Cracking Plateaus with VO2 Max Intervals

Ah, the dreaded plateau. Many dedicated cyclists, after years of rigorous training, often reach a point where improvements seem elusive. The climbs don’t get any easier, the sprints don’t get any quicker, and the wattage doesn’t see any significant surge. Sounds familiar? If you’ve been pedaling in this static zone for a while, it’s time for a shift in gears—enter VO2 max intervals.

Understanding the Plateau

Before we dive into the solution, let’s understand the problem. Training plateaus are essentially periods where despite regular training, performance remains stagnant. The primary cause? Our bodies are remarkably adaptable. After a period of consistent training, our body learns to efficiently manage the training loads we impose on it. The result? The gains that once came quickly now take their sweet time or don’t materialize at all.

Adding Vo2 max intervals might help you break the plateau

Why VO2 Max Intervals?

VO2 max intervals are not just another training strategy; they are a targeted approach to jolt your body out of its comfort zone. Here’s why they could be your plateau-busting secret:

  1. Shocking the System: By working at or near your maximal oxygen consumption, you’re placing a unique, intense stress on your cardiovascular system, unlike anything your standard training delivers. This surprise factor forces your body to adapt and grow stronger.
  2. Efficiency Overhaul: These intervals focus on optimizing the most oxygen your body can use during high-intensity efforts. By doing so, it supercharges your aerobic engine, pushing your endurance limits.
  3. Time-Efficient Boost: Due to their high intensity, VO2 max intervals can be shorter in duration than traditional workouts but yield significant results. This means you can extract more benefits in less time, making it a win-win.

A Closer Look at Pro Cycling

Interestingly, while VO2 max intervals can be the game-changer for many, their significance at the professional level is paramount. In a recent post, I looked at the crucial role of VO2 max in the Tour de France 2023, shedding light on how it functions as a warm-up, essentially boosting performance. If you’ve ever been curious about the connection between VO2 max and professional cycling, I strongly recommend giving it a read. It underscores the essence of VO2 max intervals, not just for the seasoned enthusiast but also for the elite.

Integrating VO2 Max Intervals

If you’re ready to embark on this journey, remember:

  • Begin with a solid baseline, like a five-minute all-out test to gauge your current capabilities.
  • Don’t dive headfirst; integrate these sessions gradually into your regimen.
  • Continually assess, tweak, and refine your intervals to ensure maximum effectiveness.

Practical examples of VO2 Max intervals sessions

3 x (3 + 3min) Interval: This strategy is a true champion. Executed correctly, you’ll achieve 9 minutes of intensive training at your VO2 max. For those looking to extract even more out of this regimen, consider speeding up the recovery period. This tweak allows you to experience longer durations at maximum oxygen consumption.

5 x (40 + 20sec) Although it may not entirely optimize your VO2 max as the first interval does, it’s superb for race preparation. My advice? Aim for 3 to 4 sets to get your blood pumping and muscles ready for the real deal.

1 x 5min all-out – This single, extended interval is not only demanding but also a fantastic barometer of your VO2 prowess. Brace yourself; it’s going to be a challenging ride! (you can compare your performance with your baseline VO2 max test) .

12-20 x (30+30sec) This is among my top picks. Grounded in scientific studies, these alternating intervals theoretically emerge as the crème de la crème. Yet, remember, in every training situation, your motivation and commitment play pivotal roles. Choose intervals that resonate with your goals and drive you forward.


Years of training shouldn’t culminate in stagnation. There are always newer peaks to conquer, fresh challenges to undertake, and undiscovered strengths to unearth. If you’ve been tirelessly chasing a breakthrough, VO2 max intervals might just be the tool to propel you into your next epoch of cycling mastery. Gear up, and let’s redefine what’s possible!

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