Is high volume training the answer to being fast?

This is a common question that many athletes have, with cyclists especially interested in the subject. They can see in social media how elite and professional cyclists complete 20 or even 30 hours of training per week. This is probably why this question comes to mind in the first place. So then is that the answer? Well not necessary.

I would say like many other questions the best answer is: it depends

There are many factors that could be taken into consideration when considering if a high-volume training plan is a good idea for the athlete to pursue. For example, what is the cyclist current training schedule, what is the athlete’s goals and target race, what is the current limiters, etc? Even with the answer to all of these questions, it is still a hard decision to make.

I will try to provide a couple of examples to provide different scenarios so that we can better expand on the “it depends” answer

For example, if the athlete is a mountain bike racer trying to complete a 24 hours of Endurance race, then a high-volume training plan with long rides is probably a good idea. Of course, that a proper build-up will be required so that the athlete does not over train. Another big factor to consider on high-volume plans is that as training hours increase, recovery has to increase as well.

A different example would be a criterium or short track racer that is able to finish at the front of the group, but he is just not able to win that sprint. A high-volume training plan would NOT be proper for this athlete, a different approach would be required. While increasing his volume gradually might assist with his FTP, a structured high-intensity interval (HIIT) plan focusing on the required systems for goal is a better fit.

Now let’s consider a third athlete, a beginner that is just starting to ride and his goal is to get back into shape. For him, this means to be able to ride in the front of the group of his weekend warriors ride and beat his son when climbing the hill at the corner of his house. He would consider the meaning of what a high-volume training plan is, maybe a 9-hour week is a high volume block for him. It would mean going from sedentary to riding four 1.5-hour rides during the weekday with a 3-hour ride on the weekend. So, another big thing to consider as well is what is the athlete current condition and what exactly is a high-volume training plan for him.

As you can see not in all cases a high-volume training plan is an answer to a cyclist being faster. It really does depend, there is an infinite number of possible factors that could be taken into consideration. For this reason, a proper assessment is highly recommended by a certified professional coach. If that is not the case, always start by asking what is the goal that is trying to be achieved. If this goal required a very large aerobic engine and man-hours in the bike, then give it a great amount of consideration. If not, then be sure to look back to your goal, and dissect it to see what is exactly required so that goal can become a reality. Do not waste all of those hours on the bike if it’s not absolutely necessary, there are many other training methods that could help you achieve your goal.

Please let me know what you think about “Is high volume training the answer to being fast?” Even if you think different, this way I can learn from your point of view. As well if you need assistance answering this question or putting a training plan together, do not hesitate to contact me for assistance.

Written by:

Gilberto Cortez - USA Cycling, TrainingPeaks & NICA Certified Coach

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