What is 100% VO2max power?

Hey, sorry for a maybe silly question… but everybody speaks about “training at” a certain % of vo2max. But what is 100% vo2max? How do i determin it, especially without a Labtest?
Thank you, would help me :slight_smile:

You may get a few different answers on this, here are my ideas.

Do a step test with 1m steps, start at 100w and increase 25w each step.

I have always found this would always give a Maximal Aerobic Power (peak 1 minute from the test) that wasn’t often achievable in training. Keeping in mind that training will always carry a certain level of fatigue.

The better version that I used with clients was 3m steps with 20 or 20 watt steps depending on bodyweight and fitness level. Take the peak 1m power from this test).

This information would come from 6 years, testing 100 people every month so around 7200 tests.

The 3m test gives a better power that allows for achievable work to be done.

I do often use goal heart rate when training intensity at this level though. Power to get started the intervals for the first few sessions and check heart rate response with the athlete, then you adjust the load, cadence to get the desired heart rate response.


I have been taught the same as what @steveneal has mentioned; that a 3m step test gives more accurate values compared to the 1m step test.

I’d be interested to hear your opinion on what Dr Seiler says, which I believe he has also quoted on a FastTalkLabs podcast or two. The bit about one’s 6m power being that “magic number”.

@geraldm24 I would agree. I like to have them TimeTrial at the peak 1 minute power a few days later to compare.

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If you are not going to do a test and not going to train like a pro (in terms of hours/week):

  1. forget about VO2 max and:
  2. have some fun going really fast
  3. go easy until your feel rested and have no DOMS
  4. go back to 2

Mostly I agree with your posts…but NOT training like a pro?

I still improve vo2 max in guys over 50, who train as much as they can, and win big races…so I think that you can do that.

They also still adhere to point 2…having fun :slight_smile:

Would say from pure cycling they rarely have DOMS on my program

They mostly are living in 2…


@steveneal i was responding to the original post. Not intendng to say you cannot improve, just that all the percentages are less of interest if you dont have a proper test to begin with.

A related point and a question. This is one of my all time favorite articles. Cousins increased this guy’s VO2 Max from 53 to almost 75 in three years by dramatically increasing volume and significantly changing training distribution.

My interpretation of that training distribution is:

  • 8% Recovery
  • 43% LT1 (~ <= 130 BPM)
  • 30% Z2 (like 70% FTP)
  • 11% Tempo
  • 5% Threshold
  • 3% VO2 Max

I’d also like to know how accurate @steveneal and other coaches feel a well-fed model of VO2 max and pVO2 is in WKO5. Thanks!


Having Fun is always the major thing… Nevertheless you can do and know everything :wink:

So thanks for your great and helpful posts till now! What i get so far is just to clearifie that my “100% vo2max” is somewhere where my 1min maxpower of a ramptest with +20/25W every 3minutes is? What should correlate with my 6min max allout power.
So to check i can test my max 1min power of the ramptest if i can hold it for approximately 6 minutes?

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Agreed. Sorry for misunderstanding.

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@fazel1010 I would say that distribution would be very similar to what I would see in my clients.

The wko5 question I can’t comment on, I have stopped using it quite some time ago.

I have gone back to moxy, lactate and/or metabolic testing as much as possible, with time between these tests to train, have the athletes ride by feeling around 30% of the time with the rest of the time planned around a few focus sessions.

I came to this training from the cross country ski world, and over the last 15 years have gone more towards software, and just feel it is time to get back to having athletes feel more of their training from a conversation we have about goals.

Still downloading and looking at data of course just taking things differently, seems to be working quite well.


Thanks for the reply! I am training by feel a lot too; basically getting on the bike and working up to endurance power over 20 min or so and seeing how I feel. If I don’t feel good and/or am not motivated, I stay in that zone or below.

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@fazel1010 good call … most of the time. Just be careful to try and tell the difference between tired and lazy…it happens to everyone :slight_smile:

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Thanks for asking this question. I had the same one. Here’s my question in response to the replies you received.
Would my six minute peak power over the last 90 (or 42) days be a good approximation of my current VO2 max?

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I think it would be a good approximation of the power side of things…but there is also the mental side of getting that number.

The best way to find out your six-minute power…is to do a six-minute time trial - with only time on the screen, no heart rate, no power, no cadence. Then that is a great number to do your intervals by for the upcoming weeks.


@steveneal Where cycling is an ideal sport for power based training, some other sports don’t have the the tools yet to measure it accurately.
Question: have you seen any differences in cyclists and their performance improvements, when training with power versus training with heart rate?

@kjeldbontenbal it has been over 30 years and have had two very different groups during that time.

First 15 or so years, athletes 14-23 years old, National level but pretty long term, many athletes for 7-11 years. Focus on cross-country mtb which during this time went from 2h15-2h30 to around 90m for the goal winning time.

Last 10-15 masters athletes more focus on stage races 5-7 days daily time 2h30m-3h30m

I did have the first mtb powermeter in North America at the time for about a year before others started. So I did have power during the time of using heart rate and the switchover.

I have always gathered the power data since then, first in CyclingPeaks software (actually in a spreadsheet from Hunter Allen before the software went live).

I would test 6m and 20m power and full lactate profile every month of so on the athletes.

Training was done by heart rate up to tempo, for threshold and above it would have been power to start and goal heart rates to watch during training.

I don’t know if I can say one is better than the other, but I have had some pretty good success with athletes on heart rate and feeling who just didn’t like the power numbers, that athlete was a National Champ in mtb and cross.

I feel either way is fine but I think that using heart rate, feeling, cadence, breathing also keeps a person without a lot of body awareness (many who have come to the sport late) a little more engaged in a session. Now you can have them focus on the same body metrics while training with power I agree, but many people aren’t so lucky to have a coach that will work on the many aspects of riding other than just the power goal.

I think a mixture of both is the right way but I have found that athletes have been able to have fun trying to get equal power intervals without looking at the device, it makes them feel confident that they are getting to know their body which will really transfer to racing sooner I think.

One of the problems I have seen in power training is using interval targets that are wrong, I think this gets people in trouble. Basing training wattage on a test when they were fresh and super excited to get a great 20m time trial to talk about with friends. Not saying many on here would do that but many do.

Other sports look at how their technique, breathing, posture, heart rate, perceived exertion is during work and I think come into fine-tuning their pacing a little earlier than cyclists depending on which sport in cycling they are introduced first. I feel that track and time trialing and bmx these skills would be learned earlier than say group road riding or mtb.

Just some random thoughts that may not even answered your question :slight_smile:


Thanks @steveneal .
Last summer i tried power for speed skating (the accelerated mass version).
I found that you need very frequent calibration to keep it working. Heart rate seems good for many years.

I think that is one of the reasons WKO uses Ordinary Least Squares (at least in part) to define the Power Duration Curve.

Looks like the ‘classic’ much-heralded 80/20 approach. Thanks for posting, will read it in full later.