What Is TSS In Cycling And How To Use It

If you’re a serious cyclist, you may have heard of TSS – but what exactly is it?

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at TSS and how it can help you improve your cycling performance.

We’ll explore how TSS is calculated, what it means for your training, and how you can use it to optimize your rides.

Whether you’re a seasoned pro or just starting out, understanding TSS is an important part of becoming a better cyclist.

What Is Training Stress Score?

Training Stress Score (TSS) is a valuable training metric that calculates the overall intensity and duration of a workout. It helps cyclists track their physiological stress and evaluate the difficulty of their rides.

The components of TSS include three main variables – workout intensity, duration, and an individual’s fitness level. The higher the intensity and longer the duration of a workout, the higher the TSS.

On the other hand, if the workout intensity or duration is low, the TSS will be lower.

Chronic Training Load (CTL) is a variation of TSS that measures a cyclist’s accumulated training stress over a period of time, allowing them to track their overall fitness and fatigue levels.

For instance, if a cyclist’s CTL score is increasing, it indicates that they are becoming fitter, while stable or decreasing scores may indicate overtraining or fatigue.

How Do You Calculate TSS?

TSS is calculated automatically by devices and training software that utilize power meters to measure and analyze cycling data.

Power meters are used to collect data such as power output, heart rate, and cadence, which are then used to calculate TSS.

To accurately calculate Training Stress Score (TSS), you require four significant variables – duration of the ride in seconds, Normalized Power (NP), Intensity Factor (IF), and Functional Threshold Power (FTP).

TSS = (# of seconds of the workout x Normalized Power x Intensity Factor) / (FTP x 3600) x 100

The formula simply means that if you ride for an hour at your FTP, it will result in 100 TSS score.

It’s tedious to calculate manually and most people usually just look at their training software such as TrainingPeaks and Garmin Connect.

By knowing your TSS, it becomes easier to monitor and adjust your training load accordingly. Cyclists can adjust the ride duration and intensity by viewing the TSS data from previous rides and comparing them to the current ride.

With the data provided, it becomes easy to plan ahead and structure a training plan that optimizes physiological responses.

What Is a Good TSS Score?

When trying to determine what could be considered a good Training Stress Score (TSS) for any given ride, the answer is largely subjective.

This is because a good TSS score depends on both experience level and current training status.

For example, a more beginner to cycling may find that even just riding 200 TSS worth in one week could make them start to feel the positive effects of increased fitness, but an experienced cyclist might be able to accumulate that amount in a single weekend.

Ultimately, a “good” TSS score needs to be relative to the individual and their specific type of training.

What is TSS

The concept of a good TSS score is key when developing any bike training plan or assessing an existing one for optimization tweaks. It’s important to keep in mind that everyone will have different target numbers depending on training goals.

Plan on working with your coach or trainer to dial in weekly and monthly amounts that are best for the individual rider’s body so you can get the maximum benefit out of every ride and maximize performance gains overall.

What TSS Score Does Not Tell You

While TSS is an essential metric for tracking and adjusting training loads, its use can be misleading if not contextualized correctly.

One significant limitation of TSS is that it doesn’t take into account other factors that influence training outcomes.

Factors such as the duration of workouts, recovery time, and the difficulty of exercises performed also play a significant role in determining outcomes.

A high TSS reading doesn’t necessarily indicate a successful training session if these other factors haven’t been taken into account.

For example, two workouts within a sweet spot training plan could have the same calculated TSS despite having different durations and levels of effort. One may have 10-minute intervals while the other has a single 20-minute sprint, yet still have the same TSS score.

man cyclist training on the road

As efforts get longer, sweet spot riding becomes more difficult – hence why simply looking at time plus intensity may not give an adequate assessment.

In these situations, assessing your power output or perceived exertion during your workout would be more accurate than trusting a TSS rating alone.

To address the limitations of TSS, it’s crucial to contextualize it within your broader training plans. You should consider other factors that might affect your performance, such as your goals, pre-existing health conditions, and fitness levels.

How To Use TSS In Cycling Training

TSS is a valuable tool in cycling training for estimating the difficulty of a workout, planning weekly and monthly training loads, and controlling the ramp rate of training.

By providing a numerical value of the physiological stress imposed on an athlete during a workout, TSS enables cyclists and coaches to estimate the amount of recovery time required and make informed decisions about future training sessions.

