VO2 Max should feel harder than this

The only problem with this topic is the mix of definitions. 30 seconds @ 120% isn’t a VO2max workout even if it is using the VO2max zone. From Friel’s blog description of zones:

Typical intensity of longer (3-8 min) intervals intended to increase VO2max. Strong to severe sensations of leg effort/fatigue, such that completion of more than 30-40 min total training time is difficult at best. Conversation not possible due to often ‘ragged’ breathing. Should generally be attempted only when adequately recovered from prior training – consecutive days of level 5 work not necessarily desirable even if possible. Note: At this level, the average heart rate may not be due to slowness of heart rate response and/or ceiling imposed by maximum heart rate)

See my post from last week: Taylor’s 30s on/30s off regimen is exactly that prescribed by Billat as a VO2max workout. Taylor isn’t one 30 second interval but ten minutes of them in each block and you are going to have pretty ragged breathing after that lot.

Some of the VO2max workouts in the library are more “tasters” or “preparation” for the true VO2max workouts, Bluebell is one such. So while you are working in the VO2max zone they aren’t necessarily a VO2max workout.

If I understand correctly there is no real VO2 max intensity. It is something above threshold that you can maintain for a while and as the anaerobic muscles fatigue you are left with a VO2 max performance.
When I did the 30s intervals it just felt like it was not enough to fatigue the anaerobic system, making it very easy with fairly low HR. But if the intensity would have been higher I could have reached VO2 max towards the end of the blocks.

Same as me. And the “VO2max” workouts with shorter intervals like Taylor, Bluebell and Mills felt easy. It wasn’t until I got to the likes of Kaiser when I realized what a VO2max workout should feel like.

I’m a fast twitch anaerobic athlete - so on the shorter intervals, my anaerobic system does much of the work. On the longer intervals like Kaiser my anaerobic system is insufficient - and that’s where things really start to hurt.

Yes, I had that feeling before, both during climbs outside and doing intervals, it is where you are gasping for air, but just not intense enough that you need to stop because of burn in the muscles.

So do you skip the shorter intervals for VO2max or increase the intensity?

I do 3-5 min intervals. The trick is knowing the right intensity to be hard enough, but not so hard where you can’t do the workout.

I’be dialed in a few VO2max workouts that work for me. See the following thread.

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Didn’t Billat use higher intensities during both the on and especially the off periods?

ETA: Here is a case study of somebody doing 30/30s at 125/85%. That seems hard enough that they were probably tickling VO2max, but I doubt that it provided a major stimulus.

Taylor is also “easy” for me… wait until you get to the 2 and 3 min intervals.

A quick search found an earlier paper by Billat, not yet found the 30/30 paper but did come across this précis - https://lwcoaching.com/interval-training-the-scientific-way/:

Billat found runners alternating 30 seconds at their vVO2max pace with 30 seconds at 50 percent of their vVO2max pace were able to accumulate three times the volume of VO2max pace running in one session than athletes running continuously at their vVO2max pace.

Billat mainly worked with runners so her papers refer to pace rather than power.

I’ve not seen anything to suggest going higher than VO2max pace, I’m assuming that it’s the same or nearly so as Coggan’s 120%. I stand to be corrected if this is shown to be wrong. If we stick with Coggan’s power zones then anything under 55% is “active recovery”. TR’s workouts all(?) use 40% for their recovery intervals but I recall Chad, in response to a question, saying it wasn’t a “target” as such and it was intended to indicate really light spinning . For 30 seconds does that 10% make much of a difference? For the 3 minutes on, 3 minutes off it probably does.

Looking at the analysis in your link there is the suggestion that the “rest” periods were too high and that the subject might have performed better during the work intervals had the rest periods been either longer or at a lower intensity, even as low as 30% FTP.

Ultimately having a workout that is 90% effective with near 100% compliance is better than one that is 100% effective that no-one does. Not perfect but you still get to the desired end point. Billat provided a practical alternative protocol to achieve the same end.

So IOW, to mimic Billat’s workout, the on periods should be 120% of FTP, but the off periods should be 60% of FTP, not “easy spinning”.

Rattlesnake – 3x12min – only gave me ~4min @ 95%+ VO2max. Consistently, by the 3-4th interval (out of 16), I was already under 95% VO2max.

The on/off style of the blocks was too easy for me (at the time) and I used TRs WorkoutCreator to remove all the ‘off’ bits, resulting in solid 3x6-8min blocks of go time. The steady state (w/ hard start and declining power; 118% FTP av) gave me ~21min @ 95%+ VO@max; I never went below 95% for the entire interval. And this was after about 5 months of only SS/Thrsh training, IOW a pretty dull top end.

FWIW, other “30/30” workout results:
Taylor – 8s @ 95%+ VO2max
Bluebell +2 (w/ additional set) – 11s @ 95%+ VO2max
Gendarme +9 – 0s @ 95%+ VO2max

We can read all the published papers we want, but until you get on the bike and hammer out a few different brands of workouts, you’ll never really know what works for you. For me, yes, VO2max should feel harder than this.

Is that your HR you are referring to there or NP across the set?

I find those sets with high work:recovery ratios really hard. I just can’t recover in time. For instance Bashful+1 is 60s:30s and I had to skip some of the intervals in the last set. Bashful+2 is 90s:60s and it was a breeze (relatively).

I’m guessing WKO’s (under)estimate of % of VO2max.

Not having full recovery is the point.

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It’s not having any recovery! You have to have something there to do the next interval.

or the donut is using %HRmax as proxy for %VO2max.

You get 30s recovery. Suck it up buttercup.


WKO mVO2max which is calculated from power.

With Rattlesnake (and my variants) I used only power. However, pre-TR days I did steady-state 5min VO2max intervals using only HR and RPE. Similar results – ~80% of interval time @ 95% HRmax. Hard start intervals give me ~5% more time @ 95%+ VO2max. Using power, HR, and RPE these days. But might just return to my gadget-less “just smash it!” roots which served me very well.

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Yeah I got faster doing this than ‘proper structured training’ but a lot of unplanned recovery impacted consistency. With all the z2 work on an 8 hour/week budget its starting to seem like I can have both consistency and just smash it.

WKO mVO2max at times can be “for entertainment purposes only” depending on a bunch of factors.

I don’t know your max HR but if it’s anything close to 180, if you are only getting to 136 hr, then you aren’t doing anything even close to vO2 max and you need to be working way harder. VO2 work should be very difficult.

I’m not a cycling coach… but i’ll talk anyways… I did the below and i really liked the results… my 5’ tests increased by 8% comparing before and after. YMMV and perhaps you what you really need to do is develop a larger base and higher volume so that your FTP will go up first but idk… since we are talking about how vO2 should feel harder, here is how you could make vO2 harder and likely more beneficial:

here is a 3 week vO2 block based on a 3-day per week block periodization scheme that i recommend: (block periodization is recommended here because you seem to have a high aerobic capacity relative to FTP and is more likely .)
do your VO2 interval work as RPE based maximal efforts at high 100-110 RPM cadence. cadence is more important than watts and you should feel as you are working as hard as you can but don’t blow yourself to pieces. you need to be able to repeat your maximal efforts.
the point of this type of vO2 interval is to start out hard to immediately drive yourself into a state of maximal oxygen consumption, so you should be going maximal right from the start, and let your watts decay but don’t let your cadence decay.

week 1:
taper for a week of endurance/recovery only then do a maximal effort 5’ test on day 6, rest on day 7…
week 2:
day 1 short recovery ride to refresh legs after rest day,
day 2 do thorough warmup then do 2-3x6’ maximal efforts with 4-6’ easy spin rest between intervals
day 3: do thorough warmup then do 3-4x5’ maximal efforts with 4-7’ easy spin rest between intervals
day 4: start an easy ride, if you feel okay then do optional vO2’s: 4-5x4’ maximal efforts with 4-8’ easy spin rest between intervals
day 5: long endurance ride, (do your usual duration)
day 6: long endurance ride, (do your usual duration)
day 7: rest

week 3:
day 1: recovery ride with 5-10x1’ low power/high cadence spin-outs sprinkled in
day 2: recovery ride all easy and keep it short
day 3: do thorough warmup then do 4-5x4’ maximal vO2 efforts with 4-6’ easy spin rest between intervals
day 4: do thorough warmup then do 5-7x3’ maximal vO2 efforts with 3-6’ easy spin rest between intervals
day 5: do thorough warmup then do 7-10x2’ maximal vO2 efforts with 3-6’ easy spin rest between intervals
day 6: go ride how you feel. if you’re completely dead, don’t ride, if you are tired, recovery, if you are still fresh, then go hard… but no one is really fresh after this.
day 7: rest

week 4:
taper for a week of endurance/recovery only then do an opener workout on day 5 and the same maximal effort 5’ test on day 6, rest on day 7…

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