A while back I stumbled onto a novel and really interesting method that serves the dual purpose of pre-workout warmup as well as a method of determining whether or not your body is up for the challenge of the day’s workout – all based on effort below FTP.
But while I loved the idea, I wasn’t prepared to recommend it, let alone utilize it until I’d done my due diligence.
Well, that was about 8 months ago and I feel ready to heartily recommend this test, so much so that I’ve attached it to the beginning of most of the high-intensity interval workouts comprising the Cyclocross and 40k TT training plans as I’ve recognized this to be a powerful training tool & potential determinant of training readiness.
Lamberts and Lambert Submaximal Cycle Test (LSCT)
The name of the warmup protocol is The Lamberts and Lambert (serendipity?) Submaximal Cycle Test, henceforth referred to as LSCT. The LSCT was designed primarily as a method of frequently (far more than every 4-6 weeks) tracking changes in cycling fitness & providing a measure of training status, i.e. level of recovery, without overtaxing a rider.
But unless you’re a coach or a data cruncher you probably won’t be using it in its intended manner; rather, I see it as a method for less data-savvy riders to determine simply, “Am I ready to train today or could I use another day’s rest?”, before getting invested in a workout to a point that you’ve already furthered your fatigue.
It also affords you the opportunity to reprioritize your workout goals before, as so many of us obstinate, type-A riders are prone to do, gutting out an underproductive set of high-intensity intervals and risking a potential training setback, and for what? Typically no other reason than sheer stubbornness, or perhaps a poor understanding of the fact that we only get stronger during rest, not during training.
LSCT in TrainerRoad Workouts
Nuts & bolts aside for now, I’ve taken certain liberties and done my best to effectively translate percentages of maxHR to power outputs in a such a way that we can use the LSCT as a straightforward warmup but also gain some insight into our personal Heart Rate Recovery (HRR) & HR response trends and what they might tell us when it comes to recoverability.
I’ve even modified (more liberties) the warmup to include some short, workout-specific, brief but intense warmup efforts in some of the more difficult HIT workouts because I realize many riders will be more intent on getting adequately warmed than tracking levels of fatigue & freshness. But in either case the format is basically the same:
- 6 minutes at 50% FTP at steady RPM
- 6 minutes at 72% FTP at steady RPM
- 3 minutes at 96% FTP at steady RPM
- 1 minute of sitting upright to watch HRR
So as you can see, the standard LSCT doesn’t even have riders reaching FTP but it’s enough of a workload to elevate the HR to a point where the final, non-pedaling (works best if you’re not using cadence to play/pause workouts) minute of the LSCT can be very telling.
The modified version has some short efforts that will affect your HRR so feel free to pull any workout into our Workout Creator and lop these suckers off if you plan to routinely use the LSCT in its more scientific manner.
How Do I Use the LSCT Warmup?
- Warmup Option: Simply ride as though you would during any other TrainerRoad workout and try to match your Power to your Target Power – that’s it, you’re done reading.
- Fatigue/Freshness Option: Pedal a steady 85-95rpm cadence over the course of the 15-minutes’ worth of warmup intervals keeping in mind that pedaling too slowly or too quickly or too randomly will affect your HR and skew the results.
- Note your HR during the latter 5 minutes of each 6-minute stretch because it will take a minute to normalize each time your effort increases.
- Note your HR during the latter 2 minutes of the 3-minute stretch.
- Following the final 3 minutes, stop pedaling (or backpedal very slowly in you’re using cadence to play/pause your workout) and sit upright.
- Watch your HR descend and start making notes, mental or on paper, in order to begin making associations.
What Do I Stand to Learn from the LSCT?
If you’re still reading, you probably plan to take a stab at utilizing the LSCT in the fatigue/freshness manner so you’re likely wondering what conclusions you can draw from the information, what courses of action you might follow. There’s a rather detailed table in chapter 8 of the .pdf download that takes into account all of the potential outcomes, but suffice it to say this will require some time & consistency on your part.
But soon enough, not only will you be able to make some determinations over the course of the warmup itself but you’ll begin to notice where your HR typically resides during the first 6 minutes, perhaps when you’re fresh; during the second 6 minutes, perhaps when you’re fatigued; during the 3-minute segment that pushes you close to your FTP, and during the minute of rest that follows the work intervals when your HR begins to decline.
It’s this final minute that’s perhaps the most telling indication of workout readiness because it measures Heart Rate Recovery (HRR) – how quickly your HR drops and just how low it drops.
You can use these bits of information to make more informed judgements regarding what sort of HRR rate indicates you’re probably too tired for a brutal workout or what rate of HRR points to the fact that you’re ready & firing on all cylinders – particularly helpful on those days where you can’t rally mentally but then find that your body is indeed up for the challenge.
You’ll start to notice improvements in fitness during the two, early 6-minute stages when each week it gets a little easier to hold your watts with a lower & lower HR. You’ll start to recognize how tired you are when, no matter how steadily you hold your power at 96% FTP you simply cannot elevate your HR to its usual level. Just how meaningful this 16 minutes becomes is entirely up to you!
Isn’t This a Lot to Keep Up With?
It is, at least at first, but it’s an opportunity to more frequently (every workout if you choose) assess your training progress, your level of readiness for that day’s prescribed brutality, even pending overtraining.
So while this may seem like a lot of things to monitor and take into account, I’ve simply come to enjoy it as a means to pass time more quickly during my warmups (something I detest), learn a little about the way my HR interrelates with my power, fatigue & freshness, and it’s also given me the motivation to dive into a tough workout I might otherwise have skipped, blaming my body for being too tired and my recovery for being insufficient when in fact neither is the case.
I’d also like to encourage anyone who puts this to use (to any extent) to share some examples of their HR relative to their freshness. That could be really useful to us all! Thanks for reading.
Train smart, ride hard, have fun.