V02 Max, HR Zones, Lactate Threshold and FTP

These are all common phrases among runners and cyclists, some are used in training plans to describe effort level, while others are tests used to measure fitness and training progress.

V02 Max

V02 max is the maximum amount of oxygen that your body can take in, deliver, and use in one minute and is often used to establish the aerobic endurance of an athlete.

Measured in millilitres per kilogram per minute (mL/Kg/min). V02 max is limited by the amount of oxygenated blood in lungs and circulatory system, and by the amount of oxygen that the muscles can extract from the blood. However, it can be increased by long term low-mid intensity training (not at threshold) .

Affected by age and gender, V02 max typically peaks at around age 20, and elite females generally have a higher V02 max than elite men. 

V02 max is typically tested in a lab by wearing a face mask which analyses your respiratory rate and volume, while running on a treadmill or cycling on a stationary bike (depending on what the test is for).

HR Zones

Heart rate (HR) zones are often used in training plans to describe the effort level for each workout, with the zones ranging from zone 1 at very low intensity, to zone 5 at very high intensity.

Heart rate zones are calculated by taking your maximum heart rate, which is roughly 220 minus your age. Then take 50-60% of this value for zone 1, 60-70% for zone 2, 70-80% for zone 3, zone 4 for 80-90% for zone 4 and finally 90-100% for zone 5.

Lactate Threshold

Lactate threshold is described as the heart rate at which lactate begins to rapidly accumulate in the bloodstream.

It can be calculated by lab testing or done yourself using your race times to estimate your pace at lactate threshold. Entering a recent race time into this calculator will yield your approximate lactate threshold pace. 

Lactate threshold is affected by VO2 max. As the more oxygen taken up in muscles per second the higher the lactate threshold.


Your functional threshold power (FTP), measured in watts per kilo, is the average power you can hold for 1 hour.

Used predominantly in cycling to track fitness and training progress. It can be calculated by doing a 20-minute all-out effort on the bike, then multiplying your watts per kilo for the 20-minute test by 0.95.

power zones

Like your heart rate, your FTP can also be used to set training zones, this time being broken up into 7 zones.

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