Help with VO2max

Help, really struggling with VO2max intervals. Age 50+, 3.7 w/kg, nearly finished SSB MV2.

I can nail 4x10min near threshold (Darwin at 101%) or 5x15mim sweet spot (Tallac +3 at 101%). They need focus, but I can complete them.

With VO2max work I dread them. There is no way I could complete 6x3 min at 120% as proscribed. Today I went for Dade -1 instead (9x2min) but needed to drop to 95% to complete this. I can do the 1min on 1 min off type workout, but anything over 90sec and I really struggle. Failure is usually brought about by the legs just refusing to spin even with full focus, despite normally having a high cadence in the 95-105rpm range.

Given I can do the longer sweet sport or threshold work, I am beginning to see this as a limiter to increasing my FTP.

Any advice borne out of experience on how to overcome this?



Try 112% of FTP and see how that goes.


VO2 as a percent of FTP is a range that varies person to person. It can be anywhere from ~112-125%. So some people may fall at 125% and find the prescribed 120% intervals pretty manageable. While others have an FTP that is closer to their VO2max Power and find those super challenging. So as long as lowering the intensity to 95% still keeps those intervals hard (toward the end of the workout they should be extremely difficult) you are probably still working in your own VO2 range for those intervals.


% FTP for vo2max intervals is highly individual, its the reason why not every professional cyclist is a sprinter!

Coach Chad in the workout description tells you to find repeatable power, and that you should struggle to complete a 3 minute interval. These are really hard and suppose to be!! Be confident there is nothing wrong with dialing down the intensity. If you reduce intensity to 95%, that makes the 120% FTP = 114% FTP. For myself, I’ve had to reduce intensity to 92% (= 110% FTP) in order to complete the 3 minute intervals.


Not sure if you are using ERG or Resistance mode, but Resistance works well for these. If you can’t hold the power then it will just drift down to the level you can. This will get you through the interval and you will still gain a physiologic benefit to build off of.


I have been coaching masters aged athletes for some time now and can tell you that your experience is not unusual. As our V02 declines with age, the ability to pull off the efforts in the shorter time ranges diminishes. It does also diminish in the longer efforts, but nowhere near as much or as fast. I can share a really blunt example of this from real life. I am still a keen racer at 47 years old. In my recent state 20 km time trial I managed to win in masters, and was a few seconds faster then the young guy who won the 17-18 year old men. In the 3 km individual pursuit on the velodrome, I also managed the win in masters, but was LIGHT YEARS (13 seconds) behind the winner in the 17-18 year old men. So there we are comparing a 27 min effort to a 3 min 32 sec effort. My advice is to keep plugging away at the shorter duration efforts as it will make a difference in the end.


Hi I’m in the exact same boat as yourself and we sound like very similar cyclists same W/kg and similar cadence. VO2MAX are my absolute worst I find them extremely difficult to do I also did Dade -1 yesterday I did half at 100% and half at 95% intensity but I think dropping the intensity and finishing the workout is more important and beneficial than if you quit it. just remember your not alone the VO2MAX struggle is real :hot_face::wink:

In the most recent podcast Chad said it’s totally still a great workout if you lower V02 workouts by 2-3% but keep the interval lengths the same (whereas with Sweet Spot intervals, keep the % the same but add backpedals to take a 15-30sec break where needed)


Are you getting FTP from the Ramp Test? My own experience was I struggled with VO2 max based off a 20 minute test, but could manage on ramp test result.

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Many VO2 workouts, in the workout text, recommend adjusting intensity as required.

You will see this topic covered ALOT throughout the forum so check out some of the other threads

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I don’t think this is unusual. 3 minute efforts are super hard for me too and honestly I get nervous going into them. My legs burn out well before my HR raises into vo2. Yet I find sweet spot and threshold workouts to be about right effort wise. I did shortoff+6 yesterday (9x3) and only thing that saved me was getting out of the saddle for the last minute. I’m on the smaller side and out of saddle helps me even though I’ve heard the argument it shouldn’t be necessary.


Good idea thanks. I’ll give that a go!

I have trouble with Vo2 Myself. i have learned just to turn the intensity down to around 111-113% depending on the type of workout and how much fatigue i am carrying. As we age our Vo2 gradually declines. However if we practice doing those types of efforts we can slow the decline.

Thanks. Impressed with your results!! I will keep plugging away, Just concerned that as things stand my FTP is a fairly high percentage of my aerobic capacity, so the key to further FTP increase is to increase the aerobic capacity.

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Thanks for sharing. It helps to know I am not alone :slight_smile:

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Given that this range of FTP:VO2 is so variable is there a recommended workout which will elicit an estimate of power at VO2 max. I totally appreciate this will be a very rough estimate but without heading to a lab it’s all most of us can work to.

Raises a question in my mind - how much does the current Ramp Test protocol rely on that 120% mean (VO2 as % of FTP) in estimating FTP? I raise this as what you outline (getting a more accurate VO2 interval range off the Ramp Test versus the 20min test) is likely what I would find. Right now the Ramp Test gives me a level that undershoots what I can (and do) train at for SS/Threshold but likely puts the V02 in a good spot, while my higher manually adjusted FTP (similar to my expectations of where a 20min would fall out at based on recent rides) will give me doable but challenging threshold intervals but I do need to bring the VO2 down to ~95% for longer intervals (2min+).

@PhilM66 the minimum power it takes to elicit VO2max and your lactate threshold power are very close! That’s just the way it is for you right now & it’s not unheard of among cyclists…especially if you’re coming off a big block of threshold or sweetspot work.

If you spend a couple of weeks concentrating on VO2max work you’re likely to see some VO2max improvement and then you’re threshold/VO2max won’t be as close anymore. :smiley:

Always remember, also, that VO2max is a physiologic condition, not a power number. You can start an interval at 120% of your MAP-based ‘FTP’, hold that as long as possible, reduce power to 110%, hold that as long as possible, reduce power to 100%, hold that as long as possible…and still be at VO2max for almost the entire interval (except at the start). VO2max just means oxygen exchange with the working muscles is maxed out. That’s the condition you want to work at. Doesn’t matter if it’s at 120% of MAP-based ‘FTP’ or 105% of MAP-based ‘FTP’.

Even VO2max as an absolute number (expressed in ml/kg/min) is not one number. You might have a VO2max of 51 on the bike, 58 on the treadmill, and 62 if you’re out cross country skiing. More muscles used means more O2 consumed. The important thing is to get yourself to that oxygen consumption plateau and do work there.


I’ve had sporatic issues with VO2Max work, when I think back I usually did not have enough carbs that day. Or I was stressed out at work, or didn’t sleep enough.

Last night for instance I was trying to do williamson +4 which is quite a hard workout. Looking back, I had a stressful day and ate fried food for lunch. So, when I was thinking about why I just could not turn the pedals for more than a minute and a half I wasn’t totally shocked.

The other thing that I wonder about also is, have you been doing VO2 work preceding this latest block of training, or have you not had VO2max in your training diet for a few months? The other times I’ve had issues with VO2 is when I was just doing a whole lot of sweet spot base 1 and unstructured training before that. Then the reality of VO2 sets in and it takes a little time for the body to pick it up. But, I think starting with the shorter duration ones and increasing the duration as the training progresses will help you out. Also, I wonder if one of our more experienced members could shine some light on whether masters athletes should try to keep VO2max workouts in the mix year round, just for maintinance.

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@bbarrera, among many others, would give this a hard yes.

In other news…

I don’t know what types of workouts you’re doing but I can’t even imagine a 1111% interval let alone the previous higher intensity you just turned down! :scream::face_vomiting::laughing: