Pyramid Intervals

I mentioned earlier that I will be following the advice in Adam Topham’s book on time trialling wherever possible, and until I have enough experience to decide if it works for me. There’s a section in the book on Pyramid Intervals, which is a form of interval training. I’m not going to go into what interval training is here, very easy to look up if you’re not familiar with it.

Pyramid Intervals are designed to work different types of muscle fibre, of which (according to the theory) there are 3 main types:

Fast twitch – these are the muscles you use in all-out sprints. They tire within a few seconds
Fast twitch fatigue-resistant – these last about a minute
Slow twitch- these are the typical ‘endurance’ muscle fibres

The intervals are structured to work these fibres in the order above. You start with a number of very short intervals, then move onto a sequence of one-minute efforts, then finally do some longer, 4 minute intervals for the slow twitch fibres. Last night I used the following protocol:

8×15 seconds on, 45 seconds off
8 minutes active recovery
6×1 minute on, 2 minutes off
8 minutes active recovery
3×4 minutes on, 5 minutes off

I think the trailing rest period in each interval can bit ditched, as you’re going into active recovery at that point. The session above lasts just over an hour. When you’re ‘on’ that means you need to be at or close to the maximum level you can sustain for that one repetition. The active recovery periods are relatively long compared to what I’d normally use when interval training, but I’m doing as I’m told, and I can see the you need to recover as much as possible to get the most out of the next set in the sequence.

I need to be able to work out how to measure performance in each interval, because the point of these is to push your capability. I think using the power measurement is the best idea, even though it is not necessarily accurate, one hopes it is at least consistent. For the first set of short intervals there is no point trying to measure anything, they are flat out sprints. Power will fluctuate and trying to watch it will simply ruin the effort.

For the second set of intervals (1 min on, 2 mins off, 6 times) I found I could sustain 350-360 watts indicated. For the last set, I decided to target 300 watts for each 4 minutes, I’m afraid to say I managed this for the first two, then abandoned the third after 60 seconds because I could not face another 3 minutes of it. For shame!

Overall I think it’s a good idea, but there is some question in my mind about the usefulness of fast twitch muscles in a time trial, which even at 10 miles is a pure endurance event. I guess you do have to get up to race speed as quickly as possible…


Posted on February 6, 2013, in Training and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Hey Carl, do you have a link for the book that you mention? I am planning on a few TTs this year (once the marathon is out of the way!) and am interested in anything I can read on the subject.

  2. Scratch that, found it in your Resources page!

  3. Carl, I don’t understand:
    8×15 seconds on, 45 seconds off (Does this mean 2 minutes on, with 45secs rest?)
    8 minutes active recovery (8minute rest after a 2min session?)
    6×1 minute on, 2 minutes off (6mins straight, 2mins off…etc you get my jist 😉
    8 minutes active recovery
    3×4 minutes on, 5 minutes off


    • Hi mate, yeah I thought it might be confusing when I wrote it…

      If I wrote 8x(15 secs on, 45 secs off), that would be clearer?

      So there’s active recovery after that 8 minute block. Then there’s 6x(1 minute on, 2 mins off) which is a further 18 mins (except I swallowed the last 2 mins rest into the next recovery period)

      The last block should be 3x(4 mins on, 5 mins off) = 27 mins, if I hadn’t abandoned.

      Plan now is not to do this, but instead to focus on a sufferfest video I have, which is similar, and is integrated into trainer road. That has intervals which increase in time, but decrease intensity (like the above), but then you ‘go down the other side’ reversing all the intervals, so you end up doing the first set again, at the end,

  1. Pingback: integration with SufferFest videos | Carl's Time Trial Blog

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