Physiological Zones Question

Is it possible to have a naturally higher VO2max level (125-130% FTP) and a naturally lower lactate threshold (both blood and power) at the same time?


Okay…after some prelim research (mostly from running data), apparently this condition – naturally high VO2 + naturally low LTH – is a real thing. I ask purely out of interest of my own physiology. I find VO2max work highly achievable, whereas threshold/over-under intervals really make me suffer.

However, as with most fitness data, seems like the jury/peanut gallery is still out as to what it actually means, esp regarding training. I’ll keep digging, hopefully I can come up with some useful info.

Well, the magnitude of VO2max is determined largely by genetics. You can be sedentary and have a high Vo2max. However, time to exhaustion at vo2max is a trainable characteristic.

Not sure what you mean by LTH though? LT1? LT2?

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Lactate Threshold – more of actual blood LTH (of which I have not been tested) rather than simple FTP-based power zone.

LT2 is trainable - you can raise LT2 as % of VO2max. Not sure why you say the jury is out. Older blog post worth reading:

and another:

I just meant what that snapshot condition – high VO2 ceiling + low lactate ceiling – means, e.g. currently trained more for speed vs endurance, perhaps doing mismatched training/races, etc.

It means you haven’t proactively worked at raising LT2? I’m being captain obvious, LOL.

Does it matter why? Benchmark it and train it if you want improvements.

Do you have a VO2max estimate, say from a run test or cycling with a Garmin head unit? Are you sure LT2 as % VO2max is low, or are you basing that by how you feel on threshold vs VO2 workouts?

Never had a proper VO2 gas exchange test; never had a proper blood LT test.
I have done a field estimate equation which puts my current relative VO2 @ ~50 mL/(kg x min).

Going on pure RPE/feel of O/U and VO2 workouts.

I’ve most likely muddled the question of what I’m after. I’ll try to better explain.

As TR puts it:

…pVO2 max falling around 118-128% FTP.

The Classic Coggan levels for ‘Lactate Threshold’ are 90-104% FTP.

Since VO2 has such a wide range (I’ve read some which put it at 130%), and LT (power) is much more an estimate than an exact, could it be possible that my natural, untrained ceilings fall i) in the higher ranges of VO2 and ii) the lower ranges of LT (also referring to blood levels overall)?

LT 96% FTP
VO2max 126% FTP

My reasoning is that VO2 intervals done at 120% are always achievable and repeatable, they are challenging but I’m never in danger of cracking. On the other hand, over-under intervals which oscillate within the prescribed LT power zone really do me in.

I guess what I’m really asking is if I can have both a high VO2max capacity AND a low lactate capacity at the same time?

(All this has led me to a bunch of reading on lactate levels et al – including the interaction with VO2 – so hopefully I’ll be able to answer my own questions!)

You definitely can have circumstances like you describe. For this discussion I will suggest that OBLA, ftp, and LT2 essentially occur at the same spot despite that not being exactly accurate.

Particularly, if this is the case for you, then you have a huge margin of potential improvement. My post graduate work was based on lactate threshold and recovery as a percentage of VO2max and it was not uncommon to have subjects that had a high relative VO2 max relative to what their LT2 was. Some as low as 62% of VO2 max.

In fact I was similar at that time when I was tested. VO2 max of 72ml/kgmin but a LT2 right around 50ml/kgmin which was about 69%. I was 1k and pursuit cyclist so not surprising that had a high VO2 relative to LT2 and was also a match sprinter to begin with. Tons of VO2 and sprint work with tons of recovery in between reps. Could put out relatively high power (just under 2200 watt 5sec peak power) and accumulate high amounts of lactate but cleared it relatively slowly. Not surprisingly I struggle presently with over unders and threshold workouts but can do tons of VO2max work. I created a modified version of baird that I have done forty 1 min on and 1 min off at 130%ftp but put the same amount of threshold work in front of me and I struggle at times.

In your instance, your VO2max would be considered average for males but your LT2 as a percentage of it could potentially be low. You can always do a ramp test for your VO2 max in watts and then compare that to your ftp in watts and see how it looks as a percentage for a rough guesstimate if you were really curious.

Either way your LT2 (ftp) likely has far more room to grow than your VO2 max but both would likely still be quite trainable at this point.


Lawerence is awesome. :+1:

Unfortunately, I’ve started reading/deep diving into the world of lactate research and training…it’ll probably just lead me back to "do more over-under training!’. But at least I’ll understand it a bit more.

