Cadence during VO2 intervals


I am interested in how important suggested cadence is during VO2 intervals. When doing > 1 min repeats at 120% or above (e.g. Dade -1), I can maybe hold Chad’s suggested cadence (>90) for the first interval, but with subsequent intervals my cadence drops to between 60-80. As I’m using ERG mode on a smart trainer, I can still grind my way through to the end of the workout achieving the power required. Are the training benefits the same with the lower cadence, albeit putting a bit more stress on the muscles, or am I better trying to train myself to hold the higher cadences ???


Very good question. A lot of riders are different and I think this can very much depend on how much riding you have under your belt already. From my personal experience most riders and certainly newer riders will always default to the lower cadence when fatigue sets in. Whether it’s right in the middle of a specific interval or after completing an interval to then starting the next one at the lower cadence.

I believe and agree with Chad that shooting for about 90 rpms at that 120% level is a real good range to be in.
If you start to drop to about 85ish I think you’re still doing ok but after that then you certainly want to start to work on some other things to get you to stay around 90 for the 120% efforts.

Also, 120%'ers are a very tough level to ride at even for just 1 minute efforts at a time.

One thing you can try is really exaggerating your cadence on some of your training rides. For instance you can try doing some 30 second to 40 second efforts at about 110 to 115% FTP but with a very high cadence of say 110 to 115 rpm. Work on doing about 5 - 30 second efforts at 110 to 115% with 30 seconds to 1 minute rest. And then add more 5 rep blocks when you’re adjusted. You can always adjust your rest interval to your needs but the point is to have quality time above threshold with that exaggerated cadence of 110 to 115 and even 120 if you can but also not doing anything longer than 1 minute at that high cadence. You’re doing pretty good if you can repeat many efforts at 115 cadence for 30 seconds, rest for 30 then do it again and again. And honestly you may even want to do these at lower percentage say even 105% FTP. Try defferent power ranges but the point is to do them at high cadence.

And as we all know you dont just want to do this for 1 workout and think that itll help for your 1 minute 120% efforts. You want to do this at least once a week for a good while. And why not keep it part of your routine consistently.

I wasn’t always in this mindset but I believe exaggerated high cadence efforts are better for you than exaggerated low heavy cadence work. But that’s just my opinion. For some reason I feel stronger even at lower cadence levels by doing higher cadence stuff consistently. But if I were to do the opposite, I dont believe I would get the same benefit.


I survive those %s much better at very high cadences than low cadences, 105-110. Once I slow down my muscles start to bog down and they get much harder

I find I can work on developing higher cadences on easier workouts and use those to build the muscle memory such that I benefit during harder intervals. So trying to do all of Pettit at 100 RPM, or my first 10 minute sweet spot interval at 105 RPM helps train me to work efficiently there when I’m doing hard, short intervals.

I also really enjoy the very high speed intervals that last only 10 seconds - getting up to 180 RPM for 10 seconds seems to help a lot with efficiency

Edit: Worth noting that it’s more about iterative improvement in cadence than my actual numbers. If you’re spinning at 80 RPM by default don’t try to do 100 - aim for 85 for a while, then 90, etc. It takes time


IMO the question is, what are the improvements you are targeting with VO2max Intervalls.
IMO it is cardiovascular performance / max oxygen uptake. Higher cadence tends to loads the cardiovascular system more and better, and saves the legs. It saves them for a workout, where the legs are targeted. An example for that would be SST - targeting muscular endurance.



As power is a funtion of both force and speed, high and low cadence intervals do different things. A low cadence interval will improve the force you are able to generate to the pedals, but to improve power you also need to be able to generate that force quickly, hence some high cadence work is also important. This is where spin-ups come in - pedalling fast with little resistance.

You’ll notice how some workouts encourge you to grind at 50-60 rpm (watching your knees of course) while others will encourage high cadences. You’re recuiting the muscles in different ways.


Thanks guys, I guess the longer VO2 intervals like 2-3min are fairly unique - I can match the suggested cadence for the shorter VO2 intervals like 15-45s maybe 1min, but 2-3min at 120% or above is impossible. My knees are fine, grinding it out, but my question is whether or not it is worth persevering or should I drop the intensity from 120% to say 105% to get the required cadence ? There is no doubt VO2 intervals are my weakness, whereas I can churn out long sweet spot intervals no problem


You can try a lower intensity, but I would start with 110-115% before going as low as you suggest. You might be surprised how much difference a small change can really make.


I’m not a coach, but if your normal self-selected cadence would normally be over 90 for these efforts, I think dropping down to 60 is a sign that you aren’t able to recover adequately during the rest interval. Likely the workout intensity is a bit too hard.

I had this experience when I had neglected VO2 max and anaerobic work for a long time. I was mainly doing Zone 2, 3 work, and when I started the Short Power Build plan the VO2 intervals were too hard when using my FTP calculated from the 20 minute test. Also, when I tried the 8 minute FTP test or Ramp test my FTP was estimated about 7% lower because I was weak at these over-threshold efforts. Based on these tests, I set my VO2 workout intensity to 93% and was able to complete the interval sets. After a few weeks (or maybe after the recovery week), I was able to complete them at 100% intensity most of the time.


Thanks guys, I’ll try dropping the intensity a fraction and also do some higher cadence work during shorter easier workouts :slight_smile: