Lactate threshold and Hyrox Performance – Why you need to know how to improve it
Hyrox events are becoming increasingly popular among fitness enthusiasts, with thousands of athletes participating in these intense, multi-exercise challenges each year. As Hyrox events require athletes to complete multiple exercises in succession, it's important to have a good understanding of lactate threshold and how it can impact performance.
Lactate threshold is a key determinant of endurance performance and is defined as the point during exercise where the body begins to produce more lactate than it can clear. In this blog, we will explore the relationship between lactate threshold and Hyrox performance, and why it's important to know how to improve it.
What is the lactate threshold?
The lactate threshold is a physiological marker (usually a heart rate or pace) that represents the point during exercise where the body begins to produce more lactate than it can clear. This occurs during high intensity exercise when the body's demand for energy exceeds the supply of oxygen, leading to an increased reliance on anaerobic metabolism.
It is important to note that lactate itself is not the direct cause of fatigue during exercise, but it is often used as a marker of fatigue because it is produced in response to the body's energy demands and can indicate a point at which the body's energy systems are becoming overwhelmed.
The lactate threshold is often measured as the point during exercise at which there is a sustained increase in blood lactate levels above resting levels. This can occur at different exercise intensities for different individuals and can be influenced by factors such as fitness level, training history, and genetics.
What are the benefits of having a high lactate threshold for Hyrox Performance?
Having a high lactate threshold is beneficial for Hyrox athletes as it allows them to sustain high-intensity exercise for longer periods without fatiguing. Here are some of the key benefits of having a high lactate threshold:
Increased endurance capacity: A high lactate threshold means that an athlete can sustain exercise at a higher intensity for a longer period, ultimately improving their overall endurance capacity. Research consistently shows this to be one of the key determinants of endurance performance
Delayed onset of fatigue: Lactate accumulation is a major factor that is associated with fatigue during high-intensity exercise, delaying the onset of lactate accumulation can help to delay the onset of fatigue and allow an athlete to sustain their effort for longer.
Improved recovery: High lactate threshold means that the body is better able to clear lactate from the muscles during and after exercise, which can lead to improved recovery times
Improved training adaptations: Regular training at or slightly above the lactate threshold can stimulate adaptations in the body that improve lactate clearance, increase muscle fibre recruitment, and enhance endurance performance.
Improved race performance: Having a high lactate threshold can give athletes a competitive advantage in races, as they will be able to sustain higher intensities for longer, making it easier to break away from the competition and maintain a faster pace for the duration of the race
How can you measure your lactate threshold?
There are several methods to measure lactate threshold, including:
Blood lactate testing: This is the most common method of measuring lactate threshold. The athlete performs an incremental exercise test, with blood samples taken at set intervals to measure lactate levels. Lactate threshold is usually defined as the exercise intensity at which blood lactate levels increase above resting levels.
VO2Max testing: This method uses measurements of ventilation and oxygen uptake during an incremental exercise test to estimate lactate threshold. Ventilatory threshold occurs when the body's demand for oxygen exceeds its supply, and carbon dioxide production begins to increase. This is usually close to the lactate threshold.
Perceived exertion testing: This method involves the athlete rating their perceived exertion level during an incremental exercise test. Lactate threshold is usually defined as the exercise intensity at which perceived exertion increases disproportionately to work rate.
Find out more about our full physiological testing that combines lactate and VO2Max testing here.
What about calculations?
While lactate threshold calculators can provide a rough estimate of an individual's lactate threshold intensity, they are not always accurate or reliable. This is because the lactate threshold can vary significantly between individuals, and can be affected by a wide range of factors such as fitness level, age, sex, genetics, and training status.
For these reasons, lactate threshold testing is considered the most accurate and reliable way to determine an individual's lactate threshold intensity. This allows athletes to accurately determine their lactate threshold intensity and tailor their training programs accordingly.
What is the lactate threshold intensity?
This lactate intensity typically corresponds to an exercise intensity that is moderately hard to hard, and can be sustained for 30 minutes to an hour, depending on the individual's fitness level.
This is usually associated with "Zone 4" in endurance trainings 5 zone model. Zone 4 refers to the intensity of exercise that falls just above an athlete's lactate threshold, typically between 85-95% of maximum heart rate or 90-100% of lactate threshold heart rate.
With Hyrox being roughly 60-90mins, much of the event will be within this Zone 4, making it a key piece of the performance puzzle to develop.
How can you improve your lactate threshold?
To understand how to improve your lactate threshold, we need to think about it in two ways. Reduce lactate production and increase lactate clearance. We can do this by:
Interval training: High-intensity interval training (HIIT) has been shown to be an effective way to improve the lactate threshold. This type of training involves alternating periods of high-intensity exercise above your lactate threshold, with periods of low-intensity recovery
Zone 2/Easy training: Training at a low intensity for extended periods of time can also help to improve the lactate threshold. This type of training helps to improve the body's aerobic capacity, which can help to delay the onset of lactate accumulation. Improves lactate clearance: Although zone 2 training is done below your lactate threshold, it still helps to improve your body's ability to clear lactate. This can indirectly improve your LT2 by helping to increase your overall endurance and ability to sustain high-intensity exercise.
Specific lactate threshold training: Specific lactate threshold training is a type of training that is designed to improve an athlete's ability to perform at or near their lactate threshold. This type of training involves working at intensities that are close to the athlete's lactate threshold for an extended period of time.
Here are some examples of lactate threshold training sessions:
2 x 20-minute intervals: After a warm-up, perform two 20-minute intervals at a steady-state intensity that is just below your lactate threshold. Rest for 5-10 minutes between intervals.
3 x 10-minute intervals: After a warm-up, perform three 10-minute intervals at an intensity just below your lactate threshold. Rest for 5 minutes between intervals.
5 x 5-minute intervals: After a warm-up, perform five 5-minute intervals at an intensity just below your lactate threshold. Rest for 2-3 minutes between intervals.
Continuous tempo run: After a warm-up, run at a steady-state intensity just below your lactate threshold for a continuous period of 20-30 minutes.
Fartlek workout: Incorporate short periods of high-intensity work (e.g. 30 seconds to 2 minutes) into a longer run or ride at a steady-state intensity just below your lactate threshold.
Factoring in Lactate threshold training into Hyrox
Zone 4 training can be a valuable addition to a Hyrox training program, as it can help improve an athlete's lactate threshold and overall aerobic capacity. However, it is important to incorporate zone 4 training in a balanced and strategic way, taking into account the demands of the specific Hyrox events and the athlete's individual strengths and weaknesses.
One approach to incorporating zone 4 training into a Hyrox program is to use interval training. This involves alternating periods of high-intensity exercise at or above the lactate threshold with periods of lower intensity exercise or rest. For example, an athlete might perform a series of 3-5 minute intervals at or above their lactate threshold intensity, with 1-2 minutes of active recovery in between. The total volume and intensity of zone 4 training should be gradually increased over time, as the athlete's fitness level improves.
It is also important to consider the specific demands of the different Hyrox events when designing zone 4 training sessions. For example, the running and rowing events may require different levels of aerobic and anaerobic fitness, and may require different types of interval training. Consulting with a coach or trainer can be helpful in designing effective lactate threshold training sessions that are tailored to an athlete's individual needs and goals.
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