I *Thought* I Knew The Difference Between VO2max And Threshold

Here’s the 4.4 VO2max workout I just finished…

…and here’s next week’s 2.8 Threshold.

I’m guessing things are just weird at these “baby” progression levels?

Brave new world!

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Yeah, this could be an error, but we have seen plenty of similar questions come back with “that’s what we intended”. The Level labeling is pointed to where the given workout is intended to “live” in the TR Workout Level spectrum, more than a direct “this is what it is” concept.

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Workout Levels express the relative challenge of workouts within each training zone. They aren’t meant to compare workouts between two zones.


I guess my larger question is not so much “Why is the 2.8 harder than the 4.4?”, but rather, “If 106% of FTP is Threshold, how is 105% of FTP VO2max?”



All kidding aside, think of “VO2max” workouts as having difficulties ranging from:

  • harder “above threshold” work with little/some impact on time above 85 or 90% VO2max (measured with gas exchange)
  • really hard workouts that leave you gasping for air like a fish out of water, and materially contribute to time above 85 or 90% of actual VO2max (as measured with gas exchange)

does that make sense? Sometimes I think it better to call them zone5 or “above threshold” workouts to avoid confusion, but that would confuse some and not others.

If I am reading the pics you shared right, I think you have that backwards…

  • (green added by me to “connect the dots”)


Think of it this way- all efforts exist on a continuum. Some workouts near the border of one zone and another could technically be considered part of either, but we intentionally classify them as one or the other to serve within a specific training progression.



I just got off the bike after eking out a “+3.4 Breakthrough” vo2max workout 2.5 months out from a cardiac procedure, so bear with me, I’m probably a little oxygen deprived.



I sympathize. I’ve done more “trainer drunk posting” than I should and made plenty of mistakes as a result :stuck_out_tongue:


Ok, this makes total sense. I remember old-skool vo2max workouts from previous cycles were along the lines of 5x120% for a minute or two (e.g. Bashful +2)

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here is another way to think of it… ignore the workout levels (and impact on PLs) and focus on the work:

  • this week: 3 sets of 4-min on at 106% and 4-min off
  • next week: 4 sets of 4-min on at 105% and 2-min off

At 250W the “on” (work interval) power this week is 263W and next week is 265W. That is less than 1% increase, less than the accuracy of your power meter!!! The difference is so small you might as well ignore the power difference.

Ok since power is essentially the same let’s look at time:

  • this week: 12-min total work consisting of 4-min intervals with 4-min rest between
  • next week 16-min total work consisting of 4-min intervals with 2-min rest between

See the progression now?

Power is essentially the same, but total work jumped from 12-min of work to 16-min of work. That’s an increase of 33% week-to-week. And they are harder next week because the rest intervals decreased from 4 to 2 minutes, while keeping the work interval at 4-min. :muscle:


But are you trying to increase primarily suprathreshold power or threshold? Of course both will have some adaptions but would there be a better way? Say 16min straight at 100-105%?

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Have opinions on that but not going to discuss/debate that, just wanted to address the question posed at the end of the first post.

There is a clear progression, despite this week’s being labeled vo2max and next week’s labeled threshold. Point being, looking at labels and workout levels can be misleading particularly in the case of zone edges. Look past that to the underlying work.


How’d you end up with a 2.8 Threshold WO?
What sort of plan are you doing?

Maybe my eye sight is bad.

It is the other way around and therefore correct in the screen shot

Edit… oh I see Chad pointed that out.

This whole thread makes no sense as the workouts are correctly labelled and have what seems to be correct levels assigned.


We tend to think of things as discrete entities with clean demarcation between individual elements a bit like the sharp steps in effort on the Ramp Test but as @SeanHurley pointed out workouts are really on a continuum. Also our bodies don’t see step changes in how they respond to the stimulii in the workouts, even an endurance workout down at 70% FTP has some VO2max component for example, it will be very small but it will be there.

So rather than think of each zone being distinct think of them as a series of overlapping bell curves and somewhere around 105-106% the proportion of threshold to VO2max tips in favour of the latter and so that’s how it gets classified.

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Polarized Low Volume.


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I’m coming to that realization. I think my confusion came because every vo2max workout I’ve done in TR over the last 5-6 years has been in the 110-130% range. Never seen a 100-105% vo2max workout before. Always assumed that was, by definition, a “Threshold” workout.

And you still haven’t, from the screenshots you shared the vo2max workout is at 106%, and threshold at 105%. Here are TR’s take on Coggan zones:

However at one point in the AT public beta I saw some vo2max workouts above 120%, which implicitly acknowledges that power at vo2max (for a specific interval length) doesn’t fit nicely into 106-120%.

FWIW this is literally what I saw in my head when looking at your post the first time:

Looked like “intro to zone5” work to my eyes, and there was a clear progression week over week.

Hope that helps.

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