What are Five by Fives? Amber mentioned dreading them in the last two podcasts

In the last two Ask a Cycling Coach episodes there were mentions of “five by fives”, and even “five by five by five”. Amber said they were her most hated workout, (ACC 350 I think) as did Keegan (ACC 351).

I assume this is something like five times five minutes at some VO2 percentage. Or are they something else?

  1. But what are they?
  2. What percentage of FTP are they?
  3. And which workout can I find them in?


It’s the classic VO2 prescription. It’s all out.

5x5 would probably kill me. :slight_smile: I can do 3x5 but if I did 5 power would be fading by the 5th interval.

I’ve also heard of the 5x5 strength program but I assume Amber wasn’t talking about strength training.


Ouchie… :nauseated_face:


These longer VO2 max intervals are the path to serious gains. Serious stress, but also serious gains.


How so?

Yep the last time I tried 5x5 vO2 hill repeats I almost passed out and crashed on the last one and my power had already dropped. 210bpm and seeing red with that iron taste in your mouth


There are several lengthy forum posts re: short vs long VO2 max intervals. Here’s one:

Probably best to form your own opinion, but longer intervals are more effective for me personally.


Surely they are at some % of FTP and its the level above FTP that kills you? Especially with a short recovery. That does not sound like all out to me.

I have been doing 4x5 at 111% with 10min recover Haw Knob. That were hard but I did them mostly in my TT position. Also 4x5min@113% with 10min recovery (6.2). I have Monadnock coming up in a week or so. That is 6x5 mins. wL 6.9. Ummm

@Cdallas2 Ok, 5x108% with 3 min recovery Red Lake 7.0 - that sounds nasty.

What is the significance of the third 5? Is it 5 mins rest? Or something else?

@ambermalika What is it about the 5x5s that you do that gives you so much trepidation? Is it the % above FTP or the length of the recovery?

Disagree. Should be very very hard but not all-out


Every intensity above FTP kills you eventually. You can make up whatever prescription of power and duration you like. Some say that you want to hit 90% of HRmax on these intervals.

5x5 is nothing magical nor has any scientific validation. It’s a ballpark generic prescription like 2x20min at FTP.

1 Like

Generally with these things, the point isn’t to ride to some % of FTP … it’s to ride as hard as you can for 5 mins, and in that way you will achieve Vo2 (or so I’ve been told) … if you use 108% as a guide, you should ride above it if you can/if it feels too easy.

I’m sure there will be disagreements on this post, and I’m definitely not a coach. Good luck🤘


The reason I’m being critical is just by the dose of the prescription, and the sometimes immense undertaking of that workout prescription.
Makes me ask:
What is the athlete lacking in a physiological sense?
What adaptation is that athlete after?
Is there a less fatiguing way to achieve that adaptation?

Does anyone else have trouble hitting 90% of HRmax on these kinds of intervals? I get there in the end but it takes a long time. Seiler often talks about collecting minutes at 90% but those are dang hard minutes to collect for me.

who on earth can do that? 5 sets of 5x5? get the hell out of here.


Five days per week?

Five by five by five by five?

A variation on it. Good read (Nate is also a coach @ EF).

1 Like

I think the jist of Seiler’s podcast on the subject (at least the one I listened to below) is that you do go all out to illicit adaptations but if you can’t manage a full 5 mins of all out, simply don’t.

what are you using for your rest intervals? I think on the empirical cycling podcast they talk about using the shortest amount required so you go into the subsequent intervals at a higher HR so you get to 90%maxhr faster. Also using higher cadence seems to help

1 Like

We are all different but how long are you’re VO2MAX intervals. I think I have heard that some athletes need 2minutes before they get to 90% +

Unless I am misunderstanding what HRmax is somehow - mine’s 192 so 90% is 172, which I see pretty often… it would only be somewhere in threshold for me, if doing proper VO2 intervals I expect to routinely be seeing higher numbers than that.

But then, my exercise heart rate always seems high (seems to run in the family), so maybe it is just personal.