VO2 Max Interval Workout Substitutions

My understanding is that it doesn’t and isn’t intended to.

Anyway, I’ll have a read at that article when I get home. Always good to have further reading.


Having read the article I can see straight away from the WKO4 graphic that the interval set was actually 4 x 4 minutes with 3 minutes rest, confusingly described as 7x. This is exactly the type of set that Seiler did in the study.

If that athlete was to perform 8 x 4 minutes with 3 minutes rest the power output would have to be reduced.


The interval set actually is a 7x4min:

Note the time above 95% of VO2max: 16:37.

A 4x4 set is 16 min total interval time and even less VO2 time; the quoted 7x set resulted in >16 min of 95% VO2 time.

Maybe some kind of Einstein interval would allow you to accumulate more time than the actual time ridden…?

Maybe we’re talking about the same thing in different ways here.

Here’s the WKO4 screen grab from the article which I’ve shaded with the intervals:

There are 4 work periods and 3 rest periods.

Scaling from the time axis along the bottom the intervals appear to be as follows:

  • 5 minutes Work at ~440W
  • 5 minutes Rest at 0W
  • 5 minutes Work at ~440W
  • 5 minutes Rest at 0W
  • 5 minutes Work at ~440W
  • 5 minutes Rest at 0W
  • 5 minutes Work at ~440W

That totals 20 minutes of work with total set time of 35 minutes.

It makes sense that the athlete spent over 16 minutes at >90%VO2max.


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This is my preference - something about the “it gets easier as you go” model works well for me. I’ve found Rattlesnake (and variants) to be perfect for this.

Do you have any links to this? I’d be interested in reading up about what Coggan’s saying.

Mind you, if it’s on the Wattage group I might as well say goodbye to the rest of my day…


I have been complementing my traditional base regimen with the Rattlesnake once per week. It is hard to judge the effectiveness, but I do not dread doing this workout, it actually gets more enjoyable toward the end.

That definitely sums up how I feel about it as well - I can’t tell if that just means Rattlesnake is an excellent workout or if you and I are just masochists. :slight_smile:

Going through a substitution dilemma as well.
I don’t have any problem with the shorter =<2min VO2Max workouts, to the point I’ve bumped some of them up to 120%

The 3 minute ones are hard - and I know they tax my system.
Dilemma - Currently on General Build MidV. There aren’t any 3 min intervals for some weeks.
Should I find substitutes for the <2.5 min VO2Max workouts between now and then and replace them with 3min VO2Max ones?

Well I’m an “older” guy and having just read Friels “fast after 50. I’ll be sticking with his recommendations of a maximum of 5x3mins at my VO2max percentage. Which for me appears to be 115%.

That’s just 15 minutes total at VO2max.

It’s all about recovery at our age :wink:

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Closer to 60 than 50 and definitely more aware now of the need for recovery :wink:
But still curious about those substitutions?

I would stick to the build plan and not try to overreach. Baird and Bashful should get you strong at repeating 1.5 minutes and then Dade and Matthes will have you ready to take on Kaiser at the end of the block. Personally I wouldn’t change that.

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@themagicspanner if you asked Ronnestad what protocol he would recommend he might not suggest that which was the subject of this presentation. Probably he would suggest something closer to what Bilat made famous.

Also, if you are interested in why Seiler opts for 8 minute work periods and 2 minute rest periods there’s lots of stuff out there:

Episode 13 of the FLO cycling podcast

Episode 71 of the Science of Ultra podcast

And youtube.

But, anyhow, I would suggest Seiler would say the Ronnestad intervals tend to be too intense. And Ronnestad is probably not an advocate of an 80/20 approach (judging from his recommended periodization). Or at least wasn’t at the time of this presentation.

Just the same, my custom workout library has workouts titled Seiler, Seiler Long, Ronnestad, and Bilat. :wink: Because variety is the spice of life.

I have a copy of Prof. Bent Rønnestad’s paper, which he sent me a couple of months ago. I haven’t had time to read it fully yet. Must do that.

Having said that, I have no reason to believe that Rønnestad would suggest doing a protocol other than the one he designed for the paper, otherwise what’s the point of testing it. 2:1 was the work to rest ratio that allowed the athlete to continue exercising for the longest period and spend the greatest amount of time (athlete dependent) at high percentages of VO2max.

Seiler only tested the effects of 4/2 x 4, 8/2 x 4 and 16/2 x 4 and found that the most effective was 8/2 x 4. He did not test against 2:1 intervals. I understand that there is a newer paper suggesting that 16/2 x 4 may actually be better given different criteria. I haven’t been able to get hold of a copy of that yet.

He appears adamant in all of the presentations that I’ve read or listened to (quite a few) that steady state is the best way. I was just interested in why he thought this given there is evidence that the 2:1 protocol may well be better in some cases.

Me too - I have quite a few variations of Seiler and Ronnestad’s workouts that I’m using regularly. All of them are painful.


I am 55. Last week I had to complete 6x3 minute vo2 efforts at 110,120,130% then reverse pyramid.

Tonight I have 8x3 minutes pyramid from 110% to 125% then reverse. Can I just do 5 of them please?

What does Freil have to say on this? I haven’t read it.

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Friel recommends 5 x3mins at or slightly below your own VO2max level with 3 mins recoveries.

So yes just do 5 :wink:

So I am excused the last 3 tonight! :slight_smile: Do I get the extra one credited from last week too? lol

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Absolutely. They’re accumulative and can be backdated 12 months :wink:

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Yep, yep! If I understand Seiler’s reasoning 4 minute intervals separated by 2min rest done ‘by feel’ (go as hard as you can while still completing the workout) tends to result in too much intensity to maintain the 2x per week workout frequency. So maybe he thought if 4 minutes is too intense then 2 minutes is right out. Ha!

For sure, there can be individual variation…which is a point Ronnestad makes a few times in his presentation. He also mentions he is not supposed to talk about sprint training. :wink:

I think the main appeal of Seiler’s approach is that it’s easy to implement for most people. What do you do? 80% of the time easy stuff, 20% of the time 8min on/2min off. When do you do it? All year round. At least that’s what most folks take away. It’s not that easy but that is better than nothing!

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The 2 minutes comes from the subjects self-selecting their rest interval durations. In fact, that was one of the main aims (and takeaways) from Seilers interval studies. In other words, stop worrying about ratios and how long the rest interval is. Just “active recover” enough to properly smash the next one. For most ppl, that will be somewhere around 2-3mins, but even 4 minutes (rest interval) is fine.