Three minutes at 120% - tips?

I’ve got South Twin +6 on my calendar for tomorrow (final hard week of General Build HV) and it’s been a while since I’ve had success with repeated efforts at 120% of FTP.

The basic setup of this is three sets of three minute intervals at 120% of FTP. The last time I attempted this workout (last off season) I made it through four of them before the wheels came off. Looking back at this particular workout it looks like it is rarely attempted and rarely completed successfully.

For a similar, but more commonly attempted workout, there is Morgan (another workout I hate) which is, I think, used in some of the lower volume plans

Does anyone have any tips to get through these types of repeated efforts? Something about this duration and intensity hits the weakest parts of me on the trainer - although in races I do fairly well at 3-10 minute efforts.

Help me get mentally prepared for this torture I have scheduled for tomorrow!

I’m in the same situation at 120% with repeated intervals. I do mine at 115%.

IIRC from some reading or one of the podcasts, it was mentioned that not everyone’s VO2 max is 120% and you might do better by reducing the intervals to 115% or 110% to get through the 3 minute work interval. I’ve also had better luck at the higher percentages when running my workout/trainer in non-ERG mode for these efforts.

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You could always take extra rest between the intervals, perhaps rest for an extra 30 or 60 seconds.

Have you built up to the 3 minute intervals? That is, can you sucessfully do the 120% in one-minute intervals? two-minute intervals?

If not, then you’re likely to struggle (or fail) at 3-minutes once you run low on glycogen.

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I’ve been completing the progression within the build plan successfully (more or less). Recent similar workouts I’ve completed successfully include Pisgah +6 (4 minute intervals at 112% with four minute recoveries), English +4 (1:10 intervals at 124% with 40 second recoveries), and Thimble +4 (60 second intervals at 127% with 40 second recoveries). My only failed workout in the second half of the build, thus far, has been Spanish Needle +2

115% is repeatable for me… 120% impossible!! so maybe start lower than 120% and if you get halfway through and feel you can nudge it up then do so, better to complete it than blow up and not finish at all.


Really, really loud rock music with a decent tempo that lasts about the same length as your interval


I created a workout in the Workout Creator by loading in the scheduled workout (I think it was Kaiser) and changed the first set to 110%, second set to 115%, and left the last set at 120%. I knew I wouldn’t make it through 3 sets at 120%, so this was my solution. I was able to finish this workout successfully.


Scientifically proven. :+1::metal:

As Chad (and others) states in the in-ride instructions, your body can do the workout no problem, it’s your mind that’s the limiter. It’s only torture for your mind, not your body. Well…actually it is kinda torture for your body…think ‘waterboarding light’. :hushed: There’s really no two ways around it, VO2 intervals hurt us all.

But…as Chad also states, it’s about finding your REPEATABLE level. My VO2max is beyond 120% but my repeatable power is likely right around 120%. Start lower and go from there. Without doing lots of VO2 sessions you won’t really see a big increase in that max level, you gotta a lot of them for that – sorry!

Look at 90% of your recent best 3 minute power, which is usually the guideline for “repeatable” interval power (assuming you have an all out effort)

If there is a large delta, you might want to adjust down.


one thing is for sure with me… if you go too hard on the first one, there is no recovering… even dropping the power down after that is a lost cause. I’ve only successfully did one workout that had 3 minutes at 120%, and that was only 5x. Next week I’ve got kaiser coming up… going to try and start with 10 watt lower target…

Play whatever mind games with your yourself that are necessary to get through it. They are tough - they are supposed to be tough. Maybe vary your cadence a little bit at various points in the interval. I will do some of it at 95rpm, then “ease off” to 90 rpm for 30 seconds before going back up.

I’m glad I’ve read this thread. I’ve got Spencer on the cards for today which is like 6 x3 mins at 120% i think. I’ve managed 2 min x9 at 120% okay, but it was really not enjoyable haha. Been dreading Spencer coming up as I know how much it’s going to hurt.

Thing I’m going to be focusing on today is making sure i’m drinking enough, and whilst on the bike i’ll have some sugar water and maybe a gel 30 mins in. Whether they actually help me, or whether it’s a mental pick up, i don’t know but it helps me out. Breathing will be key. Make sure you’re not gasping, or if you’re like me, you’ll get a stitch and it’ll suck!

I also find the 3 min VO2 max intervals as some of the most challenging.

Agree with dialing back the percentage a little and finding out what is repeatable for you.

Another tip is taking the trainer out of ERG mode so you don’t grind to a halt if you are having problems. In Resistance mode you can keep going and finish the 3 min but if your power drops in the last minute it indicates that your target power should be a little lower for the set.

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I view it like this, the first minute is about settleing in, the second miniute is the the main work ( things start to hurt here) once your at minute 3 there is only a miniute to go. Sort of breaking it down into three. Don’t get me wrong, they are hard work but I find it more mentally manageable if I break it into stages.


You have to get good at playing mental games. x2 on breaking it down in parts of 3. This works great for this workout since this basic mental approach will work for each repeat, each set and the whole workout. As stated, the basic approach is that the first 3rd is not mentally hard as long as you are committed to finishing the interval. Just do your work to get to the 1 minute mark. The middle third takes some focus as the pain is ramping up and it still seems like along way to go. Then the clock ticks to 0:59 and there is no freakin’ way you are going to quit on the last third, just make it to :30 and you got it made. Approach each set of 3 basically the same way.

Also, you also need to get yourself convinced that the recoveries are going to really help you AND you need to seriously “work” the recoveries to get as much out of them as possible. 3 minute is a lot of rest and 6 minutes between sets is enough to make each one stand alone (just have faith!) Work the rest periods. This is no time to relax your mental game. Focus on recovery and breathing for the first minute. This will set the tone for the recovery. Don’t drink in the first minute as it cuts into your breathing. If you are going to eat (and you should) do it between sets as the recoveries are 6 minutes. The 3 minute recoveries are about breathing so you don’t want to waste half of any one of them chewing. Focus on bringing your heart rate down. The lower you start at, the easier the rep will be. Don’t worry about the next set, just focus on getting started on the next repeat. With 30 seconds or so to, get back into power mode. Once you start, it is as good as done!


Ah yes! Cadence is important!

VO2 intervals are all about working the cardio system, not the muscles. These are Coach Chad’s instructions for South Twin: “Try to keep your spin quick, preferably above 100rpm.”

If burning legs is part of your problem then going into a lighter gear w/ higher revs will help.

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Take each interval as it comes and ‘treat it as the last’. By this I don’t mean absolutely burying yourself but benefiting from the psychological benefit of knowing that your suffering is (falsely) short lived.

Thank you all for the feedback and suggestions, I think the one below is the one I will get the most benefit from as I think it really is the mental aspect of this that starts to kill me. Three minutes is truly an eternity


I have Kaiser (6x3’ @ 120%) on deck for today, but I’m debating doing Bashful +2 (3 sets of 5x90" @ 125%) which is the workout in the updated SSB LVII plan–not sure which is worse/better…both sound painful :joy:.