Implications of Vlamax on annual training periodization

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  • #48555

    Hi guys,

    Merry Christmas to everyone!

    The last days, I read a lot about Vlamax (maximum production rate of lactate; anaerobic capacity). So, a high Vlamax is undesired for our uphill sports here in general.

    When I want to increase my performance (speed at threshold), I have pretty much three levers:

    1. Increasing performance at AeT, and thereby the relative fractional utilization at threshold
    2. Increasing VO2MAX, and thereby the absolute fractional utilization at threshold
    3. Reducing the accumulation of lactate by becoming more efficient

    No 1. I achieve by a lot of low intensity training
    No 2., I achieve by VO2max training (e.g
    No 3., I achieve by Z3 training, ME and low intensity. High intensity is “forbidden”

    So wouldn’t it make sense to apply a highly polarized training regime like 90/0/10 to increase my potential most of the year and then switching to a more pyramidal regime of let’s say 85/15/0 the weeks (4-6 weeks) before my seasonal highlight to optimize efficiency?

    This post is mainly for discussion and out of curiosity and I’m happy to discuss.

    Best regards

  • Inactive
    Anonymous on #48572


    Great post. Thanks. Some deep rabbit holes to go down but I will try to be brief.

    A high level endurance athlete will have both a very high aerobic capacity along with a very high anaerobic capacity. This is difficult to achieve as the training of one tends to decrease the other. It can be done using a block style training program. It is a balancing act that should always err on the aerobic side.

    However keep in mind that while there is no such thing as too much aerobic capacity there definitely is such a thing as too high of an anaerobic capacity relative to the aerobic side.

    The longer the duration the event the less important is the anaerobic capacity. But anaerobic capacity is higher in stronger athletes. Strength supports power and power supports speed. So a weak athlete (who will always have a low Vlamax) will be slower than an athlete with the same aerobic capacity but a higher Vlamax.

    This is where hill sprints come into the picture for virtually all mountain athletes. They are most specific power training you can do.

    To your questions:

    1) Increased pace at AeT is the #1 job for all endurance athletes. However if you are doing very long events (3 hours and more) then this is also your specific event speed. For shorter events under 2 hours then this is the base of support for the next step up the intensity ladder.

    2) Increased maxVO2 should not be a goal. It should the effect of proper training. Please read my article The MaxVO2 Myth. Your focus should be on improving performance not improving a proxy for performance. While having a high MaxVO2 is a nice gift and many elite athletes have this characteristic. It actually correlates relatively poorly to performance. The article will explain in more detail why.

    3) Increasing your pace at AnT the maximum sustainable pace/effort) should receive attention almost as much as #1 above once.

    Recall from TftUA book that no one really has figured out the best way to do high intensity training. I am paraphrasing Aastrand here: Is it better to 4x4min of work at 95% of max VO2 or 1x16min at 85%? No one knows. This is why most coaches use intervals of varying lengths and intensity.

    The advantages of Z4 intensity is that it combines ME, maxed out aerobic capacity (called aerobic power) and improves economy and will improve pace at AnT (high fractional O2 utilization). In other words, the whole ball of wax. It does all this but imposes a very high global load on the athlete.

    Z3 does most of the above but with a much lower fatigue effect. It is not maxing our aerobic power usually unless maxVO2 is quite low.

    For less experienced athlete we often use Z3 intervals as a way of introducing high intensity training. It can then provide a base of support for the Z4 that comes later. High level athletes frequently mix Z3 and Z4 workouts into a their training periods.

    For high level athletes a highly polarized approach, the 90/10 mix of Z1 with Z4 (very little Z2 and Z3) during this period produces good results in improved pace at AnT (higher fractional utilization here).

    Producing lower lactate at all intensities will come from ME and Z3-4 training. But more helpful can be working to improve the lactate shuttle and having a bigger aerobic base so that what lactate that is produced can be used as fuel by those ST fibers with their high aerobic capacity. This is an area I have had the most luck improving.

    Another way to lower lactates at any pace is by improving economy. Do this with short high speed repetitions (what we call pickups or strides) and hill sprints. These will go a long way to helping this area.

    If I have more thoughts on this stuff I will make another post.


    Dada on #48629

    Aaaaah, can’t reply. It doesn’t let me post my answer ;-(

    Experienced the same a couple of days ago.

    Dada on #48625

    Thank you very much for your reply, Scott Johnston!

    Sorry for my delay, I needed access to my computer to answer.

    As I understood Sebastian Weber & Dan Lorang, the targeted Vlamax for triathletes (and probably mountaineers) should be around 0.2, while UCI world class sprinters have a Vlamax of 0.8. Vlamax is very dependent on muscle fibre type distribution but can be changed with the right training. See:

    I read the Vo2max section in the books, and I totally agree. But as a read through the articles the last couple of days, I got the impression that speed / power at threshold (which is the most important driver for performance) is function of VO2MAX.

    So you can increase performance at threshold by two separate things:
    a) increasing VO2MAX, given the LT as % of Vo2max remains the same, increases speed / power (point B0 in the attached graph)
    b) Reducing Vlamax yields to direct increase of LT, since you accumulate lactate at higher speed / power (point A1)

    When my understand is faulty here, I’m sorry. I saw the graph attached somewhere but couldn’t find it anymore. For a general reference, see this link to the above mentioned:

    Here they say that polarized training might be a problem when you have a very high Vlamax:

    Polarised training Q&A and Mikael’s perspectives part 2 | EP#185

    You should instead do more Z3 & ME instead of Z4 because Z3 lowers Vlamax (LT+) and Z4 (and strength & sprint training) increases Vlamax (LT-):

    So regarding to these sources, we should by all means avoid Z4 & sprint & strength training when we talk about immediate pre-event preparation for endurance sports (probably different for shorter / more intense events like vertical k).

    Where do I miss the link here?

    Best regards,

    Other relevant source:

    Training talk with Sebastian Zeller | EP#259

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    Dada on #48669

    Maybe one addition:

    The group around Sebastian Weber regards speed / power at LT the most important determinant for endurance performance.

    They regard Vo2max as one of a few drivers (Vlamax, economy) for speed / power at LT. So they totally agree on the Vo2max myth section in the books.


    Anonymous on #48848


    Sebastian and many others are correct that for most sports speed at AnT/LT is the best predictor of endurance performance. That’s especially true for events of less that 2 hours. Beyond that length the best predictor is speed at AeT because this is race specific for ultra events. And, increasing AeT speed will make it easier to increase AnT speed

    That’s what separates the UA approach from many. They forget the role that the aerobic base plays in performance and look to the AnT speed exclusively.


    Dada on #48921

    Thank you, Scott!

    That makes sense. That’s probably why Sebastian says somewhere that he is not prescribing a lot of Z3 training for ironman distance athletes because it’s not race specific.

    I have one last question:

    Does an increase in speed / power @ LT also lift up speed / power @ AeT, like LT dragging up AeT?

    I’m very sorry to bother you but I’m just super curious about this topic and very thankful that you discussed that so thoroughly with me.


    Dada on #48940

    Maybe, I should specify my question “Does an increase in speed / power @ LT also lift up speed / power @ AeT, like LT dragging up AeT?” a little bit:

    Given the training below AeT is kept up, so training distribution looks similar to 80/20/0


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