4 Workouts to Boost Your Threshold

Studies continue to suggest that an athlete’s lactate and functional threshold is the best predictor of race success. As a quick review, our threshold is the intensity that can be held for approximately one hour before our muscle carbohydrate stores (called, glycogen) begin to run out, resulting in fatigue. It’s an effort that is challenging yet sustainable for someone who is well trained, rested, and highly motivated. I've put together 4 heart rate interval workouts that will improve your performance at your next event.

Before we begin, let's recap how to determine your threshold heart rate:

1. Lab Test

You can find out what your threshold heart rate is through lab tests that measure blood lactate or oxygen consumption. Most sports medicine clinics or university performance labs offer this type of testing.

2. Field Test

To get an estimate of your threshold heart rate, you can perform a 20-30 minute field test. There are a plethora of coaches out there who specialize in heart rate training and testing. If you'd prefer to do the test on your own, check out this article.

Once you have your threshold heart rate, you'll be able to determine the target range of where you need work to see improvements in both your performance and endurance. We’ve already defined these threshold zones as zone 4 (94-99% of threshold heart rate) and zone 5 (100-105% of threshold heart rate). You can find a free training zone calculator on my website's homepage by clicking the "Coach D's Training Zone Calculator" link.

To help you boost your functional threshold to improve performance at your next race, I’ve listed four examples of heart rate interval workouts below.

Note: Your thresholds and corresponding zones for cycling and running will be different and must be individually measured beforehand.

Be sure to warm-up for 10-20 minutes before you begin the following workouts. Do 1-2 of these workouts each week, slowly adding time until you reach approximately 60 minutes of total time spent at or near threshold.

Workout 1 - The Ascending Ladder

Each interval increases in length while the intensity remains constant or decreases slightly as the duration gets longer.

  1. 2 minutes at zone 5 followed by 1 minute easy zone 1 recovery

  2. 3 minutes at zone 5 followed by 1 minute easy zone 1 recovery

  3. 4 minutes at zone 5 followed by 1-2 minutes easy zone 1 recovery

  4. 5 minutes at zone 4-5 followed by 1-2 minutes easy zone1 recovery

  5. 6 minutes at zone 4 followed by 1-2 minutes easy zone 1 recovery


Workout 2 - The Descending Ladder

The duration of each interval decreases while the intensity remains constant or increases slightly as the duration is reduced.

  1. 6 minutes at zone 4 followed by 1-2 minutes easy zone 1 recovery

  2. 5 minutes at zone 4-5 followed by 1-2 minutes easy zone 1 recovery

  3. 4 minutes at zone 5 followed by 1-2 minutes easy zone 1 recovery

  4. 3 minutes at zone 5 followed by 1 minute at easy zone 1 recovery

  5. 2 minutes at zone 5 followed by 1 minute at easy zone 1 recovery


Workout 3 - The Pointed Pyramid

Connects an Ascending ladder with a descending ladder in one main set.

  1. 1 minute at zone 5 followed by 1 minute easy zone 1 recovery

  2. 2 minutes at zone 5 followed by 1 minute easy zone 1 recovery

  3. 3 minutes at zone 5 followed by 1 minute easy zone 1 recovery

  4. 4 minutes at zone 4-5 followed by 1-2 minutes easy zone 1 recovery

  5. 5 minutes at zone 4-5 followed by 1-2 minutes easy zone 1 recovery

  6. 4 minutes at zone 4-5 followed by 1-2 minutes easy recovery

  7. 3 minutes at zone 5 followed by 1 minute easy zone 1 recovery

  8. 2 minutes at zone 5 followed by 1 minute easy zone 1 recovery

  9. 1 minute at zone 5 followed by 1 minute easy zone 1 recovery


Workout 4 - The Flat Top Pyramid

Similar to the pointed pyramid but repeats the longest interval before descending down.

  1. 1 minute at zone 5 followed by 1 minute easy zone 1 recovery

  2. 2 minutes at zone 5 followed by 1 minute easy zone 1 recovery

  3. 3 minutes at zone 5 followed by 1 minute easy zone 1 recovery

  4. 4 minutes at zone 4-5 followed by 1-2 minutes easy zone 1 recovery

  5. 5 minutes at zone 4-5 followed by 1-2 minutes easy zone 1 recovery

  6. 5 minutes at zone 4-5 followed by 1-2 minutes easy zone 1 recovery

  7. 4 minutes at zone 4-5 followed by 1-2 minutes easy recovery

  8. 3 minutes at zone 5 followed by 1 minute easy zone 1 recovery

  9. 2 minutes at zone 5 followed by 1 minute easy zone 1 recovery

  10. 1 minute at zone 5 followed by 1 minute easy zone 1 recovery


Try these heart rate training interval workouts and you’re sure to boost your threshold!

By Duane Franks, MS Athlete, Head Coach & Founder of Trifiniti Endurance. Duane is a fitness consultant and triathlon coach with more than 30 years of experience in the sport. He works with athletes of all abilities, from beginners to all out world champions.

 
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