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Unlocking Your Potential: Transitioning to a 3-Zone Training Intensity System

When creating a training plan and individual training sessions, the one factor that significantly impacts your progress is the intensity at which you train. Understanding the correct training intensity zones is crucial to achieving peak endurance training and coaching performance. 

The study of exercise intensity is a vast field, but in this article, we will simplify it to give you a basic understanding of the different intensities, how they are measured, and how we approach them at Commando Culture. We focus on mastering the basics and consistency.

Traditionally, training intensity has been divided into multiple zones, which break up the entire spectrum of possible intensities, from complete rest to maximum effort, into smaller chunks. This makes it easier for coaches and athletes to prescribe and execute a training session within the correct intensity zone to fulfill the session's adaptive purpose. There is no correct zone system; they range from 2 to 7 zones. The critical point to remember is that only a few physiological markers can be measured in a lab to define these zones, and these markers are used to establish the zone systems. Interestingly, the more complex the zone system, the more it relies on subjective measures to establish the zones.

Two primary markers used to determine training intensity are the aerobic threshold (AeT) and the anaerobic threshold (AnT). Scientists in a lab use the amount of lactate within the test subject's blood to determine the intensity at which they are working. Blood lactate is measured in millimoles per liter (mmol/L). At rest, the blood lactate level in our blood is about 1 mmol/L; this number increases as we exercise at a higher intensity. When the blood lactate level reaches 2mmol/L, a person is said to be at their aerobic threshold (AeT). When the lactate level in the blood reaches 4 mmol/L, a person has reached their anaerobic threshold (AnT). Lactate, a byproduct of metabolic metabolism, is continuously being produced and removed from the blood. However, at 4 mmol/L levels, the lactate is produced faster than the body can remove it. A well-trained athlete can sustain this intensity for about an hour.

The beautiful aspect of these two thresholds is that you do not need to be pricked with a pin to find them. You can do a field test that will give you reliable and usable results for our purposes. This is nothing new or crazy, so instead of trying to reinvent something that already exists, Here are links from These are the tests that I like to use for myself to check my zones.

Aerobic Threshold test:

Anaerobic Threshold test:

Note: If you have to pick one to do first, I say do the anaerobic Threshold test, and then to get your estimated aerobic threshold, I would subtract 20 - 40 beats per minute from my AnT heart rate. It also helps to remember that a threshold is a specific point where a physiological event occurred, while a zone is a range of intensity related to that threshold. Doing this method does not really define your AeT. It gets you in a zone.

The Commando Culture Endurance KISS 3 zone system (C2E KISS)

Zone 1:Aerobic Capacity (72-90% of Anaerobic Threshold or 20-40 BPM below)

This is your foundation, where the aerobic journey begins. In this zone, you're working below the aerobic threshold, which is the point where your body starts to produce lactate. The Low Lactate Zone focuses on building your aerobic base, enhancing endurance, and ensuring efficient energy utilization. It's the zone of sustainable effort where you can maintain a conversation during training. I like to breathe through my nose only occasionally to see where I am in zone 1. When breathing through my nose becomes difficult or uncomfortable, know I am creeping at or above my AeT. The top level of this zone is your aerobic threshold.

Zone 2: Steady State (91%-100% of Anaerobic Threshold)

As you progress, you enter the Lactate Accommodation Zone. Your blood lactate levels rise, but your body maintains equilibrium between lactate production and removal. This zone is ideal for improving your lactate threshold, crucial for sustaining higher intensities over longer durations. Workouts in this zone challenge you but are manageable with proper training. The upper limit of zone 2 is your AnT. 

Zone 3: Max Effort (101%+ of Anaerobic Threshold)

The final zone, the Max Effort Zone, pushes your limits. In this zone, your body's lactate production exceeds its clearance rates, leading to muscle fatigue. While you can't sustain this intensity for extended periods, it's essential for improving anaerobic capacity, speed, and power. Workouts here are short and intense bursts of effort.

Transitioning to the 3-Zone Training Intensity System simplifies your training approach. It's anchored in physiological events such as the aerobic and anaerobic threshold, making monitoring and tailoring your workouts easier.

At Commando Culture Endurance, we believe that the journey to mastery starts with a solid foundation. Our KISS 3-zone system simplifies the complexity of training intensity, aligning with our philosophy of mastering the basics and maintaining consistency. By understanding and honing your aerobic and anaerobic thresholds, you can train with purpose and push your limits while staying within a controlled framework. It's not just about pushing harder; it's about pushing smarter. Join us on this journey of endurance training and coaching, where we empower you to discover your true potential and raise your limits. Let's conquer the terrain of outdoor adventure and fitness together. #CommandoCultureEndurance #MasteryInEndurance #PushYourLimits #TrainingIntegrity #KISS3ZoneSystem #OutdoorAdventure


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