Build Phase Training: Everything You Need to Know

To escalate our fitness beyond base training, we will progress through a second phase in the training plan process, which is known as the Build Phase.

To increase our cycling abilities and become more proficient at the demands of the events which we face, the Build Phase of training increases the overall weekly workload and shifts focus towards specific performance goals. Through a blend of sustainable power and high power for short durations, the emphasis of training moves beyond the fundamental skills established in the Base Phase of training and shifts to a focus on elevating those abilities.

It is in the Build Phase of training where I increase your weekly training stimulus and structure your intervals with the types of efforts you’ll be faced with in your riding/racing discipline. In preparation for your fastest season, I’m going to dive deeper into this training principle within the context of Build Phase training.

A quick note: We visited TrainerRoad in Reno last year to discuss the concept of a blog series designed to educate athletes about the principles of exercise physiology. This series is the result. Thanks to coach Chad and the team at TrainerRoad for all of their hard work putting this together. Links to all articles in the series are listed here.

Be sure to listen to or watch our podcast interview with TrainerRoad.

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What You’ll Gain from Optimal Build Training

Optimal training continues into the Build Phase of your training season. Emphasizing on the areas of your performance that become increasingly specific to your events and types of riding, the Build phase of training draws exclusively on the fundamental skills established in Base phase training to increase your specific power capabilities.

The development of cycling specific performance capabilities occur in the Build Phase and this is where athletes will target increasing their Functional Threshold Power. Not only does Build phase training allow athletes to heighten their level of training specificity, it also brings their fitness to a point where middle-priority events can factor into their weekly training.

What Build Phase Training Plan is right for me?

Cyclists draw on fundamentals from the Base phase of training by expanding on three main areas of their capabilities: Muscular Endurance, Aerobic Endurance, and a mixture of Form/Speed/Power — the same three areas of your abilities established in the Base Phase.

Through a blend of workouts in various power zones (Tempo, Threshold, Sweet Spot, VO2Max, Anaerobic), Build phase training is intended to elevate your Functional Threshold Power and general cycling capabilities before refining them in the next training phase that follows. I recommend athletes spend 8 weeks in Build training.

I recommend three different approaches to Build phase training depending on the type of rider you are: Short Power, General Power, or Sustained Power Build Phase training plans:

  • Short Power Build includes a healthy balance of muscular endurance work but trades an increased emphasis on VO2Max and Anaerobic efforts with a reduction in sustainable power focus. Less muscular endurance, more repeatable aerobic power. This approach suits a rider who needs more explosive, short-punchy power capabilities. Criterium racers, cyclocross competitors, and nearly all MTB & track riders fall into this category.
  • General Power Build is geared more towards the athlete who’s discipline doesn’t require any more focus on short punchy power than it does sustainable power. Therefore, the General Power Build phase training plan fits a rider looking to capitalize on a well-rounded blend of abilities in both areas.
  • Sustained Power Build is focused on developing greater sustained power through the use of strength endurance work (Sweet Spot), lactate tolerance workouts (Threshold), and a healthy dose of maximum aerobic power intervals (VO2max). These areas of focus translate to the ability to sustain high percentages of FTP for increasingly long durations.
  • Where the Short Power Build plan saw a swap out for VO2Max intervals, Sustained Power Build phase plans will see the inclusion of more Sweet Spot, Threshold, and Over-Under type workouts. Multisport athletes, time trial specialists, century & gran fondo riders, and climbing road racers all fall into this category.

Examples of Build phase workouts: Below I’ve listed one workout from each of the Build phase training plans I recommend that you can try for yourself:

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Spanish Needle: is a workout I’ve created that targets the Aerobic energy system but does so via short, closely-stacked anaerobic repeats. The format is 6×8-minute sets of microbursts consisting of 15 seconds at 150% of FTP, followed directly by 15 seconds at 40% FTP. With 5-minute recovery valleys between each set, Spanish Needle begins with a 6-minute ramping warm up from 50%-90% of FTP, and ends with a 5-minute ramping cooldown from 40%-30% of FTP.

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Palisade: is a workout that falls into the Threshold and Sweet Spot category. Through 5×9-minute intervals alternating slightly above or slightly below FTP combining efforts of 1-minute at 95% FTP followed by 2-minute efforts at 105% FTP, this over-under workout includes 6-minute recovery valleys between each set of intervals. Palisade begins with a 10-minute ramping warm up from 50%-95% of FTP, and ends with 6-minutes of ramping cooldown from 40%-30% of FTP.

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Mount Goode +2: is a workout that targets the Threshold power zone through 3×18-minute intervals at 97-99% FTP with short, 3-minute recoveries between intervals. Mount Goode begins with 20-minutes of ramping warm up from 50%-95% of FTP, and ends with a 5-minute ramping cooldown from 40%-30% of FTP.

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How Important is Build Training?

Build Phase training is a critical step in developing cycling-specific performance capabilities and increasing your FTP which I do not recommend skipping. Should you find yourself confined to a restrictive training schedule that pressures you to skip the recommended 8 weeks in a Build phase of training, prioritize your training phases to make sure you have a solid foundation of Base fitness before deciding to shorten your time in the Build phase.

Summary of Build Phase training

Elevating your discipline-specific performance capabilities and increasing your Functional Threshold Power is the next step toward achieving your fastest season. This is done in the Build phase of training by drawing on elements of the fundamental forms of fitness established during Base training and is capitalized on the training phases that follow.

Continue reading this series.

Specialty Phase

About this guest post series:
To help you achieve your fastest season, Chad Timmerman, TrainerRoad’s Head Coach, shares his proven, science-backed training process that takes busy athletes from base to peak fitness. Coach Chad's complete "How to Coach Yourself to Peak Fitness" guide was originally published on TrainerRoad's blog.

About TrainerRoad:
TrainerRoad makes cyclists faster through their proven, all-in-one training system. Riders of all disciplines and fitness levels use TrainerRoad to perform structured indoor workouts, follow science-backed training plans, and analyze their training with easy-to-use performance analysis tools.

All images in this article were graciously provided by TrainerRoad

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