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Sunday Workout - Lactate Threshold Test

by Racer X Virtual Trainer


The off season is a great time to set your baselines and the Lactate Threshold test (LTHR) is one of the most important baselines to know. If you follow this website you know that we are big fans of the lactate threshold test and feel it is really the only way (other than a V02 max test and other expensive protocols) to set you heart rate training zones. The protocol we use to set heart rate training zones doesn't cost a single penny and is a pretty reliable prediction of your actual zones. And if you are even moderately serious about training you should set your heart rate training zones via a lactate threshold test. Using max heart rate formulas like 220-age are NOT recommended.

See this article for complete details on the LTHR test and why we believe it is a very important part of any training program.

For this workout, which will take just around 40 - 60 minutes to complete, choose either cycling, rowing, or running.

Lactate Threshold Heart Rate (LTHR) Test – This test is VERY uncomfortable and requires that you give 100% MAX effort for a 30-minute effort. Two VERY IMPORTANT things to remember about this test. First make sure you are completely warmed up before attempting the test, and second, if you are coming "straight from the couch," meaning you have not been training for an extended period of time, be very careful with this test. Do not over do it!

Running and Cycling Protocol
Start a 30-minute all-out effort. You should strive to hit an effort level that will allow you to complete the 30-minutes at as high an intensity level as possible for the entire test. You don’t want to fade towards the end of the test but you don’t want anything left when you are done. When you are 10-minutes into your 30-minute all-out effort, start your heart rate monitor recording function and stop it when you hit the 30-minute mark. Cool down for 5-minutes. The number you need from this test is the average heart rate for the last 20-minutes of your effort. This is your LTHR.

Rowing Protocol
The protocol for obtaining your heart rate training zones for rowing is significantly different from running and cycling. For the rowing test, you will record 3 separate 8-minute tests with 10-minute rest periods in between efforts. Like the running and cycling test, you do not record the warm up. The rowing test is different because of the increased total muscle mass used, it's much higher than cycling or running so your body doesn't need such a strong stimulus to cause the maximal aerobic cardiac output that you are trying to achieve. We split it into 3, 8-minute sessions because even the fittest athlete has a hard time maintaining an all out effort on the rower for 20-minutes.

Your LTHR will be DIFFERENT for running, rowing, and cycling which means you will have to do this test three times if you want to use all three forms of cardio.

Now that you have your magic LTHR number, you need to calculate your five heart rate training zones:

Add one beat to each zone starting number beginning with zone 2 to get the correct zone range numbers, i.e. add one beat to 89% (high zone 2 number) of the LTHR to get the low heart rate number for zone 3.

Zone 1 = anything less than 83% of LTHR
Zone 2 = 83-89% of LTHR
Zone 3 = 89-93% of LTHR
Zone 4 = 93-100% of LTHR
Zone 5 = anything greater than 100% LTHR

Let’s say your average heart rate was 155 BPM from your heart rate monitor.
Zone 1 would be anything less than 129 BPM (155 x 0.83 = 129)
Zone 2 would be 130 to 138 BPM
Zone 3 would be 139 to 144 BPM
Zone 4 would be 145 to 155 BPM
Zone 5 is anything above 155 BPM


That's it for now, until next time, good luck with your training and remember, if you have a question, log on to the Virtual Trainer Expert Forum and have your question answered by a panel of experts. In addition, be sure and check out the Racer X Virtual Trainer archive section. Your complete one-stop information zone for motocross fitness. VT Signature

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  1. Gravatar
    ashton hayes December 02, 2012 at 6:40 pm

    good workout info

  2. Gravatar
    Guest December 29, 2012 at 1:32 am

    I am wondering in what way this helps you to become better. Since it isn't a specific training based on functional movement (based on motorcross). I do understand that this training will help you to have more energie during your matches, but isn't it smarter to do a simular training with functional exercises for motorcross?

  3. Gravatar
    Racer X Virtual Trainer December 29, 2012 at 12:14 pm

    A lactate threshold test is needed to set your heart rate training zones. Training zones are used as a basis for cardio workouts.

  4. Gravatar
    Greg Marino December 15, 2013 at 5:15 pm

    A "Do-It-Yourself" LTHR?

