That Triathlon Show | EP#169 - FTP, VO2max and VLaMax

A bit more (and IMO better) deep-dive into VLamax than the Velonews podcast. Personally, answered most of the follow-up questions I had after listening to the Velonews interview. (Chapeau! @Mikael_Eriksson)


One lingering question I have is around VO2max work. We often mix this work in during build phases of otherwise “threshold” style workouts. Sebastian is very clear about the combination of sprint intervals, gym work, and long slow distance on VLamax and VO2max (and likewise for “sweetspot/threshold” training).

Often triathletes and cyclist will mix some VO2max sessions (not talking about sprint work) into a block of training that otherwise consists of SS, Threshold, and endurance work. What effect does this have? I guess I’m unclear about where these fit in? Do they stunt the lowering of VLamax that one achieves via sweetspot/threshold training? By their very name, it is implied that they improve VO2max, but as he points out, so does everything. :smile: So…yeah.


My take is it depends. For athletes with a lot of room for improvement, newer athletes, there’s nothing to say that they cannot imporve BOTH at the same time by doing all those kinds of workouts.

I think the more advanced you get, the harder it becomes to improve, and the greater the stimulus for any given adaptation needs to be to actually result in improvements. So, one sweet spot workout is no longer enough to lower VLaMax, you need 2 or 3, and you might need 2 really chunky workouts at threshold or VO2max or in-between intensity to get a big enough stimulus for VO2max improvements, especially if volume is limited.

And then the mixed types of training weeks don’t necessarily counteract the effect, but they just result in inadequate stimuli compared to what’s needed.

Dan Lorang (Jan Frodeno’s coach) who we talk about in the interview also mentioned this same concept from a triathlon contect - he likes to work the same system in all three disciplines at the same time, e.g. VO2max in swimming, cycling and running.

I don’t have any good sources or data for this, but logically it makes sense to me, and I also have good personal experience with this sort of thinking when it comes to planning training blocks.

One interesting thing to consider is that “threshold training” can be a bit of a silver bullet that can both improve VO2max (see Seiler’s studies for example) but also, when we do lower Z4 work it can work great for tackling VLaMax, especially when combined with low-cadence work. So depending on how you skin it, threshold training can have a place in pretty much any training block.


@Mikael_Eriksson - Thanks for the detailed show notes. I’ll second that this was more useful than the fastTalk podcast in getting the technical details out. Also now I know how to spell INSCYD.

I think that is a very key message and seems to applicable to other SportsScience aspects like periodization.

Thank you. Very informative discussion on the podcast.

Excellent podcast @Mikael_Eriksson - I always refresh my podcast app to see if there is a new episode.

I appreciate how you check your facts against research (and common sense), unlike a certain very prominent vlogger-cum-“coach” who will put LED lights inside his ears and think that this is somehow helping his brain.

I however cannot escape an impression that you’ve been jumping on New Advertised Stuff quite quickly recently. I mean first the HRV bandwagon and now the VLaMax/INSCYD methodics. Listening to old episodes of the Joel Filliol & Paulo Sousa podcast I note that these guys are quite skeptical of what they see as fads and/or product marketing (including explicitly HRV, which they call out, A.D. 2016, for not having been researched with sufficient criticism and objectivity).

Hard for me to form an opinion, and I’m not asking for a response. Just a bit of feedback from a slightly confused TTS addict.


@kajet Thanks for your feedback!

I can fully undertstand how it looks like “jumping on a bandwagon” from the outside, but i first spoke with Sebastian over a year ago and he introduced INSCYD to me. I approached the whole thing with a healthy dose of skepticism and spent a lot of my (unofficial) continuing education hours of 2018 reading up on all of these concepts without signing up for INSCYD. Starting from the very ground up, with really digging into the metabolism and what really is going on when we exercise.

Then I started to research other coaches and whether they apply these concepts, and I found Dan Lorang and Jan Olbrecht (Jan Olbrecht has written some great books and other articles related to this discussion, including “Science of winning”). Meeting Dan Loranf in person was definitely something that increased my confidence in the concept.

It was only late 2018 that I finally signed up for INSCYD and started using it, and I had spent a lot of hours by that point doing background research before committing to it as it isn’t exactly cheap, and to be clear, I pay to use it.

I like the software, but it isn’t the software that is the important thing here, it’s using this whole concept in training. You can find your VLaMax without the software if you have a lactate meter, and you can do a traditional lab test to get your VO2max and your good to go. Maybe at some point somebody else will build a software that does what INSCYD does and do it even better - if that happens I’ll give that a chance for sure. And I think that the large majority of the content in the podcast was about generally applicable information on physiology and metabolism, not the software itself.

Quick note on HRV, same thing there, I have been using it and reading about it for 2 years now I think, and while it’s by no means an essential tool in the toolbox I think it’s a nice-to-have. I don’t think anybody should be religious about it, and we should always listen to our bodies first, and not jump to conclusions based on HRV. I would place it at the same level of importance as the PMC and TSS-based training though. Both of these still leave HUGE gaps in solving the endurance puzzle, but they are pieces that can help get a little closer, if approached with the right perspective and the right importance-weighting I guess.

