What would a custom VO2 max progression look like?

I definitely appreciate the transparency :slight_smile: if anything, their FTPs seem to be set reasonably.

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Not unusual for say the last interval of a workout. But if averaging like 105% of FTP for ALL your VO2 intervals is your norm, there’s probably something else going on. Sometimes it’s fatigue. Sometimes it’s as simple as not trusting yourself at how deep you can really go for these. Sometimes maybe your FTP is too high.

To be fair… this graph demonstrates the differences for anaerobic power output not VO2. Can’t tell due to the numbering on the graph but around 3-ish minutes the difference narrows dramatically. Maybe I am reading it wrong but this would seem to indicate % of FTP is likely within an acceptable standard deviation after a certain duration.

and then go listen to people with huge anaerobic capacity, like Kolie Moore talk about his % FTP at 3-minutes.

Personally when I was doing TR it was 110%-112% range. And then I switched to another more traditional training system, worked on conditioning (lots of endurance) and it went up to 122%. And before all that, when I was doing a lot of >0.90 IF riding, but less time, I was doing 4x5-minute jobbers at 113-116%.

X axis is log scale, so a little hard to eyeball a threshold time for any given definition of “acceptable standard deviation”. Next step is for someone to import the graph into Engauge Digitizer to estimate the values for each line :grinning:

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unless you spent time in college using log scale, and remember that log(3) is roughly half the distance. It’s pretty easy on my MacBook or iPhone to open search and type log(2) and see its 3/10 the way between two major log axes. And log(3) is 0.48 or about half way. Etc., etc.

Like this:

where I screen grabbed from the Internet and added 2, 3, and 4. And left the remaining 6-9 as an exercise for the reader, as we used to say in college LOL.

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Now that I’m on desktop and can read the article - this would have been a far better quote/graph:

Consider, for example, the two athletes in Figure 1 with the highest and lowest maximal power relative to FTP, respectively (World Champions in their respective disciplines of the match sprint and time trial). As shown in Figure 3 below, their relative power was generally similar at durations more than about 10 minutes. However, there is obviously a very large (approximately fourfold) difference in the extent to which they can elevate their power above FTP at very short durations. As a result, the one athlete can maintain a power of, for example, 150 percent of FTP for about 4 minutes, while the other athlete can do so for only about one minute. Clearly such large inter-individual differences in performance during short-duration, high-intensity (supra-FTP) exercise preclude the use of any sort of one-size-fits-all, anchor-based approach.

It directly deals with variability at 4 minute mark, which is duration original comment deals with.

240 seconds is about 38% of the distance between 10 and 100 seconds in the log time scale

I’m not good at drawing, but its around here:

and that was a sample of athletes that Coggan felt representative. There may in fact be outliers not in that dataset.

The largest variations are under 2 minutes. By the time you get to 8-10 minutes are all start looking roughly the same, when normalized as a % FTP.


Good point, but I’d say still a little hard to visually guesstimate the width between upper and lower lines on the graph, let alone distribution, given the width of the x-axis. This comes up a lot in my work where the parameter estimates for a given process (say, monthly probability of death from cancer) need to be derived from published graphs that may have different time scales. The availability of apps that let you import the graph and regenerate estimates of the raw data have been a game changer.

No need to estimate for top line:

As a result, the one athlete can maintain a power of, for example, 150 percent of FTP for about 4 minutes, while the other athlete can do so for only about one minute.

Top line is ~150%, though I’m not sure what bottom is. Considerably lower, eyeballing I’d say not much over 110%.

the point remains, for shorter power durations, say under 2 minutes, there is considerable variation. And from my own experience (posted above), durations of roughly 2-6 minutes, there is some variation and there is also an element of conditioning and mental toughness. Heck, I’d say that under 2 minutes doing an all-out effort is more of a mental challenge.


Oh, I agree completely–there’s obviously considerable individual variation below 2 minutes and the variation decreases with time; the graph conveys that general concept quite nicely. The only point I was trying to make is that that particular graph makes it difficult to identify a specific time when, for any given definition of “this variation is no longer important”, that threshold is reached.

