Heart Rate and Power Training Zones

Training Guide > Getting Started > Heart Rate and Power Training Zones

Heart rates are measured by connecting a heart rate monitor to the Wattbike (coded Suunto and Garmin and uncoded Polar [HR receiver required for Polar]).

The training zones are based on the results of a Wattbike test to find or estimate your maximum minute power and maximum heart rate.

In general a workout where heart rate is 50 beats below maximum heart rate is recovery or base endurance. 30 to 50 beats below maximum is endurance training, 15 to 30 beats below maximum is intensive training and 0-15 beats below is very short high intensity interval training.

Once you have carried out a Wattbike test or used an estimated method to calculate your maximum heart rate you will be able to work out your personal Wattbike air resistance and cadence settings that apply to each of your heart rate and power training zones using the table provided in this guide.

The key measures you should use to establish (or estimate) your heart rate and power training zones are:

  • Heart rate [bpm]
  • Watts [W]
  • Cadence [r/m]

This means that it is possible to train with the correct heart rate, power, cadence and air resistance for a training session of known duration/distance and intensity (training zone). You can choose to train by any combination of heart rate, power, cadence and air resistance setting.

Training zones are determined by percentage of maximum heart rate, percentage of maximum minute power and duration. Each training zone has a different purpose as defined in the following table:

Training ZonePurpose% MHR%MMPRPE (1-10)/How you feelDuration
RecoveryRegeneration and Recovery< 60< 351 Very relaxed. Able to carry on a conversation.< 60’
1. BasicEstablish base endurance60-6535-452 Relaxed. Able to carry on a conversation.90’-360’
2.BasicImprove efficiency65-7545-553 Working. Feel warmer. Heart rate and respiration up. May sweat.60’-240’
3.IntensiveImprove sustainable power75-8255-655 Hard work. Heart rate and respiration up. Carbon dioxide build-up. Sweating. Breathing hard.45’-120’
4.IntensivePush threshold up82-8965-756 Stressed. Panting. Sweating freely.30’-60’
5.MaximalSustain a high percentage of maximal aerobic power89-9475-857 Very stressed. Gasping. Sweating heavily.14’-40’
6.MaximalIncrease maximum power output> 9485-10010 heavily stressed. Gasping. Sweating heavily.4’-10’ intervals
Supra-maximalIncrease sprint power outputN/A> 10010 extremely stressful. Gasping. Sweating heavily.Short intervals

Note that the maximum duration times are those applicable to highly trained elite cyclists with the range designed to reflect beginners to elite cyclists; the durations recommended in the Wattbike training plans reflect the purpose of each particular plan and the amount of time it is sensible to spend on a Wattbike.

The following table summarises the purpose and physiological adaptation of each of the training zones.

Training ZonePurposePhysiological AdaptationsRace fitness
RecoveryRegeneration and recoveryIncrease blood flow to muscles to flush out waste products and provide nutrientsPromotes recovery and therefore training response
Zone 1Establish base enduranceImproves fat metabolism, gets muscles/tendons/ligaments/nerves used to cycling. Increases economyMore efficient use of energy. Prepares body for harder training, works on technique/skill
Zone 2Improve efficiencyImproves the ability to use oxygen, produce power and increases efficiencyAble to produce more power with the same level of effort, works on technique/skill
Zone 3Improve sustainable powerImproves carbohydrate metabolism, changes some fast twitch muscle to slow-twitchImproved sustainable power, good for all cycling events
Zone 4Push threshold upImproves carbohydrate metabolism, develops lactate threshold, changes some fast twitch muscle to slow-twitchImproved sustainable race pace, useful during tapering or pre-competition periods: too much time in this zone can cause staleness
Zone 5Sustain a high percentage of maximal aerobic powerDevelops cardiovascular system and VO2max, improves anaerobic energy production and speeds turnover of waste productsImproved time trialling ability and resistance to short-term fatigue
Zone 6Increase maximum power output
Supra-maximalIncrease sprint power outputIncreases maximum muscle power, develops neural control of pedalling at specific cadenceDevelop race-specific skills at race pace, starting power, sprint speed, and the ability to jump away from the bunch
Estimating Maximum Heart Rate (MHR) and Maximum Minute Power (MMP)