Knees aching during longer intervals or VO2 max workouts


I started the low volume sweet spot a few weeks ago and it went pretty well until I got to workouts with intervals lasting 8-10 minutes long. My knees start to ache and feel bad - it’s not a burning like I get in the muscle. It’s not in the patella area as I’ve sometimes had in the past, but surrounding the joint.

The last week or two I’ve been doing longer slower rides and laying off the sweet spot and then tried a 30 minute vo2 max workout with 2 sets of 5x1 min intervals (Baird -3) and midway through the second set the knees started complaining again. I sat out one interval and then completed the last two without issue.

I have been riding MTB for about 2 years. Trainer Road on and off. 40 years old.

Does anyone have a similar experience? Theories? Advice?


Where, specifically, is the knee pain? The exact location is important in determining potential cause(s). Also, are you standing, sitting, using big gears during work intervals?

I was having similar issues and a bike fit resolved it. Go find a well recommended bike fitter and get your fit dialed in.

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Brushman, It’s sitting during work. I’d say the ache is in the front mostly, but not in one spot.

How big a gear are you pushing?

I keep cadence above 90 most work sets. I don’t really feel like I’m grinding in a big gear.

I had a similar experience when I first began using TR. Bike fit adjustments helped although I have still never had a real bike fit done ( I used a bike fit app) .
I ended up taking a month off of the bike to let the knee heal. That was not fun but it worked. When I started back I paid close attention to how my knees were tracking and found that focusing on keeping them straight (per coach Chad workout texts) has really strengthened the supporting cast of muscles around them so my knees don’t ache at all unless I’m doing +110 rpm intervals then I’ll get the dull ache after 45 minutes.

Agree with getting your fit dialed in.

Working out on trainer (of any kind) is a rather static endeavor, meaning the body tends to stay in one position throughout workout session(s). Over time, this will exacerbate any minor fit issues. So, be very mindful of your fit and riding position, examine all aspects and adjust as necessary (saddle height, reach, cleats, pedals, etc.).

Of course, be sure to warm up and cool down thoroughly before and after your interval sessions, and remind yourself to stand up and move around occasionally (during workouts).

Plus check your cleats also. You may be pushing in wrong angle

It’s my understanding that knee pain is almost always caused by something other than the knee, perhaps that goes for most joints. My knee pain was caused by tight glutes, IT band, imbalances in the quads causing the patella to pull out of it’s track, this was felt in the back of the knee. Other knee pain I’ve had stems from being too far forward so the knee tracks in front of the ball of the foot, essentially like people doing squats with bad form exacerbated to increased loads. Having said all that i’d suggest a good bike fit as the possibilities and variations are quite extensive, fit, physique, form all being causes.

I had similar issues but more to the rear of my legs (behind knee not the actual knee…) and a revised DIY bike fit, a few days off and also focusing on form seem to have cured it. the point was made to me then, on the forum, about the static nature of a trainer exacerbating a bad bike fit (vs being on the road).

^ As above, get a bike fitter to look at you. The constant stress in one position on the trainer, unlike the kind you get outdoors/on the road, is likely causing issues related to a fit issue (my 2 cents/pence is on cleats being too far forward…)

I had a fit done last year, but new shoes since then, so probably could go for a touch up.

I’m having the same issues at the OP (my knees start to ache during longer SS Intervals) and I will add that I’ve had not one but two bike fits (a second by a different fitter for a second bike that stated that the first fit was spot on). I think part of the issue with bike fitting is finding a GOOD bike fitter. I’ve been to the best two in my area and I’m not convinced that it’s right if I’m being honest.

From a couple of fitters I’ve watched videos from on YouTube either the majority of fitters in the world are terrible hacks that will potentially do more harm than good, or they are just trying to justify how much they charge for a fitting.

Also, bike fit changes over time depending on your fitness, flexibility etc. at any given time in your riding career…

@Samxwize - new shoes may have made a big difference… so much in cycling stems from the feet!

Just a note though, I had the same issues before the shoes, so maybe I shouldn’t have mentioned it. I feel that to some degree it may be a matter of jumping into 3 hours of trainer rides a week. Despite it being ‘Low’, trainer rides deliver much more concentrated stress - trail riding is much more variable than trainer or even road riding. I remember reading a paper stating that training volume should be increased by small increments to avoid injury. Maybe I should program that myself using the calendar.

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