Power pyramid

power-pyramidAim of Session

An hour on the turbo taking you up through the power range


Session description

WARM UP: 10 min warm up, included in session duration

MAIN SET: Perform these blocks in order, each with 2 mins rest in between: 5 mins at the upper end of zone 3; 3 mins at 25 mile pace (or FTP); 2 mins at FTP + 10W; 1.5 mins at FTP + 20W; 1 min at FTP + 30W; 30s at FTP + 40W; then return down the pyramid

COOL DOWN: 10 min warm down, included in session duration


Working around the second threshold will stress the systems responsible for using carbohydrate and generating energy through the lactate system; and also the systems responsible for clearing the metabolites of lactate and hydrogen ions (which cause blood acidity). As the rider moves up through the pyramid, more emphasis is placed on anaerobic energy supply and the absolute rate of energy production becomes the limiter – each step up will require an adjustment from recovery to a new ‘steady state’ so the systems of oxygen uptake, heart rate, blood flow etc need to rise to new, higher levels each time. Increased recruitment of fast twitch fibres also becomes necessary to hit the higher powers. In the recovery from each block, the body has to deal with lactate clearance in time for the next effort. With time, these systems will get more efficient and recovery will become faster – and this will in turn allow harder work efforts. 

Application for the Rider

This session takes you across the main race pace intensities within endurance cycling. Even the flattest of time trial courses will require variation of power around the ranges used in this session. When you ride harder up a hill and use the descent to recover, any improvement in recovery processes will be beneficial – as you can then work harder up the next hill! The same principles apply in the transition from rest to work each block – the quicker we can adjust to a new level of exercise intensity, the more we can deliver the energy aerobically i.e. less oxygen deficit and less lactic acid build up.

Practicalities and tips!

  • As with most interval type sessions, the aim is to maximise the ability to hit (and sustain) the target pace / intensity. Either perform this session on a turbo, or on a route you know you can complete each block at the set time (i.e. recovery duration is important).
  • This is a race specific session, so perform on your race bike, in your race position.
  • If you find the overall session too hard, at least climb up the pyramid
  • As well as hitting the target powers, try to perform the block at race type cadences too – this will make sure muscle fibre recruitment matches that in a race.

Evaluation of the session

  • Have you completed all the blocks? Did you hit the anticipated powers? If not, where did you start to come off target?
  • What do you feel to be the hardest part of the session – recovering in time for the next block, or hitting the target power of the block?
  • Did your heart rate reach that expected for the power you were trying to reach? If yes, this shows two valuable things: your ability to hit a new steady state and reduce oxygen deficit; AND good responsivity shows you are on top of the training load generally (tiredness can make heart rate increases / decreases sluggish)
  • Did your heart rate recover before the next block i.e. return close to the baseline heart rate in the zone 2 at the beginning of the session? This is good to monitor your fitness improvement.
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