VO2max vs sprint training

Listening to various podcast on my long commutes every day. Heard on one of the podcasts that doing sprint training has a negative affect on VO2 max and vica versa. This is the first time I’ve heard this mentioned and it seems a bit odd to me that the one would negatively affect the other. Thoughts?

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If that is correct then maybe it’s because training for sprinting is perhaps all about Max Anaerobic Power whereas VO2max is all about Aerobic power so you will be stressing and training a completely different energy system and hence neglecting the other. I would be interested as well in other thoughts on this. Can you remember which podcast it was that mentioned it?

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Here is a review of the peer reviewed scientific literature on the effects of high intensity intervals on VO2max and aerobic performance, which suggests positive correlations.

“A systematic literature search was performed (Bibliotek.dk, SPORTDiscus, Embase, PEDro, SveMed+, and Pubmed). Meta-analytical procedures were applied evaluating effects on maximal oxygen consumption (VO2max). Nineteen unique studies [four randomized controlled trials (RCTs), nine matched-controlled trials and six noncontrolled studies] were identified, evaluating SIT interventions lasting 2-8 weeks. Strong evidence support improvements of aerobic exercise performance and VO2max following SIT. A meta-analysis across 13 studies evaluating effects of SIT on VO2max showed a weighted mean effects size of g = 0.63 95% CI (0.39; 0.87) and VO2max increases of 4.2-13.4%.”


My least favorite one, the Zwift training podcast. That’s also why I’m doubting it

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That makes a lot more sense to me, polar opposite to what was posed in the zwift training podcast. Which is exactly why that one is always the last one on my list to listen to…

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And this makes sense to me given how our 3 energy systems work relative to types of efforts. Sprinting taps into the first two and fastest energy systems, 1) the Phosphocreatine Energy System (~0-30s efforts), which uses creatine phosphate as the energy source, and 2) Glycolytic or “Lactic Acid” Energy System (~20s to 3m efforts), which uses glycogen (from carbs) as the energy sources. Given that sprinting is typically up to 30 seconds or so, and VO2max intervals are often around 3 minutes (these are all approximations given minor discrepancies in our physiologies), both efforts are using a common fuel source – Glycogen – and also an energy system that “straddles” both efforts; hence positive adaptations in sprint training would positively impact VO2max efforts. More details below on the 3 types of energy system:

  1. ATP/Phosphocreatine Energy System
  • Anaerobic (oxygen not required)
  • Uses Creatine Phosphate as source of fuel (not carbs), which is broken down into Creatine and phosphate (P1), and the P1 iis donated to an ADP molecule to create one ATP molecule, namely, energy for muscle contraction
  • High power, short duration…up to 12-30 seconds
  • Details behind this provide the basis for taking the supplement, Creatine, or “creatine loading”; while our body naturally produces and excretes on average 2g of Creatine, by “loading” we can increase this by up to 30%! (there are non-responders of course, so no guarantees, but for those who it works on, this is massive sprint winning capacity
  1. Glycolytic or “Lactic Acid” Energy System
  • Anaerobic
  • Uses glucose (from carbs) as source, which stored in our muscles as glycogen
  • Moderate power/short duration…up to 20s to 3m or so
  • Produces pyruvic acid, lactic acid, and lactate; lactic dissolves and forms lactate and hydrogen ions – which leads to an increase in acidity (
  1. Oxidative Energy System
  • Aerobic and occurs in mitochondria
  • Low power/long duration
  • Uses the Krebs cycle, converts carbs, fat, or protein into glycogen and ultimately ATP

Another fascinating study, focused on track racing and the 4K pursuit.

Effects of aerobic and anaerobic training protocols on 4000m track cycling time trial

“Through metabolic and performance testing, the effectiveness of the 4-week training
protocols were evaluated via specific values of interest (4000m performance, oxygen
consumption, anaerobic threshold, power output and oxygen deficit). Results indicated
improved 4000m performance for both groups, though no statistically significant difference
between them.”

The two test groups here: one trained via sprints and the other via aerobic efforts (greater than 4K)

What the?! :face_with_raised_eyebrow: :grinning:

I just posted similar (re: German Olympic 4000m team) on a different thread:

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ha ha. nice!

Ahh - that may explain it then.

Coach Chad was specifically dabbling in this area himself earlier this year when he was focusing almost exclusively on sprint workouts to try and raise other aspects of his performance.


You’ll find this study interesting then. I have yet to try this experiment though…it look brutal, absolutely brutal.

Effects of a Seven Day Overload-Period of High-Intensity Training on Performance and Physiology of Competitive Cyclists



“Seven days of overload HIT induces substantial enhancements in time-trial performance despite non-significant increases in physiological measures with competitive cyclists.”

TLDR: 3-4% faster 20km TT time (60-90 sec).


