Any reason to train at L2 or L3?



Dave_K

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Aug 28, 2007
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The more reading I do, the less productive any time below L4 seems to be outside of warmups, cooldowns and recovery. The only benefit that L2 and L3 workouts seem to produce is an increase in glycogen storage. As a road racer who races crits for the most part (I wish there were more road races around), are there any other physiological reasons to spend time in L2 or L3? It seems like any area that a racer would want to improve (mitochondrial density, aerobic power, VO2, anaerobic power, nueromuscular power, lactate tolerance, etc) is better addressed in L4-L7. I know that some people ride there when they are feeling fatigued, but am I wrong in thinking that the better solution is to rest until your legs recover and hit L4-L7 again? Training seemed so simple before I got a powermeter!
 

daveryanwyoming

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Oct 3, 2006
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Dave_K said:
.... It seems like any area that a racer would want to improve (mitochondrial density, aerobic power, VO2, anaerobic power, nueromuscular power, lactate tolerance, etc) is better addressed in L4-L7. ...
You still get quite a bit of training adaptation in L3 and even the high end of L2 but most folks can spend a lot more time training there than they can in pure L4. Since training adaptations are encouraged by both the intensity and the time you spend at that intensity it makes sense to keep some L3 and maybe even some higher L2 work in your schedule. You'll get more time in the productive training levels which in addition to helping you increase your FTP also means higher CTL which helps you train more with better recovery and race longer events or have better recovery during multiday events like weekend stage races.

If you've been reading these forums you probably already know I'm a big fan of intensity vs. pure volume but I also believe that training volume at sufficiently high intensities can pay off big time. L3 work and high L3(SST) is really useful for balancing intensity and volume. I've also found SST work really beneficial when FTP seems stalled or racing has been particularly heavy and you want to train without totally killing yourself mentally or physically. Total rest during those times won't move you forward with your training, but some good SST time can.

I don't know if you use WKO+ particularly the Performance Manager, but a season with that tool is plenty to remind you that L3 and even some L2 work(I don't actually plan much L2, but get quite a bit between harder efforts) can have a place to help you build CTL. A nice high CTL combined with a decent FTP is like money in the bank as you approach key races.

-Dave
 

mullerrj

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Mar 26, 2007
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daveryanwyoming said:
You still get quite a bit of training adaptation in L3 and even the high end of L2 but most folks can spend a lot more time training there than they can in pure L4. Since training adaptations are encouraged by both the intensity and the time you spend at that intensity it makes sense to keep some L3 and maybe even some higher L2 work in your schedule. You'll get more time in the productive training levels which in addition to helping you increase your FTP also means higher CTL which helps you train more with better recovery and race longer events or have better recovery during multiday events like weekend stage races.

If you've been reading these forums you probably already know I'm a big fan of intensity vs. pure volume but I also believe that training volume at sufficiently high intensities can pay off big time. L3 work and high L3(SST) is really useful for balancing intensity and volume. I've also found SST work really beneficial when FTP seems stalled or racing has been particularly heavy and you want to train without totally killing yourself mentally or physically. Total rest during those times won't move you forward with your training, but some good SST time can.

I don't know if you use WKO+ particularly the Performance Manager, but a season with that tool is plenty to remind you that L3 and even some L2 work(I don't actually plan much L2, but get quite a bit between harder efforts) can have a place to help you build CTL. A nice high CTL combined with a decent FTP is like money in the bank as you approach key races.

-Dave
I agree with Dave- good advice you can take to the bank. I too like SST and pure L4 work..I really think it's the best bang for the buck. I don't consciously do ANY L2-L3 work. Why? Because you'll get plenty of that (volume) with warmups and cooldowns from the L4 work (intensity) you do. And, most group rides include plenty L2-L3 work. If you don't believe me, just look at a normal group ride that you do. I bet you 70% of the ride is in the L2-L3 zone, 25% in L4 and 5% >L4. At leat that's what I've noticed this Summer. Rob
 

Dave_K

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Aug 28, 2007
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Thanks for the responses. I've definitely learned more from browsing this site for the past year than the 15 years of training I did previously! I guess the part that's a bit confusing to me is how training in L3 could be enough of a stress to build your FTP. I have no doubt that riding at L3 could allow you to maintain your FTP, but even though the L3 intervals are considerably longer, it doesn't seem like the muscle fatigue is at the same magnitude after 2 hours of L3 as it is after 40 minutes of L4. Is the main reason that it can have a positive effect on FTP that you become more efficient with its glycogen storage with the longer durations of L3? I have hit a plateau with my FTP and was thinking that I needed to do some L5 work. Now I'm starting to wonder if L3 is really the way to go instead.....
 

