High cadence during VO2 max intervals

I’ve recently been doing a few sessions with long VO2max ints, eg 5’@110%. They are a really very challenging and I found that the only way I can manage is by cranking the cadence up. So on my last interval I might hit 110 rpm. But this made me wonder whether this is somehow lessening the training effect, since I’m opting for a cadence that makes the intervals feel less hard. This is a somewhat theoretical question as I wouldn’t be able to complete with lower rpm. Just wondering how power, cadence and RPE fit together in this case.

Power is power. If anything, in order to complete high intensity VO2Max intervals, you need to recruit and maximize your cardiovascular contribution. Get that oxygen uptake really ripping. Higher cadences would reduce the muscular strength component and shift the balance to more contribution from your cardio. This is the theory, at least.

So it would make sense that you find yourself completing VO2MAX intervals at higher cadences.

More than anything, it’s best to let yourself find the cadence that you feel good at when putting out the interval effort. If that’s 110 or 100 or 125 or 85…doesn’t really matter - you’re still doing the work.

Hope that helps.


Thanks. During less intense intervals I try to vary my cadence to improve my climbing, because I’m not good at high power outputs+low cadence, but I guess it’s not possible to train everything at the same time.

This is correct!

Power = torque x cadence

And you are aiming to reach X power, and since you are lessening your torque (muscle strength component) you shift the focus a bit more to cardiovascular (which is the point).

So no, don’t worry about it! Keep that cadence high!

Of course there is a versatility factor with cadence, like being able to climb at lower cadence etc if the gearing doesn’t allow for more than like 70RPM, but thats different :slight_smile:

I try to aim for 85 in cadence for everyday riding, which usually gets me to around 82 in reality. 100 cadence for intervals etc.

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It has been said that high cadence is key to maximising central adaptions from vo2 intervals. Have a listen to the Empirical Cycling (Kolie Moore) podcast he explains the science of vo2 intervals and why high cadence helps.


Thanks. That’s reassuring.

I’m sure I’ve heard on a podcast that the secret to a good VO2max session is high cadence. It might have been this one Watts Doc #23: Training Your VO2max, and Why Not Rønnestad 30/15 Intervals - Empirical Cycling

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Some of the vo2 workouts have text encouraging you to have a minimum cadence of 100! If you peruse through the VO2 progression thread, things get pretty interesting as users talk about VO2 not being a % or FTP but a ventilatory threshold (breathing). They also go on to say that 120-130% FTP for VO2 workouts is more of a round average for broad populations of TR users and due to individual variance, what may be a VO2 effort for one person wont be for another.

Either way, don’t overthink it and if you feel like you’re drowning at the end of a set, you’re doing VO2 max properly

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I’d reframe that as opting for a cadence that’s more optimal for what you’re trying to accomplish. The end goal is being able to put out the most power for that vo2 interval and if that happens at a higher cadence that is fine. It’s also fairly common (and if you try track racing, required).

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I was going to say that. I think 110rpm is the minimum recommended from him. Something about that’s when you get the best cardiac effects (I’d have to relisten).

110-115rpm is what I aim for for my VO2 work.

Maybe want to listen to this Ask a Cycling Coach Podcast Clip It is from early in episode 285.

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Very interesting. I pretty much never hit cadences >100 outside though, but maybe it doesn’t matter.