LTHR vs HR Max Huge differences

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    I’m sorry if this question was posted before!
    I have some issues that do not let me train in peace 😀

    First, I did the LTHR test and the Max HR test to compare the zones, and I found that there are huge differences.. when I need to train in Zone 1 and Zone 2 (low intensity).

    My LTHR after a 30min test was 185bpm, and my Max HR was 195bpm.

    LTHR (185) Zones (80/20 calculator):
    Zone 1: 133 – 150 <–
    Zone 2: 150 – 167 <–
    Zone 3: 176 – 185
    Zone 4: 189 – 194
    Zone 5: 194++

    Max HR (195) Zones:
    Zone 1: 98 – 117 (50% – 60%)
    Zone 2: 117 – 137 (60% – 70%)
    Zone 3: 137 – 156 (70% – 80%)
    Zone 4: 156 – 176 (80% – 90%)
    Zone 5: 176 – 195 (90% – 100%)

    Can you help me please ? I think that zones should match + / – if I am using LTHR or Max HR method, but in my case something is wrong((

    Thank you very much for your help!

    David Warden


    A few reasons why these don’t sync up:

    1. You can’t get MaxHR outside of a lab test. The only accurate MaxHR result requires a ramp test and monitoring. MaxHR is not the peak HR observed in a tough workout, it is a very specific protocol. Your true MaxHR is likely 5-10 beats higher than what you can produce in the field.

    2. There is no industry standard on what “Zones” mean. You have a chart of Zone 1-5 for based on MaxHR. From who? 80/20 does not use MaxHR, and there is no reason to think that our Zone 1 will match their Zone 1. Our Zone 2 might be their Zone 1. Friel, Coggan, Stryd, CTS, 80/20… everyone has their own flavor of how to distribute intensity. Some are just 3 zones, some are 9 zones and they won’t line up nicely zone-to-zone.

    Think of it this way. Half a mile is 0.5 miles and 0.8 kilometers. Which one is right? They both are right, but use different systems. LTHR and MaxHR are as different as English and Metric, Fahrenheit and Celcuis. You can come to the exact same conclusion with numbers that appear very different.

    3. There is also no industry standard on the zone ranges. Even if all the primary coaches got together and agreed to standardize on 5 zones, they would also have to determine what % of intensity each of those zones represent. Which of the two charts above best represents the % of intensity for each zone? I’d like to hear the argument for the MaxHR chart, but I suspect I would still declare 80/20 the winner.

    There are of course some universal standards. Water boils at the same temperature no matter what system you use*: 100 Celsius and 212 Fahrenheit. The division between low and moderate intensity is ventilatory threshold, no matter what system you use. We think the 80/20 zone system best represents that division to monitor intensity and for practical use.

    In summary, ignore MaxHR, just use LTHR. in fact, consider ignoring HR and using Pace or Power instead.


    *For regular readers of the Forums, you know I have issues with HR as a measure of intensity due to how easily it is influenced by external factors. The boiling water example is a great comparison. Boiling water temperature is not absolute: it is relative to the environment. Mineral content and altitude can change the boiling temperature by 30 degrees C! Likewise, LTHR is not absolute: it is relative to the environment.



    Thank you very much for the explanation!

    But I still have some questions… for the 80/20 method, the Low intensity Zones are 1 and 2 which for my LTHR test is from 133 to 167bpm. Than why for a lot of my friends – Elite and amatory Triathletes, who are using the MAF Method, or other methods the Low intensity Zones are usually until 142-145bpm? When I told them that my low intensity zone is 165bpm they said that its crazy.. I want to train seriously without doubt that I’m using well the low intensity zones, it’s very important for my Full IronMan training..

    Thank you!

    David Warden


    But, do your friends all have an LTHR of 185? I bet not. That is an unusually high LTHR, and I expect that your friends can’t hold 185 for 20 minutes.

    Remember, LTHR is relative. Some athletes have an LTHR of 155bpm and some 190. That means that athletes with 155 LTHR have upper Zone 2 of 140. Athletes with an LTHR of 190 have upper Zone 2 of 171.

    Also, no reason yo have to even get near 167bpm, your upper Zone 2. Just hang back at 150, which is lower Zone 2. When we ask you to stay in Zone 2, you can choose any point. 150 bpm is no problem. Plus, 50% of your plan will have you perform at Zone 1, which is as low as 133. You are going to get plenty of low intensity using the 80/20 zones.

    Finally, consider just ignoring HR altogether. Use Pace or Power. HR is the least effective way to measure intensity.




    Thank you one more time! I’ll do my zone 2 training below 150bpm!

    I wish you all the best!

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