VO2 workouts - HR, % of FTP...secret to cracking my plateau?

Per AI FTP I’ve been stuck for months in the 320-325 FTP range. I’ve done a build plan, didn’t get me very far. That may be down to TR workouts, or the fact that this winter I’ve been sick a couple times and had a period of time where I couldn’t fuel properly due to being sick.

I’m back to hitting it hard though. Outdoor rides will begin as soon as cedar pollen season subsides. I’m highly allergic and it induces asthma like symptoms for me despite being on steroids to prevent it for the next two weeks. Anyway back to workouts…

I’ve done a lot of intervals this year on TR, mostly of the short variety, think 20, 30, 60s intervals. Most of these workouts TR are 2:1 or 1:1 work:rest ratio if they are short. Intervals that are a minute long may have a 1:2 ratio. Many of these I can do without too much effort, although one a couple weeks ago had me doing them at 150% of FTP 18x by 3 sets. That one broke me. Starting this week I’ve moved on to longer intervals mostly because over the off season I’ve forgotten what it’s like to put in a longer and more painful work effort. I did 7x3min at 106-109% of FTP that got my HR up nicely. This morning I did Solferino which is 4x4min at 106% of FTP. Indoors couple with my current but temporary breathing issues due to allergies my HR was within a couple % of max for a lot of the time on these intervals. For a period of time today I was at max HR for a couple mins.

Which brings up several questions, VO2 is more about HR vs power from everything I’ve read, indoors my HR is almost always higher, especially at the end of a 2hr ride like today. This is due to heat and dehydration best I can tell. I’ve seen several posts on here talk about 4x4 or 5x5 at 120% of FTP. I can’t for the life of me figure out how this is possible? Last summer when I was in shape, FTP of about 340 I set an all time 5min power max of 411w. That effort would NOT have been repeatable. Also last year I put down 311w 1hr power on the road and at the end of that hour still had a fair amount of zip left in my legs, in other words I wasn’t at threshold or I’d have been toast. I did several rides that were 3ish hours with NP’s of 290 watts. I was in pretty respectable shape, not great compared with other’s here but pretty good. I was at 4w/kg.

I can’t for the life of me figure out how folks are doing repeatable efforts at 120% of FTP lasting 5 minutes. Am I that out of shape? If I could do repeatable 5 minute efforts north of 400 watts I’d be competitive in some pretty big events.

Friday, like today, I’m planning to do Solferino again with an hour of Z2 on the front end. I’m tempted to try to add some add’l intervals in the valleys of this workout just to get in more work. It seems like folks are saying you should have > 15mins in the target HR zone which really means Solferino needs another interval.

Final question, how many VO2 workouts should I be doing in a week? After reading about VO2 on here the last few days I feel like I’m missing something big since I can’t get anywhere close to 120% 5x5.


Where have you read that? I’ve never had a higher HR indoors than out; I have to scroll down several pages of data sorted on max HR before I even get a high HR indoors :neutral_face:

I do what ever work out at the moment my TR plan throws up and at the moment thats 1 VO2max session a week. With my previous coach it wouldn’t be much more. More would just be a recipe for burn out IMO and cause you to plateau at best.

Crowd sourcing this question without real data/info is an interesting approach to getting an answer. “Hitting it hard” may paint a picture in your mind, but it’s long way from what a crowd needs to understand what you’ve been doing, what are your limiters, etc.

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There is no one right answer, but I’ll start. Maybe you are doing too many micro intervals. Maybe your aerobic endurance is a limiter. Maybe your anaerobic capacity is a limiter. Maybe 5x5 at 120% is unrealistic for your physiology/training/life. Maybe your not fueling enough off the bike. Maybe you aren’t hydrating enough on and off the bike. :man_shrugging: My indoor HR is ALWAYS lower than outside :man_shrugging:


VO2 max as a % of FTP varies by individual, it doesn’t mean you are out of shape if yours is only 121% of FTP ( based on your 340w FTP and 411W 5min power max) it just means that you may have different physiology to those that can bash out 120% 5x5 intervals. Those other riders likely have a VO2 power that is a much higher % of FTP than you, it could even by that those other riders are the ones that are out of shape/undertrained, with a load of base training they could bring their FTP up to the same 83% of their VO2 max that you have.


