Training effectively and efficiently is crucial for athletes to gain the most improvement from the time they have to train. One important aspect that we use at Davey Black Triathlon Melbourne and around the world with our online athletes, is the lactic acid threshold. This threshold level is the point at which lactic acid begins to accumulate in the muscles faster than the body can remove it. By understanding and utilising lactic acid threshold levels in training, individual athletes can improve their performance, enhance endurance, and achieve their fitness goals. In this blog, Coach Steve Davis will explore the concept of lactic acid threshold and provide practical strategies for incorporating it into training routines.
Understanding Lactic Acid Threshold
Lactic acid is a byproduct of anaerobic metabolism, which occurs when the body lacks sufficient oxygen to meet the demands of intense physical activity. When the production of lactic acid surpasses the body’s ability to clear it, fatigue sets in, leading to a decline in performance. The lactic acid threshold, also known as the lactate threshold (LaT) or anaerobic threshold, refers to the exercise intensity at which this accumulation occurs.
Determining Lactic Acid Threshold
Several methods can be used to identify an individual’s lactic acid threshold level. The most accurate approach is through laboratory testing, which involves analysing blood samples taken during incremental exercise tests. However, this method is often costly and time-consuming. Alternatively, field tests can provide useful and relatively accurate estimations. These tests involve progressively increasing exercise intensity and noting the point at which fatigue and an increase in breathing rate occur. At Davey Black Tri Club we utilise a step test for newer athletes, and a 20min all out effort test for more developed athletes.
Incorporating Lactic Acid Threshold in Training
Once the LaT is determined, I use it as one of the main tools when designing triathlon training programs. Here are some strategies that I use to optimise training using an individuals LaT levels:
- LaT Training Zones: Training within specific intensity zones based on the lactic acid threshold helps develop the body’s ability to tolerate and clear lactic acid more efficiently. The LaT zone typically lies around 95% of an athletes all out 20min effort. By performing workouts within or slightly above this zone, athletes can improve their endurance and delay the onset of lactic acid accumulation.
- Interval Training: Interval training involves alternating between periods of high-intensity exercise and active recovery. By pushing the body to work at intensities close to or slightly above LaT during high-intensity intervals, athletes can increase their threshold level. This method stimulates adaptations within the body, improving its ability to clear lactic acid and sustain higher workloads.
- Tempo Runs: Tempo runs involve maintaining a sustained effort slightly below the LaT for an extended period. This type of training improves the body’s ability to work at higher intensities without accumulating excessive lactic acid. It builds endurance and increases the LaT, allowing athletes to perform at a higher level for longer durations.
- Progressive Overload: Gradually increasing the training load over time is essential for improving performance. By progressively challenging the body through increased intensity or duration, athletes can stimulate adaptations that raise the lactic acid threshold. This can be achieved by adding more intervals, increasing the duration of tempo runs, or gradually increasing the training volume.
Understanding and utilising LaT levels in training is a valuable approach to optimise performance and enhance endurance. By incorporating threshold training zones, interval training, tempo runs, and progressive overload, athletes can stimulate adaptations within the body, improving its ability to tolerate and clear lactic acid efficiently. Implementing these strategies in training routines can lead to better performance, increased endurance, and overall fitness gains. Therefore, monitoring and utilising LaT levels should be an essential component of any training program aiming for peak athletic performance.