VO2 % reduction - whilst still acquiring the right intensity and training effect

I know there has been endless discussion on this BUT i was hoping to get some clarification as to what an acceptable % reduction point might be for vo2 workouts. ie is 110% too low? is 115% adequate ?

I simply can not hold 120% for more than 1 min and although i know many would say ‘reduce your FTP’ … all other workouts below my threshold (and OU’s) are doable.

Yday i did Baird +6 and ended up averaged around 115% … only by end did i find a repeatable intensity around 113%

I have listened to all the numerous podcasts where this is discussed but was hoping for a little more definitive clarification as to what % vo2 falls in in any users experience …

I have a feeling i might need to reduce supra threshold too as 108% is barely achievable (ie 10/10 effort) and would love to know what range i could shoot for there also eg 104-108% ?

thanks in advance for any help … !

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Per previous discussions on the podcast and here in the forum… The gist is that 120% is not going to work for everyone. Some will find that the 120% is too low/easy while some will find it too high/hard. As such, adjust the % yourself. If 120% is too hard, then adjust down to what is repeatable yet pushes you to the limit. It might take some experimenting over a few VO2 workouts. Also, if you are new to VO2 work, you might find that your raising the % back up as you get accustomed to it. No shame or anything in adjusting the % down. It is better to do so and complete the workout getting the proper amount of stress/stimulus than to quit early because it is too difficult.


Depending on interval duration 106%-120%. This from the man himself, Dr. Coggan Ph.D


You have yourself a starting point here. I’d use this info to adjust VO2 Max intervals (length dependent obviously) accordingly.


brilliant thank you for the specifics! where did you source this ? :slight_smile:

It’s written in his book for one: “Training and racing with a power meter 2nd ed.” page 48.

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thank you so much - nice to have something definitive to shoot for!

Really appreciated.

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instead of adjusting ftp, during the workout with 120% intervals you can reduce intensity to 90%. That will give you intervals at 108% (1.2 * .9).

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Here is my chart for Workout Intensity Adjustments, based on a 120% of FTP interval:


Having been a former VO2max fanboy, I think that I think I know something about VO2max work. :roll_eyes:
The VO2max zone is really wide – maybe up to 20% (110-130%FTP). TR uses 120% because it’s a general average for the average rider; a place to start. However, that limit is not only personal but it moves, it’s tricky. It’s also the reason why TR recommends you play around with it and adjust accordingly (this is the only zone they say to adjust freely).

The most important factor to land on is REPEATABILITY. Much better to to be able to finish all your intervals at 113% than to smash out only a couple at 123%. That said, it’s still a good idea to try and find your 1Rep max. But mostly shoot for repeatability. As stated, the zone is W I D E so you’ll still be getting adaptations even down around 110%.

Anecdotally, and not that amusing, when I started TR in September, I was coming off a season of VO2max training and hill sprints/KOMs whilst commuting on a single speed. My VO2 was awesome (but my long SS/Threshold ability was awful!). I can recall my posts asking where the long VO2 workouts were.

Now, having done zero VO2 work in the last 3 months, I’m no longer high end cocky. It’s sad and dismal (but my long SS/Threshold ability is great!). I’m going to be in the same boat as the OP, looking for the least painful/most confidence building VO2 workouts.

Long winded way of saying that your body will get better at what you train it to do — even if it really sucks in the beginning.



So crafty!! :grinning:

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106-120% - my rule of thumb during 120% vo2max intervals is you can reduce intensity down to 90% (which takes you to 108%).

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See this article for a good description on VO2max https://sparecycles.blog/2017/11/22/the-problem-with-vo2max/

and this article on creating a training stimulus for VO2max https://sparecycles.blog/2017/12/13/prescribing-vo2max/


@sandilandscycles like you my threshold work is fine and so I believe ftp is set correctly. I’ve long struggled with vo2 work, its not uncommon. I’ve read advice from coaches many times over the years, and here is what you are suppose to do…

  1. During a vo2max workout if the intervals are at 120% of ftp you can reduce intensity down to 90% (which results in vo2max intervals at 108% of ftp).
  2. Either finish the workout, or if you can no longer do the intervals then you are done and the workout is over.
  3. If that happens with every vo2max workout, then consider taking a two week break from regular training and try a short 2-week vo2max booster block of training (start reading this thread: Short intense period before starting base? Chad's short FTP boost plan). Then resume your plan.

The SpareCycles articles shared by @abalakov are good ones, I bookmarked those and have been following his blog for years.

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I have the same issue. Sometimes. But . . . there is a Vo2 workout you may want to try, that seems perfectly tailored to your situation and may be a way through.

Try Mills or Mills +1 next time a Vo2 workout comes up in your plan. Just swap them out 1-for-1 – you have to hold 120% for a minute or less, and then you have a descending power curve down to 110% for the remainder of the interval. If you achieve Vo2 levels in that first minute, and then hang on for the second minute – you’re time at Vo2 won’t be impacted and you will have the same intended training benefit as a flat 2 minute interval, from an aerobic perspective.

(All of this is based on whether or not I’ve interpreted Coach Chad’s Vo2 seminars correctly)

I just did Mills +1 last night, swapping it out for what my plan called for. My heart rate kept going up during the power decline, more-or-less telling me that I was still sitting in Vo2 zone even though the power demands were dropping. If you begin to complete this exercise, you may find that you can hold 120% for longer and longer.

Hope this is helpful.


+1 for using Mills. I even substituted Mills in SSBMV1 to maintain my VO2 since SSB 1 doesn’t include any VO2 work. One less SS workout is okay with me. :wink: :nerd_face:


Another vote for Mills and it’s variations. It does a good job of getting you in the right zone, without beating you to death at the end of each interval.


yup i agree that is the perfect workout for me — i managed to get through it well in SSBMV recently - felt like an ideal balance.

Would you recommend doing that instead of the remaining vo2 sessions in sustained power build plan? i guess i could match the IF’s of Mills (and its varients) with what i was scheduled to do?

OR do you think it better to do what is planned, but a lesser % ?

ps @mcneese.chad thanks so much for that sheet!! do you have a full exel doc for other sessions you would consider sharing ?

I think it would be fine to make a Workout Intensity adjustment on the existing workouts in your plan. Look at their intensity and duration, and compare to how you have handled similar ones. Pick reduction that you think you can hit. Start the workouts and adjust on the fly if you feel you can handle more or less.

Here is my Google sheet. The chart above is on the “General Calcs” sheet.

Follow the instructions on the first tab if you want to make your own copy of the sheet, that allows entering your own data.

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I think I’m dense — I have no idea what this table is supposed to be telling me?

I don’t get it :confused: