One of the best ways to increase your cycling fitness is to increase your functional threshold. This is the maximum intensity that you can sustain for 1 hour. Increase the threshold and you’ll be producing more power which ultimately means you’ll be able to ride faster for longer.
I’ve found one of the most effective intervals to increase your functional threshold is a set of intervals that combines work at just below as well as just above the threshold. The idea behind this is that you push your threshold up from below and also pull it up from above.
Below is my favourite session of push/pull intervals.
Push/pull intervals workout: 1 hour
10 min warm up @ 75% MHR
20 min @ 85% MHR
7 x 1 min intervals flat out with 2 min easy pedalling in between
10 min cool down to 70% MHR
Make no mistake about it this is a tough interval session but one that will make the most out of an hour on the trainer or in the gym if your training is time limited.
An additional benefit of these intervals is that while they are tough to perform they are a bit easier on your legs than the standard 2×20 session we’ve previously discussed at length. As a result you should be able to perform them more regularly than 2×20′s.
The 20 minute block is performed in the ‘sweet spot’ of 85% MHR which equates to about 90-95% of your functional threshold. This should have the effect of slowly pushing up your anaerobic threshold in a slow and steady manner each time you do this set of intervals.
During the 20 minute block you should be riding at a pace that requires you to concentrate but not so fast that your legs are screaming for you to stop. Don’t be tempted to push too hard in this block, you need to save your muscles for the 1 minutes intervals ahead…
The 1 minute ‘all out’ intervals take you anaerobic, which will have the affect of pulling up your anaerobic threshold from above as well as boosting your VO2Max. You might find the pacing of these intervals tricky at first. Try to keep your form and pedal stroke as smooth as possible – you don’t want to be bouncing around in the saddle. To improve your fluidity concentrate on putting all of your energy through your legs into a smooth circular pedal stroke.
As with all interval workouts you should only do them when you’re well rested and feeling fresh. Doing workouts like these should be avoided if you’ve got tired legs.