I wouldn’t write off improvements in VO2max unless you have an extensive endurance training history.
Power at VO2max can be improved. These improvements come from movement economy changes. Maybe 10% total improvement in power at VO2max from these changes, if I had to guess. Pedaling efficiency between recreational cyclists and elite cyclists is not drastically different. Elites are just better at burning energy. If we were talking about swimming here, that would be a very different story. But in running, and especially in cycling, movement economy does not vary a ton.
Power at VO2max could be 107% of FTP or 180% of FTP, depending on fitness level. Said differently, FTP might be approaching 95% for very some very elite athletes who have not made VO2max a focus in training, but for a very unfit individual, FTP might be 50-60% of power at VO2max. This was the case for me when I started cycling after being a power sport athlete.
The fitter you get, and the more volume you do in training, especially volume around or just below FTP, the closer you can drive your FTP up towards your power at VO2max.
Reiterating: I wouldn’t write off improvements in VO2max just because you’re 40+, unless you have been doing serious and voluminous endurance training for >10 yrs.
thanks for your feedback. I just started 2 years ago with more serious sports. Before that it was rather occasional. I will for sure take another CPET within the next half year and then I will see how absolute VO2max changed.
I was looking today if there are any studies explaining the relation ship of O2 and power generation, but wasn’t lucky.
Interesting and encouraging read. Thanks for sharing.
Is see one weakness in the author’s approach. He is referring to VO2max as in ml/min/kg. If a cyclist is loosing 10% weight, the value per KG will go up by 11.1%, but that does not mean he actually increased oxygen uptake.
There is plenty of information on “velocity at vo2max” which is the running equivalent to “power at vo2max”. Of course, efficiency/economy is far more important in running but stll interesting to read up on this. This one is a nice text:
For most competitive/ambitous cyclists vVO2max (or pVO2max) and “time at vo2max” are far more relevant than the absolute value of vo2max. Both, pVO2max and time at vo2max are highly trainable.
Just one remark on the text by Alan Couzens above. I must admit, I’m not a big fan of him. I check his twitter posting every once in a while just for the purpose of wanting to gett annoyed. yes, there is such a thing.
My main quarrel with him is his über confirmation bias on everything high volume-low intensity. I don’t dispute the the importance of HV-LIT, not all, but he’s on a mission. Cherry picking arguments, dismissing anything else which is not in his truth bubble.
I can confirm that bumping up training volume increases 5-6min power without actually training 5-6min power. This happened to me when I went up to 20hr/ek. However, this is a one time bump. And if you don’t nurture it you lose it again. Especially when you get older. Especially for this demographic I don’t believe this more intense training should only be the “icing of the cake”. One should approach this more individually.
Couzens definitely focuses on Vo2max relative to weight, but for his anecdotal case, he’s referring to a competitive athlete; I don’t anticipate in those sorts of situations that an athlete is changing their body composition drastically. And that especially goes for elite triathletes, who have forcing based on their sports of choice.
And sure, he cherry-picks, but I think there is decent evidence out there to suggest that high volume is a significant driver of vo2max growth.
As in, a one-time bump, because you ceased training at 20hr/wk and went to lower volume? Or because you continued training at 20hr/wk for a long duration and no further 5-6min power improvements came?
My wife will have an interesting anecdote for you by June 2022. She has trained for the last 1.5 yrs with largely zone 1 & 2 work and also saw an improvement in 5min & 20min power with no specific training for either. Just went out and tested one day and it had increased. She had previously done a more mixed volume & intensity approach.
We plan to do a very high volume approach this coming year and I don’t anticipate too much riding in zone 4/5. We’ll see how it goes!
I will speculate that the reason Couzens cherry-picks is because he’s trying to prove a point against folks arguing for more high-intensity work and vastly less of everything else. So much so that it has almost become fad-like in some circles.
Same here and it started over a 4+ month period between February 3, 2020 and June 14, 2020. Simply following a FasCat off-the-shelf sweet spot base plan (with my ‘life intervenes’ mods) I ended up doing:
average of 7.5 hours/week
strongly pyramidal intensity distribution of 82% easy / 16% medium / 2% hard
and saw a nice bump in short power, in my case I tested 5-sec, 1-min, 4-min, and 20-min durations.
