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One-Hour Workout: Quad-Burning VO2 Max Bike Repeats

Build bike-specific strength—and aerobic efficiency—with these VO2 max repeats.

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This week’s One-Hour Workout is a classic session that will help increase your aerobic capacity, as well as develop leg strength and muscular efficiency. It’s a favorite of coach Taylor Thomas who says he comes back to it time and time again and it’s a staple in the training programs of the athletes he coaches.

He said: “While triathlon requires steady state efforts over longer periods of time, there’s tremendous value in layering in small doses of VO2 work for most athletes. While aerobic efficiency is the overarching goal for endurance athletes, an adage I like to use is, ‘if the ceiling is higher, the floor comes with it,’ meaning that if we work the top end (efforts above our Functional Threshold Power, FTP) it helps to increase our potential in everything that’s sub-threshold.” 

Remember that VO2 max work should feel hard, so be sure to come into this session feeling relatively fresh and ready to execute it, both mentally and physically. Avoid doing hard run or bike workouts the day before. This workout is prescribed using percentage of FTP (for those who ride with power) as well as RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion) for those who prefer to go by feel.

Begin by warming up for 15 minutes at 45-55% of your FTP or RPE 3-4/10. Taylor said: “It can be helpful to work a few short 10-15 second efforts above FTP into your warm-up to help ‘prime’ the body for the effort to come and clear lactic acid from the legs.” 

You’ll then begin the main set, which is five sets of five-minute intervals at 105-120% of your FTP or RPE 9-10/10. Recover for five minutes between each one at 40-50% of FTP or RPE 3-4/10. Taylor said: “As your performance improves you can add more intervals, increase the interval intensity, and/or decrease the recovery duration. These are challenging and will produce the classic ‘lactic acid burn’ in the legs. Track your heart rate over time as well to look for aerobic efficiency.”

Cool down for 10 minutes at 45-55% of FTP or RPE 3-4/10. Note that this workout is 75 minutes in duration, so if you need to keep it to closer to one hour then drop one of the five-minute intervals in the main set.

One-Hour Workout: Quad-Burning VO2 Max Bike Repeats

Warm-up

15 min. @ 45-55% FTP or RPE 3-4/10, with a few 10-15 sec. efforts above FTP or RPE 8-9/10

Main set

5 x 5 min. intervals @ 105-120% FTP or RPE 9-10/10 with 5. min recovery between each @ 40-50% FTP or RPE 3-4/10

Cool-down

10. min @ 45-55% FTP or RPE 3-4/10

 

Get the best advice from the sport’s top experts – check out our Dear Coach series for answers to the most common questions for triathletes.