Stuck in a plateau rut ... progressive load with building blocks

Hi everyone. I’ve been hovering at the same numbers for a while now and am starting to get a little frustrated.

I’m curious about building progressive load into a series of building block plans. I’m not wedded to the building blocks but I like these because I can focus on weaknesses (FTP and MAP) and also because of the flexibility they enable. Looking to the summer, we will be away here and there and I don’t know if I can commit to 12 weeks (for example TT or all-purpose). So my plan was to stack 2:1 or 3:1 blocks focusing on FTP and MAP. But I’d like to build progressive load into the overall architecture. Thus my question. Do most people incorporate this by testing and moving to the new numbers? Or by starting deeper into the progression series within the plans or by swapping in harder (more duration, less rest, etc) workouts? Or perhaps by adding volume otherwise (more zone miles)? Or alternatively, am I shooting myself in the foot with this approach and should I commit to a longer plan?

@cocoroco Listen to the latest podcast as it may provide most of your answers. I have come to appreciate the 2:1 progressions and on occasion when life gets in the way will switch to a 1:1. Also check out the new Cycling Essentials plans.

Actually, it was that podcast episode that provoked some of these questions. I learned a lot certainly (I always do and love listening for that reason). But one of the points I was expecting them to make was the benefit of progressing via testing and new numbers, particularly because Neal is such a proponent of testing. The fact that they did not include that form of progression (despite talking about duration, density, and many others in addition to simple volume) has me wondering if that is not the best way to do it. I was originally planning on alternating FTP and MAP blocks with testing for new numbers (and appropriate rest) in between. That could get me to a 12-16 week pyramid with flexibility built in. But after the podcast, I’m wondering if I should build my own MAP and FTP blocks using the progression series (thinking 1-2 progression workouts with an appropriately focused sufferfest workout plus zone 2 riding volume or active recovery on other days).

@JSampson thanks for your thoughts! I’m replying here to my own thread to see if I can prompt more discussion. To refine my question, I’ll just ask the following: I am familiar with the idea of creating progressive load via increasing overall volume or specifically the density/duration of intensity. But what about doing so by simply testing frequently (every 4-6 weeks) and allowing the increased load of new numbers to naturally create progressive load? I have no desire to do FF more than a few times a year, so this would rely mostly on HM testing. Based on my time in these forums, I think this is something that a lot of us do, but I’m particularly curious on a coaching perspective. @Coach.Mac.C and @Coach.Neal.H , I learned a ton from the recent podcast episode but this particular topic did not come up. If you don’t have time to answer here, perhaps you could address this in a future episode? Either way, I’ll be listening. Thanks!

Absolutely… relying on Half Monty though may not work for everyone. What?! You don’t want to FF test :face_vomiting: every 4-6 weeks?! If you find HM estimates improperly for you, it should be easy to adjust accordingly.

If you aren’t using the Fitness graph on I highly recommend you check it out. I use it to monitor if I’m overdoing/under doing it.

Fitness chart

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@jesawdy Yes! I just recently created an account on and am already finding it quite informative. In some ways all the tools and knowledge at our disposal only generate more questions. In my day job, I’m an experimental biochemist and so I love all the data am easily drawn into anything with data, testing, and experimentation. But I also just need to pick a training approach and stick with it, you know?


Hi @cocoroco,
Maybe a touch late to this thread but here are some thoughts… There are many different ways to approach your training. But if you are “stuck” then you need to change something. Now that something may be that you need a rest, that you need more recovery between workouts, or that you need to focus on a different metric ie, AC or VO2 (MAP) for a bit. To answer part of your question, I would recommend that you stick with the block focus for now, especially if you have travel coming and can not commit to a 12 week plan. As for testing, its usually a good idea to really know where you are, not just where you ‘think’ you are, a Half Monty is a good, minimally invasive way to get that info.

Now what to change? First, make sure that you are getting quality recovery. I can not overstate the importance of this, sometimes an extra week off is all you need to get your groove back. Second, test after your rest. Third, change your focus for a bit. Most likely you’ll want to focus on MAP or VO2. But you will only know this if you test. However, most folks tend to neglect the high end. And lastly, if all you are doing is high intensity work, now it’s time to look at increasing your low intensity volume. Hope this helps. Cheers!