mullerrj

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Mar 26, 2007
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Dave_K said:
Thanks for the responses. I've definitely learned more from browsing this site for the past year than the 15 years of training I did previously! I guess the part that's a bit confusing to me is how training in L3 could be enough of a stress to build your FTP. I have no doubt that riding at L3 could allow you to maintain your FTP, but even though the L3 intervals are considerably longer, it doesn't seem like the muscle fatigue is at the same magnitude after 2 hours of L3 as it is after 40 minutes of L4. Is the main reason that it can have a positive effect on FTP that you become more efficient with its glycogen storage with the longer durations of L3? I have hit a plateau with my FTP and was thinking that I needed to do some L5 work. Now I'm starting to wonder if L3 is really the way to go instead.....
`

Dave..I too have learned a lot this year. I did a LOT of L3 rides this spring/summer..mostly century rides (six of them to be exact). They have there place in training (I think) when preparing for just that- long rides. It definitely helped my endurance...specifically, when I rode the Triple By-Pass ride in Colorado (July). But, I got my biggest performance gains from L4 work...including FTP increases of 10 watts/month for five consecutive months. Personally, I don't think my FTP increases had anything to do with more efficient use of glycogen storage from L3 rides. I think the reason for the increase is more from the recruitment of the Type II muscle fibers as a result of L4 work. I say that because I did an FTP test (early one morning) when I was nearly glycogen depleted and there was STILL an FTP increase. I haven't hit a plateau yet, but I know it's coming. When it does, I don't think L3 rides (of any length) are going to help..I think >L4 will. Like you said, some L5 interval work may do the trick. Let me know, cause I'm sure I'll be in the same boat..sooner or later. Until then, I'm going to continue to do at least one 2x20 L4 workout a week. For me, it seems like that's the best bang for the buck. Rob
 

peterpen

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Jul 29, 2003
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Just so you know that not everyone on this site is in lock-step, I do plenty of L2 and L3 rides year-round, barring peak periods. Especially right now, after 8 months and 40+ races, the idea of doing L4 work just seems distasteful. 3 to 4hr rides in the hills, enjoying the Indian summer and getting in 17-20hrs/wk on the bike- much more my style. :D

More L3 will start to appear in November, but I probably won't do L4 intervals until January, although I do get weekly doses of L4 and above on group rides when people get frisky.

Perhaps L4 is where you get "your most bang for your buck" but I find that there's more to training & racing than that. If I only had 10hrs/wk, had to ride indoors, and/or wasn't focused on >3hr road races and stage races, I might sing a different song.
 

NM87710

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May 11, 2006
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peterpen said:
Just so you know that not everyone on this site is in lock-step, I do plenty of L2 and L3 rides year-round, barring peak periods. Especially right now, after 8 months and 40+ races, the idea of doing L4 work just seems distasteful. 3 to 4hr rides in the hills, enjoying the Indian summer and getting in 17-20hrs/wk on the bike- much more my style. :D

More L3 will start to appear in November, but I probably won't do L4 intervals until January, although I do get weekly doses of L4 and above on group rides when people get frisky.

Perhaps L4 is where you get "your most bang for your buck" but I find that there's more to training & racing than that. If I only had 10hrs/wk, had to ride indoors, and/or wasn't focused on >3hr road races and stage races, I might sing a different song.
+1
You are not alone :D
 

giannip

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Jul 7, 2005
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well L2 + L3 cold be usefull when say you're coming off a preriod where you have been off the bike for a few weeks ?


surely you wouldn't start @ L4 from the word go ?
 

Philsybob

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Jan 8, 2004
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If you are trying to build CTL in the performance manager, it is quite hard to do it, by doing the same L4 workouts, week after week. The only variable you have to play with is intensity (if duration remains constant). So I suppose my question would be are you able to increase the duration of the L4 workouts?
Or can you increase your CTL by using L3 workouts (or SST). For example, 2 x 20 mins L4, may well have a lower TSS score than 3 x 20 mins at high level 3. In this instance you are creating an overload scenario.

