We’ve all heard the experts talking about Lactate Threshold and how important it is.  But what is it, why does it matter, and how important is it, really? 

During heavy exertion, lactic acid builds up in your legs and makes them burn, while lactate serves as a neutralizing agent for the lactic acid.   The harder you hammer, the faster the acid accumulates, until eventually the scales tip as your muscles generate more acid than you can neutralize.  At this point, your screaming muscles cry uncle until you back off and slow down.  This is called your Lactate Threshold, or the fastest pace/highest heart rate you can maintain for 60 minutes without feeling like you need a firehose to put out the burning in your legs.


Most likely you won't find yourself in a lab where you pedal against an ever-increasing resistance while technicians take blood samples to measure the increasing lactate levels. But a field test on the road or on a trainer can serve as a much simpler alternative.

Thoroughly warm-up for 20 minutes, then hammer for the next 20, being sure to hit lap on your bike computer at the start and again at the end of the 20 minutes, then cool-down.  Jot down your times and average paces, heart rate & power if you have it.  

Repeat the test in eight weeks to see your progress.


Like most things to do with the human body, LT is partially genetic, but it can be raised with some targeted effort.  By pushing your limits intelligently, you can help your body become much more efficient at clearing lactic acid.  The trick is riding that razor-thin edge between the point where you can ride comfortably for hours and where you can sustain only a few minutes before blowing up.  It is important that you have plenty of base miles and some speed-work under your belt before you start LT training.  The bigger your aerobic engine when you begin, the better your results will be.  The following drills are designed to raise your LT.  Do not use multiple drills within one workout, and do LT training no more than two days a week.


After a good warm-up, ride 10 minutes at a steady effort, keeping your heart rate three to five beats below your LT heart rate. Recover for 10 minutes, then repeat two more times. Once you're comfortable at this level, do two 20-minute steady-state efforts, recovering for 20 minutes between. Eventually, work up to one 30-minute effort.


These intervals simulate the effort you need when racing on a hilly course, where you have to push beyond your lactate threshold for short surges then clear the acid and recover quickly. First, warm up. Then pick up the pace to your LT heart rate and hold that intensity for three minutes.  Then drop it back down to your aerobic rate for three minutes. Continue for a total of three cycles, or about 18 minutes.


Criterium, sprinters and mountain bike racers need to elevate their PAIN THRESHOLD as well as their LT, because those situations demand pushing past LT and holding it there for extended bursts over and over. By training at an intensity where your body can't clear the lactate, you'll boost your ability to keep riding hard in the face of high lactate levels. After a thorough warm-up, increase your effort to about five beats above your LT heart rate. Hold it there for two to three minutes. Reduce your effort for 60 to 90 seconds, just long enough so you feel partially recovered, but not quite ready to go again. Repeat three times.

Want to ride faster for longer periods of time?  Want to improve overall cycling fitness?  Want to impress your followers on Strava with your ability to take charge of and own a segment?  Want to crush your competition?  Then Lactate Threshold training is for you. 

Give it a try, and if you need guidance or want to dig deeper into your training, call me at 850-776-2685, or email me at