Thanks @Coach.Jeff.H ! I just completed FF so have fresh numbers. But your point on testing again with HM if I take an easy week is a good one. Along those lines, I was wondering if you could address the question I asked about progressing via new numbers and testing? When I sue the building block plans, one thing I try to do if I repeat the same block is to add more volume (with a mix of zone 2 and specific intensity). I’ve used this approach when bouncing back and forth between threshold and MAP blocks (2 of once, rest, 2 of the other). But I wondered if I could just test in between and use those new numbers instead of increasing volume? Would this still produce the desired progressive load? Thanks!

If you do 2 weeks FTP block, rest, 2 weeks MAP block, rest and test… and your numbers go up… Then do the same 6 week block again… that in theory should already be progressively more intensity because your re-test increased your FTP and MAP targets and increased your ride intensities.

Note that your numbers will not always go up. So increasing the volume can also help. But also note that you can only increase the volume so much. So, would probably rely on the increasing targets rather than increasing volume. But depending on your desired volume you could also increase that as well. But you will hit a limit in the benefits of increasing volume and will likely need to rely more on increasing targets from re-testing after each block.

I’m not a coach, but that’s my 2 cents.

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Hi @cocoroco, with regards your question what i am hearing you ask is will you get the same response by testing and using the new numbers alone in the block plan vs using the new numbers and adding volume on top of that plan. If so, AND you are properly recovered, you should get a little bump with the new numbers alone but it does take a few weeks. But there is the " it depends" issue here. If you are not getting enough base volume and your aerobic efficiency is the limiter then adding low intensity volume can certainly help and as little as one additional aerobic endurance ride per week can be beneficial. Every situation is a bit different and people don’t plateau for the same reasons. So, I apologize for being somewhat vague. If you want to have someone work through this with you I’d recommend a call with a coach


If you really are repeating the same plans over and over, just with testing that (hopefully!) bumps the numbers, i would guess this will work for a little while but then you’d pretty soon plateau.

Like take FTP as an example, as you get fitter, your improvement rate starts to decline at some point. Once you’re really well trained, your FTP should be higher than it was before, but any further gains from that point will be hard won and you might find your FTP only goes up a couple watts when you test it, which is within your power meter’s standard error and is not really going to provide you meaningful overload.

At that point, repeating the same plans is just monotony and you’ll need to change something up, as coach jeff said. You could

  • increase the volume to drive overload
  • increase the time in zone of the intervals to drive overload (like, work up to 3x20 FTP intervals or even more)
  • increase the density (e.g. subtract a medium day and add a hard day)
  • change the training (e.g., use sweetspot to chase time to exhaustion, which can keep improving even if FTP gains in watts are slower, work on anaerobic, fun stuff like that)

Anerobic training is very strong medicine. If you’ve been doing it for more than 12 weeks than your body may need a break. Do a Base building block plan for a month and see how your body responds. The limiting factor may be an inefficient aerobic engine.

You can calculate the Efficiency Factor (EF) of your aerobic engine by using a recent zone 2 endurance workout that is 1-2 hours; divide normalized power by average HR for the same workout. If your EF has drifted lower by more than 5% since the end of your last base build then it’s time to go back to a base period until the EF improves. When EF plateaus then your body is ready to absorb a heavy dose of anerobic training and push thru to a new level of fitness.


I clicked into the workout library using the map filter. I made a note of every workout shown then listed them in straining stress order. I fitted 2 workouts a week as my main efforts, then padded the week out with easier rides, the recovery or inspirational series. Adding in the monthly challenge ride, the 3 solid workouts a week is enough for me. I finish the map progression 5 this week and it has my eyes spinning in opposite directions but I still find it fun. The point is, if you want to continue with addressing a weakness, then you can be as flexible as you like without committing to a “block”

Just dropping a quick line to everyone for all these helpful points. @alchurch yes, this is sometimes how I approach those transitional periods between more structure training. @KLarson this point is very well taken … I’m still going to stick to some specific work, but I am trying to incorporate more dedicated zone 2 riding into my next training period. @devolikewhoa @Coach.Jeff.H thanks for the insight … what I’m hearing is that new numbers will certainly drive progression, but having that built into the plan itself is even better.

Finally, a quick shoutout to the call with a coach. I had a very productive and informative chat with Coach Andrea (not sure of her handle). She helped me think about structuring training across a year, using custom plans I build myself out of the building blocks or from scratch (for example using the nm/ac/map/ftp progressions), the event plans, etc. Very helpful.



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