Get A Grip On How Difficult Your Workout Is

Estimating the difficulty of a cycling workout is crucial for ensuring proper training progress while also preventing physical stress, injury, and burnout.

One way to estimate the difficulty of a workout is by comparing today’s TSS to your recent workload using CTL (Chronic Training Load).

CTL is a measure of your recent training load that indicates your level of fitness, and it takes into account the TSS from your workouts over a period of time.

three male cyclists training on the road

By looking at your CTL, you can estimate how much training load you can manage while still maintaining a manageable level of difficulty. For example, if your CTL is high, you can handle a higher TSS in a single workout without overloading your system.

Subjective feedback is another essential element in estimating the difficulty of a workout.

By recording non-exercise stress factors like sleep, nutrition, and lifestyle stress, you can look at your training journal to see if there are any factors outside of exercise that is making it harder to recover from high TSS workouts.

Understanding these factors will give you a more accurate picture of your fitness level, and you can adjust your training plan accordingly.

Estimate Your Recovery Period

By tracking TSS, you can estimate how much time your body needs to recover before the next training session.

However, the required recovery time can vary depending on the athlete’s physical condition and training history.

For example, an experienced cyclist who has been training consistently for years might require less recovery time than a beginner who is just starting.

Similarly, a cyclist who has a high TSS workload due to regular cycling sessions can handle a higher TSS workout without needing extended recovery time.

That said, in general, the higher the TSS of a workout, the longer the recovery time required before the next training session.

High TSS workouts push your body to its limits, leading to a buildup of fatigue and stress. Without adequate recovery time, you risk overtraining, which can have negative effects on your performance and motivation to continue cycling.

Remember that TSS is not the only metric you should track; you should also pay attention to your body’s signals, such as fatigue, muscle soreness, and lack of motivation.

Strategize Weekly And Monthly Training Load

Planning a cycling training program requires a strategic approach to optimize performance and minimize the risk of injury or burnout. The goal is to create a plan that balances intensity and volume while gradually increasing cumulative TSS each week.

The plan should be designed to gradually increase the athlete’s total TSS each week while ensuring proper rest and recovery periods. Keep in mind that workouts that are too intense or frequent and lack proper recovery days can result in overtraining and decreased performance.


It is essential to balance different types of training sessions. For example, a training program should include a combination of endurance rides, interval workouts, and recovery days.

Endurance rides, which typically last longer at a lower intensity, can help build cardiovascular endurance and stamina.

Interval workouts, which are shorter and more intense, can improve speed, power, and muscular endurance.

Track cumulative TSS each week and month to provide an overarching view of the athlete’s total workload. Doing so can help to avoid sudden jumps in TSS, which can lead to overtraining.

A gradual increase in TSS will allow the body to adapt to the training stimulus and prevent overtraining, injury, or burnout.

Control Training Ramp Rate

To prevent overtraining and injury, it is essential to control the training ramp rate and gradually increase TSS. Monitoring TSS regularly and using it as a guide for increasing or decreasing training loads is a great way to control ramp rates.

When TSS increases by 5-10% or more per week, it’s time to back off and allow for greater recovery. By doing so, you can prevent accumulating too much TSS in a short period of time and avoid overtraining.

woman cycling during training

Incorporating recovery time in your training plan is crucial, and it should be considered as you structure your workouts.

Additionally, combining different workouts can help you spread your TSS accumulation over more time, rather than suddenly accumulating it in a single workout.

Putting Training Stress Score in Perspective

While TSS is a useful metric, it is important to keep in mind that it is just one part of the broader picture of training stress measurement. TSS should be analyzed in the context of other metrics and training designs to accurately assess progress.

Several workout designs can impact the body’s response to training, including workout variation and consistency, manipulation of rest and recovery periods, and the selection of exercises based on athlete type and goals.

Such variations can lead to different physiological and metabolic responses, which in turn can affect TSS scores and progress assessment.

Therefore, incorporating other metrics in addition to TSS, such as heart rate, power output, and average speed, can provide a more comprehensive view of training stress and progress.

My Verdict

It is important to remember that overall training and how the body responds is a complex situation. One number or bit of data will never tell the whole story when it comes to perfect fitness.

Using TSS may help you visually interpret the amount of stress placed on your body from various activities, but more important than any single statistic is trust in the process and listening to your body.

Don’t become overly fixated on one number or metric. Instead, listen to what your body tells you and let the results speak for themselves.

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