A properly recovered athlete is a fast athlete. If cyclists can determine whether they’re properly recovered or not before they start training, they’ll be able to adjust their training so they’ll always be getting faster—not slower. The LSCT and TrainerRoad is a great way to determine that.


Overview

Quantifying recovery can be difficult. We’ve recently discussed how to use resting heart rate to measure recovery, but there’s another way you can use heart rate before a workout to know if you’re ready to go or need to take it easy. The Lamberts and Lambert Submaximal Cycling Test (LSCT) is a simple interval structure that is used to elevate your heart rate to specific levels before giving you time to recover. The goal of the test is to measure how quickly your heart rate recovers and compare this with data collected from other days.

Traditionally this test is carried out with RPE (rate of perceived exertion) and heart rate, but by incorporating power measurement into the equation, you have a constant data point that lets you replicate this test with even more precision. This allows data to be compared day after day.

The Protocol:

We’ve found the LSCT is also a fantastic way to warm up — what better time to decipher a good day from a bad day then just before your workout? Even if you don’t know it, many of you may already follow this test’s interval structure on a regular basis when you are warming up during one of our workouts.

The protocol has three work intervals and one recovery interval, during which you measure you many BPM your heart rate drops.

Here’s how our version of the interval structure looks:

  • Interval 1
    • Duration: 6 Minutes
    • Intensity: 50% FTP
    • Instructions: Keep your cadence steady and ride in your go-to riding position. Take note of your max heart rate during this interval.
  • Interval 2
    • Duration: 6 Minutes
    • Intensity: 72% FTP
    • Instructions: Keep your cadence steady and ride in your go-to riding position. Take note of your max heart rate during this interval.
  • Interval 3
    • Duration: 3 Minutes
    • Intensity: 96% FTP
    • Instructions: Keep your cadence steady and ride in your go-to riding position. Take note of your max heart rate during this interval.
  • Interval 4
    • Duration: 90 Seconds
    • Intensity: 0% FTP
    • Instructions: Don’t pedal, don’t talk, hold yourself up on your bike in an upright but comfortable position. Take note of your heart rate after 90 seconds of rest.

What to Look For:

What you’re looking for in a traditional LSCT is a consistent or increasing Heart Rate Recovery (HRR) value. The way to measure this is to simply subtract your heart rate after 90 seconds of rest from your heart rate at the end of the last work interval (interval 3).

However, when you incorporate power measurement into the testing format, you get additional data points to track. During each interval you should also be tracking your maximum heart rate, which you can compare to every other time you’ve followed this protocol under similar circumstances. After observing these data points and comparing them from one day to another, here are the conclusions you could come to.

  • Observation: Increase in MaxHR during any of the first three intervals
    • Conclusion: You may not be getting adequate rest. Consider lowering the intensity of the workout 2-3%
  • Observation: Decrease in MaxHR during any of the first three intervals
    • Conclusion: This is a sign of adequate rest, but if you find yourself unable to elevate your heart rate to normal levels, you may also be fatigued. If fatigued, consider lowering the intensity of the workout 2-3%.
  • Observation: Increase in HRR (Heart Rate Recovery) during the fourth interval (rest interval)
    • Conclusion: You are most likely getting fitter. Pat yourself on the back!
  • Observation: No Change in HRR during the fourth interval
    • Conclusion: You are properly recovered and ready to go!
  • Observation: Decrease in HRR during the fourth interval
    • Conclusion: This is a sign of inadequate recovery. Consider lowering the intensity of the workout 2-3%.

Tips

The key to the LSCT, much like any other test, is to eliminate as many variables as possible. When you are using heart rate, this is even more important. Do your best to not alter your hydration, nutrition, sleep and scheduling. All of these variables can have substantial effects on heart rate.

If you are looking to use this test daily, there are a few ways you can do so. Firstly, you can find the LSCT in our workout feed here. That way you can do the LSCT before each ride.

You can also create the interval structure in our Workout Creator and save that as a snippet in order to append it to the beginning of existing TrainerRoad workouts. When you create the rest interval, you can either decide to create a 90-second interval (if so you will need to disable the “Play/Pause Cadence” feature) or just skip creating that interval. If you do the latter, just know that the workout will automatically pause when you are not pedaling. After counting 90 seconds, look at your heart rate to get you HRR value.


Listen to Certified Cycling Coaches Discuss Recovery and The LSCT

The LSCT test is one topic we covered in episode 29 of the Ask a Cycling Coach podcast. Listen to the episode’s full recording below to hear this and other questions from cyclists get answered by our certified cycling coaches.



Additional Notes

TrainerRoad’s Ask a Cycling Coach podcast is dedicated to making you a faster cyclist. It gives you the chance to get answers to your cycling and triathlon training questions from USAC certified coaches Chad Timmerman, Jonathan Lee and special guests. Learn more about other topics we covered in the latest episode with our resources below:

  • How to perform an FTP Test
  • Which FTP Testing protocol is best
  • How to train when you’re sick
  • Can you train too much?
  • What is overtraining?
  • How to avoid overtraining
  • Can you use TrainerRoad outdoors?
  • What is an LSCT?
  • How to tell if you’re in good form or not
  • How fasted training works
  • What does your body due during fasted training?
  • Is fasted training only effective in the morning?
  • How long do you have to not eat for fasted training to work?
  • Does pushing through a bonk make you faster?
  • What to watch when you’re on the trainer
  • How to adjust your workouts if your FTP is too low
  • How to combine fasted training with high intensity training
  • Do oval chainrings make you faster?
  • Do oval chainrings improve traction and pedal-bob for mountain bikes?
  • What temperature is ideal for indoor training?
  • How to use saunas for training
  • Does training in heat make you faster?
  • How much improvement can you expect in a year?
  • Does training differ for junior athletes?

If you have a question that you’d like to ask Coach Chad, submit your question here. We’ll do our best to answer them on the next episode of the Ask a Cycling Coach podcast.



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Jonathan Lee

Jonathan Lee is a Level II USA certified cycling coach and the host of the Ask a Cycling Coach podcast. His background in the sport of motocross has translated into a passion for cycling, mountain biking and all things training. If you have a training question, submit your question for Jonathan to answer on the next episode of TrainerRoad’s podcast.

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