Finding Your Training Zones For Cycling

Before we dig into things, if you have not read the past article on how to do an FTP test, make sure you check it out. I am going to create an example scenario in order to show you how to plug your FTP numbers into the equation to figure out what your training zones are. I will use the more commonly used training zone first, and then finish by explaining the training zones I use.

Remember, Functional Threshold strength is really how many watts you can sustain over the time of an hour.

You’ve finished your test, and now we need to look at the data in order to figure out what your average strength and heart rate numbers were during the test. If you import your data onto a platform, Training Peaks, Strava, etc, you should be able to select the duration of the effort so that you can see what your averages were during that effort.

Once you have your averages for both strength and heart rate, or just one of these, in spite of of what testing method you used, you are going to now be able to figure out your training zones. Let’s go over the most shared zone classifications that people use, zones 1 by 7. The zone names are as follows:

-Zone 1 is Active Recovery

-Zone 2 is Endurance

-Zone 3 is Tempo

-Zone 4 is Lactate Threshold

-Zone 5 is VO2 Max

-Zone 6 is Anaerobic Capacity

-Zone 7 is Neuromuscular strength.

The picture here shows us what numbers we need to use in order to figure out our range.

Zone 1 uses a range below 55% of your FTP test average strength and below 68% of your FTP test average HR.

Zone 2 uses the strength range of 55-75%, and the HR range of 68-83%.

Zone 3 uses the strength range of 76-90%, and the HR range of 84-94%.

Zone 4 uses the strength range of 90-105%, and the HR range of 95-105%.

Zone 5 uses the strength range of 106-120%, and the HR range greater than 106%.

Zone 6 uses the strength range of 121-150%, and the HR range is not obtainable due to the lag in heart rate. If you only have heart rate to go by, you are going to do this interval as hard as you possibly can.

Zone 7 uses the strength range above 150%, and the HR range is not obtainable again due to the lag of heart rate and the shortness of this interval. This interval would be all out for the whole interval.

Now that we have our zones, let’s use an example to figure out the zones.

Let’s say Jordan finishes his FTP test and the average strength he had for the test was 286 Watts, and his heart rate average was 178 beats per minute. We now have the data we need to perform the math.

For Zone 1, he would take the strength number of 286 and multiply it by.55 which gives him 157 watts. So for Zone 1 he would keep his strength output below this number. For Heart rate he would multiply 178 by.68 and get 121 beats per minute. Again, in Zone 1 he would keep his heart rate below this number.

Zone 2 by 6 we have a percent range, so to find the strength range of zone 2, he would take 286 and multiply it by.55 and.75 which would give him 157 to 214 watts. This would be the range in which Jordan would keep his strength output during an endurance prescribed workout. To calculate the heart rate in this zone he would take the 178 and multiply it by.68 and.83 which gives him 121 to 147. This is where Jordan would keep his heart rate during an endurance workout. Use this same procedure to figure out zones 3 by 6 for your strength output and zones 3 by 5 for your heart rate as zone 6 is not used due to heart rate lag.

To figure out Zone 7 Jordan would take 286 times 1.5 and would get 429 watts, so for these intervals Jordan would need to keep his strength above this number.

Now that you know how to perform an FTP test and calculate your zones, you are one step closer to more PR’s!

When I do my coaching I break my zones down a little further and have 2 more zones than what is commonly used, they are as follows:

Active Recovery is the same zone use before.

Base Endurance in my line up has a little bigger range, giving the athlete a little more lower end.

Magic Zone is close to what the endurance zone looks like in the other form.

Tempo zone in my line up has a similar look to the form above but it doesn’t go as high.

Steady State interval in my line up takes the top end of the tempo zone for a little more specific training.

Limit intervals in my programs are designed to enhance your strength at or around threshold.

strength Intervals are meant to enhance your strength at VO2 Max.

Absent Intervals are improving your strength without Oxygen.

Synapse Intervals are to enhance the response at the neuromuscular junction to be more explosive.

In the next articles I will break down and explain these training zones a little better and what they truly do for you. If you are better at watching video instead of reading, you can check out this weeks article on YouTube here,

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