for the last 40 years.

Why don't you worry about you instead of creating strawmen about coaches, accepted and scientifically proven methods and whatever you're going on about assuming that people are too stupid to not hurt themselves.

If someone gets a workout with power targets they can't meet, they won't be able to meet them, nothing more, nothing less. The only thing hurt is their pride, they'll get over it.

You are on the flat earth/anti vax side of the controversy here and not.all.opinions.are.equally.valid

iheartbianchi
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by iheartbianchi

TheRich wrote:
Tue May 28, 2019 10:04 pm
I don't have anything to be defensive about. Sports science has embraced high intensity intervals for the last 40 years.

Why don't you worry about you instead of creating strawmen about coaches, accepted and scientifically proven methods and whatever you're going on about assuming that people are too stupid to not hurt themselves.

If someone gets a workout with power targets they can't meet, they won't be able to meet them, nothing more, nothing less. The only thing hurt is their pride, they'll get over it.

You are on the flat earth/anti vax side of the controversy here and not.all.opinions.are.equally.valid
We had a wonderful discussion on appropriate interval effort levels, SIIT vs HIIT in the thread about Zone 3. Hope you take the time to read it. Sports science has actually differed on how to apply interval training, quite drastically in fact. There seems to be a regional divide on this (how often, how hard, how many, how long).

People will often push too hard. Overtraining and injury is common in endurance sports. You should read up on it. Some people even develop eating disorders or other mental disorders. Some people even commit suicide from depression. More than pride is hurt, but again what a reckless attitude to have.

And that antivaxer comment...you are really working hard to bring down the level of discussion. I suggest you spend as much effort reading and studying the flaws of FTP, it will help you.
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onemanpeloton
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by onemanpeloton

I feel like a lot of you guys are arguing against positions that iheartbianchi hasnt even taken. Like you've decided who he is and how stupid he is without REALLY reading and trying to understand what he's saying.

I'm not sure that I agree with everything he says but misrepresenting his positions such that it benefits your rigid ideology makes readers like me distrust your opinion.

iheartbianchi has been honest and respectful, which is more than I can say for most of his opposition. Could you not try and disagree respectfully?

This is a perfect example of what I mean:
TheRich wrote:
Tue May 28, 2019 10:04 pm

You are on the flat earth/anti vax side of the controversy here and not.all.opinions.are.equally.valid
Why not be friendly and argue the ideas rather than attempt to discredit the man? This tactic is lazy. If your position was an effective one then you wouldn't need to make unnecessary comments like this.

I'm confused about the "the training plan remains the same regardless of the tools used" argument.

How can this be true? Surely, given that I think we all agree that there is some variation between HR and power, then the outcome of the same training plan will be different depending on the tool that you use to measure it.
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Lewn777
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by Lewn777

I've read this whole thread and most of the Zone 3 and I think what iheartbianchi is saying is basically correct, in fact excellent information.
I can see now that there is definately a place for heart rate based training, and the best information isn't on this thread, the Zone 3 thread is much better.

READ THIS PPL:
So you used to ride 30km/hr at 135bpm for 3 hours? The goal is, for you to be able to do 30km/hr at 120bpm, or lower. Why? Well quite simple...so you can go faster at those higher, costlier heart rate zones. So efforts that would have pushed you close to lactate or Vo2Max will now be a purely aerobic effort that you can maintain for extended periods of time. If you look at highly trained cyclists, it is uncanny how fast they are going at heart rates under 150bpm. It's not that they are able to simply ride faster than you because they can simply push higher watts...no...it is, "at the same heart rate (effort), they are able to go faster than you."

And this:
FTP can't possibly be directly correlated to HR. You pointed out injury, fatigue, etc., but there are other factors as well, including fitness levels, muscular development, cadence, etc., that will change over time. Let me demonstrate by showing a sample progression assuming a rider who only does 90 minute rides at 120bpm everyday every week:

Week 1: 22kmh @ 120bpm
Week 2: 22.1kmh @ 120bpm
Week 3: 22.2kmh @ 120bpm
Week 4: 22.3kmh @ 120bpm
Week 5: 22.4kmh @ 120bpm
Week 6: 22.5kmh @ 120bpm <-------- there are 52 weeks in a year, and after only 6 weeks, this rider has increased their average pace by 0.5kmh. Imagine the increases after a year, and after 5 years!

Assuming this rider does only 90 minutes at 120bpm, naturally, the HR stays constant but the speed goes up, as does the FTP over time.

Now let's take a rider who focuses their training on FTP and doesn't look at HR data, and see what happens (using a hypothetical rider):

*a variation, but same as below, is keeping the watts stable over time but increasing duration
Week 1: 90 minutes @ 120w <------- see how the metric has changed from speed and HR to time and power? This is a critical distinction.
Week 2: 90 minutes @ 130w
Week 3: 90 minutes @ 140w
Week 4: 90 minutes @ wait for it...140w OR LESS! Why? See below...
Week 5: Recovery
Week 6: 90 minutes @ 130w <------ see how this has has set you back 4 weeks? And this cycle will repeat itself over the course of a year and this rider will only see marginal improvements each year, before completely flatlining
Thank you iheartbianchi.

