How To Train With A Power Meter
72 Comments


In a previous video, we showed you a few simple
tests that you can do to track your fitness progression using a power meter. Well, in this video we’re going to take
things one step further and explain some of the zones that you can train in in order to gain
that fitness. Back when I was racing I always tended to
use the 7 zones set out by Dr Andrew Coggan, co-author of ‘Training and Racing with a Power
Meter’. It’s also the same zones which are used by trainingpeaks, the most popular analytical
tool online for cycling enthusiasts. For all but one of the zones that we are
going to go through today are expressed as a percentage of your FTP, or Functional Threshold
Power – what you can sustain for an hour. Or, if you’re using a heart rate monitor,
it will be expressed as a percentage of your heart rate at that intensity. Zone 1, otherwise referred to as the active
recovery zone. And, as the name suggests, it’s the sort of riding that you’re probably
going to do the day after a hard training ride or a sportive event. To be in this zone,
you’ll need to be riding at less than 55% of FTP, or less than 68% of your threshold
heart rate. So for me, with an FTP of 290w, and a threshold heart rate of 175, I need
to be riding below 160w on average and under 120 heart rate. This sort of riding should be very very easy
indeed and you should be able to hold a conversation with those around you. Zone 2 is the endurance zone. To be in this
one, you’ve got to be at 56-75% of FTP, or 69-83% of threshold heart rate. This is where
endurance athletes will spend the majority of their training time. It’s slightly more
intense than zone 1, but you should still be able to hold a conversation and it shouldn’t
feel too uncomfortable. A well trained cyclist should be able to stay in this zone for 3
hours or more at a time, and be able to do that on consecutive days. Zone 3 is the tempo zone. For this one you’ve
got to be between 76 and 90% of FTP, or 84-94% of threshold heart rate. For this one, you
are going to need to concentrate a bit harder if you want to stay within the zone when you’re
out training. You’ll still be able to get a few words out, but you might not be able
to have a full blown conversation about how good the latest GCN video is. If you fuel
yourself correctly before, during and after rides like this, you might be able to get
2 or 3 days back to back at this kind of intensity. Back when I was racing, I used to do blocks
of between 20 minutes and 3 hours at this intensity, depending on the time of year and
my fitness. With the rest of the zones, you shouldn’t
really be able to hold a conversation or talk much at all, so I’m going to switch over to
a voiceover starting with this – zone 4. This is the lactate threshold level, and defined
as 91-105% of your FTP, or 95-105% of your threshold heart rate. It’s worth bearing
in mind, particularly for this level and above, that your HR will take some time to react
to the effort you are putting in. So, whilst the power numbers will jump as soon as
you start a level 4 effort, it should take a couple of minutes for your heart rate to
get into the required zone. This is the kind of effort that you might
make if you were racing a time trial of between 10 and 25 miles in distance. It takes a huge
amount of concentration and self-will to make sure that you stick in the zone, and it’s
not really the sort of thing that many people will be able to do on consecutive days. A
typical training workout in this zone for me was to do 2 lots of 20 minutes, separated
by 5 minutes of easy riding. Holding a conversation is difficult, and in fact I used to do these
sessions alone in order to concentrate on the job in hand. Zone 5. This is around your VO2 max, and defined as
106-120% of FTP and greater than 106% of threshold heart rate. Let’s not beat around the bush
here, this kind of effort is painful. You’ll feel a burning in your legs and your breathing
rate will be high. Intervals at this zone are typically between 3 and 8 minutes in duration,
and riding for a total of 30-40 minutes of this in a single session is particularly hard. For me, a common session was to do 6×5 minutes
of zone 5 on a climb, with 5 minutes recovery between each. It’s also worth bearing in
mind that due to the lag of heart rate, it might be hard to get an average heart rate
within the parameters for the entire interval. Zone 6 is the anaerobic capacity level. These
are intervals of 30 seconds – 3 minutes done at more than 121% of FTP. It’s virtually
impossible to give heart rate guidelines for this level due to the lag time. And, if you
thought that VO2 max intervals were hard, well these are at the next level…or zone!
These intervals can take a lot out of you both mentally and physically, so it’s hard
to do them on back to back days. Finally, zone 7 is the neuromuscular zone.
There aren’t defined parameters for this zone for either power or heart rate, as it’s
simply a case of going as hard as you can for the duration, which tends to be less than
10 seconds. This is basically sprinting, so it is useful to analyse your power afterwards
and compare it to previous efforts.

72 thoughts on “How To Train With A Power Meter

  1. The main problem I have with training with power is that it fluctuates too much and at too fast a rate which is very distracting in longer intervals. Any solution for that?

  2. Thanks for that Dan. I've been using a power meter for a few months but never quite got round to sorting out my power zones. I tend to just grind myself into the ground until I reach the top of a climb. Once at the top, I fall off the bike like a sack of tatties and curl into a small ball, repeating the words "Find a happy place" until the ambulance comes.

