Power intervals

power-intervalsAim of Session

Short efforts of all-out work designed to boost top end power

Session description

WARM UP: 15 minutes, progressive from zone 1 to 3

MAIN SET: One set = 4 x 1 min at 120% MMP, equal recovery. 8 mins between mulitple sets

COOL DOWN: Easy spin for 10 to 15 minutes


Working just above Maximal Minute Power in a controlled, repeatable fashion will help access a new pool of muscle fibres and train them to work aerobically. The systems that are known to limit the VO2max (heart rate, blood flow, oxygen delivery) will be stressed at the onset of each rep - watch how the HR increases from recovery toward maximal; especially from rep to rep. The one minute period is long enough to stimulate the aerobic system; but not long enough to accumulate too much of the metabolic waste products from the oxygen deficit created at the beginning of each rep (remember that in the time the aerobic system switches on, there is a need for the energy to be derived from anaerobic means).

Application for the Rider

Over time, repeats of this session will lend itself to helping lift your MMP as the muscle fibres have now been 'taught' to fire i.e. recruited at the beginning of each rep; and also having their aerobic ability improved through repeated recruitment i.e. across multiple reps with equal work to rest ratio. The next step will be to elongate the time you can spend at this power level (so look for a progression into sessions such as 3 min VO2max intervals, hill accelerations, summit intervals.

Practicalities and tips!

  • Many riders find this easier to perform on a turbo than on the open road.
  • Unlike race specific work, make sure you 'sit tall' on the bike for intervals which aim to increase your VO2max (i.e. on the hoods not in the drops) - this allows maximal heart rate and blood flow to be attained (i.e. this is the aim, not specificity of muscle recruitment). We are after BIG powers!
  • Be sure to know what 120% of your MMP is before you start the session - it is important you hit this target, not exceed it. This is NOT a sprint session. If you start too hard, you will not be able to maintain the power target across reps, thus defeating the session objective. We repeat, this is NOT a sprint session!!! 

Evaluation of the session

  • Did you hit your >MMP target? Could you maintain this IN each rep; across the set; and in repeated sets?
  • How well did you hit the target at the beginning of the rep? This is a good skill to attain.
  • Take a look at your HR response - how close to peak values did it get in each rep? Did it return towards zone 2 levels in each 1 min recovery? Was it faster to respond in reps 2, 3, and 4 of each rep? How did this pattern change across the sets?