What makes you think anyone can do 5x5 at 120% ?


Based on the TR workout catalog, 5x5 @115-117 is about as hard as it gets.
I don’t know why there aren’t any 5-min intervals in the level 10 VO2 workouts.

Agree, I think that he’s assuming too much. Maybe there are folks that can crush 5x5 at 120%, but even this website seems to suggest that 108% might be a better target for 5 min intervals. I recently was able to do 6x3 at 117% and that’s about as hard as I can go. I’m not the best at VO2, but that was a 6.9 and I think 6.9’s are pretty high on the spectrum of VO2.

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IMHO when you switched to the longer intervals at 3 and 4m, they weren’t nearly hard enough. 106% is something you’d be able to ride at for over 10 minutes.

shoot for those 5m efforts at 380-390…every interval is not instant success, especially really hard ones like this. You might only get through two at first, and then 2.5…and then a few months later you’re finally hitting all 5. Meanwhile, RPE is probably going down a touch and before you know it, 400s are your repeat.

It’s a journey!

1x per week…that’s why it’ll take a bit to see the success, but ride z2 and hit the hard stuff really hard, and you’ll start flying.

good luck

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Thats where I was pre a recovery week (Wilhelm -3, PL 6.5 5x5 @108%); AFAIR TR has only given me intervals of 120% when they have be sub 60s.

I’m in the same boat as you. I don’t think very many people are banging out 5x5’s at 120%FTP (i.e. you’re totally normal in this regard). I’ve been on a VO2 Max kick lately too (reading up on it). Most of the consistent advice I’ve seen is about getting that HR up above 90% HR Max and the power isn’t as important. People doing 5x5 might start the first interval at 120% FTP, but from what I’ve seen in this forum, the actual power in subsequent intervals drifts downards, and that’s okay becuase the goal of VO2 workout is about getting you in that ‘breathe like a fish out of water’ physiological state.

That being said, I get into that state doing 5x3.5-4 minutes at 110% FTP target. And it’s been great for my FTP this base season. Good luck!

This was a good thread for me. it’s quite long tho.

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I think AI FTP is overestimating my FTP at the moment. I did 4x at 106% this morning they were pretty hard but HR was 180+ for most of those intervals, my max HR is 190ish and I did spend most of that last interval north of 185 and hit 191 briefly, so they were hard. Not knocking on death’s door hard, I could have done a 5th 4 min interval but it definitely feels like it’s closer to 110-112% for me right now, which would imply an FTP at closer to 310 vs the 324 that AI FTP currently says.
HR being impacted by hydration, indoor training and I think my general breathing issues with the cedar pollen right now.

Someone above mentioned training indoors and their HR is lower. I dunno, mine’s usually always a little higher on short rides, and on 2 or 3 hr rides by the end it’s gotten several BPM higher, maybe even 6 or 8 higher. Not enough ventilation and dehydration raises your HR.

I think I’m going to do Solferino again Sunday, after the first interval I’ll add my own between the first and second. Then tack another interval or two onto the end focusing on HR and worried less about power. I’d like to get 20mins at > 172bpm from what I’m reading. Like you I’ve read > 90% of HR max.

The question of how much time to spend at HR max seems mixed, so I’m going to shoot for 20 mins. Then on Monday follow that up with 2.5-3hrs of z2 on the trainer.

I’ve heard a few numbers but everything seems to be that you want your intervals to add up to 15-25 minutes of time targetting VO2max power (if that’s a thing). I typically get about 50-75% of that time with the HR above 90% as it takes me about 75-90 seconds from start of interval for HR to build.

Good luck! I saw some pretty good gains from my first VO2 max focused block with this approach vs the TR plans.

You’ll know this is the case based on your threshold and sweetspot rides

You can’t really draw any inferences about FTP based on efforts above FTP

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