The Hurt Locker: Improve your VO2 max with this HIIT indoor cycling workout

GCN's Conor Dunne takes you through a 30-minute, high-intensity interval workout that will help to improve your VO2 max and sprint power

Clock08:46, Thursday 21st March 2024

Join GCN’s Conor Dunne for this high-intensity VO2 max training. Seriously tough but with lots of performance benefits, this interval session rotates between short 10/10 efforts and much-needed spells of recovery. It’s only 30 minutes long but packs plenty of training value into such a short period of time, making it perfect for time-strapped cyclists.

What is VO2 max training and why is it important for cyclists?

VO2 max is the maximum amount of oxygen your body can absorb and use during training. When training in this high-intensity zone, you are pushing your aerobic capacity to its limits and VO2 efforts can only be sustained for relatively short, and often painful, periods of time.

However, targeting your VO2 max can lead to big performance gains. After all, the higher your VO2 max is, the more oxygen your cardiovascular system can deliver to your muscles. And high-intensity interval sessions like this are the best way to improve your VO2 max, as shown in this study published by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology.

It will come as no surprise, then, that this VO2 max workout is going to hurt, but it’ll be worth it. After a warm-up, we get into a set of six VO2 max efforts with recovery breaks in between. Each effort is long, so you’re going to be working your aerobic engine to the max. Stick with it, and this session will do a world of good for your aerobic capacity. Be warned, though, this is a tough one!

Is this interval workout good for weight loss?

According to research from The British Journal of Sports Medicine, interval training accelerates fat loss by alternating high-intensity exercises with brief recovery periods. It elevates the heart rate, burns more calories, and triggers the afterburn effect, leading to increased metabolism post-workout.

In this session, GCN's Conor Dunne will take you through a training programme to help your body optimise fat metabolism and promote muscle development, yielding significant fat loss results and improved leg strength.

If you do a lot of cycling and are yet to see the benefits, it may be because you're miscalculating how many calories you're burning and consuming. For more info read our article on Why you may be struggling to lose weight through cycling.

Indoor cycling workout details

  • GCN instructor: Conor Dunne
  • Indoor workout duration: 30 minutes
  • Indoor training type: VO2 interval training
  • Fitness difficulty: A tough workout for advanced cyclists
  • Benefits of this indoor cycling workout: Building VO2 max
'warm up' on a red cycling themed background

Start with a warm-up on your indoor trainer

Before we get into the HIIT session, we need to warm up. This session starts with a warm-up ramp that gradually increases the intensity, from 2/10 right up to 7/10, followed by a minute of respite at 3/10.

Top Tip

Don't go too hard on your warm-up. This is a hard session so you'll need to save some energy so you can go hard on the main interval session.

Global Cycling Network James Lowsley-Williams with 'sprint' text overlay on a red background

The main session: Six max power sprint efforts with recovery in between

It's time to get to the hardcore training. We're going to do six 1:30 flat-out, 10/10 efforts with two minutes of super easy recovery in between.

This is a tough session, but make it through and soon you'll feel the benefits in your VO2 max and sprint power.

Top Tip

Push your legs as hard as your can during the intervals! Feel the burn to get the maximum leg-strength benefit from this indoor cycling workout.

Global Cycling Network's Manon Lloyd on a bike with 'cool down' text overlay

Bring up the RPM a little for the warm-down

After our final recovery period, we're going to push on the pedals a little more to spin out our legs. 4/10 for three minutes will be enough to spin out that lactic acid and bring the session to a close, although you can extend your warm down for longer if you have the time.

Top Tip

If you need a little longer to spin out your legs and release the tension, feel free to keep riding a little longer.

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