Coach Steve Neal's Adaptive Tempo Fatmax Training

I had some questions for @steveneal and he suggested I start a topic. To summarize, he starts off people at 3x20min tempo/sweet spot with a heart rate governor of 82%. He described these workouts on the Flo cycling podcast:

My stats:
Age 55
FTP 225 (recently tested), peaked at 250 last July
max HR 187

I’ve done two of these workouts so far. I did the first at 185-192 watts which is in the middle of my tempo zone. My HR averaged 136 on the last interval and briefly hit 143 (76%).

I upped the power on the second workout (199-202 watts) which is low sweet spot for me. Average HR on the third interval was 141 and it briefly hit 146bpm. (The second workout actually felt great at the higher power.)

My legs felt sore/heavy after each workout but it was very doable. Cardiovascularly, it was a piece of cake. My limiter obviously seems to be my muscular endurance.

My question for Steve was about the HR governor. I’m not close to hitting 82% (153bpm). Should I up the power even more such that I’m hitting the HR governor during the workout? According to WKO5, my sweet spot range is 198-214.

What do I think about the sore legs? Should I keep doing the workouts as-is until I can do them without any DOMs?

Should I think about blocking workouts sooner since I’m not hitting the HR limiter?

Should I be thinking about 4x20?

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The range would be 78-82% of an accurate max heart rate.

You do not need to be at the top and often this is a mistake.

What cadence are you doing these at?

What are you eating / drinking during the session (how many calories per hour?)

Are you doing these in a fasted state (which I wouldn’t recommend).

No - I would wait until this soreness goes away, I have seen this take months and months. I often talk about avoid muscular fatigue during these so I think pushing to the top of your zone wouldn’t be good. If you are in the range training at the bottom is just fine.

sorry without really getting to know you this is a hard one to give an answer for.

I would err on the side of caution as you build into this.


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Average cadence was around 90rpms. The first workout was 88-90rpms and the second averaged 92rpms.

I had a bottle with 60grams of sugar (gatorade/maltodextrin) plus a Cliff bar (44 grams carb) during the session. That should be about 400 calories for the 1.5 hour session. This was on top of a good breakfast (oatmeal, eggs, fruit) a couple of hours before.

I appreciate the comments. It felt like a great workout. The leg soreness was not horrible. I did an easy recovery ride between the two sessions. The 2nd session felt great even at the higher power.

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Hi @AJS914 , great to hear @steveneal wanted you to post this, because it’s a topic many of us might encounter one day.

It sounds to me like your HR zones do not match your power zones.

Common reasons for this are:

  • your test results are incorrect (tested in a fatigued state / issue with measurements / new to the test / injured / some sort of stress influencing your performance)
  • training in a fatigued state (test results no longer apply)
  • imbalance between cardiovascular fitness and muscle development / fiber types

Let’s dive into these:
you can do a 60m max effort, a 20min max effort or a ramp test or INSCYD, lab-test, Wingate to determine your FTP. There are pro’s and con’s for all. Which did you undertake?

The 60m will give you a number that you can hold for 1 hour. You just proofed it. If you are new to pacing, the number can be ‘too low’, but definitely not too high.
The 20min test requires even better pacing skills → forget about it, i would say
Ramp test: seems to be the gold standard for the non-lab testers
Wingate: more for printers
lab-test: probably the best as you’ll get insights into what truly happens with lactate en oxygen. Those two factors are more important than the heart rate as it tells you what is happening with you muscles.

Training in fatigued state:

  • central fatigue or cardiovascular fatigued → low HR, relatively high power (could be your case), compared to testing
  • muscular fatigued → low power to HR ratio compared to testing (happens after strength training and similar things)


  • if you have a lot of type I and type IIA fibers and developed your aerobic engine well, you will produce a big percentage of your FTP with a low HR.
    You could develop the upper end of your power range with more ‘high load stuff’ to bring back the balance. That is basically the workout Steven suggested.
    Don’t go up in power if you trust your FTP test. It will provide you with more soreness as your type IIA/B fibers wont’ like it.

Final questions to chew on: are you training for endurance or strength?
Endurance: make the heart go boom boom at 2 to 3 times the resting HR, as long as possible, while cycling (development of heart muscle, stroke volume, mitochondria)
Strength: train at 60 or more percent of your maximum load at any HR. You need 80% or more to target all of your type II fibers) Your maximum load can be easily determined with the wingate test, but 2*FTP will do.

Thanks for the post. That gives me something to think about.

I’ve been using the Kolie Moore Baseline test and going by mFTP modeling in WKO5. Intervals.ICU typically agrees with WKO5 by a few watts. I’m pretty confident of my tested FTP.

I’ve also done 20 minute tests for which the pacing, I find painful. :slight_smile:

Typically, I am limited by my muscular endurance. When I get dropped on a group ride (a bunch of guys 20 years younger than me), it’s never that I’m gasping for a breath with my heart rate out of control. It’s always the legs that give out first.

That is basically what I’m training for - group rides. I ride with a mix of fast old guys, a lot of young guys, and a 67 year old ex-Olympian who’s wheel I have a hard time holding. :slight_smile: I did find a local weeknight mountain bike race series that I might try. I’m more of a roadie but I hear that the vibe is fun. I might also do a gran fondo or two if covid cools off.

