How to increase volume of mitochondria

As per title, let’s say my FTP is 288W. I train mostly indoor on a Kickr. I do outdoor 3 or 4 h rides on Sundays. Which they become chain gangs in the summer. Much slower in the winter.

I commute to work everyday (1h each way, 25km). I usually use it at active recovery.

What’s the best way to increase mitochondria volume during the Base training?

Sunday 4h steady rides at 65% of FTP? (Meaning average power 65% of FTP).

Check out the chart in this article below…

And check out Coach Chad’s neato rendition of Slim Goodbody…

Hint: Mito - Quantity - LSD


Base training itself will develop mitochondrial volume.

Iirc altitude training / sleeping in a pressure tent helps too. (Another excuse for a skiing trip).

Interesting point in this article:

States the same as Coach Chad’s diagram — higher mito volume is derived from higher training volume; higher mito function is derived from higher intensity training.

Basically, if you lack mito volume (aka volume training) then you’ll eventually plateau with HIIT training. Probably why pros, who started developing greater mito volume during the powerful teen years can ride at a much higher level than even uber fit ‘time crunched’ amateur athletes.

It’s also been studied that mito volume decreases rather rapidly once training stops. So perhaps a Vol —> HIIT training cycle could be something to think about. :man_shrugging:


Thanks, all very interesting.

By volume, do we mean zone 2 and 3 riding? What’s the range in % of FTP? Is this why Pros spend a lot of time at very low intensity during their base?

It means riding in Zone 2 (55% - 75% FTP) for 12-20 hours/week for 3 months.

Pros do it (or don’t do it) for a number of reasons which are best left for a different thread.

Question to those who are more smarterer than I: would the same adaptations take place if intensity was held constant but volume increased 20% (e.g. 15 --> 18 hrs) vs static volume coupled with a 20% increase in intensity (55 --> 75% FTP)? :man_shrugging:

Thanks for playing!

Mathematically (thanks for the challenge :slight_smile: ), the “20%” FTP increase (actually it’s a 36% increase from 55->75) results is 55% more work than the 20% increase in volume (1.36**2 / 1.2).

Since all of the work under both scenarios is done in Zone 1 (by the article you provided definition of up to 75% FTP), the 55->75 scenario will provide greater adaptations (# of mitochondria).

An interesting subsequent question might be: What if the comparison is a 20% increase in volume vs an increase from 65-85% of FTP? In this case, the #of mitochondria would increase 15% (vs. 20% for the pure volume increase) and [theoretically] a 15% increase in “function” of the mitochondria (whatever that means :slight_smile: ).

ps. thanks for the article!


Smarty pants. :brain::jeans::grin:

I wish I was more like Micheal Keaton c.1996* so I could do all these experiments! Alas…

A word to the OP, you should probably think about your future goals before you undertake hours & hours of Z2 riding. If your events are only 2-3 hours in length you can most likely do very well with shorter TR-style interval training.

*Apparently it’s funny:


I love it when the different strands of my life come together. Same day as I’m reading this thread, I read this for my job:

“These homegrown disruptor companies are often experts in digital performance marketing but have hit a growth “ceiling” after optimising their campaigns through paid search and social channels. Now they are investing in mass media, chiefly TV and outdoor, to build fame, consideration and stature and to drive expansion.”

If you substitute “people” for “mitochondria”, the parallel is exact. You can target them with [digital performance marketing / HIT training], but unless you increase the volume with [mass media / LIT training], you’ll hit a [growth ceiling / plateau].


That’s a bit of Charlie Munger type thinking right there. :wink:

Thanks! Is there a minimum duration below which there is no benefit to the increase of mitochondria? I will elaborate. I cycle to work, it’s around 1 hour each way give or take. Is there any way I could use my commute to increase the volume of mitochondria, or does the adaptation occur for rides of 3+ hours?
Until now I have been using my commute purely as a zone 1 active recovery and fat burning exercise, but I am wondering if it can be used to increase volume. I will struggle to keep 55-75% of FTP due to traffic, but towards the end of it I go through a park which allows me to keep that amount of power, uninterrupted (I only need to install a PM on my commuter!).

Is that much volume really necessary? Wouldn’t at least some benefit come from, say, 8 hours?

This I have to agree with based on my experience. I did SSB LV 1 and 2 through the winter and found myself unable to complete over/unders and VO2 work. Switched to periodized training over the summer with volume increased to 10-12hrs/week… I’ll give a full report on the Periodized thread after next week when I plan a ramp test and a 1 hr test.

Why do you think mitochondria volume is what you should be training?

Maybe you have a good reason for thinking you are low on mitochondria, though it seems odd to me to target such a specific training adaptation without a performance goal in mind. I’m interested in hearing your thought process behind this question.

I suspect everyone is different, but would need to look at variation in mitochondrial genetics to be sure. What you want is to trigger mitochondrial proteins to be built following the instruction in the mitochondrial-DNA. The question is about what the best triggers are & how much does it vary between people.

The DNA in mitochondria is not the same as the DNA you get as a mix from both parents. It is entirely maternal & lives inside the mitochondria. Sperm Mitochondria are destroyed after fertilisation.

Maybe ask your mum what she found worked (if she had an interest in endurance exercise)?

I forgot that some mitochondrial proteins are made in the cell itself. I guess you’d want to figure out where the protein you want are made. If it’s in the mitochondria itself it is much easier as it’s a small code length.

This might be cool reading.


I would say, completely unsupported by science (but I’m looking into it!), that any activity will be of benefit, however, more activity will be of more value. The classic rule of thumb is a minimum of 2.5 hours.

This is my exact n=1 experiment this week. I’m doing 10x 1hr rides (2/day) during the week and 2x 5hr weekend rides. I have a very strong suspicion that the abundance of short rides will mostly just build fatigue. We’ll see how they effect the weekend rides.

Get a heart rate monitor for your Z1/Z2 rides.

Yes to both questions. But more yes to the first. Almost every amateur rider undervalues the benefits of volume, unfortunately, most don’t have the luxury of time to increase volume which would have a material impact.

Have fun!

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But this can’t be linked in isolation:

Rebuttal of Bishop 2019 (linked above):

Opposing view:

Rebuttal of the opposing view:

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