Raising the floor (LT1, tempo)

Starting a dedicated thread for the “floor” based on something that came up in the “ceiling” discussion.

How do we develop a really durable, powerful aerobic system? From what is available online, @steveneal seems to be able to make riders very powerful with a lot of tempo/endurance riding with some deliberate high-intensity icing on the cake at the appropriate time.

Sounds very attractive to me, having had good success with higher-intensity builds, but also seeing this fitness fade again and suffering more than necessary when it’s “just” tempo pace.

I’m happy to learn general principles, but context is always important, so I’ll post my current situation as an example.

  • Completed 3-week base endurance block (based on RPE and <70% HRmax) of 10/12/13h + deload week
  • followed by 3 weeks 10/11/13h of 70-80% FTP (looking back, even the upper limit of 220 W was below today’s 230W LT1).

Now looking to focus on tempo. I feel that my buddies are more powerful there and it’s very applicable for our weekend rides. Surges feel naturally easy to me.

I have to rely on power and heart rate as metrics. LT1 per DFA alpha1 analysis is 230 W / 74% HRmax.

Picking up that Steve puts a HR cap of around 83% on tempo, I’d test what my power looks like when starting at ~80% HR until reaching ~83%. Should be around 240-250W for starters.

Over time, I’d try to

  • develop towards keeping power constant during intervals while staying below HR cap

  • then increase interval time, roughly aiming for three sessions with 90min time in zone each (as shown in his examplary athlete); including low-rpm work

Every second week, include one VO2max session to maintain that range and track if tempo progresses that power range as well.

  • which intervals/testing would be good for that?
  • my 5min test after the LT1 experiment turned into 6min at 360W. Have never done a 5min test, so the learning curve will influence the next test.

Does that make sense? What am I missing?
Looking forward to learning more about this.


Interesting new topic and very timely for me. Raising LT1 is something I have been thinking about recently and with this in mind did a 3 hour endurance ride a couple of days ago consisting of first hour 80-90% LT1 with the second hour basically LT1 under/overs alternating every 5 minutes between approx 95%/105%. For the final hour it was mostly back to 80-90% LT1 with a block of 4 x 2.5 minute FTP efforts with 1.5 minute rests near the end with the intention of adding some fatigue resistance element.

Would be interesting to hear how others approach it or whether I’m on the right lines?

Judging by this little bit of available information about Steve’s approach, your 80-90% of LT1 would have been too low. The 95% part spot-on. 105% MAYBE unnecessary.

Steady 95% would have been textbook.


Hi @Stefan_Apellido this is quite a good summary!

The only things I would be careful of here would be.

  • The heart rate cap of 83% is what I use, however, sometimes the best place for this training could be as low as 78%.

Could you do a test for me (everyone else is welcome as well!)

Ideally on a smart trainer so power is steady.

Keep cadence self-selected but steady throughout.

This is a step test, but controlled by heart rate, not power.

Steps are to be 5m long.

Start really easy at 50% max heart rate.

Try and stay with 2% of heart rate goal for each step.

Let the power come into the legs.

Go until you get to at least 85% of max heart rate, but 90% if you can stay steady.

If you use the DFA software email all files you can export. I would like to see all of the data, but especially the hrv page. I will also need the fit file. You can email all of this to steve @ stevenealperformance dot com. Then I can graph it in my software.


@novet hello. I usually try and do blocks of really focused work when trying to build as you are discussing.

It sounds like you were following a pretty good plan.

The lower the intensity you are trying to build, the longer the focus block needs to be.

Depending on your power at vo2 (or maximal aerobic power as I often refer to so many different names), this can dictate what type of training.

Do you know MAP or 5-minute power?

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Thanks @steveneal, reassuring to hear I’m on the right lines. This year I’ve been trying out a few different things really as I’ve suffered a bit with mid-summer burnout in the past which I suspect is down to too much intensity, or at least not enough steady endurance riding.