That lead me to conclude a) all sweet spot base plans are not created equal (FasCat/Velocious/CTS vs TR), and b) time to double down on that approach. Continuing to see gains.
I’ve been training consistently ~20 hr/wk for the last 4 years. Did high-high volume most of the winters with up to 30 hr/week (“aerobic overload weeks”). Can’t really say I have improved much from these. As said, one major bump in the beginning. I was always shy of doing too much intensity, because of the dreaded “you burn out thing”.
Thanks to Covid and lack of racing I introduced back more tempo. First time in a long time that I saw some sorts of improvements again (fatigue resistance, total time in zone 2 which was important for the few races I did).
In the end, as long as one improves why not keeping on with it. At some point you simply run out of available time with this approach.
And I’m getting old and have quite some years in my legs.
I’m 65 and ride an average 12 hours per week mostly at or below LT1 . Any intensity comes from pushing on group rides. I’ve always thought that I should be “better” for the amount of time I ride. Out of interest therefore I’ve just done a Moxy 5-1-5 test as apparently this can show your individual limiter. According to the guy mine appears to be my pulmonary system. Advice - do more structured VO2 max intervals, 1-2 minutes getting the breathing up as quickly as possible then keep HR between 90-95% max then recover by just turning the pedals then go again. Also loose weight and do strength training.
Yes, power can be increased but perhaps not actual VO2max. After a certain age your goal become preservation of your trained VO2max. Realize there is a difference between “power at VO2max” and true physiological VO2max, which is not measured in watts.
At any power output, some portion of your power will be produced aerobically and can be accounted for by VO2; the other portion is donated anaerobically. Increasing your power at VO2max (and really, the focus needs to be on the MAX part) would mean increasing your aerobic abilities. See below:
Ditto for 1min power. Volume is a huge driver of aerobic-ness.
My personal VO2max path has led me from dong typical %FTP workouts, which gave just ok results, to a more ‘do the things which develop those things which comprise VO2max’. Since VO2max isn’t a power number – it’s a process – I focus on easy breathing volume and hard breathing intervals. Attention to power comes after.
“ In fact, when I model the average response to training across the entire group that I have VO2 and long-term training data for, I see an average shift from 54 to 67 ml/kg/min (a change of 24%) when a long-term, high-volume training plan is undertaken.
Conversely, when a short-term, high-intensity training plan is undertaken, the model shows a maximal increase (in 4-6 weeks) to only 63 ml/kg/min (16%).”
You cannot make meaningful comparisons to gains in a month and a half to gains after several years.
His figure 4 bar chart (with no labels) doesn’t sum to 100% if it is supposed to be percentages (which would be the correct way to depict the point) but also just showed the athlete did relatively the same intensity and added much more zone two work (if it is in hours per week).
I would not take him too seriously as a researcher. However, I agree that high volume plans can lead to increases in vo2max. However, the more volume you do, the larger than percent of work will be at zone1-2 by default, you cannot just simply pile on more intensity (tho you could do much more tempo riding - I don’t classify that as ‘intensity work’ tho)
Don’t forget that VO2max is comprised of supply & demand aka central & peripheral components. HV Z2 trains the peripheral, focused & deliberate intensity sessions train the central. There is no need to keep piling on intensity.
And this is where there is a bit of a bias in terms of research conducted.
The academic pressure to “publish or perish”, means that a six week training intervention is a very attractive one to conduct. (The data can then be analyzed, written up and published in time for the next research grant cycle. A training intervention that will take 2-3 seasons to conduct is far less attractive to researchers.
Also, test subjects are often willing to try some experimental training for 6 weeks. Ask them to adhere to an experimental plan for 2-3 seasons, when they have their own race objectives, etc, and they are usually far less willing.
Get Faster with Adaptive Training
Sign up and Download the TrainerRoad app to start training. Available on iOS, Android, Windows, and Mac devices.
Ask a Cycling Coach Podcast
This is the only podcast dedicated to making you a faster cyclist. Listen to the latest episode and more.
We Are Here to Help!
Browse hundreds of articles in our Support Center or contact our world-class support team to get back on track.