I have tried just doing high intensity workouts - with very little success FTP remained constant (I wasn't creating an overload).
 

daveryanwyoming

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Oct 3, 2006
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Philsybob said:
...So I suppose my question would be ...Or can you increase your CTL by using L3 workouts (or SST)....
That's the whole point of SST. It's the Sweet Spot because it's hard enough to encourage aerobic fitness adaptations but easy enough that you can do a lot of it. Bottom line, it's a great way to build CTL since you can spend a lot more time in level.

L4 is great and I do a lot of it but also do a lot of SST and L3 work to fill out my training week(I can't do L4 day after day and total rest isn't usually necessary) and to build CTL. That was my point above about L3 and even some high L2 having a place in the weekly schedule.

-Dave
 

Dave_K

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Aug 28, 2007
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I've been doing a ton of L4 (2x20, 2x30, 1x60) with a little L5 (5x5) thrown in for the past couple of months with absolutely no benefit. It does make sense that the only direction to go at this point is L3, but how would you know which training level would have the biggest impact on your FTP at any given time? During this time period, my CTL has fallen since the duration of my rides has been so short. Is that perhaps the best indicator that it's time to lessen the intensity and increase the duration of the workouts? Here I've been thinking that CTL was meaningless since it has been so low even though I'm pushing as hard as I can! I would be interested in knowing exactly what happens physiologically regarding L3 vs L4 training. I get an idea of the differences from the infamous charts in Training and Racing with a Powermeter (by far the most valuable cycling bible I've ever purchased) and I know that from a "big picture" perspective, it's all a balancing act between intensity and duration, but is there any place to go to dig a little deeper into this?
 

holli

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Jan 10, 2003
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I think it depends on your races. I don't know how you guys survive >140km races with almost no L2 and L3. In road races I only use L4 when I do something. L3 is close to L4 in improving FTP. Big difference for me is that I can do way more L3 than L4. BTW aren't L3 and L4 very close to each other in Coggans theory when it comes to FTP benefit?
 

mullerrj

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Mar 26, 2007
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holli said:
BTW aren't L3 and L4 very close to each other in Coggans theory when it comes to FTP benefit?
Funny you mentioned this cause I was just reading about it in the Bible last night. In fact, Coggan dedicated a couple pages re: "Sweet Spot Training" aka SST, since the higher L3 Zone and lower L4 Zone seems to be the beneficial place to spend your training time..that is, in addition with other training. Rob
 

john979

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Jan 14, 2005
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Personally, I find that the best base is a large volume of L3 work, as I can perform L3 training day-in and day-out without becoming burnt out. I also find that too much L4 work leads to a quick plateau, unless CTL can be significantly increased, which is difficult for me to accomplish due to work and other commitments.

To optimize my L3 workouts, I employ a couple of techniques. At the end of the workout, I ramp up the power to threshold levels and above for several minutes. I also employ various over-under FTP drills while keeping the average power in the L3 zone.
 

tonyzackery

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IMO, there is a place for L2 and L3, specifically if you're an athlete that is trying to convert from a predominantly anaerobic sport (i.e. Amercian football) to an aerobic endurance sport you will definitely need to do ALOT of L2 and L3 riding in order to build the muscle capillary density/mitochondria required for sustained higher intensity work without going anaerobic too soon. I am speaking entirely from personal experience.

For those who weren't blessed with a preponderance of fast twitch muscle, L2 and L3 work is of less benefit, but for those of us who have fast twitch in abundance, there can never be enough L2 and L3 riding. We are those riders for whom going slower can actually make us faster in the long run...
 

Porkyboy

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Apr 28, 2006
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Hi

Sorry to be a real thicko but I'm new to this. There seems to a lot of different training intensity bands/levels talked about with all kinds of different names and invented by different people and organisations.

Can someone clarify for me exactly what is meant by L1,L2,L3,L4,L5 etc. as referred to in this thread or point me in the direction of the defininitions that apply.

Reckon this will give me at least a fighting chance!

Thank you for your help.
 

Alex Simmons

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Mar 12, 2006
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Porkyboy said:
Hi

Sorry to be a real thicko but I'm new to this. There seems to a lot of different training intensity bands/levels talked about with all kinds of different names and invented by different people and organisations.

Can someone clarify for me exactly what is meant by L1,L2,L3,L4,L5 etc. as referred to in this thread or point me in the direction of the defininitions that apply.

Reckon this will give me at least a fighting chance!

Thank you for your help.
Go here:
http://www.cyclingpeakssoftware.com/power411/levels.asp
 

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