Cadence/HR for 30/30s VO2 max

I did Taylor today (3x20 30/30s at 120% FTP). For the first set of 20 my cadence was 115-120. Second set 110-115 and my last set closer to 105. My HR dropped throughout 3 sets - not much I was hitting HRs of ~160 at the end of the 30s for round 1, ~156-7 round 2 and only 152-3 the last set. Is this telling me I need to work at those super high cadences or that I do better at a not super high cadence? RPE was also lower in that last set of 20 which struck me as odd.

We’re you in erg mode?


higher cadence ⇒ higher HR


(this figure from the same paper)

And higher RPE


Not saying it’s bad or good or cadence should be higher or lower. Just understanding why :+1:


I was going to say the same but without those nice pics!

Basically the reason I made that thread was just to aggregate the most descriptive figures as a reference to quickly answer cadence questions like this! :grin:

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Cool thanks. The directions for this work out said to try to keep cadence above 100 and that elite cyclists might even target 110 to 120. Those data make me think that was not very good advice…

There’s a couple reasons for the recommendations but you need to adapt to your strengths/weaknesses, current fitness, and what not.

Depends on what adaptations you’re after.

{looks at can of worms}

{looks at can opener}

{walks away}


Exactly :sweat_smile:

The goal of training isn’t to maximise single session power or effort. The goal is optimise (not maximise) long term adaptive outcomes.

Cadence plays a role, but a lot of things matter more. Just do what your brain wants to do and worry about optimising other things.

{next question… ‘what other things?’ That’s a can someone else can attempt to de-worm}

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Ultra high cadence isn’t necessarily optimal, so as you come closer to a normal cadence, makes sense your RPE is dropping a little. But ultra high cadence does help with certain training outcomes, as does ultra low cadence. Might not want to race at either ends of the spectrum but it helps target “stuff”

There’s a ton of threads specifically about 30/30s, VO2, MAP, repeatability, which often digress into the efficacy of tabatas, sustained VO2 vs on/offs, billat style float sets, hard starts. If you want to do a deep dive into that stuff there is a ton of good information in these threads:

hard start

short vs long

block periodization

  • Look up 30/30s in this thread

maximum aerobic power (MAP)

Thanks @odpaul7 I’ll check those out.

@Helvellyn is there a short answer to what adaptations the very high cadences are working? Is it just pushing the envelope on “stressors” by making both the power and the cadence a stress?

High cadences help to return blood to the heart to increase cardiac preload and thus get the heart to work harder.

That’s the number one driver of long-term increases in VO2 Max.

An added benefit is that if you’re doing a few.of these workouts in a block then shifting the burden from legs to the cardiovascular system helps keep fatigue levels tolerable.


For myself one primary goal of high cadence above threshold work is to prepare for hard group rides. Because that’s what it often takes to chase wheels and stay attached to the group.


Cadence causes increased blood flow return to the heart because the systemic demand for energy is higher, so cardiac output has to be increased to meet that energy demand (from O2).

Its not that cadence allows for higher cardiac output. It’s that metabolic work is higher. Increasing power output would accomplish the same thing.

Thought experiment: cadence causes higher cardiac output because more muscles have higher energetic demands. So why not train with a modality that uses even more muscle mass than cycling? Like skiing or rowing? Obviously something to do with sport specificity.

So are the stimuli of high cadence cycling which are related to non-locomotor energy costs (higher VO2 for the same external work output) as ‘adaptively effective’ as the same VO2 at preferred cadence & higher workload?

Maybe that’s why e.g. running translates better to cycling than vice-versa? Not sure if that’s true for skiing, rowing, etc. But I would suspect so.

Take this thought further… Is effecting improved VO2max via less-specific training stimulus going to improve performance to the same extent? VO2max can be enhanced in the absence of change to performance. And vice versa. (If performance is even the goal… Maybe VO2 as a proxy for fitness & health is the goal?)


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Not sure that’s 100% right. My understanding is that the muscle pump effect of the legs moving in space and contracting assists directly with venous return, over and above “just” shifting the load from the legs to the heart/lungs.

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I’m not that smart. So go easy on me… prior to my vast experience with TR (going on three months now!) I rode with a low cadence. I got into cycling in the days of Jan and Lance - I’m not a Lance, Ullrich all the way. However, in just these three months I’ve gotten much better at riding with a higher cadence and I think this has translated to performance improvements. But what I’ve been wondering the whole time is am I “stronger” now? Because all I’m doing is spinning my way faster so my simple brain perceives this as not being stronger. Now the physics of work and power and torque etc all just goes over my head but I feel like this quote is getting at what I’ve been wondering. Have I just gotten better at metabolic work versus getting “stronger” (I don’t even know if that is the right word)? Or does one not get stronger on the bike - but rather in the gym? I don’t even know if this question makes sense…

Yeah great question about handwavy use of the word “stronger” in the context of endurance sport.

:point_up: That’s the one

Cycling & other endurance sports have very little to do with strength per se, meaning capacity for force output. Endurance sport is all about maintaining a very low percent of max force output (max strength) for long periods of time.

We get better (I’ll say better instead of stronger) at endurance sport by maintaining a higher force output wholly oxidatively (meaning, the net energy provision comes from oxygen, O2). But that higher force output is still a very low percent of typical maximal force output (like 10-30% MVC).

And because everything in biology (and physics?) is a trade-off between capacity and efficiency, this is more likely associated with a loss of strength, i.e. a loss of maximal force output through endurance training. Although, for novices to regular exercise, basically everything can improve together.

Someone can probably explain better.

(updating my own understanding, I’ll come back to this :wink:)