Catch 22 on VO2 work

I really enjoy (and respond well) to sweet spot work and have benefited from ssb 1 and 2 to give decent rises in ftp. The issue is I struggle with v02 max work, and in particular repeatability of hard intervals. However feel in a bit of a catch 22…do I keep on sweetspot to raise ftp…knowing that it will make the v02 work even harder (and I usually fail most of my v02 scheduled workouts), or focus more on v02 work to improve that side of things but maybe not get ftp rises as much (and I hate it!)?

However not sure how best to improve v02 when I seem to fail nearly all the v02 workouts - seem to either have to drop watts or interval length (or often both)?

Getting to stage where 20 min intervals at sweetspot/just below threshold are a strength and ftp is rising but not sure how to improve upper levels as can’t do the workouts now I’ve a higher ftp! Struggled to do 8 mins at 105% the other day and 2-3mins at 120% is hell, let alone repeating it.

Ftp of 291W set by ramp test done at start of current plan (sustained power build LV). Could it simply be that the ramp test set my ftp a bit high (e.g. maybe I’m say 73% of max 1 min power rather than 75%. I had similar with old 20 min test - I always took about 92% rather than 95%)

Feel like I’ve babbled but any advice welcome!!!


Change your FTP and find the difference. Then you can go further with asking your self what to do😊

IMO there are two key points.

  1. The type of riding you intend to do. Will you need VO2 max repeatability?
  2. Sticking purely with Sweet Spot type workouts will make you extremely efficient at that work rate but could see you stuck in the same gear (metaphorically speaking).

I love VO2 intervals but it is HARD work doing 3 minutes at 120% FTP. I believe that everyone, regardless of their FTP finds this type of interval challenging. I know this sounds condescending but, this is where your ability to control the mind wins you the day. Focus on how you’d employ each of these intervals in your event(s). That makes me work and I come away with knowledge that when I have to dig deep, I can do this in reverse and focus on the day(s) I smashed 3 minutes at 120% FTP, for fun on the turbo.

In short, I wouldn’t neglect VO2 work and I wouldn’t encourage you to adjust your FTP. Maybe tweak the interval intensity by 5% and build your confidence.


I agree with PusherMan and disagree with Ardian. Your “FTP” is just a number and you may just be really efficient at sub threshold efforts. Your V02Max may not be 120% like TR is set up at. For some people V02Max is 110% and for some 130%. You will just have to adjust the individual workouts.

The above point 1 is key IMO. Are you going to race crits? Are you only doing Gran Fondos? You shouldn’t neglect your weakness but stay tailored to the big picture.


I was in this same boat. I felt like when it came to VO2 Max repeats I could not only not match or come close to the 125%-130% power, but I could not continually repeat the intervals. I lowered the intensity of the VO2 Max intervals, starting with 5%, so I could actually finish and repeat them with the 5% decrease in power. I gradually began to work my way back up to 100% intensity. This seemed/seems to work for me. I do not dread VO2 Max workouts as much anymore as I have a better grasp on the effort required to complete these workouts and a strategy, that works for me anyway, for completion. I feel that these workouts are equally about developing mental capacity and toughness as they are fitness. I agree with Andy, stay focused on what your goals are and how VO2 Max training will help you in the long run.


Thanks for advice all. I’ve focused on time trials past few years but now want to have a bit more of a serious go at cyclocross this summer (we have a local summer series as well as usual winter) as did a couple races last summer and loved it (was useless and in bottom quarter but loved it and improved!) so need to sort v02 out. At moment I’m already dropping intensity and just trying desperately to stay above 110% to be in v02 zone…even if target is 120-130 etc. Just wonder if ftp set bit high by ramp test for me. As I said, anything at all above threshold kills me (failed badly at 7 mins at 105% last week) but 20 mins at 90% no issues! Might drop ftp by half my last increase (went from 275 to 291…so maybe set at 283) and see how I go.


I have similar issues with VO2 work and sweet spot/threshold. Coach Chad was kind enough to respond to this issue in a forum conversation and recommended something like the plan below. I’ll see if I can find the post when I’m near a computer.


The idea being doing 1-3 weeks focusing on VO2 building up from 30 seconds to 2+ minute efforts to develop the muscular systems to be better with suprathreshold efforts, which then is maintained in your regular base, build, specialty plans.


@zwillis1 that sounds really good idea. Like the sound of taking 2-3 weeks off ‘normal training’ to boost this particular weakness. If could find the post then that would be great. I have a couple of spare weeks on my seasons plan and my target is a 2 month long series so if peak week later or so then no issue.

