Good replacements for 3min VO2 intervals

Heard on a recent podcast of widespread disdain for 3 minutes at 115%-118%, count me in that camp… What are some favorite “comp” workouts that would be equivalent in terms of adaptation – I remember Chad mentioning a few, so maybe something that has 4-5 minute intervals of 30/30 or 30/15 or 40/20 for the equivalent “total time at VO2max” to workouts that are 9x 3min @115%?

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Don’t forget that with the “short/short” intervals, power usually has to be higher than with a constant interval. It has to do with increasing the heart rate into VO2max territory, otherwise you’re (mostly) just training power (and not physiology).

I recently did Isolation, similar to Nate’s fav Flume, which is blocks of 15/15 @ 130%/88%. These got me up to VO2max HR. So if you hate 115%… There’s a2-week VO2max progression form Coach Chad floating around on the forum, give that a shot and build up to the longer intervals.

A final note and a little guidance from legendary Coach Wooderson:



I’m going to 2nd the suggestion above for a vo2 progression. I recently did 6 weeks of workouts with 120% intervals, started week 1 with 60sec intervals and by week 5 I was doing 3min efforts. Got my FTP up 10w (4%) in the block.

But I think one workout that might fit the bill as far as short/short intervals is something like Megantic +4, which starts off with a harder effort and then you do 15/15 over 5mins

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I have a feeling when I tried these 3 minute intervals lat year…I was not physically prepare for them. I felt like I was digging oxygen debt at an alarming rate during them. Maybe this is how theyre supposed to be…but I have a feeling not; at least not to the level I experienced.

I think my base is much better than last year. My breathing stays much lower now during sweet spot and threshold/over-under workouts. Hoping this will at least partially eliminate that ‘I’m drowning I’m literally gonna die’ feeling that kicked in about 90 seconds-2minutes into intervals.

First vo2 workout of ssb2 up tomorrow for me :grimacing:

I find that I have to build into intervals otherwise something either physically or mentally happens and I fail. Like if I went from sweet spot to VO2 and I was given 3-4 min intervals at 115%+ I’d blow up, quit, and be super down on myself.
I would need to start at 1-2 min intervals and add time to them. That is what I’ve found what works for me.

Happened to me as well SSBHV2 → SusPB. SSBHV has no preparations for such intensity at all. I simply accepted this and repeated 1st week twice and only then continued with rest of build.

Have you done any shorter duration testing? I think getting a sense of what max power you can produce in the 3-5’ range might give you a target that’s achievable and repeatable. Starting at about 95% of the test result for a given duration should definitely be repeatable. VO2s are always always going to suck. They take a lot of focus and mental energy getting through them. Don’t get down on yourself just be progressive w them and add an interval as you go through the block. Take more recovery too if needed.

5 minute intervals? :crazy_face:


wrong thread? :man_shrugging:

Just do a 7 minute interval set then 3 minutes will feel much easier.


My favorite substitute for 6 x 3 is 6 x 5. But I learned to train when we walked to school up hill both ways.

You need to work into it. Do 60s, then 90s then 2 min then 3, 4, 5

If 6 x 3 is daunting then do 3 x 3. And when you crush it then do a 4th

Rome wasn’t built in a day nor is tolerance for doing hard training.

If 120% is impossible mentally, just set 115% as your goal and exceed it.

Rest interval is important. Do 1:1 or even 1:2 if that’s what you need when staring out.


Check out (in no particular order):

  1. Gendarme
  2. Clouds Rest
  3. Spanish Needle
  4. Gardiner
  5. Rattlesnake
  6. Brasted
  7. Kidstones

One alternative if you’re having trouble facing 3min at 120%.

Find some songs on your phone that last 3 minutes. Make a playlist.

Start a 6x3min workout. But set it in manual.

Then fire up a song at the start of each interval, close your eyes, and pedal hard until the song is over. Rinse and repeat. You can’t blame Chad. It’s you hurting yourself. Only you.

Then look at the power and find out what you’re capable of.


Thanks for all the suggestions folks!

I’ve done this more or less for some threshold efforts or overunders. It’s so satisfying sometimes to start a 12 min interval at 99%, flip the phone over, and just say ‘make it through like 3 songs.’ Flip the phone over, and see you only have like 28 seconds left…

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I like hard start intervals that then drop down to threshold. Look for things with 30 seconds at 150% and then time spent at 100%, or 95%, or whatever you can handle

Something like The Priest +2

Edit - you’ll need to play around with your own capabilities on these workouts to make sure you get up to your VO2 HR and stay there while doing threshold work. The example I gave is probably too easy to get you into VO2 range, but it is the same general shape as the workouts I like

Awesome achievement… what did you work up to eventually with your 3min intervals ? Manage to complete all 6 or more by week 6?

Did a 3min interval w/o today, found the same thing, but I also focus on cadence.

A good protocol that works for me:
10-15s high rpm/high power – 140 rpm @ 200%
15s 130 rpm @ 130%
2.5min 110 rpm @ 100%

High cadence and low/long power really help keep the legs fresh esp for the last few intervals.

If I’m going to be working hard, I might as well make it count.

[edit: av power for interval is ~110% but HR gets up to 90%+ HRmax within 30s…something that wouldn’t happen by doing the interval either at 110% or 120% steady power. Hard starts required.]


How many times Per week? Two?

For 3 days/wk they performed six 5-min intervals of bicycling on an ergometer against a resistance that elicited VO2 max, separated by 2-min intervals of exercise requiring 50-60% of Vo2 max. On the alternate 3 days, they ran as far as they could in 40 min

and for 10 weeks… ouch