My training went ok last year despite family illness and lots of training disruptions. I rode a lot of zone 2 in the winter, did a short block of sweet spot, some threshold workouts, and a block of VO2max. I reached a CTL of 85 and an FTP of 250 in July.

Given that I would do intervals, intervals and some intervals :slight_smile:
A high-intensity session with intervals well above FTP → go for it!
As longs as the legs feels sore, do intervals below 55% of FTP. These will maintain your cardiovascular / aerobic, develop your ability to change power output, improve recovery in between intervals and let your type 2 fibers recover for the next high intensity interval session.
Over time you could lengthen the work bouts, in both the high-intensity as well as the low intensity intervals sessions.

For the high-intensity session i wouldn’t care to much about heart rate, just ensure you recruit all the muscle fibers. In today’s research I read that ‘start hard, allow a power drop off’ works better than ‘constant power’ to maximise time at VO2Max.
For the ‘low intensity intervals’ i wouldn’t care too much about HR either. Just pick a pace that feels ‘very easy’ and a pace ‘just above that’ for the work bouts. Keep below the ‘i feel my legs’ power as these low intensity sessions are not for improving your strength, just to keep the aerobic development going. (and it is way less boring than just Long slow distance)

Seems like a lot of other great comments.

I just wanted to make sure you are eating so that is great.

Try these at 60-75c as long as you don’t have knee issues.

Are you using a max heart rate from the last 12 months for this or some type of an indoor test of recent?

I’ve been tracking my max HR for a 4 years now based on max efforts - usually a race simulation type of group ride. Interestingly, I was around 183bpm when I lived at 4,000ft. 1.5 years ago I moved to 900ft elevation and I’ve been seeing 187-188bpm.

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@steveneal would there be a difference doing muscular endurance efforts at 90% of Threshold HR vs 80% of max HR?

For me, it would be 7x, 8x and 9x5-min Tempo efforts on resistance mode, not ERG mode, with 30s bursts every 5 mins at 100-105% (upper end of Z4). If HR is higher than 90%, drop the bias by a few % to try bring the HR back into the range.

Haha - @geraldm24 someone else is in BaseCamp…I did the same math. The prescriptions don’t line up exactly and a lot depends on how you calculate threshold heart rate. I think those bursts change the calculus too. I was looking to see how far the HR dropped after each burst. Don’t know if that was right.

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The two FLO podcasts were my introduction to @steveneal. He’s quite a guy. We are lucky he is so active on these forums IMO.


Yeah, since posting my last response, I thought about the HR effort being calculated on a % of a % of a test result, i.e. 90% of 95% of a 30-min max effort rather than a better way of testing.

As for the actual BC workouts, the first two intervals were low 150s (bpm) but then it remained quite stable… 156-159bpm across all the remaining intervals. That was pretty much the same for both the 7x and 9x workouts.

Likely not, I just work with max heart rate and find that over 1000s of tests, most if not all are between 78-83% of max heart rate for a good tempo zone.

Sounds good to me but depends what you are trying to achieve. During a tempo block where I am really trying to raise the ability of power at near 50/50 fat and carbs I wouldn’t include the bursts.

If I was getting close to a stage race I would start to include things like this.


Sounds about right to me … my only question is why such short tempo intervals with small rests :slight_smile:

I know even TC discusses this in his webinars that many people break up long intervals because they need a break but the workouts aren’t quite as effective, and physiologically we don’t need the break, it is mostly mental for people.

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I guess that’s where years of coaching trumps the scientists… 1000s of test would give a lot of data/results, which could be better than a low number of subjects in a lab test, under controlled conditions.

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The workouts are from TC’s BaseCamp. He mentions “the FTP surges will provide a dose of lactate to force our bodies to get better at using and buffering the lactate while under load” on the group workout notes (Zwift).

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For me - 60+ masters racer - regular strength work in the gym 2-4x per week has been a game changer. Regularly doing leg strength and core work in they gym combined with on-bike intervals has helped me build muscular endurance. I encourage you to consider adding some gym work and see if that helps build that capacity.


nothing really trumps anything everyone has a different and useful perspective…I can just share mine.

I did my third of these workouts yesterday. I tried them at low cadence. I did this one outside rather than on the trainer and with undulating terrain, it was more of a challenge to hit the targeted average power but it was great to get outside in the winter.

The legs feel great this morning, hardly sore at all, and my HRV was in the green. I feel like I could go knock out another one today but I won’t.

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Good to hear.

Without actual testing (moxy, lactate, metcart) it is hard to be exact.

However this heart rate range is very close for most, it is the power generated that is different (like almost every intensity).

The other thing is cadence above 85/88 will have more lactate.

If we were to test you, I would:

Find optimal training ceilings by power/heart rate.

Then for example in the tempo range find your optimal cadence by having you ride at that power, and do a cadence ramp 60-65-70-75-80-85-90-95-100 for 4m or so each, test lactate at end. This creates a very interesting lactate curve and can help guild the training a little more.

But as mentioned above if you stay about 15 or so below your usual cadence we are in the right place.