During cardiovascular exercise there are different levels of intensity you can choose to work at depending on your goal and ability. Each threshold intensity is identified by a percentage of your maximum heart rate (MHR); for instance, the aerobic zone is between 70%-80% of your MHR and focusses on developing the cardiovascular system. This article will address the lactate training threshold, which is a high-intensity state of cardiovascular exercise that still relies on oxygen for performance.
Depending on a individuals level of cardiovascular fitness, the lactate zone varies. For athletes this zone is usually between 75%-85% of MHR; those who have a higher level of fitness will tend to fall closer to the 85% mark than the 75% mark, and vice versa. As for untrained athletes, this zone can be around the 50%-60% mark. The lactate threshold edges very closely toward the anaerobic threshold, which is the zone of heart rate in which the body is performing at too high an intensity to gather enough oxygen to handle the load; such as sprinting.
Lactic acid is produced more rapidly within the lactate threshold, hence the name… this causes a burning sensation when exercising at a high-intensity due to the body converting pyruvate into lactate in order to supply itself with more energy.
What Are The Benefits?
By training within your lactate threshold, you’re able to increase your VO2 max and, in turn, the percentage at which you enter the lactate training threshold due to increased levels of cardiovascular fitness. This means that your performance and ability to run long distance events will increase, due to regularly training at a high percentage of your MHR.
How Can You Perform Lactate Threshold Training?
The beauty of cardiovascular training is that there is a variety of exercises you can perform. Lactate threshold training can be performed on a treadmill, cross trainer, rowing machine, bike, etc… which means you’re less likely to become bored of it as you can always alter the exercise you’re performing.
There are a number of methods you can use to train within the threshold, such as training at an intensity sustainable for one long effort (towards the lower end of the lactate threshold), or training at an intensity towards the upper end of the lactate threshold % and using interval rest periods to regather energy.
Example 1: 2 x 15-minute efforts at an intensity towards the higher end of the lactate threshold, separated by 5 minutes of active recovery (continued exercise, at a 50-60% intensity).
Example 2: 1 x 40-minute continuous effort at a heart rate towards the lower end of the lactate threshold.
Ideally, you should train within the lactate threshold for between 20 and 60 minutes, with active rest periods added in where necessary.
Take Home Message
Remember, you don’t have to be an athlete to train within your lactate threshold and make excellent progress. All that your current cardiovascular fitness level determines is at which point you will enter your lactate threshold!
Don’t be afraid to get serious about your training and implement this training style into your own plan!