  3. I have a few friends (not proper friends) who have power meters and not a scooby doo what to use them for. 'They are expensive, look good and something to brag about in the coffee shop, hence I must have one on my bike', kind of attitude towards them. I'll stick with my Garmin 200 thanks, does everything I require.

  4. Interesting but I think way above my level of interest I'll just keep jugging along but total respect to those dedicated cyclists

  5. they are ridiculously expensive over priced. There is no way they should cost that much. I don't need it I just ride as hard as I can and that's all there is to it. I don't see the hype.

  6. how can we improve our training in zone 5,6 when we training alone,for me i' ve been
     done before reaching those zones with the time fixing for that!!!! what can i do ? to sale my bike 😉 

  7. That Training Peaks uses the same zones as set out by Andrew Coggan shouldn't be a surprise. Coggan was involved in Training Peaks at an early stage, and helped design WKO.

  8. I started using a power meter this year.  I use a 20 minute climb in my area to get my FTP.  I noticed that the numbers I get on flat land TTs are consistently lower than my numbers on the climb (~5-7%).  I expect that this may be due to the differences in the mechanics of climbing (lower cadence, more upright) vs. riding in the drops on flat land.  Does anyone else have this experience?  Should I use my TT numbers to set my zones or the climbing number?  

  9. Who else better to do this than Dan. The class of him', is amazing. Would love to meet him one day. I'd like him to write a book, from a domestiques/clombers p.o.v: it would be quite a read!

  10. Who else better to do this than Dan. The class of him', is amazing. Would love to meet him one day. I'd like him to write a book, from a domestiques/clombers p.o.v: it would be quite a read!

  11. Am i correct that the Coggan HR Zones are different to the Friel HR Zones.  The Friel Power Zones percentages seem to be the same as Coggan but the Friel HR zones (this is what i use) are fairly significantly higher.  http://tinyurl.com/JFzones

    Perhaps Friel and Coggan's Test Protocol is different, if i recall/understand correctly Friel's HR test is a 30min with the average for the last 20 seconds used to set LTHR and the Power test is 20 min TT – 5% which i think is perhaps what Coggan uses for LTHR.

    It is a bit confusing as these would seem to give different LTHRs?

    Thanks for the informative, and entertaining videos.

  12. Dan, I'm confused on the 10 second effort, you got off the seat to sprint but actually seemed to slow down? What gives? Is that a tactical trick?

  13. Nice movie. For zone 4 it is probably important to mention your sweet spot training in lower zone 4 compared to training in upper zone 4. You do 3 X 20 min in upper zone 4 and you'll be in a body bag the next day.

  14. How do I set up these training zones on my Garmin 810? I would like to see which zone I am in (as opposed to calculating on the fly while riding) on my training page. 

  15. How can I calculate my THR? I'm looking to buy a Garmin Edge 500 or 510 with heart rate monitor and GPS, to help me training for the Ventoux.

  16. when i rode two hours on my trainer today i had a heartratemonitor and my average heartrate was 196bpm which is not normal. The strange this is that i rode the same route a few weeks ago with much larger gears and my heartrate was about 170bpm and i couldn't walk afterwords but on this ride i felt just fine when i got to the finish. (i also beat my personal best with 15 minutes)

  17. Dear GCN! Why is my heartrate so high even on low efforts? Even if I go jogging just for reovery, my HR is above 180-185. Even if I try to go REALLY slow it's around 180. The same goes with cycling: I can't ride in zone 1 and 2 because at the lowest effort my HR is around 160. Why is that? What can I do?

  18. I'm able to stay at the mid-tempo zone (90% of THR) more than 4 hours (with proper carbo diet). Should I consider changing my training zones to harder ones?

  19. @Global Cycling Network I have a question. What zones should I train when I do a 40-60km ride? Because these intervals are no longer than an hour. So if I ride for 2 or 3 hours should I do more blocks (for example 4×20 minutes of zone 4) or in the first hour zone 4 then 30 minutes rest and zone 5? How should I handle this kind of situation?

  20. I have seen in other videos that cadence is more important than power output. that a person should try to stay around 90. what is your take on this view?

  21. Hey GCN I did the 30min threshold test yesterday evening and got 176bpm. But there seems to be a discrepancy in the zones when comparing different websites/sources.

    For example, the %'s in this video put my zone 2 at 121-146bpm, whereas some other websites/sources put my zone 2 at 145-157bpm (Joel Friel's Training Peaks). Which zones should I be using!?

  22. Do I have to hire to hire a coach for powermeter training ? Even U know that 7 zones, U still don't know how to plan your training programme.

  23. I have started to ride 6 mo ago after a decade hiatus. I am over 45 years of age . But i have never did proper training . I have always been active though . Anyway I tend to use % of Max HR instead of THR. What are the differences or befits of using THR over % of Max HR? And what areth e best value for money power meter for an enthusiast of the sport ?

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