Home Cycling Tips 9: VO2 max, threshold power and the principles of Technogym Neuromuscular Training

VO2 max, or maximum oxygen consumption, is a measure of the size of the aerobic motor, how much oxygen the cardiorespiratory system (heart and lungs) can provide to the muscles but also how much oxygen can be used by the muscles. There are in fact some people who have very strong heart and lungs, but the muscles are not so efficient in using the oxygen that is provided to them.

VO2 max in common people

We know that a normal, untrained person typically has a VO2 between 25 and 30 ml of O2 per kilogram of body weight; this is a value that allows a person to live a normal life, to take the stairs and not to be short of breath in doing the common activities of daily life. The question of performance is different.

VO2 max for professional cyclists

In fact, professionals have very high values, around 80ml of O2/min per kg of body weight, but they are already selected athletes, in some ways easy to train, who have genetic characteristics, then developed with the training that position them at that level. If they take part in the Tour de France or the Giro d'Italia it means that they have a VO2 max ranging from 70 ml of O2 up to more than 85 ml of O2.

The VO2 max as a value predictor: yes or no?

The VO2 max is a value that can be measured with special tests and all cyclists who train seriously know the value. For example, at the youth level, if you select juniors, you start by measuring their VO2 max. At the age of 15 or 16, in fact, VO2 is a strong predictor of performance: 85% of those who win belong to 15% of those who have the highest VO2 max. At that age, therefore, there is a strong correlation between performance and VO2 max.
At the level of professional cyclists, however, the one with the highest VO2 max does not necessarily win, there is little correlation between VO2 and success. Why is that? Because at high-level cyclists are already extremely selected and all have very high VO2 values: from 70 to 85 ml per kg of body weight.

VO2 max is a value that can be measured with special tests and all cyclists who train seriously know the value.

It is important at this point to reiterate the concept: not necessarily those with a VO2 max of 85 are stronger than those with a VO2max of 70. An athlete can have a very high VO2 max but be able to sustain for a long time only 85% of that value, while perhaps what has a lower VO2 max can sustain 92% of that value and the difference lies within the muscles, lies in the ability to maintain a steady metabolic state at high intensities.
That's why cyclists also analyse a high parameter, which better correlates with performance, the anaerobic threshold. This parameter indicates the maximum intensity (generally expressed in Watts or heart rate) at which the cyclist can sustain a sustained effort (between 30 and 60 minutes) without incurring early phenomena of fatigue due to the production of lactic acid that the body cannot dispose of.
Ciclista sulle strade di montagna testa la sua potenza alla soglia
That's why training planning is organised taking as a reference to the anaerobic threshold values and not those of VO2 max.

What is Technogym Neuromuscular Training?

With the name TNT: Technogym Neuromuscular Training it is intended to be a training methodology aimed to improve both the metabolic and the neuromuscular component of performance.
The TNT method encompasses different elements:

  1. Estimation of the Anaerobic Threshold by means of the Technogym Maximal Test or the Technogym FTP Test (Functional Threshold Power Test).
  2. A training plan consisting of three phases (Preparation, Development, Transition) of six weeks each. Each week encompasses three training sessions.
  3. Body weight exercises. The MyCycling app features a list of body weight exercises aimed to improve pedal efficiency through the stabilisation of the pelvis (activating the core muscles) and the stretching of the flexor’s muscles.
  4. Pedal Printing. A specific feature of the MyCycling App that allows the possibility of controlling the pedal efficiency: the balance between right and left leg, pedal smoothness.
Ciclista su pista si prepara allo sprint
The most important parameter that determines the performance in cycling is the power output at the cyclist’s threshold (measured in watts). There are a variety of thresholds: lactic threshold, ventilatory threshold, anaerobic threshold, and functional threshold. The concept is similar for each: to work at a certain level of intensity where you can stay for a targeted duration, between 20 minutes to an hour.

The 3 factors that determine the power at the threshold

But the power at threshold is the result of three factors:

  1. VO2 max or how much oxygen you can deliver to your muscle, it is the size of your aerobic engine.
  2. The fraction of utilization of your VO2 max. Basically which % of your VO2 max you can sustain for 20,30, 40 minutes. This is not necessarily the same for every athlete. You could have two athletes with the same VO2 max but one can use 80% and the other maybe 85%.
  3. The economy: so even if those two athletes that have the same VO2 max, they use the same % of VO2 (thus having the same threshold), they would the same oxygen consumption, however one may be able to produce more watts. You can have a cyclist that with one litre of oxygen can produce 80 watts of power; another could produce only 65 watts.
Biker si esibisce in un salto con una bmx
All those three translate into power at a threshold that we measure with either the Technogym Maximal test or the Technogym FTP test, available in the MyCycling App.

The first two factors (VO2 max and fraction of utilization of the VO2 max) can be considered as metabolic components of the performance. The third factor (economy) can be considered as a neuromuscular component of the performance.

Mountain bike in discesa

To whom the TNT is dedicated?

The TNT was designed to be used by all cyclists that want to train indoor for multiple reasons: lack of time, safety, bad weather, accurately measured performance, etc.

However, there is two category that benefits the most from MyCycling in general and TNT in particular:

  1. Those who wish to utilize time more efficiently. Typically, with two short but effective indoor session a week and one long distance session outdoor.
  2. Competitive cyclists who need specifically fixed training variables (power, duration, cadence) for performance enhancement.

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