It’s true that by now I’ve done 3 interviews on HRV (the first one was with Dan Plews, and he is or at least was independent of any particular company) and I realise that perhaps that is more than enough for some time, as HRV is definitely something that can be categorised as part of the icing on the cake rather than the cake itself, and the majority of episodes should focus on the cake :slight_smile:

Speaking of Paulo Sousa and Joel Filliol, look forward to the longest interview to date on the podcast with Joel Filliol on 11 March. That one is ALL about the cake, no icing, and it is definitely a far more important episode than any HRV or “advanced physiology” episode like this one with Sebastian.

I guess the big challenge for me is to convey the message of how to prioritise what information to take on and use for different levels of athletes. A beginner athlete should by no means go out and do a ton of testing and start tracking everything, they just need to go out and train consistently and frequently, with a good proportion of that training being easy enough and gradually building up to more intensive training. And even for more midpack athletes, in many cases just a quick looki at the training log may be enough to say what they should do to improve: “get more consistent, and just increase training volume”.


Agree with the others, great podcast @Mikael_Eriksson. I wish I had the funds available to do some lab testing now :slight_smile:

To take an example from the podcast:

Two 75kg athletes can both have an FTP of 300 watts.

One athlete can have a VO2max of 65 and a VLaMax of 0.3/0.4.
The other athlete can have a VO2max of 76 and a VLaMax of 0.7.

  • If you don’t know what is behind the FTP, you can’t really establish a precise and focused training programme.

  • Decreasing VLaMax and increasing VO2max would require different training programmes.

In the absence of lab testing and actually knowing your VO2max and VLaMax, is there a way of establishing the type of training that is likely to be the best for you?


I wonder if you can derive VLaMax when you know your FTP and Vo2max since FTP can be tested and Vo2max can be estimated to a certain degree…


@Mikael_Eriksson I’ve got another question, as I know you’re a proponent of strength training for triathletes.
It was stated in the podcast that weight training leads to an increase in VLaMax. As a triathlete you wouldn’t want VLaMax to increase, so would this limit how much strength training you’d prescribe for certain athletes? Or do you think the functional strength benefits you get from strength training far outweigh the negatives of increasing VLaMax?

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I understood it the way that training for maximal force with single repetition is increasing VLaMay - not necessarily strength endurance training with 10 repetitions…but I am eager to learn more.

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Does this suggest there really isn’t much point to the HIIT VO2 max interval sessions - and that a mixture of threshold (eg over-unders), sweet spot and some longer endurance rides will both increase VO2 max and lower VLamax effectively?

Not at all. It is a matter of focus. If your focus is to improve VO2 you maximize the time in the VO2 zone (see a nice article here how to do this Prescribing VO2max – Spare Cycles). To lower VLaMax you work close to the threshold where lactate production and reduction are close to each other - thus around the highest possible lactate reduction rate you can achieve. You stay as long as possible in these zones to trigger adaption.

Theory is simple. The big question is where can you get the best marginal gains? Where is your biggest potential? And if you need burst power then you need to compromise on VLaMax.

It is a great playing field for TR and Chad.


Thanks - very helpful. Can I ask your view on why it might not be good to mix the HIIT VO2 interval workouts in with the threshold workouts in the same block - if this is indeed the case. Also, do the very short interval VO2 max workouts push up VLamax as well - or is really just the very short maximal efforts that push up VLamax?

I understood it as a hypothetical case where someone might need more stimulus on either VO2max or VLaMax in order to make progress. There is this statement in the room where users on the lower end of the progression ladder need less stimulus to improve and can work on both aspects in parallel while users that are more advanced on the progression ladder should focus on a single aspect they need a stronger stimulus for reaching the next step. I am not an expert but this was my understanding.

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Ah, I see. In which case I personally can happily mix them together.

Not really - I understood it to mean that the HIIT VO2max intervals would work more effectively on someone who is more a fast twitch type of guy whereas if you were a slow twitch diesel type then the long slow distance would be more effective. Both however would work.


You are right. There was also a discussion about when you have decided which target to focus on then there are different ways of achieving it - and different people might respond to different stimulus - it was shown by a different approach for fast vs slow twitch fiber dominant users.

FTP as function of VO2max and VLaMax => FTP(VO2max,VLaMax). For fastest FTP improvment:

  1. Decide which goal to pursue: (a) increase VO2max (b) lower VLaMax or (c ) both at the same time - subject to biggest marginal gains
  2. Decide which training methods to pursue to achieve these goals - subject to adaptation rate of the user

Overall the idea is to change training from a black box approach to a white box approach with biggest marginal impact of training.


So are they saying that if you have mostly slow twitch fibres that just doing lots of rides at 65-75% of FTP and nothing else will increase your VO2max?

No, this was not the message. Everything was about maximizing marginal gains. Every person is different and responds differently to different stimulus. It was an example that for a certain group of people 65%-75% might lead to the fastest VO2max increase. Other groups might be better off using different training approaches. The message was that you cannot generalize a training effect and expect the same result for everybody.