To be honest, I haven’t done any VO2 work in about 5 months; peak last season was ~60 w/ 12 weeks of VO2 work. Funnily enough, the Sufferfest 4DP test I did said VO2max was my weakness!

How does a VO2 ramp test differ from the TR FTP ramp?

A local sports institute will do VO2 and lactate testing for $200, I might just indulge out of curiosity. :money_with_wings:

@Captain_Doughnutman it definitely never hurts to be informed even when it potentially means coming to the same conclusions. The ramps are typically longer (2.5min or so) There is actually one in the TR library with instructions that are fairly clear. I have also previously posted a video that GPLama also did. I will try and link that below also. A worthwhile watch.

Ramp test with Dr Lane and GapLama

TR ramp test for VO2 max

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Soooo…feelin’ pretty dumb right now. :persevere:

Was doing a VO2 workout tonight and got to thinking…then it dawned on me the answer to my question:

My lungs are better trained than my legs. :man_facepalming:

Plain and simple.

Thinking back to the training I did last season, it was only 5 hours/week with 2-3 hours of that doing VO2 sessions (the rest were attempted over-under workouts). Then I spent the summer doing Z2/3 and/or Z5/6…with zero threshold time.

It’s no wonder I’m crying doing 90 min O/U sessions.
I’ll just shut up now and keep riding my bike.

Let the weeping continue… :tired_face:


Been doing some lactate reading…cuz I like rabbit holes…?

Narrowing in on my perceived “problem” of weak Threshold/Over-Under work – it’s not hitting power levels which destroys me, it’s the lactic acid, esp. the repeated first 30 seconds of over–>under.

I’m ok on lactate tolerance but horrible on lactate clearance.
(But is it a matter of blood clearance and/or muscle clearance?!)

Several contributing factors include:

  1. I have barely any long slow endurance/Z2 training which increases the capillaries, leading to an increase in clearance (as well as a decrease in production(?)). It also develops mitochondria (aka oxygen utilization).
  2. I am barely, if at all, fat adapted = more pyruvate production --> more lactate production.
    (again, result of very little long slow endurance/Z2 training)
  3. I have naturally low iron levels which could mean I have a lower count of red blood cell (oxygen utilization).
  4. I’ve trained mostly my anaerobic capacity --> lower lactate threshold.
    (result of the past few years riding single speed: short, sharp bursts @ 120-150% FTP)

I can now see clearly why long time professional racers can ride at a high percentage of their VO2max, it’s all the years (10+) spent doing Z2 training.

Do more Z2 training and less Z6 efforts.

Do more Threshold/O-U training.

Increase MCT1 (w/ Z7 intervals?).

Take iron supplements.


Keep it simple and don’t over analyze? If you haven’t done much base training in the past, do more, and if you have time then do traditional base. Then if you want to get better at over/unders do a block of training focused on that (or find a build plan with a lot of over/unders). Thats what I would probably do, if I was concerned with getting. better at over/unders (p.s. all of my outside training rides at sweet spot or threshold naturally turn into over/unders).

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Definitely don’t overthink. I see the training I have to do, just nice to know the whys behind whats.

If I really wanted to know, then I’d go to a local training center and get tested. I’ve read a lot over the last 3 years to have feelings about stuff like this, and I believe going into the lab and discussing with someone that special in testing cyclists is the only way to get answers with any level of confidence.

edit: p.s. I’m a classic overthinker :smile: and have a stack of training books to help explain the why behind the what. And I also believe in bringing in a professional to get more informed answers.

This thread is interesting as I feel the same. I actually had a gas exchange done this time last year. My relative at 73Kg was 68. My FTP at the time was the same as now 285W. Same weight. I guess in my case both FTP and VO2 power are nothing special yet the relative of 68 is confusing. Nothing special but, certainly seems like I should be able to push way more power.

To your point, all this really doesn’t matter. I’ll work on my limiters. Just posted in hopes someone will see and add some insight. @Captain_Doughnutman since we are feeling similar things…my gut feeling is I’m not doing quality work to increase these power metrics. This is why TR to me is so interesting. That is, while I’ve used power for years, even followed plans, I’ve not been held accountable to the degree following the TR plan seems to do. I can honestly say, I’d have quit pushing these watts on the road. The power profile on the screen and the texts telling you to keep going hopefully will help me push past my plateau. Perhaps this is you as well?

Bingo. If you are only putting in 5 hours a week, then you are gonna have a bad time with long over-under workouts.

+1 to this idea.

This says to me that you have more power gains that are possible in the future. Absolute/relative VO2 doesn’t change dramatically with training, but power@VO2 can change a lot.

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