Threshold power is the key to a successful cyclist. Climbers, time-trial experts and sprinters all need strong threshold power if they want to win any race.
Of course, a highly-trained aerobic system, tactical acumen, VO2 max and sprinting prowess also matter. But if you don’t want to get dropped by the leaders, then having a high threshold power is imperative.
Threshold power can often be referred to as critical threshold power, functional threshold power, anaerobic threshold or lactate threshold. It simply means that when you ride at a certain speed you can continue for about an hour.
But if you ride just a bit quicker your legs will burn up within minutes…
So what are the secrets to boosting your threshold power?
Threshold Power and Training: No Quick Fix
It is widely accepted that training with high intensity boosts your ability to exercise without accumulating lactic acid. This physiological skill is often the main asset in any endurance athlete, so learning how to increase your threshold power will ultimately make you a stronger and better rider.
But I believe the real secret to becoming a great endurance athlete is consistency. You have to work hard, be focused and be consistent over SEVERAL YEARS to build the necessary endurance to reach your potential. The majority of professional athletes have more than 10 years of serious endurance training behind them, which highlights why they are probably better than most.
Benefits of Interval Training
The most popular method of improving your threshold power is via interval training. It is crucial to know your power output and/or heart rate at threshold power and use these values to pace yourself throughout intervals at the same intensity. You will have to do a test or a time trial as a reference.
The trickiest part of doing intervals is to remain at the right intensity throughout. Going a bit too fast at the start makes it impossible to maintain the right intensity to the end. If you go too slowly, you will not get the improvements you are training for.
Yes, threshold power intervals are extremely tough, but they are really effective at building a bombproof aerobic system. Intervals are also great for becoming more adept at pacing for time trials or breakaways.
I believe that threshold power and VO2 max intervals are the two best and most time-effective ways to boost your performance. But high intensity intervals only benefit you when you actually finish them. If you fail to maintain the correct intensity during the session, the effectiveness is limited. So common sense suggests you will achieve more effective training if you select an intensity with a higher success rate.
In my experience the success rate of high intensity intervals is lower than sub-maximum intensity intervals.
But these sub-threshold power intervals can still offer excellent improvements.
There is also a strong argument that there is possibly a physiological sweet spot because you can train at a high oxygen consumption without going anaerobic, so you will offer a boost to your aerobic system (and almost nothing to your anaerobic performance).
There is no one magic formula. But, generally, I believe that training load (time x intensity), the successful ratio of intervals and consistency are the three main methods of improving threshold power.
Although every cyclist is different and there is not a one-size-fits-all solution, I passionately believe that a combination of VO2 max and threshold power interval training are compulsory for professional and elite riders to reach their 100% potential.