    Good luck fellow motocrossers and especially in the realm of finding out REALLY where you're most efficient!

    If the blood lactate level measured isn't a part of what a REAL LTHR, and THE true concept and SHIFT of the LT and it's effect on VO2 Max over, one would be better to spend their time chasing a 3 year old around the the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World than to waster their time trying to self-calculate what this article is attempting to represent.

    Get the straight poop on LTHR folks, because it sure the heck ain't in this "do-it-yourself" suggestion! Considering what we spend on our sport, this test conducted, monitored and analyzed by REAL professionals will be BEYOND it's worth!

    Ask me exactly how I know this "editor!"

  5. Gravatar
    Racer X Virtual Trainer December 15, 2013 at 7:10 pm

    I'll do you know this?

  6. Gravatar
    Jimmy December 17, 2013 at 9:31 am

    Everyone is a critic

  7. Gravatar
    ET925 December 19, 2013 at 11:44 am

    Is a high LTHR good or bad? I just did it for running, ran 7:30 pace for 30 minutes and hit an avg HR of 174. If it matters, I still had fuel in the tank but HAD to drop pace to 8:30.

  8. Gravatar
    Racer X Virtual Trainer December 19, 2013 at 5:59 pm

    Does not matter for what we are using it for. All we are doing with the data is setting our heart rate training zones. The test is valid if you went as hard as YOU can go for the entire 20-minutes.

  9. Gravatar
    Mx298 December 26, 2013 at 3:19 pm

    Like stated above, gathering this info will not do the average person a whole lot of good. Maybe if done over weeks but a one time test? What was resting heart rate or is person even capable of achieving his anaerobic threshold, I don't know anyone at my local track that can encluding pro's!

  10. Gravatar
    Racer X Virtual Trainer December 26, 2013 at 5:33 pm

    I disagree in part MX298. This test is definitely applicable to the average person/rider. I agree that if it the first time a person does the test, the data may not be very accurate but that is the purpose of retesting. The more often (recommended at least every 8-12 weeks) a person does the test, the better they will become at taking it. And if training via HR training zones is the goal, this is a good way to set the zones. And yes, I also agree that a person may in fact not be good enough at a certain exercise like rowing to reach LT, but soon, if they keep rowing they will be good enough.

    Resting HR does not enter into the equation when setting zones with this method. And again, I am only interested in determining a rider's LT so I can set their zones. Otherwise I would want to see power at LT and measure that.

    And if all else fails and the test is a bust, it is still a good HIT workout.

  11. Gravatar
    James259 January 06, 2014 at 3:48 am

    Hello VT,
    Ik have done this test (cycling) and finished my 30 minutes (20 minute all out) test with an average of 177. That would mean my recovery zone 1 should be below (177 * 0.83) = 146. This is way too high for recovery, as I had my test done 3 years ago, where my recovery zone was tested at everything below 129. How is this possible? And what should be my starting point?

    Btw: I am six weeks in training now and I have set my revovery zone as follows: I took 3 beats of my average testing HR (174-3 = 174). As recovery zone I have taken between 65 - 75% which is 113 - 130. This looks more like it.

    What could you say about this? My assumption is that I train way to hard if I use an average HR of 177 an set my zones according your info.

    Thanks for you awesome tips about training btw!

  12. Gravatar
    Racer X Virtual Trainer January 06, 2014 at 9:41 pm

    Using Joe Friel's method for cycling (basically what is described above), your zones would be
    Z1 116-145
    Z2 146-158
    Z3 159-165
    Z4 166-176
    Z5 177-193

    Have you read Joel Friel's "Training Bible"? I recommend studying that if you are not familiar.

    This article also does a good job of explaining and demonstrating differences in calculation methods.

    What testing and methodology did you use three years ago to set your zones?

  13. Gravatar
    James259 January 07, 2014 at 2:44 am

    Thanks for your reply.

    We used a cycling max. test (HR, pressure, Vo2max) in a sports meds center. So start a baseline and every 3 minutes increase the power to max out the heartrate and define the training zones..

    I am a bit lost now, because if I look at the zones you indicate, I have been doing recovery rides / rows only the last couple of weeks ;-)

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