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MTB: Lactate threshold (LT) training...

Hans's picture

By Hans - Posted on 17 November 2008

Found an interesting article on lactate threshold (LT) training.

I'm not seeing myself as an athlete (far from it), but I've been watching my heart rate more carefully over the last few rides. I've also started to read up on "best" heart rate range for my age, especially since I've watched my HR staying in the high 180's for > 20 mins during extended climbs on the recent Ourimbah night ride...

I know that there are various rules of thumb, e.g. 220 - age = max heart rate, in my case 220 - 46 = 174. The article below talks about the benefits of staying in the 90% zone (LT), i.e. in my case this would be around 157. Are there any Nobmobers out there that are following a training guide that takes this into account? Can you please enlighten the rest of us? Thx.

Please post your target heart rate, track, duration, basis of training regime, pro's and con's. I know that Motionbased graphs can show HR vs elevation quite well but lets keep it to simple key facts only to make it easier to interpret/compare.

Thx, Hans


Happiness is a warm shock.

Brian's picture

Percentage of maximum heart rate is not the percentage times the maximum bpm. You need to take into consideration your resting heart rate. Eg My resting is about 56bpm and my max is 200bpm. 90% of my max is ((200-56) * 90%) + 56 = 186bpm. Most equipement you get with documentation on heart rate always takes the easier option and does the max times the percentage.

PS. My max of 200bpm is just what I have reached on the the trails. I have never had it tested. If you ever looked at my profiles I can get quite excited.

Below are my percentages and bpm

0-50% (56-128bpm)
50-60% (128-142bpm)
60-70% (142-157bpm)
70-80% (157-171bpm)
80-90% (171-186bpm)
90-100% (186-200bpm)

Edit: My theoretical maximum is 186bpm.


Flynny's picture

while I have no doubt the training describes works, it might not be for the reason they think.

There has be a bit of research lately that suggests our perceptions on lactic acid may not be as bad as everyone makes out

nh's picture

Hi Hans,

I paddle kayaks for the NSW Institute of Sport get to do some sports science testing to determine my training levels.

My base aerobic zone is 137 to 154
Anaerobic (lactate) threshold 170 to 178

Lots of factor will effect the training zones including age and fitness level. We train for races that last 1:30 - 3:30 mins. We do our training in these two zones or above 178 bpm for speed work and lactate tolerance. I have seen a few presentations that suggest that training in the middle zone (155 - 169 ) is of minimal benefit for elite athletes. You can find one here

For the record I am 29, my resting heart rate is 50 and the my max HR in test was 194.

Hope that helps,


hawkeye's picture

... by Joe Friel has some good information about HR training zones in relation to LT training, including how to find your LT and how best to train depending on where you are in the racing season. You're welcome to borrow if you wish - PM me.

Riz's picture

I found 2 articles on bike radar.... heart rate training. It provides a method to calculate max heart rate , basically the article suggests "Get faster by riding slowly". Sounds too good to be true, I guess if you are riding flat out all the time, the body is just hanging in & doesn't build fitness.

Anyway hope this helps.


Nic's picture

It would be interesting to know what people's real max heart rates are vs the theoretical maximum calculated using the 220 minus your age formula.

In my case, my theoretical maximum is 171, however on rare occasions I can spike to 185bpm for up to one minute (running or cycling), but it's very hard and only occurs in ideal circumstances - ie if I'm feeling really good, go hard for 30 or 40 minutes and then am motivated to push a bit harder still at the end.

In practice, my actual heart rate, perceived effort, breathing and sustainability are as follows:
a) 130 to 140bpm (79%) - cruising, breathing is quiet, can sustain for a good while
b) 140 to 150bpm (85%) - starting to work, breathing noticeable but not too hard, can sustain for some hours
c) 150 to 160bpm (91%) - working hard, breathing strongly, can sustain for an hour or so
d) 160 to 170bpm (96%) - working extremely hard, breathing very hard and loudly, can sustain for up to 30 to 40 minutes
e) 170 to 180bpm (102%) - flat out, very uncomfortable, sustainable only for a few minutes
f) above 180bpm (108%) - absolute maximum, very hard and only occurs in ideal circumstances (ie if I'm feeling really good, go hard for 30 or 40 minutes and then am motivated to push a bit harder still)

Percentages shown in brackets are percentage of my theoretical maximum (ie midpoint of range divided by 171). Obviously the percentages will be lower if I divide by the highest peak of 185bpm (ie 73%, 78%, 84%, 89%, 95%, 100%).

Sustaining anything above 160bpm requires great motivation (and I start wondering why I am doing this). On a normal fun ride of an hour or two, I'd be in the 140 to 160bpm range (ie band b) and c) above) , perhaps a bit higher if it gets competitive.

What does this mean - who knows? I probably should do longer, lower intensity rides more frequently...


Flynny's picture

According to the 220-age thing I should max out at 184. It's nothing for me to average that for a lap, peaking in the high 190s. A mate is 15 years older than me and still manager to register 210 and higher during a race.

It is a rough guide for generally unfit people only.

As other have said to get a real idea of HR zones you need to take into account resting HR and then do a proper max test. If you are serious about training this is a good idea, the rest of us can get by with a rough guide.

quote:What does this mean - who knows? I probably should do longer, lower intensity rides more frequently...

Yeah most people spend to much time at higher HRs when training. The basic idea is that you back off and mostly work on "training" the muscles to do the excersize correctly and efficiently and only then load up the resistance to build the muscle strength.

Paul's picture

Nic, I would say your ranges and operating times are very similar to mine (except D, I would only sustain that for 20 or so minutes).

I'm a strong believer in the Long Steady Ride for training and on a decent training ride for say the Fling (80k) I would average about 145bpm (85%) over 5 to 6 hours. This is a level I can maintain and it doesn't have any major recovery problems. The majority of a ride like this will be in my aerobic range so it improves my stamina and fitness.

I also mix up my riding with shorter high intensity rides such as fast sprints to hill climbs. On these I go anaerobic, recover, anaerobic, recover, anaerobic, recover, etc. This helps my anaerobic fitness.

My max heart rate is 185-187bpm and that is over a short uphill sprint and leaves me gasping at the end .
My theoretical max (220 minus age) is 170bpm and I blow this every time I ride uphill so I now just disregard the HRM alarm.
My resting heart rate is 45bpm.

shano's picture

my max hr from experience is 200bpm, this may have come down with improved fitness but still well above the theoretical max. around 185.

Nic's picture

Hi Paul

45bpm is impressively low - all that training must have paid off...


ps My resting heart rate is about 51bpm

Paul's picture

Nic keep your resting heart rate in the 50's and save yourself some hassle.

When I turned 50 I went to the Medical Centre for a complete checkover (bloods, samples, nearly everything prodded and poked). Anyway the Dr taking my blood pressure was really worried that my resting HR was in the low 40's. I said its OK I exercise quite a bit pushing my HR to 180 plus and it returns to normal quickly. Anyway she didn't like it and was worried so she referred me to a Cardiologist.

After 2 visits, a cardiograph, an ultrasound and $560 dollars later the diagnosis was I had a low resting heart rate. The Cardiologist did suggest I come back in 12 months time when they could run all the test agains to see if anything has changed.

I bought a Garmin 705 for less than $560 and I'll monitor my own HR from now on

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