Calculating Heart Rate Zones

What method seems to be the most accurate? Would it be better to use the heart rate data from a 20-minute indoor FTP test or from a 90-minute race? The goal is to get the Z2 range dialed.


Hi Steven,
The race will probably give you the highest hr recording, but it is not the way to do it.

The 3-minute all out test is much better and will give you all lot of interesting power data too. (Only use for trained clients).

The highest hr is usually recorded with repeated sprints.

The most accurate way to determine the zones is to do a lab test with air analysis and lactate measurements. Call @steveneal or the local sports lab (google vo2max test / sports medical testing).

I lean toward the 20FTP test if you are assigning zones based of THR (threshold HR) if basing zones off max HR then I would do a 3min-5min all out effort into a 3-6% hill.


The 20-minute FTP test came in at 180 bpm; however, I have several 20-minute race efforts at 192. I also have an hour effort at 186 as part of a 90-minute race and a max HR of 198. In terms of zone 2, it seems 65% of max is where I should have my athletes at. The Coggan method creates an endurance range that doesn’t seem sustainable for athletes doing two hard workouts a week plus endurance 3 days a week.

I would agree wtih @Fpike for the threshold zone, I have always had success with below using actual max heart rate.

Recovery below 60% max

Newer Athlete

Endurance 61-74% max heart rate

Tempo 75-84%

Threshold 85-95%

Vo2 - usually I do these by feeling for max effort based on duration, but 90-100% max heart rate


More season athlete, better aerobic system.

Endurance 61-70% max heart rate

Tempo 71-82%

Threshold 83-90%

Vo2 - usually I do these by feeling for max effort based on duration, but 90-100% max heart rate


steven.shive- if you are doing two harder interval sessions per week with all other rides being zone 2, this is pretty much poloarized training and one could use the cieling of 68% of Max HR for those easy days, otherwise THR is valid and is very close to all zones based of max HR with the main doffernce being about a 5% diff in zone 2 and max HR combines tempo/SST/FTP into one bucket where Coggin does not and does not have SST zone specifically. I use 90-95% THR for SST work.

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Definitely I’m a fan of polarized, most of my endurance is on the trainer in erg mode as it’s efficient and safe. I’m having my best season ever and pretty sure it’s a result of keeping my endurance under 130bpm for the last 9 months and avoiding spikes in power/HR. In terms of threshold heart rate, for a 20 minute ftp are you taking .95 of the value? I was looking at the CTS website and that’s what they are doing.

My maxHR has come, more often than not, from max 1-min efforts (more than once). The same max value also shows up in a few races; max efforts around 3-min on gradients averaging 3-5% - most times when chasing an attack from others.

Average heart rate on 20-min tests have mostly been within 2bpm each time, which is about 91-92% of maxHR. I would say my power isn’t as well paced, compared to HR (3-4bpm deviation once it peaks about 2-3 mins into the effort).

My breathing is noticeably different at about 71-72% of maxHR; I do enough of these workouts as close to this value as possible to be able to know when I’m over, then ease up a bit to allow the HR to drift back to within 2bpm below that limit.

Without having tested in a lab, or rather a lactate test, for more than 6 years, I “feel” have a good idea what my own lower and upper thresholds are. I’m still struggling to get the 8 athletes I coach to stay focused, to be able to pace their “tests”, and produce results that are consistent. One or two get it right but not consistently. This means that they exceed the caps I ask them to keep below on certain workouts.