Lactate threshold test

Improving one's lactate thershold is the key to improving fitness. You reach your lactate thershold during aerobic exercise, such as running, cycling, rowing, cross country skiing etc. As your muscles exert themselves a build up of lactate acid makes your muscles start to burn and ultimately fail if pushed beyond this point for prolonged periods of time. This point is called your lactate thershold or the onset of blood lactate accumulation (OBLA).

It is at this point where the production of lactate acid exceeds the removal of lactate acid from the muscles - hence the burning sensation as the acid level of the muscles rises.

Improving your lactate thershold

Improving your lactate thershold will allow you to train for harder and longer, meaning greater improvements in fitness, strength, speed and aerobic capacity.

Performing the lactate thershold test

Walk on a treadmill and gradually increase your speed every 2 minutes until you are running. Monitor your comfort levels and stop when there is an intense burning in your muscles. Note that your breathing will also become difficult and you will feel the need to stop.

Congratulations, this is your lactate thershold. Although the lactate threshold is defined as the point when lactic acid starts to accumulate, some testers approximate this by using the point at which lactate reaches a concentration of 4 mM (at rest it is around 1 mM) .

The lactate thershold

Lactate thershold

The green area represents an exercise intensity range where lactate production is low and lactate removal easily matches production.  The yellow area highlights a range of intensity where a marked increase in blood lactate prododuction is visable. Within this zone the level lactate removal also increases so that a new stable blood lactate concentration is achieved.  

The red zone represents intensities where lactate production now exceeds the maximal rate of blood lactate removal.  Exercise in this intensity range results in accumulation of lactate acid and fatigue.  The black line which seperates the yellow area and the red area is the lactate thershold (LT2).

Improving your lactate thershold

Unfortunately improving your lactate thershold will make your feel physically and mentally uncomfortable. Make no mistake, training to improve your lactate thershold is hard work.

Aim to run at speeds of 15% higer than your lactate thershold ( the speed at which you pin-pointed your lactate thershold during the treadmill fitness test) for 90 seconds. After 90 seconds lower the speed to approx 10% below your lactate thershold recorded in the test for 2 minutes. Repeat these intervals 10 times for 2 to 3 times a week.

After 4-6 weeks your lactate thershold, when tested again, should be 5% higher - you will feel that intense burning at a speed greater than the earlier test.

Pros and cons of the lactate thershold test

Because of its very nature performing the lactate thershold test is very demanding both physically and mentally. This means performers MUST be highly motivated and be able to push themselves to comfortable limits.

One great advantage of the lactate thershold test is that performers need only a treadmill to assess their lactate thershold. However, to accurately assess the true onset of blood lactate accumulation (OBLA) one must undergo a blood test - something that is highly impractical in most it not all gyms and health clubs around the country.

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