I’m not sure I’ve ever done a specific 5 minute max test, but got an all time 5 minute power PB on a Zwift ramp test (20W/min) I did at the end of March of 375W with the final minute being 404W. FTP is somewhere around 300W and I recently had lactate test done LT1 232W and LT2 286W. The lactate test was done with 10W/min steps so final minute was lower (369W), but more time spent over FTP so got new power PB’s from 8-15minutes.

I am very much a slow-twitch kind of rider and I’m aware that my anerobic/glycolitic/VLamax is a weakness, but as I’m only racing TT’s at the moment there didn’t seem much point in focusing too much on improving it. I did a polarised block Feb/Mar with 2 x VO2 max workouts a week and figured I would back off the intensity a bit now on the basis that you can’t have too much endurance and bringing up the top end should be a relatively short period should I need to…right?

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I have been following many of Steve’s principles for over a year and I find that my tempo rides, especially when performing with a low cadence (50-60rpm), are generally at or below 78%.

Often a principle of aerobic training that I keep having to remind myself of is that more/harder is not always better.

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Performed the test today. Just looking at the graph doesn’t tell me much - I’m curious to see the magic that Steve does with the numbers.

The comparison to the one previous HR step test that I had done is interesting:

55-70% HR max: plus 10-20W now
75-80% HR: plus 4W
85-95% HR: minus 6-13W

Fatigued 75-85% HR (additional steps after the 95% step): plus 17-27W

I’m fresh off a base block now vs. having completed a build phase followed by 2-3 weeks of inconsistent training due to moving for the previous test.

This is a nice reminder of the benefit of appropriate testing/numbers, instead of just FTP. I’m feeling kind of “meh” currently - having ridden a lot, but not feeling fast. Sure, some adaptations are expected, but I could not put a number or feeling on them. The increase in base endurance and especially fatigue resistance is a good eye-opener and confidence boost, though.

Curious to see what’s up next.

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This is really interesting, I’m nowhere near anywhere that can do lab testing so I’m really curious to see what can be done by hr/power.

Up to now I’ve been working based on long rides being Coggan Z2 (~70% eftp), and did a lot of sweetspot intervals around 90% eftp this winter. What has confused me, is that I’ve seen negative heart rate drift on quite a few of the 2-3 hour Z2 rides towards the end of the 12 week block.

Would this be an indication of needed longer rides (difficult to fit around life at the moment), or increasing the intensity a little to trigger some cv drift?

Am I correct in assuming that the aim of targeting the floor is still to be trying to get progressive overload across a block?

I hope that makes sense, it does in my head, but feels like I’ve maybe not put it across clearly?!

It might be time to do some tempo during the rides, 20m End / 10m Tempo or 40/20 or 30/30 or a combo.

If you want to try the heart rate step test be my guess. Might be best to go 50-60-70% then 5 beats at a time each step after that until 85% at least or max 90%

email the data to me as I need to use different software.

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Curious to see the insights from this as I’ve never thought of a heart rate based step test before. You mentioned HRV in an earlier post - do you need this data as well as basic HR and power?

If you happen to use an app that records actual hrv (rr values) with a good Polar h7 or h10 strap sure please include it.

Steve, what do you think about the HRV Logger iPhone App, made by the same guys as the HRV4Training app? Could be a light, low-cost way to determine LT1 in a step test.

@BikerBocker to be honest I don’t find it that useful. Sorry but I have used with a number of people who have also done lactate tests with me (and moxy tests) and it just doesn’t work with enough people. I would say less than half.

If you want to try the heart rate step test, which should also be a good protocol for the app to work let’s see how it works for you…because for you that is the only person that matters!

The other thing you could do is count your respiration for 20 seconds at the end of every step of the test, then multiply that by 3 and put on the spreadsheet you email me.

If you can provide the fit file from the session, your breathing frequency that matches the end of each step I can put that in my software.

Then I can post that and you can compare to what the software tells you.

I even know for myself, that my fatmax is 175w, my LT1 is 220 watts and the software never gets to show me AeT even up to 300w.

