Training-Intensity Distribution in Road Cyclists: Objective Versus Subjective Measures

in International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance
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To evaluate training-intensity distribution using different intensity measures based on rating of perceived exertion (RPE), heart rate (HR), and power output (PO) in well-trained cyclists.


Fifteen road cyclists participated in the study. Training data were collected during a 10-wk training period. Training-intensity distribution was quantified using RPE, HR, and PO categorized in a 3-zone training-intensity model. Three zones for HR and PO were based around a 1st and 2nd lactate threshold. The 3 RPE zones were defined using a 10-point scale: zone 1, RPE scores 1–4; zone 2, RPE scores 5–6; zone 3, RPE scores 7–10.


Training-intensity distributions as percentages of time spent in zones 1, 2, and 3 were moderate to very largely different for RPE (44.9%, 29.9%, 25.2%) compared with HR (86.8%, 8.8%, 4.4%) and PO (79.5%, 9.0%, 11.5%). Time in zone 1 quantified using RPE was largely to very largely lower for RPE than PO (P < .001) and HR (P < .001). Time in zones 2 and 3 was moderately to very largely higher when quantified using RPE compared with intensity quantified using HR (P < .001) and PO (P < .001).


Training-intensity distribution quantified using RPE demonstrates moderate to very large differences compared with intensity distributions quantified based on HR and PO. The choice of intensity measure affects intensity distribution and has implications for training-load quantification, training prescription, and the evaluation of training characteristics.

The authors are with the Sport, Physical Activity and Health Research Centre, Newman University, Birmingham, UK.

Sanders ( is corresponding author.
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