In this training video, I’ll be sharing with you 3 workouts that are perfect to increase VO2Max.
Each of the following workouts are great for either regular outdoor riding or indoors on a turbo trainer.
This workout centres around longer duration intervals at the lower end of the VO2Max zone.
This is usually around 105-115% of your current FTP or functional threshold power or just below your maximum heart rate.
If you have neither a power meter nor a heart rate monitor, then use a 1-10 rating of perceived exertion and try to ride at about a 7-8 level of effort.
Alternatively, you can just pace each of the intervals like you were doing a 15-20 minute all-out time trial.
Each work interval in this session is around 5-6 minutes long and will typically be repeated 3-5 times.
Your recovery time between each of the intervals will depend on when you feel ready to go again.
However, you’ll usually find this is about 2-3 minutes.
If you’re riding outside and it takes you longer than that to coast back down the hill, that’s totally fine.
During the work intervals, you want to keep the intensity very controlled right from the start, trying to pace individual intervals as equally as you can.
It’s common to go out too hard and prematurely fatigue, so do be weary of that.
After you complete your interval sets, warm down for 20 minutes or so, or continue your ride at a nice leisurely since you’ll likely be pretty tired.
The next workout to increase VO2Max is what I call true Vo2. These are very targeted intervals performed right at the VO2Max intensity, where your body’s working at its true maximum aerobic capacity.
These intervals are typically performed at 120% of your current FTP.
You’ll usually hit close to your maximum heart rate a minute or so into each interval, making it a trickier workout to pace with heart rate.
The key is dialling in the intensity to just the right level. There’s a very fine line between the right level of effort and going anaerobic, which will significantly reduce the total amount of work you can do.
The true VO2 intervals are about 2.5-3.5 minutes in length.
You’ll usually be able to manage somewhere in the range of about 12-20 minutes of total interval time depending on your training history and short term fatigue.
After a warm up of 20-30 minutes of slowly increasing intensity, go into your first interval.
Remember that the aim isn’t to do 3 minutes as hard as you can. It’s to accumulate as close to 3 minutes as possible at the specific intensity level you’ve set.
Again, recovery interval length doesn’t need to be precise. Hit the next one when you’re ready.
When you’re done, perform another warm down to bring the heart rate and aerobic system back down gradually by winding down on the turbo trainer or riding easily if you’re outdoors.
SRR OR SURGE, RECOVER, REPEAT
The third training session to increase VO2Max I’ll cover here is the The surge, recover, repeat workout is one of the best means of improving your VO2Max and has the added bonus of being specific to the demands of competitive cycling.
This session involves accelerating your VO2Max for a short period of time, following that up with an even shorter recovery and then repeating again and again.
Because you’re riding at an intensity during each short interval that you could maintain for much longer if needed, each one in and of itself isn’t immediately very difficult.
What this workout does do though is gradually elevate your heart rate to the point where it will stay high.
The short recoveries are designed not to let your heart rate come down much at all, whilst giving you just enough respite to go hard again.
It’s in this way that you can usually accumulate more time at VO2Max intensity that you might be able to with the more steady-state intervals mentioned previously.
Like before, start your ride with a warm up of around 20-30 minutes of gradually increasing intensity.
The main set of intervals can be either 30 seconds on with 15 seconds off, or 40 seconds on and 20 seconds off. There’s no real distinct advantage to either, so mix them up from week to week for some variety.
As hard as it is, try to stay conservative with each work interval, riding them at 120% of your FTP, or at a pace that you’d ride for about 5-6 minutes all out like we talked about before.
You won’t be able to use heart rate to pace these ones, so just go on feel and watch your heart rate monitor passively throughout the workout.
During the recovery intervals, just pedal nice and lightly before launching into your next short interval. If you’re riding outside on a climb, try to find one that isn’t too steep. This is so that you don’t have to put out a lot of effort just to keep moving forward.
Try for somewhere in the range of 8-12 minutes of total time for each set of intervals, and try to do 2-3 sets of sets.
For example, you might do 2x (10x 40S on/ 20S off).
The downloadable guides you’ll find at tombell.co/Vo2Max should help make this clearer.
Take as much recovery time as you need between sets, where 2-5 minutes is a good range to shoot for. Riding around easily or just lightly spinning on the turbo is perfect.
As always, after the main body of the workout, continue your ride at a nice easy pace to start the long-term recovery process with a warm down.
ADDITIONAL TIPS TO INCREASE VO2MAX
So here a few additional tips to help you increase VO2Max with these workouts.
The first is that you might want to start out with the longer, less intense intervals earlier in the season and progress to the shorter, more intense ones as you get closer to your key events
This follows the specificity principle and is a better way to increase VO2Max and establish a base for you to build on.
That said, there’s nothing wrong with using the shorter workouts and supplementing them with some threshold training, especially if you’re short on training time.
Next, try to end the workouts when you feel you could just about squeeze out another interval if you really had to.
I’m a fan of staying conservative with my interval training the majority of the time and not risking overtraining.
Being 2% undertrained is always better than being 1% overtrained in my opinion.
At very select times of the season when it’s critical to put the icing on the fitness cake, you can do intervals to exhaustion if you so wish.
Finally, I would recommend for more athletes not to do more than 1 of these workouts per week unless you’re really short on time.
Even then, I’d still recommend using a broad range of intensities in your training.
It’s easy to burn out with intervals of this intensity if done too often. There are other parts of your fitness that need attention too, so ensure there’s balance in what you do.