Stationary Bikes
Stationary Bikes

Training Levels (with Power or HR) Andy Coggan:


Here’s a summary of our ‘levels’:
1 Active recovery – <55% of TT power, <68% of TT HR 2 Endurance – 56-75% of TT power, 69-83% of TT HR 3 Tempo – 76-90% of TT power, 84-94% of TT HR 4 Threshold – 91-105% of TT power, 95-105% of TT HR 5 Aerobic power – 106-120% of TT power, >105% of TT HR
6 Anaerobic capacity – >121% of TT power, HR n/a
7 Anaerobic power – n/a, n/a

(Let me emphasize again that this is a power-based system, and that I don’t put much stock in the HR guidelines, due both to individual differences and the unique response of HR (e.g., HR drift, training vs. competition differences, etc.). I therefore discourage anyone from trying to use my classification scheme to blindly train using HR alone…at the very least, you need to be aware of such subtleties.)

Cycle-Smart (referenced to “lactate threshold”, i.e., sustainable HR) (if I screw any of this up, please correct me!)
1 Active recovery – <70% of TT HR
2 Easy – 71-80% of TT HR
3 Light – 81-90% of TT HR
4 Middle – 93-95% of TT HR (10-14 beats/min below TT HR)
5 Extensive intervals (intervals of 2-4 min duration) – as close to TT HR as possible
6 Intensive intervals (intervals of 45 s to 2 min) – HR n/a
7 Power Starts, Hill Sprints, Sprints, CP Jumps/Max (8-15 second efforts) – HR n/a

So, even though my system is power-based (w/ the HR guidelines being. IMO, ‘iffy’) and the Cycle-Smart program is (largely) HR-based, there is very close agreement for the first two or three levels, and reasonably close agreement above that. Perhaps the most distinguishing characteristic is the definition of the ‘threshold’ training level itself (#4 in both programs). I’ve defined it rather broadly (in power terms), whereas the Cycle-Smart program defines it fairly narrowly (in terms of HR). Even this difference, though, may not be as large as it appears…

1) While I extended the upper range of this level to 105% of TT power, in reality intervals above TT power would result in a different physiological response, and thus elicit different physiological response, than ‘repeats’ or ‘blocks’ at or just below TT power. Perhaps the simplest way to think of such supra-threshold intervals (~6-10 min) would be ‘lactate tolerance’ training, something that would be performed only at specific times during a training program. The range from 100-105% of TT power is therefore really different than the range from 90-100% of TT power, where the bulk of ‘quality training’ would be performed. Because of this, I considered the idea of adding an additional level and/or lumping the 100-105% range into level 5, but these solutions aren’t ideal, either…an additional level just adds to the complexity, and the intensity we’re talking about here (i.e., just above TT power), while quite strenuous, really isn’t high enough to be considered a major stimulus to VO2max (the purpose of level 5 training).

2) Due to the vagaries of HR responses, HR is unlikely to be as expected/predicted (i.e., up to 105% of TT HR) during *training* efforts at level 4, especially at the upper end. Thus, while the power range covers a 15% span, HR itself is likely to fall into a narrower ‘window’, thus more closely correpsonding to the Cycle-Smart level 4.

Respose from John Verheul, Cycle-Smart:

The major differences I see at first reading are:

1) We leave gaps between zones to differentiate the specific efforts. We have found when working with clients this ensures we are training what we think we are training when we prescribe certain workouts. You can achieve the similar level of workout using recumbent bikes as well.


I chose to cover the entire range with my ‘levels’ because we really have a continuum of responses and adaptations to deal with here, and to specificy too narrow (or non-overlapping) ranges implies that there’s something ‘magic’ about training at that intensity. In application, though, my approach would be to prescribe workouts with more specificity than implied by the overall ranges. (Interestingly, one experienced coach told me that he uses *overlapping* power levels in prescribing workouts for athletes…rather than a true difference in philosophy, I think this is really just another way of dealing with problems arising from the variability of power in the ‘real world’, etc.)


2) Our middle zone corresponds closely to Andy’s zone 4 in what we are trying to train. We are somewhat more conservative in terms of limiting the upper end of the zone than is Andy.


see comments above


3) We prescribe slightly shorter interval lengths in the zones above LT than Andy.


While I defined level 5 intervals as 3-8 min duration and level 6 intervals as less than 3 min (down to about 20 seconds), that doesn’t necessarily mean that I would advocate intervals at the upper end of either range. On the other hand, I might…provided you keep the intensity under control. Just as an example: in his textbook, Astrand provides data from a treamill interval workout of a runner, performing intervals at close to VO2max. If the speed were just a little too high, the athlete couldn’t complete the workout, but if the speed were just a little bit lower, he could do many more repetitions. In both cases, though, the intensity was sufficient to drive VO2 all the way to maximum. The argument was put forth that it may be better to perform such intervals at a slightly lower intensity, thus being able to accumulate more training time at/very near VO2max. Whether this is true or not isn’t proven, but is certainly worth considering.

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