You'll notice in your training that there are constant references to different training zones. We like to refer to each zone with the zone abbreviation, followed by the zone. Zone 3, your Tempo zone, will be listed as Z3.
Different coaches refer to different philosophies on training zones. At FormFinder, we use the seven zones developed by Dr. Andy Coggan for training with power. The power zones are a percentage of your own FTP (Functional Threshold Power).
While we refer to the training zones for most, if not all workouts, the reality of cycling is every zone is not exactly determined by your FTP. Some coaches live by FTP and believe everything is directly attributed to your FTP value, but having lived and breathed everything cycling for over 20 years at the very top of the sport, the reality is every individual's zone's values don't necessarily tie directly to their FTP.
Below is a list of each power zone, and the feeling you will have while riding in that zone.
Zone 1 - Active Recovery
The active recovery zone applies to power below 55% of your FTP. This is simply, riding easy. Z1 is often the intensity you'll ride between your harder efforts. It may also be prescribed for an "active recovery" ride. Active recovery is great for the body, it teaches your body to recuperate and recover, while still doing exercise and boosting your endurance. As with all training zones, even if this zone feels like it is too easy to ride in, it's important to remain in the zone.
Zone 2 - Endurance
The endurance zone applies to power between 56%-75% of your FTP. As the name suggests, this is the zone where your endurance is developed. Steady long rides are usually spent in the endurance zone. Due to the nature and duration of endurance rides, they are best done with good company. If your training plan suggests a Z2 endurance ride, it is OK to ride a little bit above 75% on rolling hills or climbs, and vice versa, a bit below 56% when rolling downhill or following wheels in the bunch. Generally the average power, or average normalised power, should fall somewhere within your endurance zone. Your endurance zone intensity should allow you to talk somewhat comfortably while riding.
Zone 3 - Tempo
The tempo zone applies to power between 76%- 90% of your FTP. The tempo zone is a great zone for building a foundation for which you can then build your high end from. Tempo zone efforts can be done with low cadence (SE), normal cadence (85-105rpm), through to higher cadence (>110rpm). Spending a lot of time in the tempo zone prepares the body to push your threshold up. Tempo efforts are best done on climbs, unobstructed flat roads, or on the home trainer. It is somewhat difficult to speak while you're riding in the tempo zone.
The sweet spot zone applies to power between 88-92% of your FTP. Sweet spot is a bit of an in between zones zone. Sweet spot is a great zone for boosting your threshold, without actually riding at threshold. The sweet spot zone allows you to do more and longer intervals that will directly help boost your threshold. There is a bit of controversy around the sweet spot "zone", however we have found it very successful and beneficial to all our athletes, as well as ourselves. Some might say in theory sweet spot is unnecessary, but in practice, it works!
Zone 4 - Threshold
The threshold zone applies to power between 91%-105% of your FTP. In theory you should be able to ride at threshold for about one hour, but that takes an incredible athlete. Generally, we like to give a range of different zones and times in order to build the time you're able to ride at threshold, and at the same time help increase your threshold power. Many believe that your threshold power is the most important aspect of your cycling. All of your power training zones are directly attributed to your threshold value. Your aerobic threshold is the highest intensity you can sustain for an extended duration.
Zone 5 – Vo2 Max
The Vo2 Max zone applies to power between 106%-120% of your FTP. These efforts are hard! You won't find these intervals prescribed too often, but this zone is often where your race results are built. Usually these efforts will be of short duration (<5min) and your rest period will be longer than your effort duration.
Zone 6 – Anaerobic Capacity
The anaerobic capacity zone applies to power between 121% and 150% of FTP. If you think zone 5 is hard, well, zone 6 is harder! Generally these efforts can be thought of as extended sprints. For a comparison with running, the anaerobic capacity zone applies to 400m and 800m runners. Often zone 6 efforts will not be of constant power, they may be zone 4 or zone 5 for one minute, followed by a 30sec max effort.
Zone 7 – Neuromuscular Power
The neuromuscular power zone has no specified power. This zone is preserved for maximum effort sprints of short duration; think of Usain Bolt! The maximum duration for neuromuscular power efforts is about 15 seconds. You might find a lot of sprints suggest 12-15 seconds duration, which is where your anaerobic zone will take over from your ATP zone. The neuromuscular power zone is often neglected in training plans, but we think it's a great zone, and it's fun to go full gas!