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I love you, man! :heart_eyes:

Seriously though…nice to have some company in the VO2 lounge.


@RobertSims same for me and I know my limiter from WKO+ software is mainly from 45 sec to 2 minutes. But, in general VO2max power and efforts are tough.

I’ve been doing some reading and have been coming across more and more research on doing lower durations but higher intensity intervals. 30x15’s or 15x30’s with super short “recovery” as opposed to 4x4’s or 4x8’s at lower intensity and longer recovery. They general gist of it is you’ll get more time above 90%VO2max hr. They seem a little easier for me and where I previously thought them too short to cause the right adaptation, I now think they might be really good for my gap in fitness.

I’m in a build and not planning on changing much other than opting for shorter interval versions from time to time. Looking ahead the specialty plan looks to have a heathy dose of 15 and 30 second intervals so I’m super hopeful and stoked! Look into the shorter intervals.


Forget the percentages of FTP etc…etc…forget the numbers, rather do this:

  1. Switch off the erg.

  2. Close your eyes. (you can have a peak once every 2 seconds)

  3. Just go as hard and consistent as you can.

If that effort turns out to be below the prescribed ‘number’, yet you still managed to blend consciousness and TIME with the infinite universe and had a chat with God, then you did it correct.

If not, then try harder for the next interval.


There are practical limits to how far you can drive your FTP up before you need to look at doing VO2 work, but honestly I wouldn’t really sweat it too much since there are benefits to focusing on both within the course of a plan.

For the VO2 workouts, you’ll need to do some adjusting if you can’t complete the workouts, and that’s totally ok. There is a much wider range of variability between people above threshold and you may need to do your work at 115% rather than 120% of FTP.


Perfect @zwillis1 . I’ve 2 weeks left on sustained build, but think will bin that, do 2-3 weeks of v02 as @chad suggested (start with 30 sec repeats and build to 2.5-3 mins) to give me a boost. Then onto ssb2, build and speciality (already done ssb1 and ssb2 and nearly done sustained power build before going back to ssb2).
Many thanks all!
Maybe this is a good topic for podcast @chad and @Nate_Pearson?


Thank you @zwillis1 for that sample schedule from @chad !

I had a horribly frustrating morning (this Tuesday) with “Julius Caesar”, and got really pissed with myself. I completed the workout – but I considered it a failure because of back-spins and unplanned rest intervals which defeated the goals of VO2 work.

Anyway, to make a long story short, I did a quick warmup this morning then Stanislaus -4. Yeah, it was only 45 minutes with short intervals and 1:1 recovery – but it re-established my confidence and I feel a whole lot better in my head now. I’ll start building the segment length and/or reducing the rest durations and see if I can get the train back on the tracks.


p.s. I know my actual VO2 numbers from lab testing, so when I failed Julius Ceasar, it was a total slap in the face, and maybe that’s why I went so sideways mentally spiraling downward.


What about your heart rate? Are you maxing out on the VO2 work when you fail the intervals?

Sort of. Julius Caesar is 2-minute intervals at 120%. I’d get about 1-minute into the interval and be approximately 10 bpm short of my max. I’d take a 15 second ‘rest’, then proceed with the remaining interval. By the end of the proper interval, my HR would indeed be within 2-3 bpm of my max. I wear an optical armband (Scosche Rhythm+), which i think is quite accurate. It’s like I ‘gave up’ as I crossed a threshold (or whatever).

On Stanislaus, the intervals were so short (@ 127%) that I got near the max bpm, but never hit it – until the very last two intervals of the complete workout. That’s why I’m going to tweak it (every so gently) to get that HR right up on the bitter edge before the rest segment.

Putting it all together, it makes perfect sense: the short intervals of Stanislaus actually ended a little before the ‘blow up’ point of Julius Caesar’s intervals. So with some tweaks and slowing increasing the interval duration, I’ll work myself back up toward those 2+ minute VO2 segments.

Well I’ve binned the last 2 and half weeks of LV sustained power build and doing the 8 workouts described in Chad’s post - starting with 30/30s and building upto 3 min intervals. Hoping this V02 ‘mini camp’ will give me a boost before I start SSB2/general build/speciality phase ready for summer of CX and time trials (going with general build to keep options open…not decided which speciality yet!).

Will keep posted how I get on!


It definitely will! As Chad says in his workout texts, VO2max intervals are the biggest bang for your buck. But…you have to pack ‘em in — I’d do a min of 3/week and 4-5 if you can handle it.

Good luck! :+1: