VO2 max workouts: Seated or Standing?

Does it matter whether VO2 max workouts are done seated or standing? Or a combination of both? Is one approach better/more productive/more efficient than the other?

Pros and cons of doing VO2 max workouts seated and/or standing please. Cheers.

Whatever gets you through it? I don’t much like standing on the trainer, but will do it for the sprint-type interval workouts. There’s definitely different muscle activation and such, so it’s good practice.

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As ever, train how you plan to race or use your fitness. If you expect to stand in similar efforts outside, do that inside.

That said, some longer intervals [2 to 3 mins) are not likely for standing in their entirety. Standing takes more effort and energy overall, and I don’t think full length is possible or practical at that effort level.

Standing can make sense in the shorter intervals, or as short portions (30 sec?) In longer intervals, as ideas like jumps and such.


Stand at the start to blow through your ATP then ride the lightning for the rest of the interval.

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vo2max is traditionally described as 3-8m efforts, so a combo is most common. Whatever works best for you is the right solution. Just get the watts out.



I don’t like standing on the trainer at all, and only for 1-2minutes to stretch or specific interval. I wont sprint or do a V02 max interval standing. Sitting down is fine, and more often you would be sitting in the seat IRL. For sprints you can beat getting out doors and getting into the drops and sprinting.


I never stand on the trainer, it just feels wrong. Only time the butt comes off the seat is to let a fart rip. That feels good.


Hey everyone, hope your training is going well with all that is going on in the world!

I have a question regarding VO2 max sessions - particularly the sessions with 2-3 minute intervals with roughly equal rest-work ratios.

For these intervals, does it matter whether I am standing or seated? I can definitely put down more power for these durations standing than seated (perhaps even going above and beyond the TR power target, and repeating it). When I do them seated, the RPE is similar but at lower output - but I can usually hit all the power targets.

So, should I be shooting for a higher (but sustainable) power by coming out of the saddle for each effort, or should I stay in the saddle and stick to the target?

This situation is especially true when doing the workout outdoors on a climb.


Hi Daniel

I do them definitely seated. It’s all about accumulating/spending time in this very taxing zone, not about the highest power. hitting the target - or even going a little below - is fine.

you say that you can manage the intervals seated, that’s good! :slight_smile:

They are intended to be while seated. If you cannot manage that, it may be that the intervals are too taxing.

Thanks for the responses both :+1:

Usually (90%+) I can complete them seated. Reason for my question was because I can achieve a higher power output when standing.

I think I’ll stick to seated, only getting out of the saddle if I need to (as a bail out)!

Simple answer: it doesnt matter. Vo2max isn’t about the watts per se. I’ll let others chime in with more knowledge than I on that point. Anecdotally, I spend a lot of time out of the saddle in Vo2max efforts mountain biking. When I’m on the trainer, would it make any sense to limit myself to seated pedaling? No, it wouldn’t. Do them however you can get through them.


if you need a break, try a backpedal instead - 10 or 20sec can be enough to get you through the rest of the interval, with practically the same training benefit!

I try to do the whole interval sitting for this reason: Using erg mode (which I’m assuming most of us are doing) you go to stand and your cadence typically drops and the trainer responds by turning up the resistance to keep you at target. Then you go to sit back down and to get back to your sitting cadence you have put push above target to get your trainer to let off the resistance to go back to your higher cadence. So now you’ve spent at least a few seconds well above target, which may really affect your ability to finish the interval

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The O2 extraction system has no concept of standing or sitting.

Providing you’re utilizing this system to a high degree and taxing it, it really doesn’t matter (particularly if you’re going to stand during efforts in the real world races).

I wouldn’t get too concerned providing RPE is high and is a maximal effort (scaled for the duration of course).


What is the specific cycling adaptation you are training to gain?

On the flat, zone 5 efforts mean that you’re in the tucked in either the drops or on the hoods and spinning a higher gear (unless you are racing on gravel or really bad cobbles (which none of us would be, in all likelihood), in which case you a pushing a big gear, and may be more upright on the hoods or the tops). So for those efforts, you’d do them on the flats at a higher rpm and tucked like you would be in a race. On the trainer, same thing.

On 3-10 minute hills? Whatever you have to do to get over the hill. I’m a bigger cyclist (six one, 167), and I usually do 50% or more of a “VO2 climb” out of the saddle, pushing some stupid gear at 55-60 rpm. That works best for me. My training buddy sits and spins, but he has a much higher VLA than I do.

I’d say pick a local 4-5 minute hill and see what it takes for you to get up it the fastest that you can. Try stand and mash. Try sit and spin. Try sit and push at 80rpm. It will take a few months but eventually you’ll find the combination that works for you.

Bottom line? Flat VO2s, tuck and spin (It’s pretty difficult to try and repeat 90-95rpm and 155% of FTP over and over again on the flat, and anyway, the accelerations in a race call for a smaller gear and higher revs). Hills? Find out what works for you and do it.

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