Lactate Threshold Heart Rate & Max Heart Rate Testing

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    A question on the accuracy of LTHR test. Every time I’ve done the 20 minute FTP and 20 minute TT run test, I also use that as a chance to update my LT HR. Over the last year I’ve been training with 8020, it has steadily increased, which I get is a sign of increasing fitness.

    My latest tests done this week have my cycling LTHR at 180 and my run LTHR at 189. Now, my max HR I have ever hit was 196 just 3 years ago, but in the last 2 I have never gone above 194. This is even on 1 mile all out tests. These numbers seem to imply that my LTHR is 189/196 = 96% of my max HR? Is that correct? I thought 95% was what elite athletes could reach.

    This is mainly the reason I am skeptical. I’m a “back of the front of the pack” triathlete, but certainly not elite. I know Garmin and TP always suggest LTHRs that are about 95% of the readings I get from the 8020 protocol and I guess I don’t exactly understand why we take 95% to be our threshold power, but not 95% to be our threshold HR. It also seems to me that when I do intervals to the 8020 suggested threshold power, my HR is closer to the Garmin / TP suggested LTHR.

    In the end, I bike and run to power so it may not matter as much, but I just like to dive into the science behind it all. I am also wondering if perhaps there is a better way to determine max HR besides “sprint a mile all out.”


    Leyla Porteous

    Hi D,

    First off I just want to confirm that you have read our resource on Intensity Guidelines for zones and the pros and cons of each one.

    Intensity Guidelines for 80/20 Triathlon

    This gives details on the pros and cons of using Heart Rate as a training metric, and it sounds like you are not training to heart rate but curious about your Lactate Threshold Heart Rate. My experience is that for most athletes after the initial conditioning phase, and becoming comfortable with testing LTHR doesn’t continue to increase over time, but the power and pace produced to the LTHR do. This is due to the fact that LTHR is very individual and can vary greatly across athletes, and also for athletes test to test due to many external factors.

    In regards to max heart, it is possible that your previous (3 year ago) test of your MAX heart rate wasn’t truly your MAX due to these external factors or just not comfortable with testing yet in order to truly find it. MAX heart rate doesn’t really factor into our zone calculations so unless you just really want to find out what it is, you will be better to monitor your pace and power against your current threshold heart rate to determine improvements in fitness and conditioning. It’s important to remember that as you get fitter and continue your training journey there will be a slow down in improvements as you start to near your potential. You will start to see a leveling out, or very marginal gains, in some instances a regression as you climb the fitness ladder. LTHR can be really helpful for you to start to monitor your progress as your ability to sustain effort close to or at LTHR will improve but it will also help you keep an eye on fatigue and over training if you start to see LTHR decline or having training near or at it.

    Hope that is helpful and I have attached a few other resources for your interest.

    Coach Leyla

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