Setting your training zones

When you know your power or heart rate at Lactate Threshold (and at your VO2max), you can use this information to create your own personalized training program. Defining different training zones will be useful to train different capacities in a clear and structured way.

There are a lot of different ways to define training zones. For me, one of the clearest ways to define them, is by using the definitions introduced by Coggan. The Coggan’s Classic Training Levels provide a clear description for each zone based on either a percentage of FTP, FTHR or the RPE.

The Coggan’s Classic Training Levels are so useful because these levels are more comprehensive, yet more convenient, compared to other training zones.

Nonetheless, for the heart rate zones, we like to look at the training zones of Joe Friel. Joe Friel divides the heart rates zones based on FTHR as well. However, his zones are somewhat different:

As you can see, he has seven different heart-rate zones. However, zone 5 of the Coggan’s Classic Training Levels is replaced by three ‘sub-zones’: zone 5a (Super Threshold), zone 5b (Aerobic Capacity) en zone 5c (Anaerobic Capacity). As the Anaerobic Capacity and Neuromuscular Power training zones are impossible to define with heart rate due to the short time of the intervals (see next paragraph), there are no heart-rate training zones for these types of exercises (only “above 106%”).

Heart rate vs. Power

Training at heart rate zones may be a good idea. You will be able to define the external load of your training based on the internal load or demands. Nonetheless, if you have a power meter, use that to define your training zones. Your heart rate is dependent on several (external) factors (for example dehydration during a hot windy training ride). In addition, the heart rate response is slower compared to the response of the power output. When you push a little harder, this will be reflected in your power output immediately, whereas this is not the case for your heart rate. The heart rate needs some time to follow. This is also the reason why interval training can’t (or shouldn’t) be based on hear rate zones.

Active Recovery:

The active recovery zone is a low-load zone. This zone focusses on easy pedalling and may be very useful on recovery days or as active recovery between intervals of a HIIT-programme.

Endurance Pace

This training zone is a pace that one can maintain for a very long time. Long rides, focussed on endurance capacities, are generally performed in this training zone for most of the time. This training zone may be good to get those miles in your legs.


This training zone is at a more serious intensity and is the point at which talking with other riders gradually will become more difficult. This training intensity is the typical intensity of a group ride.

Lactate threshold

As its name suggests, the lactate threshold training zone is a training intensity near or around your lactate threshold. This corresponds to a training intensity just below or just above a time-trial effort. A sustained effort at this intensity is very hard (remember; the lactate threshold is at an intensity that can be maintained for approximately one hour). Because of this, it’s recommended to perform multiple repeats at this exercise intensity with some rest or active recovery in between. One needs to be rested in order to perform this kind of exercise.


This training zone is pretty hard. Typically, exercises at this intensity are performed in intervals of 3-8 minutes. The main aim of these intervals is to increase VO2max. Because of the relatively high intensity, it is imperative to be rested and recovered from previous training sessions or physical activities.

Anaerobic Capacity

The Anaerobic Capacity training zone is aimed at increasing your anaerobic capacity. Again, one should be well-rested before performing exercises at this intensity. Also, it’s not recommended to perform these kinds of exercises on consecutive days.

Neuromuscular Power

All-out! Exercises at this intensity are performed at your absolute maximum in order to increase your maximal power output during short bursts. Typically, these intensities are reached during sprint-activities. This intensity will exceed the FTP-intensity by far (much greater than 150%).

For a more comprehensive description of the training zones, I strongly recommend reading:

Want to know your own VO2max or Lactate Threshold? Or do you need help with your training? Let us know via or have a look at

Next: The Power Profile Chart: defining your strengths


  • Allen H, Coggan A, McGRagor S. Training + Racing With a Power Meter. 3 ed. Boulder, Colorado: VeloPress; 2019.