I can’t obviously say just how much is mental, but for me it can be quite significant. Two weeks ago I rated a 5x5 @ 272W as Hard (107%). HR barely made it to threshold but it felt difficult. This week I upped the FTP to 262W and went into a 6x5 @ 288-292W (110-112%). HR hit 95% of HRmax in the last two intervals, and while it felt very hard, I managed to complete it. I attribute it to a confidence boost of powering through the KM FTP test two days before and angry music. There’s no chance my power changed significantly enough in two weeks, but my mental capacity definitely did.

Edit: Fixed to quote entire post, my mistake.

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Right before that block I worked up to 3x20 at ~305-310W and then I was doing 4min VO2s at between like 400 and 425W. My 3 min intervals were between ~450 and 415W.

I’ve got a relatively high peak power (not crazy but decent) and from most models I’ve used have a higher anaerobic capacity. So that along with a couple year long FTP plateau left me with real high 3-5min power relative to FTP.

Obviously a decent outlier but just meant to illustrate why %FTP targets above FTP are largely useless.

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Even at very high (but sustainable such that you can complete intervals) power, it still takes maybe 60s (maybe longer earlier in the workout) to get into anything approaching a ‘max’ state for me. Therefore optimistically perhaps only half of your interval time is actually going to be providing the required stimulus.

So even hammering out something insane like a 20x2 gives you 20 mins of productive stimulus, the same as a classic 5x5. However the 20x2 takes 40 mins of interval work to achieve the same stimulus as that 5x5 can get you in 25 mins - that’s 60% more interval time! How many more KJs would you burn doing that additional work, and what might the knock on impact be to subsequent workouts in the block?

Of course this is all somewhat facetious because nobody’s going to do a 20x2, but it hopefully demonstrates the point - longer intervals give you more bang for your buck. IMO 2 minute intervals would be a last resort for VO2 work - maybe squeezing out the last few drops at the end of a block.

Edit: catching up on the thread I see @kurt.braeckel got you covered!


Reporting back after my January VO2 adventures, I started some tentative threshold work at 4x10 where 105% of old FTP felt about right, and edging it out slowly to 3x17 at 104% over a couple of weeks (as I went longer it became clear I was aiming a bit too high). Based on how these felt, I’d say the VO2 block got me about 15w (365w > 380w), and I’ll definitely take any bump!

My plan was to continue to push out the interval length a bit, but I’ve caught flu, so been off the bike now for 4 days, and will need at least another couple of days before doing some recovery spins/Z2. Let’s hope I can get back to those numbers!


I just built my own workouts for my next 3 week block

6x3min @ 115%
6x3:30 min @ 115%
6x4min @ 115%

I will adjust intensity based on how I feel this first week. Last week 110% felt easy

I like the convenience of ERG to set the power and just focus on pushing watts rather than monitoring a target/range for basically all indoor work… except VO2 max (and above).

Consider trying resistance mode. If you’re seeking to adjust the resistance dynamically as you fatigue, it’s too finicky and granular to bash the +/- buttons in ERG IMO - and how do you keep things right at the edge with the laptop when you’re bleeding out of your eyeballs? Much better to just let the power fall naturally through cadence and shifting (although try and keep it high). ERG puts the emphasis on power, which shouldn’t be the main objective IMO. Don’t cap yourself, just go all out! You summed it up perfectly yourself. “110% felt easy”

It’s funny. I was just having an argument with a guy on Reddit about this. He said use erg and I argued you shouldn’t use erg to do VO2 workouts, and really shouldn’t be targeting power as your main goal, but rather target a high cadence and use RPE (go all out). Power might drop so locking yourself in to a set power can be detrimental and you either under pace and go too easy, or you go too hard and have to bail. He couldn’t get over not focusing on power.

I feel that keeping cadence high, and using RPE and breathing to get me a much more effective workout.


I do erg till I start to drop watts and the HR is pegged and swap erg off. Happened final minute of my last 2 intervals today

No riding on rest week and first ride is vo2 will do that I think