Why are training zones unsuitable for training planning?

Training Zones and Training Intensities are not the same!

Training zones represent a broad range of intensities, while training intensities specify a precise level of intensity. Common training zone models include the 3-zone model, the 5-zone model, and the 7-zone model. Training intensities are practically subordinated to training zones, meaning that one training zone (e.g., Zone 2) can encompass multiple training intensities (e.g., FatMax, GA1, or long-distance race pace).

In our previous articles, we discussed the benefits of using training zones. However, if you aim for a very specific training adaptation, training zones can be too broadly defined to achieve success. With Azum, you have the significant advantage of determining which training zones and training intensities you want to work with. You can store your preferred training zone model in Azum and create your own training intensities that are subordinate to the zones.

Three Reasons to Use Training Intensities Instead of Training Zones

  1. The Range of Training Zones is Too Large

Training zones are often too broad for optimal training control. For example, if you instruct your athletes to do a basic training session in Zone 2 (in the 3-zone model), the physiological adaptation at the lower end of Zone 2 is very different from training at the upper end of Zone 2. If you want to achieve targeted physiological adaptations, you should work with exact training intensities based on specific performance data such as VO2max, lactate thresholds, or the power at maximum fat oxidation. This helps achieve the desired physiological adaptations more precisely.

  1. Train at an Intensity Between Two Zones

An important part of Norwegian training methodology is based on intervals at the LT2/anaerobic threshold. This training is precisely in the middle between Zone 2 and Zone 3 (in the 3-zone model). Here, you need a training intensity that exactly defines the boundary area of the two training zones.

  1. Focus on Different Parameters

Imagine you want your athletes to train at an intensity where their fat oxidation is maximal (FatMax). You may wonder if this happens in Zone 1 or Zone 2. You then perform a performance diagnosis to find out where their FatMax training intensity lies. Since you now know their FatMax training intensity, why worry about whether it falls in Zone 1 or Zone 2? Instead, use the FatMax training intensity for your training plan or create a custom training intensity with Azum.

Optimize Your Training with Azum

For example, if you perform a performance diagnosis with INSCYD, you will not receive training zones but only training intensities. You can then conveniently transfer these to Azum using our INSCYD interface.

Practical Examples

  • VO2max Intervals: Create the intensity based on a percentage of the power at VO2max, not just on Zone 3 (in the 3-zone model).
  • Anaerobic Intervals: Set the intensity according to the proportion of energy provided by anaerobic metabolism.
  • Basic Training: If you know that a high-intensity training session is planned for the next day, create a new training intensity based on the carbohydrate burning rate that your athletes can cover by consuming carbohydrates during the training (e.g., a power or pace where 60 grams of carbohydrates are burned per hour).


Learn more about these very individual training zones at this link.


Training zones can be very helpful for designing a training plan without complicating things. However, if you want to achieve specific training adaptations, you sometimes need specific training intensities instead of overly general training zones. Training zones are excellent for monitoring and analyzing training data over days, weeks, and months. Training intensities, on the other hand, are ideal for the precise planning and optimization of metabolic processes, such as targeted training at the lactate threshold, FatMax, or another specific performance parameter.



Allen, H., & Coggan, A. (2010). Training and Racing with a Power Meter (2. Aufl.). VeloPress.

Seiler, K. S., & Kjerland, G. Ø. (2006). Quantifying training intensity distribution in elite endurance athletes: Is there evidence for an “optimal” distribution? Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, 16(1), 49–56. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1600-0838.2004.00418.x

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