Quick Profile: The Sweetest Sweet Spot

“Sweet spot” is the name given to the intensity that overlaps the upper half of Zone 3 (“tempo”) and the lower part of Zone 4, just below threshold. It’s called “sweet spot” because this intensity is an ideal balance of high intensity and the ability to cause some adaptations without needing a lot of recovery.

Sweet-spot training hits many of the aerobic training boxes, such as aerobic development, lactate threshold improvement, and encouraging fat utilization. It doesn’t require as much time as endurance workouts, which works well for our indoor cycling classes because of time constraints. Additionally, for our riders in our classes, this effort feels hard enough that they won’t get bored like they might with lower-intensity Zone 2 endurance efforts. 

Granted, this intensity is too high for optimal aerobic development—that requires longer training sessions in Zone 2 and low Zone 3. For those who truly want to improve their endurance and create the stimulus that will increase their aerobic adaptations, such as increased capillaries, mitochondria, and aerobic enzymes, there is no replacement for time in the saddle at lower intensities. But that may not be the goals of some of our riders, so these sweet-spot workouts will provide sufficient aerobic development for their goals.

It’s also a bit too low for optimal lactate threshold development. But, this workout is good preparation to get your riders ready for the bigger challenge of FTP testing and training at longer, higher-intensity intervals.

To reflect the theme of sweet spot, all songs include a version of the word “sweet” in the lyrics, or a reference to candy. In fact, two of the tracks are called “Sweet Spot.” To help you with song selection (if you want to replace some of my tracks or create additional profiles on this theme), I’ve created a playlist called “Sweet / Sweetness” with over 130 songs. We’ve already got a playlist called “Candy, Candy, Candy” that we post every Halloween, but this one focuses just on songs with “sweet” in the lyrics (there is a little overlap). You can pick and choose between these two playlists if you want to create your own Sweet-Spot ride. Click here to access those two playlists. 

Below, you will find the Quick Profile, the specific Spotify playlist for this ride, and a link to some pedal stroke drills (one of the suggestions as a focus during this ride). I’ve also added a video that explains more thoroughly the sweet-spot intensity as a training goal for cyclists.

4 Responses to “Quick Profile: The Sweetest Sweet Spot”

  1. Laura Gurney says:

    My riders liked this profile for their “sweet treat” today on Halloween! My classes got a great workout and were surprised how much harder it was than they thought it would be. Thank you for sharing it!

    • you’re welcome Laura. I did it for one class last week (the week before our Halloween ride) and in another time slot the week after our hard Halloween ride! I really love this intensity…challenging without being too hard. But you still feel it the next day. It’s surprising for a lot of people who are addicted to HIIT.

  2. Bill Pierce says:

    A song that may be added to this profile for short recovery (perhaps instead of Chocolate) and added to Karen’s list is “Sweet Sweet” by the Smashing Pumpkins from one of the best albums of all time – Siamese Dream. It’s 1:38 and 130 bpm. I just used it for a short recovery in a recent profile which reminded me to suggest it here.

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