Chapter 3: Training to Improve Lactate Threshold

If you missed the first two chapters in our lactate series check them here:

Chapter 1: The Confusion Over “Lactic Acid”

Chapter 2: Lactate Production Sample Set

We are getting into the nitty gritty here and I feel it necessary to provide a disclaimer - here goes - I am not a physiologist, I am not a PHD. Rather, I am simply an experienced swim coach with a appetitive for reading and research. My humble aim is to distill often convoluted topics into something digestible and applicable for every day use.

Felt good to get that off my chest

For our discussion today, a bit of term clarification might be helpful. In today’s chapter we are completing our woefully incomplete series on lactate by discussing ways to improve an endurance athlete’s Lactate Threshold. Lactate Threshold, simple put, is the maximum effort that can be sustained without accumulating more lactate.

for today’s purpose we are going to stay away from physiological context and focus on training application

Though carefully balanced training we have the ability to buffer the impact of increased lactate or even “teach” the body how to clear increased lactate levels more efficiently. It’s unlikely that any single training stimulus will create the impact needed to accomplish our performance goals. Rather a combination of training stimuli are necessary. Generally, research lands on the following types:

  • High Volume Training @ varied aerobic heart rates

  • Lactate Steady State Training

  • Active Rest or Interval Training

Lets have a look at each one:

  • High Volume: to clarify, what is intended here is NOT to define what is “high volume” for each athlete, but rather to surmise that increasing training volume progressively, will have a positive impact on Lactate Threshold.

    • In Periodization, Tudor Bumpo suggests raising the volume 10-20% per week. Efforts on these sets should be relatively light (say, 3-4 on a scale of 10).

  • Lactate Steady State Training: At the beginning of longer training at submaximal speeds (minimum of 20 mins), lactate will raise and fall, but will eventually settle into a steady level. It is a misconception that lactate steady state training will be at a steady heart rate (what!?!?). This type of training might be commonly known as mixed aerobic training; basically, we are expecting efforts at varied aerobic heart rates over a time, no less than 20 mins.

    • An example of a mixed aerobic set with the aim of steady state might look something like this.

      • 3 Rounds: 100 @HR 175 + 200 @HR 165 + 300 @HR 155 (Rest interval: 20 seconds)

  • Active Rest or Interval Training: this type of training set will bounce between hard efforts (7-8 on a scale of 10) and easy efforts (2-3 on the same scale).

    • A simple, albeit classic example would be something like: 10 x 100, Odd efforts: hard or very hard, Even efforts: easy

Disclaimer #2 for the day: Training composition needs to be carefully arranged. Some types of training can have negative impact of other types of training. All i’m saying is… not all training is appropriate for all goals and it’s important not to implement these, or any training, without careful organization of stimuli.

That wraps up our three part introduction into the wonderful world of Lactate- it’s been a wild ride.


Thanks for reading and sharing,

Jeff Gross

Founder, Techniq Group