Target intervals

target-intervals-1Aim of Session

Efforts designed to lift your current race power to a new level

Session description

WARM UP: Good progressive warm-up vital, allow 15 minutes, included in session duration

MAIN SET: Aiming for upper zone 5. The progression over the training cycle starts with 1 min blocks; progress to 2 min; then to 3 min. Equal recovery of easy pedalling between blocks. See coach comments for the duration and number of blocks you have been prescribed.

COOL DOWN: Ease off with 10 to 15 minutes zone 1/2



A variation of progression is to move you from 10 x 2 min with equal recovery to this version above - same blocks, first reducing recovery to 90s; and then to only 1 minute.


The intensity of Critical Power is one you can hold in a 10 mile race, or for a 20 minute breakaway. Working at Critical Power builds up a lot of metabolites (lactic acid, hydrogen ions) and is extremely close to your VO2max: there is nothing 'steady state' about this intensity (as compared to exercise at your second threshold or 25 mile power) Exercise time is therefore limited as the body fatigues rapidly. In order to increase this tolerable power, working for short intervals just above CP enables access to differing muscle fibre pools. The more we can recruit more fibres, the more resistant to fatigue they can become. Short reps also allows existing fibres to contract with more force - more fibres with more force means more power produced. Be aware that short one minute reps are having you work in the main anaerobically. The longer the reps become, the aerobic system will begin to switch in. Also, the shorter the recovery breaks become, the more the total session will rely on aerobic means (as your body's systems have less time to return to baseline and replenish anaerobic energy systems once more).

Application for the Rider

Improving the ability to work above Critical Power is very important to the cyclist, yet incredibly difficult to do. Any rise on a course will require you to go above your sustainable and tolerable power - in 10 mile time trialling or criterium racing, you are already working at powers requiring 85 to 90% of your maximum. Being able to lift this again (even for only a 30 to 40s) is very challenging to your physiology. This session helps you dig into your anaerobic capacity. The prime reason your coach will give you this session however is to bolster the race power itself. We teach your body to firstly hit a higher level of power; then with each progression we work on sustaining it. Over time, this session is very effective to lever up your race power - especially if you can keep on top of the progression in block duration and reduced recovery.

Practicalities and tips!

  • Make sure you do this session in your race position, as a fundamental for this session is specificity of muscle fibre recruitment
  • Likewise, ensure you use race type cadences

Evaluation of the session

  • Did you hit your pre-session target power? Make sure you stretch yourself and have worked well above your current race ability
  • If the levels were comfortable to attain, consider how best to progress the session (overload): is it to sustain the power for longer (those more anaerobic athletes might consider this, as longer reps will challenge the aerobic energy system); or could you use less recovery?