How to do monitored heart rate training for cycling

Monitored heart rate training can be a great tool for cyclists and triathletes. Determining your athletes’ heart rate-based training zones can help you, as a coach, to target specific physiological adaptations. And, in turn, you can help your athletes produce more effective results regarding their fitness and performance. In other words, with heart rate training they’ll get stronger, fitter and faster. All, while preventing overtraining and burnout syndromes.

However, before you start monitoring and tracking your athletes’ heart rates, it’s important to understand how you can implement them correctly in cycling. 

Well, then; let’s take it from the top.

What is monitored heart rate training, and how can you perform it on your athletes?

Monitored heart rate training simply means monitoring the athlete’s cardio response to the workout they perform. From the moment they start riding their bike, their heart beats faster to get blood and oxygen to the working muscles. Naturally, the more intense the workout, the more their heart rate will increase.

To properly perform monitored heart rate training on your athletes, first, they need to wear a heart rate monitor. That’s important for tracking their beats per minute (bpm). Most smartwatches do this via a wrist sensor — including Garmin, Polar, Suunto, Coros, etc. — but they can also wear a chest strap. 

What are the resting heart, and maximum heart rates?

Before we go on with monitored heart rate training — and the training zones based on heart rate — we should first talk about two very important metrics: The resting heart rate, and the maximum heart rate. 

The first is the number of beats the heart pumps per minute while resting. The latter is the highest number of heart contracts per minute when training. The two metrics are inversely related, as they indicate two physiological extremes. However, because of this, they both serve as a baseline for your athletes’ overall health and fitness.  With this in mind, we use the maximum heart rate index to delineate the athletes’ personal training zones correctly.

Now that we’ve covered the resting and maximum heart rates, we can briefly focus on the heart rate training zones.

Which are the most commonly used heart-rate-based training zones?

As you already know, when your athletes train in different heart rate zones, their bodies utilize a different percentage of the energy systems. While these systems work together, focusing on specific energy systems makes their training much more efficient; based on their fitness level and, of course, their goals. 

That said, performing monitored heart rate training, while working through different heart rate zones, ensures that your athletes focus on one (or all) energy systems, to achieve the desired results.

The 3 Zones Model

The three-zone model is split into three parts. In cycling, this equates to easy, moderate, and intense riding. These parts are:

  • Endurance – Zone 1: 50-75% of Maximum Heart Rate (HRmax)
  • Lactate Threshold – Zone 2: 75-82% of HRmax
  • Above Lactate Threshold – Zone 3: 82-100% of HRmax

The 5 Zones Model

The five-zone model allows you, as a coach, to target the adaptations that occur in your athletes’ bodies, more effectively than the three-zone model does. The five zones are separated in the following training areas:

  • Active Recovery – Zone 1: 50-60% of HRmax
  • Endurance – Zone 2: 60-70% of HRmax
  • Aerobic Capacity (Tempo) – Zone 3: 70-80% of HRmax
  • Lactate Threshold – Zone 4: 80-90% of HRmax
  • VO2max – Zone 5: 90-100% of HRmax

How does monitored heart rate training fare, compared to training using power meters?

We’ve written extensively on power zones, and how they provide an effective method for improving cycling performance. As such, power zone training has become very popular among cyclists; and among coaches, as well. Yet, somehow, this trend has led to certain misconceptions about heart rate training; with most people considering it old-school and dismissing it from the training routine. This couldn’t be further from the truth, though, because heart rate training zones remain a valuable training tool. 

Be that as it may, there’s no reason why you can’t choose one or the other to coach your athletes. Especially when there are pros and cons to both types of training. But, using both a heart rate and a power meter may provide the ideal setup. To put it another way, you can use both sets of data to define your athletes’ training zones — following the 5-zone model — as they strongly correlate. Maybe, you can even gain more insights. 

On the other hand, their correlation also means that cyclists who don’t have — or cannot afford — power meters, can use a heart rate monitor to calculate their personal training zones.

Advantages of heart rate zones over power zones, in a nutshell

Since, in this article, we want to offer a simple reminder about the importance of monitored heart rate training, here are some benefits it presents, compared to power zone training:

  • Power zone training doesn’t take the temperature into account. For example, training for one hour at 200 watts, during the summer months, may cause more stress in the athlete’s body, than when executing the same workout in winter. 
  • The power is 0 when the cyclist stops pedaling (e.g. when going downhill). Although power is normalized, here the heart rate monitor is more accurate.
  • The heart rate can better reflect overtraining, injuries, etc.
  • As a training index, the heart rate applies to other endurance sports too, like running and swimming. Hence, if you’re coaching triathletes, for example, they’ll have a standard guideline.
  • Also, the heart rate strap is more affordable than the power meter, so it offers an easy alternative for data-based training.

Perfectly monitored heart rate training sessions, with Endogusto

If you’re looking for perfectly monitored heart rate training for your athletes, Endogusto is your go-to platform. As a matter of fact, Endogusto helps you do even more, like: 

  • Evaluate thresholds, run tests and update your cyclists’ zones, automatically.
  • Make the most out of recommended training plans, to save time.
  • Create new, fully editable training plans — or edit and save new and existing training plans.
  • Implement an already stored plan in multiple athletes’ plans, who are of similar fitness levels and have common needs.
  • Design workouts, for weeks ahead, and gradually add them to your athletes’ calendars, when the time comes. You can customize the pacing.
  • Create visuals on your athletes’ expected performance to evaluate their progress.
  • Identify your athletes’ slip-ups or improvements, and make readjustments.

And, as our platform can synchronize your workouts with popular platforms like Garmin, Polar, Suunto, and Coros, you can get a host of different data and insights, right on your dashboard. With Endogusto you’re set up in a heartbeat!

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How to do monitored heart rate training for cycling was last modified: October 5th, 2022 by Eleni Konstantinidou