In the article about the FTP test, we saw the first step to take for getting ready to train with power: how to find your Functional Threshold Power.
On the basis of this data, we can now define your Power Training Zones (or levels).
In this article we’ll, therefore, see how to calculate Andrew Coggan’s Power Zones and we’ll explain why these are essential for programming and periodizing your training with a power meter.
The Power Zones defined by Andrew Coggan in “Training and racing with a power meter” are seven and respresent seven ranges of medium-power values. According to the famous American physiologist, these seven levels correspond to the full range of a cyclist’s physiological responses during a race or a training session. Every level represents a specific training function: Active Recovery, Endurance, Tempo, Threshold, Vo2Max, Anaerobic Capacity and Neuromuscular Power.
For those already used to train by monitoring their heart rate, training with power should be self-explanatory and easy to follow because of the several similarities between these two types of training. For example, both the Power Zones and the Heart rate zones are useful to set and periodize one’s own training according to the body response.
In the table below (Table 1) we’ll make some parallelisms for every different level between Power and Heart rate; please note that the correspondences between the two systems are merely indicative, as the heart’s response to an effort can be easily altered by external factors that have nothing to do with the athletic movement observed.
Table 1 – Training Zones based on Power
|Zone||Name||%FTP||% Heart Rate|
|6||Anaerobic Capacity||121% - 150%||-|
It corresponds to a very light effort, so light that it doesn’t result in significant physiological adaptations. You don’t feel tired and you don’t need a particular concentration to maintain the pace. Breathing is easy and you can have a talk.
This level is a chance to recover, the so-called “unloading” that follows a particularly intense competition: it helps the muscles to dispose faster of acid lactic.
The second zone corresponds to an effort that could be kept all day long: the typical effort of long-distance races at a low pace. The sensation of leg effort/fatigue is very moderate but may rise periodically to higher levels, e.g. small climbs or short climbing. The concentration required to keep this level is minimal, especially when training alone. Breathing has to be regular and you can have a little talk with your mates, too.
Daily trainings at this level are possible.
Also known as “Medium” or “Tempo”, it corresponds to the typical effort required by a fast-paced pedaling. To stay in this zone you need higher concentration and more physical effort than the previous levels, but you’ll still be able to talk with your mates.
You can train for several consecutive days at zone 3, but you need to take the right amount of carbohydrates and follow a good recovery (sleep properly, massages, etc.) to ease the muscle regeneration.
The fourth level requires an intense effort, with a moderate sensation of intense leg fatigue. You have to avoid starting your own training with the pace required at this level, and do an appropriate warm-up before starting.
This zone is mentally very taxing: talking is difficult because of the depth of respiration and its frequency. It is often used in a 10-30-minute interval training.
If you are a well-trained cyclist, it will be possible for you to train for several consecutive days at this level, with consequent appropriate recovery.
The goal when training at this level is to increase the VO2max, that is the maximum amount of oxygen consumed per minute. It is possible to reach and maintain this level in interval trainings with blocks of 3-8 minutes. It’s not possible to train at this pace for more than a total of 30-40 minutes. The sensation of fatigue is very intense. Having a conversation is very hard due to the often ‘ragged’ breathing.
Training at this zone for several consecutive days, even if possible, is not advisable.
It’s a level that can be maintained for short (30 seconds to 3 minutes), high-intensity intervals, and with a high cadence aimed at increasing the cyclist’s anaerobic capacity.
The sense of strain and fatigue in the legs is really high; speaking with your mates is almost impossible.
It’s not advisable to train for several consecutive days at this pace.
The seventh and last zone is dedicated to very short and high-intensity efforts (e.g. jumps, standing starts, short sprints, etc.) that work and stimulate more the neuromuscular system than the metabolic one (aerobic).
There are different ways to determine your Power Zones. To do it, means to identify the range of values each Power Zone correspond to.
To make it easier, we suggest starting from your FTP value and then finding the upper limit of every zone by applying the relative coefficients as in the table below (see the multiplications in red in Table 3).
Table 2 – The Power Zones’ ranges of values
|Zone||Range of values (relative to the FTP)||How to calculate the upper limit|
|1||< 55%||FTP x 0.55|
|2||56% - 75%||FTP x 0.75|
|3||76% - 90%||FTP x 0.90|
|4||91% - 105%||FTP x 1.05|
|5||106% - 120%||FTP x 1.20|
|6||121% - 150%||FTP x 1.50|
A structured and periodized training based on power is very efficient, not only because it allows you to use the data in an objective and immediate way, but also because it is really easy to (re)adapt it to the physical advances you’ll have achieved over time.
You’ll just have to repeat the FTP test with a professional power meter like Favero Assioma.
The FTP test can be repeated anytime at almost no cost by any cyclist using a power meter. This will allow you to revise the ranges of values of your own Power Zones. We suggest measuring your FTP at least 4 times a year. An example could be the following: during the preparatory phase, before the beginning of the racing season, during the racing season and in the period that follows the races.