Please share the info and let’s see what we find.

Both are great! The HR logger app is a fantastic way to test VT1 if doing the prescribed step test (6-10 steps at a steady watts, slowly incrementing until consistently over 0.75).

Note: you need a polar HR strap for this to be accurate and inside on the trainer not in TT position (vibrations seem to mess it up as does being bent over which reduces contact with the strap electrodes… Though I have considered flipping it to my back… Also using your trainer power and ERG allows precise steps that you won’t get doing sim or bike power.

I was thinking about this a bit more. When we say raising the floor, if we assume you’re doing that without raising the ceiling, aren’t you essentially just improving your fatmax / lowering your VLAmax? If that’s the case the ideal prescription would be lots of sub z1, possibly with low cadence work + sub-threshold work at low cadence. By doing this you’d effectively increase your threshold as a percentage of VO2max, lower your VLAmax and improve your aerobic durability (by improving the aerobic function of your iiA fibers)? Curious as to other’s thoughts on this? If we agree that’s the goal, then the plan would be to identify how much you want to raise your floor for your type of riding?!

I tend to look at it slightly differently. Rather than assuming that the ceiling is not raising I’m working in the hope that a ‘rising tide lifts all boats’. Whilst aerobic work might lower Vlamax I don’t really start with that as a goal personally as I’m very much an aerobic slow-twitch rider already. Glycolitic capacity is a relative weakness for me so I will need to work on it, and I have an event with punchy efforts next year when I will need it. But I figure the more I can improve aerobic capacity beforehand, the better I’ll be able to recover from anerobic efforts when I need to.

My approach is currently to focus predominantly on aerobic work and racing TT’s this summer, do some focused strength work in the autumn along with aerobic base before anerobic work in the new year lead up to my event.

I did the HR step test a few days ago and sent the data to @steveneal so look forward to seeing his comments on that and how it might be used to track improvements.

If it’s raising the ceiling at the same time, that would be a bonus for me.

Personally, I want to make the most out of the lower-intensity training (within my weekly time limit) before switching to higher intensities (threshold and above). I have experienced that you can only build for a rather short while there and want to start at (and eventually drop back to) a higher foundational fitness.

Plus, a higher cruising speed is specific and beneficial for both bikepacking and preparing to drop the hammer on your friends :grin:


Here is your heart rate step test. I have been using this for quite some time as an easy test to check the aerobic system. I started using this when I noticed quite a difference in muscle oxygen saturation during ERG power step tests versus heart rate work. The muscle oxygen response was always better with a gradual heart rate warm-up than an erg based warm-up. So from the warm-up information I started to try this during step tests.

I find that it is a nice gradual warm-up and you can really feel when the power starts to come into the legs (this is where you would do endurance or just under that point) and then the next will be another increase increase in power to heart rate and breathing (tempo) then if you go high enough another increase in power heart rate (and likely this stage will feel like you are doing a time trial or harder - in order to push this heart rate it will require a lot of work)


Here is the graph I get for you.

You will note a difference in these two tests so it is a good example. The more steps there are between the Endurance and Threshold point, the better the aerobic system. I have also taken lactates and when you see more steps with the same power to heart rate, this would have a much flatter lactate curve.

I just ran out of lactate strips and new ones are on the way.

In the next week or so I will do a heart rate step test, with my metabolic cart on, taking lactates and wearing the moxy just to show how the different metrics respond to the hr step test.

I think this also is a great way to get in tune with your body feelings as the power comes into the legs and you can really feel that as well as notice breathing.

I have one more test to graph just trying to find that email.


@novet Your graph is posted along with suggested training levels, these won’t be earth shattering they will likely be inline with other methods. I think if you track this over time it will be interesting for you. If you start add counting respiration at the end of each step I can also add that to the graph (in and out is one breath, count for 15s multiply by four).

Getting this power to heart rate ratio between 1.85 and 2.00 across the test is a great goal, you are really close.

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