A better way to program 60 seconds on seconds off


In this blog, I will briefly cover a long cycle performance test and interval training using this result. Below I’ve posted my heart rate results during a long cycle test and from a 60 seconds on 60 seconds off interval training protocol variation. Finally, I will briefly outline a method for programming external and/or internal load.


The long cycle test is designed to give your maximum aerobic repetitions per minute (MARPM). This test is essentially an ascending ladder, which I used to prescribe my interval training session. It’s important to note that I used a longer duration for my test because I wanted to be specific to longer 10-minute sets, if you’re using it for more general conditioning you might like to do a 5-7 minute test.


Below is a figure that illustrates my heart rate during an 11 minutes set. You can see I reached slightly above my age predicted maximum heart rate and I hit a bit of a plateau. This suggests that I hit my maximum aerobic pace and this is the pace I will use for my interval training.

During the set I did 4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13 and 14 RPM. However, I wasn’t happy with my form in the 14 RPM so I used 13 RPM for my interval training. The figure below illustrates my heart rate during a 60 second at 13RPM with 40 seconds rest.
13 6060

I was able to perform 12 sets with 13 RPM and the 13th was 12 RPM. I stopped my set as I wasn’t able to hold the desired RPM. This is commonly how I would program my interval training, once I can hold the desired rpm for the desired sets I would progress. An alternative way is once you hit your desired duration within your goal heart rate you can stop the set. I was looking to perform 10 minutes in the ‘red zone’ (90-100% of your maximum heart rate). Using your RPM would be an example of external load, whilst using your heart rate would be an example of internal load. In this case, the two methods were quite aligned.


Typically, to improve your VO2 max you should train around your VO2 max pace (think end pace of the ascending ladder outlined above). In terms of training dosage, it is recommended that athletes perform approximately 5-10 minutes in the red zone. 


15 6060

Two weeks later I repeated this protocol, however, I reduced the rest to 35 seconds. I hit five minutes in the red zone at the 10th interval and managed to perform all 15 intervals at 13RPM. I hit my goal 10 minutes in my desired heart rate zone at the 14th interval, but I ended up doing 15 intervals as I was feeling really good (because I slept through most of the night, which doesn’t happen often due to my inconsiderate tiny human housemate). Normally, I wouldn’t expect to see such a big increase in performance, however, being well-rested makes a big difference.


Hopefully, this gives you a few ideas on additional ways to monitor long cycle performance and program interval training.


My name is James Ross, I’m a qualified personal trainer, strength & conditioning coach and sports scientist. I am a founder and coach at The Richmond Gym in Melbourne and started the website www.gsscience.com.

Leave a Reply