Quick Profile: 3-2-1 Intervals

In the early days of ICA I posted a 3-2-1 Interval profile called Ramp it Up (through the Doors) back in 2011. I used songs from the Doors for the recoveries. That’s still a great profile…but I’ve updated it with new music and even reduced the amount of recovery, making it particularly challenging. 

We also presented the concept of 3-2-1 to you as a drill in OCD (Obsessed with Cycling Drills). Make sure to read that post and the comments for some additional ideas.

This profile is very versatile, allowing you to easily create many different versions. You can mix and match a wide variety of cadences for different outcomes.  

In this Quick Profile, I’ve given you tips on how to coach it using three different metrics: RPE, power, and heart rate. As written, it’s a 60-minute profile but it’s easy to shorten it to 50 minutes. It can also be easily modified when you have a wide range of abilities by allowing less-fit riders to forgo the final increase in intensity and hold constant at the 2-minute pace, while more-fit riders can take themselves to borderline breathless. 

Let me know in the comments how you and your riders enjoyed this profile. If you have some favorite 6-minute songs that you use, we would love to know those as well. 

Below are the PDF and the Spotify playlist.


  1. The warm-up posted in spotify playlist above NORWEG is not available – any alternate suggestions ?

    1. Author

      Hi Maureen, thanks for pointing that out. It used to have the 6-minute version…strange. I just did a search and found it on Spotify (and added it to the Spotify playlist for this profile) but it’s only a 4.5-minute version. You could add a short song for an additional warm-up, but also remember that the first 3 minutes of the 3–2–1 is only moderate, so it’s probably OK to move right into the first set. (Perhaps make the 1-minute segment of that first one not quite as high.)

      Here is the Spotify link for Norweg. https://open.spotify.com/track/5GIoUA28RDvyPwNzk7OZp0?si=WYj_U3P9RYypQsnN3X-WyA

  2. I have been using this profile, explaining it almost to a T, and have had 3 complaints that my class has “too many rests” Any suggestions on how to educate them?

    1. Author

      Sounds like they haven’t learned the importance of recovery. It’s really not too much. While it’s not a super hard profile, it’s an excellent training session that isn’t too easy, either. Do you have power meters? If not, perhaps they are dropping down their effort too much? The power keeps them honest, and believe me, when you put two back-to-back 3–2–1 together without the break, the drop to the 3-minute effort in Zone 3 is hard enough because the tendency after the 1-minute above threshold is to want to go easy (to Z2 or Z1).

      Perhaps push them just a bit harder on the 1-minute segment?

  3. I know this is bringing up a past post, but noticed there was a question about an app for bpm. Is there one that you’d recommend Jennifer?

  4. I taught this for the first time on Monday (Nov 13, a little late to this party) and it was GREAT!!! They loved the music, and they did what I asked. It was so structured, easy to time (and I’m very honest about my timing–i.e., if I ask for a minute to go hard, I will keep it to a minute). The time flew by, they loved the music, and two people achieved new personal bests on their metrics. We have power, but some people bring their personal tech, and I coached RPE. Thank you!

  5. Here are some in the 6 minute neighborhood;
    In The Garden – Doug Burr 5:56 121 BPM
    Run – Snow Patrol 5:54 75 BPM
    Simple Man – Lynyrd Skynyrd 5:50 120 BPM
    Highway Star – Deep Purple 6:08 174 BPM

  6. Jennifer, you didn’t answer Lynn’s question about the hand positions. I too was wondering. I can see with some of the heavier resistance you should be in hand position 3,but with the others did you have us in Pos 2 when we stand? It would make it much easier for me to understand the profiles if they state which hand position when standing.

    1. Author

      see my comment below Lynn’s question. I believe you are better off not prescribing where they put their hands, except for when it’s detrimental to their performance or safety. When standing, it’s much more stable and effective with the hands on the sides, regardless of whether you are on a “flat road” or a “climb.” Stay tuned for an updated series on this topic!

  7. This was tough and I love the coaching notes. I coach in a club where we a) have power meters (but not everyone knows his/her FTP (or what FTP is), b) metabolic assessments to determine personal HR zones (but not everyone has done/knows his/hers) and c) I use all 3 of these descriptions (power, HR, and RPE).

    I tried this ride on my bike at home (which does not have a power meter), using the club’s app which measures HR/zones. I could not get to high Z3 during the 3 minutes; struggled to get to the top of Z4 and never reached Z5. But I was working. Hard. I don’t think I can attach a screen shot of my HR data here but I’d be happy to post it to FB (didn’t see this ride/quick profile posted in the ICA group). Wondering if it’s based on my really big Z1 and will be curious to see where I land relative to FTP when I try it at the club.

