Maximum Aerobic Power In Cycling

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If you’ve never tested aerobic power before you should really try it out – it’s a hoot….if you’re not the one doing the testing that is.

Typically in lab conditions a MAP test (maximum aerobic power) is performed by riding at increasingly harder efforts to exhaustion.  There’s a few different protocols, but it would typically start at about 250watts and increase 50 watts every 2 or 3 minutes until failure.  The wattage that you complete the at last step of 2 or 3 minutes is your MAP result.

It’s difficult to accurately control these power steps using a trainer and a powertap so the way I usually determine my MAP is by doing a simple 5km TT at my maximum sustainable aerobic power.  In my experience the result comes very close to the lab method described above.

A typical MAP test is meant to determine your Maximal Aerobic Power since the test is done aerobically from the beginning and reaches the maximum capacity of the individual’s aerobic system at the end.  This is good to know because you can train your aerobic zone to higher levels by doing specific intervals.  Once you know your MAP, you’ll know what power levels to train at during your intervals.  There is more guesswork involved when you don’t have a power meter because it takes a couple minutes for your heart rate to catch up.  You don’t necessarily do these types of intervals for more than 2-3 minutes anyway so there’s a pretty good chance that you won’t be training at the correct zone if using a HR monitor.  Not a big deal if you don’t have a power meter, it’ll just take more guesswork.  If it starts to hurt after 30-60 seconds, it’s a good indication that you’re in the right zone.  Just don’t go out too hard or you won’t be able to sustain it.

Here’s what the results look like from this torture session. This young steed achieved a MAP of 403 watts at the time this was done.


A great workout to increase lactate tolerance is the following:

  • 15 minute warm up with a 2 minute effort to 25% over your lactate threshold and then back down
  • 4 minutes effort at just above lactic threshold wattage to make sure you are warmed up
  • rest 2 minutes, then 3 minutes just over your MAP
  • rest 2 minutes and 2 minutes just over your MAP
  • 2 minute rest 1 minute just over your MAP as hard as you can go!
  • 2 minutes rest 2 minutes just over your MAP
  • 2 minute rest 3 minutes  just over your MAP
  • then recover for 2 minutes
  • 4 minutes at just below lactic threshold
  • warm-down for 10 minutes

When complete, the workout looks something like this on the powermeter graph:


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