The work to rest ratio was matched for both groups at 1∶5 (i.e. a 10-s effort would require a 50-s recovery period) and the total session time was ∼120 minutes including a self-selected 15 minute warm up and cool down period. Cyclists in the short training group completed 25 sets of sprints lasting 5, 10 and 20 seconds (each set) completed in sequence for a total work period of 14.6 minutes and corresponding recovery period of 73 minutes. Cyclists in the long training group completed 10 sets of sprints lasting 15, 30 and 45 seconds for a total work period of 15 minutes and corresponding recovery period of 75 minutes.

TT Test Course:
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Edit #3: The short HIT group took 2 weeks to show improved TT results; the long HIT group showed improvement after 1 week. FWIW, it’s about a 1 sec improvement for every 1 min of work. :neutral_face:

I’m going to use the TR Workout Creator to make this Blue Blocks of Doom protocol. :+1:
Edit #4: no, no I’m not. :-1: It’s going to be a real slog putting together a 2-hr 30-interval (+30 recoveries) session in WOC. It’s good for simple and easy, not long and intricate. I’ve already figured out the breakdowns if anyone is interested. :man_shrugging:

Edit On-going: I finally slapped together a workout which replicates all parts of this protocol (long intervals only). It’s a 267 TSS/1.16 IF, which means an almost 2,000 TSS week. :exploding_head::crazy_face::face_vomiting::skull_and_crossbones:
For comparison, Disaster is 264 TSS/.79 IF.

Anyone game?

I have noticed something interesting as a result of the 2018 season related to shifting my interval and training focus as it relates to anaerobic and aerobic. Last season I did primarily road racing and time trials, a lot of time trials - 40K state championships in all my surrounding states, etc. However, at the beginning of the 2018 season, I started to race on the track. I ramped up quickly, went through a few upgrades, and did 14 races in the duration of 3 months. For most of the season my training was focused on accelerating my quick ramp up into the track, so a lot of sprints (anaerobic), 20-30 second sprints, and VO2max intervals to simulate the dynamics on the velodrome. I backed off significantly on my Threshold work, and limited it to workouts that were more track orientated – so rather than 3x12 (6) Threshold intervals, I would do 6x6. More importantly, I was using WKO4 to assess my track readiness and results. My power profile showed a dip in the 20s to 40s time band (it showed as a limiter actually), which was exactly what I didn’t want to see going into the velodrome, so I altered my training plan and hammered away at this time band, doing 2-3 workout sessions a week focused just on anaerobic work… After 3 months of this, and by the time I was past my first few races on the track, I had moved this limiter up out of the red zone – not quite a strength yet, but not a limiter. 5 minutes is still my strength across my power profile, which also helps in track. Using data in a smart way to fine tune your training plan actually works! It’s really cool to see this.

However, I did noticed that my 20min threshold performance suffered. In fact, I am sure that if I had done a 40K TT, my time would have been lower than my average time last year. So in this case, the focus on anaerobic work did not improve my longer distance threshold performance, probably in this because I simply stopped doing long threshold work entirely. I tend to model my training efforts around the demands of my race format, and it worked. However, it also showed that there is some give and take, that if you neglect certain types of efforts, you will naturally see a dip in that time band in your power profile, and this also confirms that suggestion that typically the “all rounder” power profile often suggests a un-specialized athlete. The more your specialize and focus your efforts, the more your profile will start to take a special shape of its own, from a flat liner, to peaks and strengths across the profile.

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Agreed. Last season this is pretty much the same thing I did – 3 months of mostly VO2 intervals. I did well in TTs but also didn’t have any historical data for comparison. Once I stopped doing VO2 work I noticed my non-VO2 supported aerobic/threshold power dropped noticeably within a month.

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Pretty amazing how our bodies adapt physiologically to changes in training strategy. Add nutrition, recovery, and fueling strategies to that, and you can see some significant changes.


I hope they rewarded those athlete test subjects for crushing their souls and bodies for the duration of the study. :wink:

Probably the usual $20 for doing this :point_down: every day for a week. :flushed:

The only potential issue with this workout is the calculated TSS. I take it you used ERG mode? What do you use as max effort? The test states that “Cyclists in both groups were asked to complete each effort at the highest possible intensity and in the recovery periods…”. So you really don’t know what sort of max efforts you are going to be able to maintain until you complete the workout. And I’m willing to bet your max efforts will diminish over time throughout the workout, so your final TSS may be quite a bit lower. When are you going to do the workout? I assume you will turn ERG off and use standard or resistance modes.

How did you interpret the workout protocol for the longer intervals? I see some intervals that don’t align exactly. "Cyclists in the long training group completed 10 sets of sprints lasting 15, 30 and 45 seconds for a total work period of 15 minutes and corresponding recovery period of 75 minutes. "

So, I actually talked to the lead for this study several months ago and validated my understanding of the long interval workout protocol. The workout should look something like this, which he validated:

15 min warmup

Set 1

15s HIIT
75s Recover
30s HIIT
150s Recover
45s HIIT
225s Recovery

TOTAL Recovery time: 7 min, 10s


  • Cool down

There was no SET RECOVERY in between each set, rather each set is just repeated until 10 total are complete, followed by a longer recovery period.