Increasing my Over / Unders to 120% Overs - Is it now a VO2 workout?

Historically to me, Over / Under workouts have always been in ‘threshold’ category of workouts, but after some research and podcast listening, I’m going to move away from TR’s traditional 105%/95% to something like 120/80 (maybe even 85% unders).

The intention for me is to train my body to repeatedly build and flush lactate and I feel by going higher and lower in power, this could be done more effectively.

But will the adaptations of doing what would now technically be a VO2 workout change? compared to doing O/Us in the more predominantly in the threshold zone?

I usually reserve VO2 workouts for certain times of the year, hence a little bit of trepidation going forward with higher overs.

I think the “technically” part depends on what definitions you subscribe to. By trainerroad’s lexicon “technically” it might be a VO2 workout, but based on the fact that 120% isn’t necessarily a VO2 Max (depends on the duration and your own capabilities) and the intent of the workout isn’t to push VO2 Max by doing repeated VO2 Max intervals, I’d say it’s just a different type of over-under workout. I think I’d definitely want to keep it closer to threshold on the unders. I’d think 85 is better than 80. And 90 may be better still.


You shouldn’t be close to achieving maximal O2 utilization in your muscles nor should your HR be near maxed out and breathing peaked. So no, not a VO2max workout. Ignore the silly name of the training level. Just because you ride some time at 120% does NOT make it a VO2max workout. You’re just training lactate tolerance/clearance.


Depending on how your intervals are structured, along with all the benefits of training lactate tolerance you may also be training the VO2 max slow component. This will help a lot with TTE (time to exhaustion).

I’ve found these types of intervals really beneficial and a lot more fun to do on the trainer than traditional steady state threshold work.

Good article discussing VO2 max slow component here:


:+1: for any article that justifies my observation that doing low cadence work improves my performance :joy: @brendanhousler Landry wrote a nice article!

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thanks for giving him a shout out, I think his articles are awesome!

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VO2 max is more than just a power level. It’s a physiological state where you are at (or near) your max O2 uptake. So if your HR is jacked and you’re breathing like a fish out of water during the intervals then there’s a good chance it has turned into a VO2 max workout. If not then it’s probably closer to a threshold workout (in terms of adaptations and such).

Yeah one of the worst things we’ve done in cycling training nomenclature is call anything between 105%-130% “VO2max”. Should’ve just stuck with “suprathreshold” or something because it confuses athletes and conflates terms that are only loosely related. This idea that there is a “VO2max” power is silly because you can achieve close to the physiological state of VO2max at a host of different powers provided you spend enough time there.

Doing 30 seconds at 120% of FTP doesn’t get you anywhere close to maximal oxygen uptake. Doing 30s at anything once doesn’t get you to maximal oxygen uptake. It’s a dumb name.

At least most times I see it presented in a chart, it’s 105%-130% alongside a time recommendation of 3-8min intervals, so that makes some sense, but still… not necessarily training VO2max just because you’re doing intervals in that domain.