How to Balance Your VLamax, with Sebastian Weber

In episode 67 we talked with Sebastian Weber about the concepts of VO2max and VLamax. Now, we discuss how to balance the two systems.

Fast Talk Chris Case Lactate Test
Photo: Brad Kaminski

Balance becomes an increasingly important concept as we get stronger. If you’re unfit, or just getting off the couch, everything is trainable. Everything can get better. But we reach a point where it’s not that simple. We love to look at peak numbers… best 20-minute power, best five-minute power, best top sprint. But can all of these numbers keep rising in unison as we train? The answer is, we hit a point where we have to make sacrifices.

In episode 67 we talked with Sebastian Weber about the concepts of VO2max and VLamax. Think of them as ways of measuring the max rate of your aerobic system and your anaerobic system (though, to be exact, we’re talking the glycolytic system only.) A big aerobic engine allows you to do things like sit in the field comfortably for hours or ride a good time trial.

In the world of cycling, there’s no such thing as too big a VO2max. But a big glycolytic system allows you to cover moves and win the sprint at the end of the race. The problem is that there is such a thing as too big a VLamax because it can hurt your aerobic engine. So it’s a balancing act, and while we love to focus on those peak wattages, an important consideration is to figure out how high or low a VLamax you need. And that can change through the season. Today we’ll dive into this concept and talk about:

  • VO2max and VLamax – what exactly do they measure and why are they useful.
  • Another term that’s becoming very popular is W’ or Functional Reserve Capacity. It’s a valuable number, but a lot of cyclists think it’s a measure of our anaerobic strength and confuse it with VLamax. We’ll explain the important differences and the value of both.
  • We’ll talk about the balancing act of shifting your VLamax depending on your target races.
  • Then we’ll try to get a little more practical starting with the right training for the time trialist or GC rider.
  • Next we’ll talk about how to train if, like a lot of riders, you focus on road races and need good enough an aerobic engine to get to the end of a 3 plus hour race, but also need a good enough VLamax to win the sprint.
  • Finally we’ll talk about just how much you can shift your VLamax and why it’s not just about making that shift, but learning to use what you have.

Our primary guest today is, of course, Dr. Sebastian Weber. Sebastian is one of the founders of INSCYD, a company that uses on-the-road testing to give quite detailed analyses of a rider’s physiology. Weber has also worked with teams like High Road and riders like Peter Sagan and Tony Martin. We love having Weber on the show because we go deep into the physiological weeds.

Along with Weber we also talked with an incredible group of scientists and riders about this balancing act, including Dr. Stephen Seiler from the University of Agder in Norway who is one of the originators of the polarized training model. We have an episode on interval work coming up with him soon.

Next, we got the opinion of a world-class time trialist and grand tour rider. Brent Bookwalter, who now rides with Mitchelton-Scott, talked with us about how training for time trials and grand tours affects his sprint. And finally, we talked with Dr. Andy Coggan and Hunter Allen who just released the third edition of their groundbreaking book “Training and Racing with a Power Meter.” So let’s dive into this idea of VLamax, and let’s make you fast!

Primary Guests Dr. Sebastian Weber: Elite coach and lead physiologist for INSCYD
Secondary Guests Brent Bookwalter: Pro cyclist with Mitchelton-Scott

Episode Transcript

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