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Cycling power training zones

Successful use of your power meter requires an individual frame of reference against which to judge your data. The way we describe your training intensity is through the exercise training zone system. These are derived from laboratory measures of your physiological response to exercise across a range of intensities, from rest, right up to flat out sprinting at the limit of your capabilities. Cycling in a particular zone has a distinct effect on your body and the resultant adaptation to the training session so it is important to get your zones set accurately. More information on this topic can be found in our factsheet The physiological basis of the training zones. The best way to derive your zones is to undertake a full physiological assessment by way of a lab test. If this is something that interests you please contact dan@pbscience.com for more details on what’s involved.

Alternatively, your training zones can be estimated (with good accuracy it has to be said) from some basic information and a little work in the way of testing ‘in the field’. The following describes how you can set your cycling power training zones using a simple (not necessarily easy!) test on your bike. You'll recall that one of the key benefits of owning a power meter is the ability to benchmark your performance - this 20 minute test doubles as a benchmarking tool as well as a means of setting some current zones. More information in our Training Session Descriptions section under FTP test.

Test Protocol

  1. Warm up for at least 15 minutes, including a gradual build in intensity to prepare yourself for the efforts to come
  2. Ride hard for 5 minutes, not quite flat out but roughly 90% effort
  3. Take 10 minutes easy pedalling to recover
  4. Now for the main test. Try to perform this on a relatively flat, low traffic circuit where you can ride for 20 minutes without interruption. Ride as hard as you can for 20 minutes taking care to pace the effort so you don’t start too hard and fade dramatically
  5. Take 10-15 minutes easy riding to recover and cool down.

Calculate 95% of the average power for your 20 minute test and use this value to derive your zones in the table below. If you use a product such as Training Peaks (highly recommended), then you can input your FTP and it will calculate your zones automatically. Alternatively you can use our free cycling power zones calculator. You will note that we also include HR zones alongside your power zones. The relationship between the two is a rich source of information as described in factsheet, The relationship between heart rate and power.

Power_training_zones

These zones are those suggested by Dr Andrew Coggan and Hunter Allen in 'Training and Racing with a Power Meter ' - a must read for anyone new to training with power!