A 5×5 workout is my favorite for the early- to mid-winter months. There are a few reasons. First, it takes up to 12 weeks of doing this workout once or twice per week to realize the full gains. Perfect for the long winter months. Second, at just 30 minutes of actual work; a great workout for the trainer which many of us are stuck on by January. Far less daunting than 4 × 16 minutes on a trainer.
Lastly, a surprising number of studies have compared this specific routine to other common threshold workouts and this one frequently produces the highest percent gains. So it’s safe to say this workout is worthwhile.
A nice thing about this workout is that it’s a very simple prescription. The art is in the execution. All reps should be steady and at the same average power (your target threshold). I tell my athletes to watch their heart rate as well. They are not allowed to go more than 1 BPM above their threshold heart rate. If they do, then they need to back down the power.
The one-minute recovery is critical. Its long enough to give your legs a little rest while keeping your aerobic energy system “revved.” In essence, you’re getting the benefits of a 25-minute threshold effort without having to find the willpower to do 25 minutes straight at threshold. Just keep in mind this is not an “as hard as you can go” workout. It’s important your efforts are at threshold in order to target the right energy systems.
Done right, the first interval will feel a little too easy. The last one will be a struggle. I recommend holding 100 RPM on the trainer, and if it has an ERG mode, considering letting the trainer control your power. Believe it or not, this is a hard workout. You may need to ease in by starting at 4 × 5 minutes with 2-minute recoveries for a couple sessions.
Workout of the Week: Winter 5×5s
15 min. steady riding on an indoor trainer
5 min. @ 100% FTP
1 min. recovery
10 min. steady pedaling