My max HR is about 180bpm, so that means I should weekly aim to do x3 90 minute rides at around 110-130bpm? Then I could maybe do one harder effort HIIT optional and one big all day type ride and maybe 2 days with 30-60 minute active recovery?

iheartbianchi
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by iheartbianchi

onemanpeloton wrote:
Wed May 29, 2019 12:10 pm

This is a perfect example of what I mean:
TheRich wrote:
Tue May 28, 2019 10:04 pm

You are on the flat earth/anti vax side of the controversy here and not.all.opinions.are.equally.valid
This statement was really quite unfortunate. I don't like to besmirch anyone by name, but let me just add that even the two creators of the FTP method disagree on how to measure FTP, or what it means :noidea: There have been attempts to seek clarification and the responses have typically been, "well that's his opinion not mine." Mind you, FTP was created well over a decade ago, and it has been independently lab tested on a few occasions and questions have been raised, but unfortunately not been answered satisfactorily.

And it sucks that I'm being painted out to be the only guy who thinks this.

http://marktallonphd.com/the-myth-of-fu ... power-ftp/

There's just another example of a guy with essentially the same criticisms as me. Almost exactly the same to be honest, and I wasn't even aware of him until today!
Last edited by iheartbianchi on Wed May 29, 2019 5:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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iheartbianchi
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by iheartbianchi

Lewn777 wrote:
Wed May 29, 2019 12:21 pm

My max HR is about 180bpm, so that means I should weekly aim to do x3 90 minute rides at around 110-130bpm? Then I could maybe do one harder effort HIIT optional and one big all day type ride and maybe 2 days with 30-60 minute active recovery?
I don't really know your training history or level of fitness, age, etc., but that generally sounds fine. For the recreational level, the most important training principles are:

-consistency (at least 5 rides a week)
-recovery
-not pushing too hard when you shouldn'tbe
-not pushing too slow when you need to be going fast
-diversity of stimulus (long efforts, fast efforts of various degrees, different cadences etc.)

You seem to have the boxes checked. I would add at least a day of squats or deadlifts a week if possible. It's really important for developing power.

And of course you will need to continue to increase the training load. A good rule of thumb is no more than a 3% increase in either effort or mileage a week, and try to do block training so every 4 weeks ago, you do no increase at all and perhaps even decrease effort/mileage by 5%, before starting the process again.

If you think HIIT is too intense, you can replace with SIT (short interval training, of 60s or less, but full power). Of course you can do both, but I really question the efficacy of 1-10 minute intervals for the sport of cycling (outside of time trials and track pursuit type events)I think lower intensity "intervals" of 10 minutes or longer are really ideal, but it's a very taxing session.
Last edited by iheartbianchi on Wed May 29, 2019 5:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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AJS914
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by AJS914

I had been struggling for a year trying to do intervals, riding with club mates in that middle zone, and constantly bumping up against fatigue and then having to pull back and rest. I wasn't getting any faster.

After listening to all the Velonews podcasts and reading some of Dr. Stephen Seiler's work I adapted my training to the polarized system. Four slow rides a week, trying to get one or two into the 3+ hour range, and one fast/hard group ride per week. After about 5 weeks of this I started seeing solid weekly gains in performance. I'm also noticing that my "slow" rides are a couple of mph faster at even lower heart rates now. I used to do slow at 120bpm (67% of max HR) mostly because if I tried to maintain a lower HR I was riding ridiculously slow. Now I'm seeing faster speeds and my HR is cruising along at 110bpm or even 105bpm.

I'm only 10 weeks into this plan. I've been able to maintain 10-13 hours a week without feeling overly fatigued. I haven't even done a dedicated interval session. The one group ride a week counts as my ride with intensity. That falls nicely in line with the 80/20 rule for polarized training. My intention was to do a 12 week base phase so in a couple more weeks I may add in some intervals to the beginning of my week and see how I respond. I'm going to start slow and just add a few and see how I respond.

I have to say that the week to week gains have felt amazing. I'm wondering how long this will go before I plateau.

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by AJS914

The other thing about polarized training is that I don't see how a power meter would help it much at all. Polarized training is so simple. It's easy to ride at 60-70% of HR Max. Once you know the RPE of the long/slow riding you could even leave your HR monitor at home.

Dr. Seiler prescribes longer Z3 (3 zone) intervals - 8 or 16 minutes. It would be pretty easy to do those intervals with just a HR monitor or even on RPE.

BTW, I did just buy a power meter and I have power on my smart trainer. I've read Friel and Hunter and all the usual cycling training books. I do find them over complicated and detailed. Maybe once I get my power meter installed and start looking at Golden Cheetah it will all make more sense.
Last edited by AJS914 on Wed May 29, 2019 5:15 pm, edited 1 time in total.

iheartbianchi
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by iheartbianchi

AJS914 wrote:
Wed May 29, 2019 5:06 pm

I have to say that the week to week gains have felt amazing. I'm wondering how long this will go before I plateau.
That completely depends on you! With extremely effective training, you can hit your genetic potential in around 5 years, maybe a bit longer. But the problem is, you need to continue to increase your training load...either go longer, or go faster. Just be careful to make sure that your rides are naturally getting faster as a result of increased fitness, not because you're forcing it. The moment the natural gains cease, then you need to introduce new stimulus and you can consider upping the pace, generally following a rule of no more than 3% increases per week, with a recovery week every 4-5 weeks where you drop back the pace.

When you initially feel that you are starting to plateau, I wouldn't hit the panic button and start doing intervals or hard group rides. It could be your legs holding you back at that point, so you would want to first try increasing the number of muscle fibers you have. You do this through weight training, and shorter intervals or sprints.
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