Athlete Lab Lactate Threshold Training – building for the Deca Ironman


“For the longest time, everyone focused his or her training around max heart rate. Now we know lactate threshold is much more important. When you raise your LT, you can produce more power at a comfortable heart rate, and that makes you a better rider and racer in every situation.” – USA Cycling expert coach Margaret Kadlick

My training at Athlete Lab is focused around endurance sports three main factors which affects performance – maximal oxygen consumption Graphic, the so-called ‘lactate threshold’ and efficiency (i.e. the oxygen cost to generate a give running speed or cycling power output)  (Joyner, Coyle, 2007).Recent scientific research is proposing that lactate threshold is the glass ceiling in your cycling performance, rather than traditionally maximal oxygen uptake (VO2max), is the most consistent predictor for performance in endurance racing with a high correlation with the maximal steady-state workload at the the lactate threshold (McKardle, Katch & Katch 1996)

Footage of the Liege - Bastogne - Liege cycle race keep the mind focused at the Athlete Lab LT training session

Footage of the Liege – Bastogne – Liege cycle race keep the mind focused at the Athlete Lab LT training session

All world & Olympic endurance athletes use this training to enhance performance and specifically use sessions to improve their tolerance of lactate accumulation in their muscles which creates an inability to continue an intensive exercise bout at a given intensity. With reference to the lactate threshold training papers produced by Len Kravitz and Lance Dalleck, the actual science behind lactate build-up is that protons (H+) are released from the splitting of ATP (living cell’s currency for energy) which results in acidosis in muscle protein filaments, impairing their ability to contract. Lactate production has been proposed as the physiological event to ‘neutralize’ this acidic environment (Rosbergs, Ghiasvand, Parker, 2004) so is in fact the beneficial metabolic adaption to diminish the ‘burn’ that we feel as athletes. High levels of lactate acid prevents muscle fibers contracting and thus effects performance. The lactate threshold is reference to the intensity of exercise at which there is an abrupt increase in blood lactate levels (Roberts & Robergs 1997). Although the exact physiological factors of the lactate threshold are still being resolved, it is thought to involve the following key mechanisms (Roberts & Robergs 1997):

1) Decreased lactate removal
2) Increased fast-twitch motor unit recruitment
3) Imbalance between glycolysis and mitochondrial respiration
4) Ischemia (low blood flow) or hypoxia (low oxygen content in blood)

LT sessions not limited to cycling. This is from - check it out for workouts on how to raise your LT level

LT sessions not limited to cycling. This is from – check it out for workouts on how to raise your LT level

Optimal training for lactate threshold improvement has been proposed as a combination of high volume, maximal steady-state, and interval workouts have the most pronounced effect on lactate threshold improvement (Roberts & Robergs 1997, Weltman 1995). Research has shown that the lactate threshold occurs at 80-90% of heart rate reserve (HRR) in trained individuals and at 50-60% HRR in untrained individuals (Weltman 1995). So in order to conduct effective training to maximize your lactate threshold – without being stuck with needles much like Craig Alexander does below – you have to  ride at a steady effort of 80% and above, which keeps your heart rate at 3-5 beats below the LT heart rate, for 15 minute intervals with a couple of minutes recovery.

Athlete Lab’s Lactate Threshold training class is a brutal focused session which allows riders to push up their LT level through interval training that raises from 80% to 100% intensity over a period of 15 minutes. By the time we reached the third session, I was out of the saddle to drain the lactate out of my legs – it was brutal – and even the footage of probably one of the toughest classics – Liège–Bastogne–Liège – which was been broadcast in front of us, didn’t help relieve the intensity of the 55 minute class. By the end there was absolutely nothing left in the tank and even for an experienced rider the Athlete Lab session was a perfect test of  just how far you could push your LT level up.

Want to be pushed to your limits and push up your LT? Check out there is even a gym opening up in London at the start of 2014!

Feel the burn at Athlete's Lab

Feel the burn at Athlete Lab


Joyner & Coyle, 2008, ‘Endurance exercise performance: the physiology of champions’, 586

McArdle, W.D., Katch, F.I., & Katch, V.L. 1996. Exercise Physiology: Energy, Nutrition, and Human Performance. Baltimore, MD: Williams & Wilkins.

Robergs, R. A., Ghiasvand, F., Parker, D. (2004). Biochemsitry of exercise-induced metabolic acidosis. American Journal of Physiology: Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology. 287: R502-R516.

Robergs, R.A., & Roberts, S. 1997. Exercise Physiology: Exercise, performance, and clinical applications. St Louis, MO: Mosby.

Further reading:

Wasserman, K., Beaver, W.L., & Whipp, B.J. 1986. Mechanisms and patterns of blood lactate increase during exercise in man. Medicine and Science in Sport and Exercise, 18 (3), 344-352

Anderson, G.S., & Rhodes, E.C. 1989. A review of blood lactate and ventilatory methods of detecting transition threshold. Sports Medicine, 8 (1), 43-55.Bassett, D.R., Jr., & Howley, E.T. 2000. Limiting factors for maximum oxygen uptake and determinants of endurance performance. Medicine and Science in Sport and Exercise, 32 (1), 70-84.

Bompa, T.O. 1999. Periodization: Theory and Methodology of Training, 2nd Ed., Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Brooks, G.A. 2000. Intra- and extra-cellular lactate shuttles. Medicine and Science in Sport and Exercise, 32 (4), 790-799.

Brooks, G.A. 1985. Anaerobic threshold: review of the concept and directions for future research. Medicine and Science in Sport and Exercise, 17 (1), 22-34.

Foran, B. (edited by). 2001. High-Performance Sports Conditioning, Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Katz, A. & Sahlin, K. 1988. Regulation of lactic acid production during exercise. Journal of Applied Physiology, 65 (2), 509-518.