    The quick profile format is awesome, it saved me so much time! I did switch a few songs and will let you know how it goes after I try it in class.

  8. For this ride, when you say “add resistance and stand” for the 2 min and 1 min segments, do you mean standing climb (Hand position 3)only? or Running with Resistance (Hand position 2/2.5)? Thank you!

    1. Author

      to be honest, I don’t believe in “HP2) when standing—it doesn’t make sense from a cycling perspective. When a cyclist stands up, regardless of the terrain, she needs stability. You are going to be more stable with the hands on the sides. You will also have more leverage, especially if you are on a steep climb or in a big gear on a flat road. It just doesn’t make much sense to leave the hands on top of the bars for any length of time (a short time period won’t hurt, of course).

      It also doesn’t make much sense to stand up at high cadences—I rarely stand higher than 85-ish rpm myself, but know indoor cyclists might like to, so I occasionally do short standing surges of 10-20 seconds *maybe* up to low 90s rpm.

      Cyclists should put their hands where they are most comfortable, but they should also be educated as to the most productive, effective, and comfortable places to put the hands. While seated it can be anywhere (and it’s a good idea to change occasionally to avoid numbness) as long as they don’t stretch themselves out with the hands way out on the bar ends (unless you are very tall and being there doesn’t affect you.)

      I don’t prescribe hand positions in ICA profiles for this reason.

      1. Thanks Jennifer. Insightful as always!

  9. Have tried your 3-2-1 Drills in the past; always a favorite. This one is particularly good, because of the combination of hill(s) and fast pace. Love the two sets in the middle with no recovery. Doable with the alternating terrains recommended. To fine-tune it for my own class, I rode it this morning on my home bike. The results on my heart rate monitor display “pure interval” and the feeling I derived was complete satisfaction. Thank you, Jennifer! My class is gonna love this one.

    1. Author

      You are welcome Karen!

      I took my husband through this as my guinea pig. He was surprised at how challenging it was without being overwhelming. The second time we went through the 3-2-1 without a recovery in between, he was like, “huh? No recovery? You’re killing me!” (And he’s pretty fit.) He’s never one for superlatives but afterward he said “that was a great workout!”

  10. What a fun, easy-to-assemble profile-thanks! Here are the songs I ‘m using:

    Canto-Francesco Tarantini-126
    Laurence D-Arabie-Ritchie Lawrence-Buddha Bar V-100
    Fool In The Rain-Led Zeppelin-132
    Set It Off-Thousand Foot Crutch-83
    Get Up On It Like This-Chemical Bros-90
    Spaceman-The Killers-152

    Bill I couldn’t find the 6 minute version of The Beat & The Pulse by Austra 🙁 I had to content myself with a five minute one, but I can’t use that for this profile! I am using Tonite from the new LCD Soundsystem as part of the warm up though! Cheers!

    1. Author

      I have the 5-minute version of the Beat and the Pulse by Austra as well. Won’t work for this profile, but I tagged it to use it in others. 5 minutes is a good length for a lot of my profiles!

      1. The 5-minute version is from the album “Feel It Break.” The 6-minute version is the extended version from “The Beat and The Pulse” EP.

    2. Author

      What app are you using to get bpm?
      I found the Chemical Brothers Get Up On it Like This to be 130 bpm. Is there another version of it I’m missing? This one is from Loops of Fury. Sometimes there are drastically different versions with different bpm.

  11. I have many 6 minute songs, some of which are listed below. These aren’t technically ‘favorites’ because I save those for Friday Favorites. None of these are mainstream. The genres are indie rock, rock-tronic, drum and bass, and IDM. All of them tend to pick up in intensity during the 6 minutes, which lends them to this profile.
    The Beat and the Pulse by Austra 6:01 100bpm
    Windowlocker by Aphex Twin 6:07 123bpm
    Ful Stop by Radiohead 6:07 152bpm
    Cherry Chapstick by Yo La Tengo 6:11 144bpm
    Skin of the Night by M83 6:13 120bpm
    Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales by Car Seat Headrest 6:14 116bpm
    Quiet In My Town by Civil Twilight 6:18 122bpm
    Bowls by Caribou 6:21 120bpm
    Get Older by Dan Deacon 6:29 160bpm

    1. Thank you, Bill! 🙂

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