Hunter Allen

Hunter Allen & Andrew Coggan’s Cycling Intensity

How do you measure intensity? So many coaches use so many different methods, power, Heart Rate (HR), three zones, five zones, seven zones?? I’ve been planning a series of weekly articles for over a year now, looking at what different coaches prescribe (or used to prescribe) and why. This article is part of a series that is exploring how other coaches determine intensity, using Hunter Allen and Andrew Coggan’s Training and Racing With A Power Meter book as the primary reference.

Last weeks article can be read here.

Hunter Allen and Andrew Coggan are considered a world wide guru when it comes to cycle training. Road cyclists, mountain bikers and triathletes.

Hunter Allen and Andrew Coggan use seven power zones with associated HR Zones:

% FTP% of FTHRRPETypical Duration of Continuous RideTypical Duration of Interval Effort
Zone 1 Active Recovery< 55< 68< 230 – 90 minN/A
Zone 2 Aerobic Endurance56 – 7569 – 832 – 360 – 300 minN/A
Zone 3 Tempo76 – 9084 – 943 – 460 – 180 minN/A
Zone 4 Lactate Threshold91 – 10595 – 1054 – 5N/A8 – 30 min
Zone 5 VO2max106 – 120>1066 – 7N/A3 – 8 min
Zone 6 Anaerobic Capacity121 – 150N/A>7N/A30 sec – 3 min
Zone 7 Neuromuscular Power> 150N/AMaximalN/A< 30 sec
Table replicated from Training and Racing With A Power Meter copyright being sought.

To calculate these Power Training Zone you need to have your Functional Threshold Power (FTP) which can be achieved by conducting a FTP Test.

Your power output at Lactate Threshold (LT) is described by Cogan & Hunter as the most important physiological determinant of endurance cycling performance. It integrates both VO2max, the percentage of VO2max that can be sustained for a given duration, as well as cycling efficiency. As a result it is more logical to define training zones relative to an athlete’s threshold power than it is to from power at VO2max. In the same way it is more logical to define HR-based training zones relative to threshold HR than to use maximal HR.

Because physiological responses occur across a continuum. I.E. you don’t simply turn a switch on or off to generate a particular response. With one intensity zone blending into the next, the number of zones is going to be arbitrary regardless of who selects them. A compromise needs to be found between defining more levels (thus reflecting the continuum) and defining a lower number for simplicity.

Andrew Coggan felt that seven zones are required to represent the full range of physiological responses and consequently adequately describing the the different types of training required to meet the demands of competitive cycling.

The following table covers the primary physiological adaptations expected as a result of training at various zones (obviously they are influenced by initial fitness of the individual, the duration of each workout, the time taken between interval efforts and numerous other factors).

AdaptationZone 1 Active RecoveryZone 2 Aerobic EnduranceZone 3 TempoZone 4 Lactate ThresholdZone 5 VO2maxZone 6 Anaerobic CapacityZone 7 Neuro-muscular Power
Increased plasma volume+++++++++++
Increased muscle mitochondrial enzymes++++++++++++
Increased lactate threshold++++++++++++
Increased muscle glycogen storage++++++++++++
Hypertrophy of slow-twitch muscle fibres+++++++++
Increased muscle capillarization+++++++++
Interconversion of fast-twitch muscle fibres (Type IIx -> Type IIa)+++++++++++
Increased stroke volume/maximum cardiac output+++++++++++
Increased VO2max+++++++++++
Increased muscle high-energy phosphate (ATP/PCr) stores+++
Increased anaerobic capacity (“lactate tolerance”)+++++
Hypertrophy of fast-twitch fibres+++
Increased neuromuscular power++++
The plus (+) symbols represent the magnitude of adaptation for a given training dose. More symbols equal greater adaptation. Table replicated from Training and Racing With A Power Meter copyright being sought.

Although not fully aligned to corresponding heart rate ranges or zones is somewhat difficult due to the variability of heart rate as well as individual differences in the power to heart rate relationship, Coggan and Hunter provide suitable approximate heart rate guidelines to run alongside (but not precisely) with the power ranges. They are listed in the chart alongside their corresponding Power Zone.

With my focus primarily on coaching beginner and recreational triathletes there is limited need for my athletes to use Zone 6 & Zone 7, however where there is a requirement to train at those intensities the workouts reflect that.

Here is how I manage Intensity for cycling:

Training and Racing with a Power Meter brings the advanced power-based training techniques of elite cyclists and triathletes to everyone.

A power meter can unlock more speed and endurance than any other training tool—but only if you understand the data. This new third edition of Training and Racing with a Power Meter updates the comprehensive guide so that any rider can exploit the incredible usefulness of any power meter.

Pioneering cycling coach Hunter Allen and exercise physiologists Dr. Andy Coggan and Stephen McGregor show how to use a power meter to find your baseline power data, profile your strengths and weaknesses, measure fitness and fatigue, optimize your daily workouts, peak for races, and set and adjust your racing strategy during a race.

This third edition includes: 

  • All-new power metrics: FRC, Pmax, mFTP, Power Duration Curve, and more
  • Two new power-based training plans for masters cyclists and triathletes
  • New training plans to raise Functional Threshold Power
  • Over 100 new power-based workouts
  • New guidance for triathletes on pacing the bike and run
  • New case studies on master cyclists and triathletes
  • Methods to test power duration and pinpoint weaknesses in a variety of race distances
  • 100 newly illustrated charts

Training and Racing with a Power Meter, 3rd Ed. is the definitive, comprehensive guide to using a power meter. Armed with the revolutionary techniques from this guide, cyclists and triathletes can achieve lasting improvements for their best performances ever.

2 Replies to “Hunter Allen & Andrew Coggan’s Cycling Intensity”

  1. Just an FYI, both of the tables you have reproduced are copyrighted. You therefore need permission from the copyright holder (assigned to VeloPress) to legally use them.

    1. Hi Andrew, thanks for your comment. My apologies, I have attempted to acknowledge the source of all information in the article as coming from your great book. I have since tried reaching out to VeloPress and have also sent you an email. Thanks for the amazing research you do and the excellent books you keep updating (I’ve purchased each edition – including getting an autographed copy of the 2nd edition).

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