In cycling nowadays, apart from knowing how to choose your bike components and accessories, it’s essential to train endurance and strength. This is why it’s important to know about and work on our lactic threshold.

What is lactic threshold?

Technically, lactic threshold (LT)  or anaerobic threshold is the exertion level at which there is a substantial increase in the amount of lactate (lactic acid) in the bloodstream. At this point, our body urgently needs energy and switches to burning carbohydrates.

In other words, it indicates our performance limit, that is, it’s impossible to perform at a higher output after this point. Therefore, it’s crucial for cyclists to increase their lactic threshold in order to last longer without fatigue.

The negative effects of avoiding LT training for cycling

There are consequences to not working on our lactic threshold:

  • Cyclists who race will find that fatigue will soon appear in high-intensity efforts such as sprinting to the finish line to beat an opponent or trying to gain ground in a certain section, which puts a limit on our performance and our chances to achieve good results.  
  • Though having good bike components (such as chainrings) is a great advantage, you also must train yourself and your body. This is also true for cyclists who ride on the road or on the mountain. 

On long routes, it’s inevitable to run into roads or stretches that force us into high-intensity efforts. If we’re underprepared, we will experience serious fatigue.

Advantages of increasing lactic threshold

LT training will be very beneficial in many aspects, especially if you are a cyclist or do any other sport: 

  • Endurance is increased in high-intensity efforts: fatigue will appear much later than it normally would, allowing you to push yourself further. 
  • Performance improves exponentially: given the previous advantage, you’ll see a notable boost in your results, whether you compete occasionally or only use your bike for road or mountain rides. 
  • Muscle mass development and muscle strengthening: performing anaerobic or high-intensity exercises over short intervals also improves strength, which is highly beneficial not only for cycling, but also in any area of ​​life. 
  • Benefits to circulation: LT training strengthens the heart, significantly increasing the amount of oxygen available during exercise. In short, it boosts the cardiorespiratory system.  

Measure and improve your lactic threshold

At the beginning, our lactic threshold will be about 70-80% of our heart rate. Our aim will be to get it closer to 95%, which will be as close as possible to maximum oxygen consumption.

As mentioned, the best way to approach LT training is with short, high-intensity exercises. It’s very important to learn what your heart rate at your threshold is, which you can do either at a lab or by performing the Conconi Test. 

The Conconi Test is based on measuring your heart rate while performing progressively more intense exercises, establishing a positive direct relationship – that is, heart rate will increase as the intensity of the exercise increases.

At a certain point this direct relationship is broken and heart rate stabilises despite the increase in the intensity of the exercise. That point is our lactic threshold.

With a LT at 170 bpm the following training sets are recommended: 

  • 8 2-minute intervals between 168 and 170 bpm.
  • 5 5-minute intervals between 165 and 170 bpm.
  • 2 15-minute intervals between 162 and 167 bpm.
  • 1 30-minute interval between 160 and 165 bpm.

It’s advisable to carry out intervals at 5 to 10 bpm below your threshold, keeping in mind that exercises that push your bpm closer to the threshold should be shorter.

In short, if you’re into cycling, you should find out what your lactic threshold is because improving it will bring you huge benefits, so go for it!

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