Wimberg Bike Coaching Blog

What is FTP, why is it important and how do you determine yours? by Hunter Allen, Peaks Training Group

2019/06/19

So what exactly is FTP? 


Do you want the short answer or the long answer? 


In simplest terms, your functional threshold power, or FTP, is the maximum power you can maintain through an hour’s effort without fatiguing.


But it’s actually much more complicated. 


The word “threshold” has become synonymous with the word “confusion” for many athletes. To make it worse, there are several other terms for the same thing: anaerobic threshold (AT), lactate threshold (LT), maximal lactate steady state (MLSS), and onset of blood lactate (OBLA). I’ll use the term lactate threshold (LT) for my explanation. 


Exercise physiologists have known for more than thirty years now that your LT (the level of exercise intensity at which lactate begins to accumulate in your blood) is a powerful predictor of your endurance performance ability. This is because, although your maximal oxygen uptake (VO2max) sets the upper limit to your aerobic energy production rate, it’s your LT that determines the amount of this VO2max that you can utilize for any length of time.


There are complex body factors that determine LT, but essentially your LT tells you how well your muscles are able to match their energy supply to your energy demand, which in turn determines the fuel “mix” (i.e., carbohydrates versus fat) your muscles use and how they fatigue. Consequently, functional LT (especially when expressed as power output) is the single most important physiological determinant of performance in events ranging from a 3km pursuit to a three-week stage race. 


Your LT (or FTP) provides a solid basis for any power meter-based training program, because your level of effort when exercising at a given intensity depends upon your power output relative to your power at FTP. When your power output exceeds your FTP, you’ll fatigue quickly. When your power output is just below FTP, you’ll be able to maintain it much longer.


Determining FTP


So how do you figure out your FTP? One way is to get laboratory testing done with blood samples. FTP determined this way, however, is often significantly below what athletes and coaches think of as a threshold. 


A much more convenient, simple, and possibly more accurate method of determining your FTP is to use data collected by your own power meter as you ride. There are a number of different ways to do this, all of which provide very similar estimates of FTP. I think the best way to do it is to jump on your bike and go for a ride specifically designed to find your threshold, and I’ve got a good one for you below. This is without a doubt the first big step in the adventure of training with power. 


The Threshold Test


Your goal in this test is to average the highest watts possible for a lengthy period of time. (Hint: When you get to the main effort, make sure to pace yourself so that you don’t tire too quickly.) 


1. Start out with a 20-minute warm-up, which means just riding along at a moderate pace, at about 65% of your max heart rate (HR), which is what we call your endurance pace. (Be sure to do the same warm-up at the same intensity each time you do the test.) 


2. Next do three fast-pedaling efforts at 100 rpm for one minute each, with one minute of easy recovery pedaling between each set, to further prepare your muscles for the effort ahead. After these three sets of fast pedaling, ride easy for five minutes at endurance pace (65% of max HR). 


Now the real test begins. 


3. Ride 5 minutes all out. Punch it and hold it! Start at a high pace, but not so high that you die at the end. You should have a little energy held in reserve to kick it toward the finish line in the last minute. 


The goal of this first part of the effort is twofold: first, to open up the legs for the rest of the test, and second, to measure your ability to produce watts in the VO2max power zone. This initial 5-minute effort also helps to dispense the “freshness” that always exists at the beginning of a ride; your next effort will produce power that is more likely to be truly representative of your FTP. 


4. Ride 10 minutes easy at endurance pace. 


5. 20-minute time trial. Try to do this on a road that’s fairly flat and allows you to put out a strong, steady effort for the entire 20 minutes. Don’t start out too hard! Get up to speed and then try to hold that speed as steadily you can. If you’ve never done one of these efforts before, I suggest trying it on a steady climb or into a slight headwind, which forces you to put out a maximum effort for the entire 20 minutes. 


6. Ride 10-15 minutes at endurance pace, pedaling easy. 


7. Finish the ride with 10-15 minutes easy pedaling.


Your goal in the main portion of the test (the 20-minute segment) is to produce the highest average watts possible over the entire time. The test doesn’t work if you start out too hard and suddenly run out of energy, because you won’t be able to produce your true maximal, steady-state power. It’s always better to start out in the first two minutes a little under what you believe to be your FTP, build up along the way, and then ride at your maximum level in the last three minutes.


Now that you’ve done the test and downloaded your data, find your average power from the entire 20-minute effort. Take this number and subtract 5% percent from it. The result is your functional threshold wattage value. For example, if you averaged 300 watts during the 20-minute time trial, 5% of 300 (300 x 0.05) is 15, and 300 minus 15 is 285. Your FTP is 285 watts. 


The reason for subtracting 5% from your average watts during the 20-minute test is that your true FTP is the highest average power you can maintain for sixty minutes. Most athletes have a hard time putting out maximal effort for sixty minutes, however, and those who can learn very quickly that a sixty-minute time trial is not much fun. I’ve found that twenty minutes is a more realistic time frame. It’s obviously a shorter time period, however, and it incorporates more of the athlete’s anaerobic capacity, which skews the wattage data by about 5% over a sixty-minute effort. By subtracting that 5%, you end up with a wattage number that should be very close to your true FTP. 


Ready? Go! What’s your FTP?



Hunter Allen is a is a USA Cycling Level 1 coach and former professional cyclist. He is the coauthor of “Training and Racing with a Power Meter” and “Cutting-Edge Cycling,” co-developer of TrainingPeaks’ WKO software, and CEO and founder of Peaks Coaching Group. He and his coaches create custom training plans for all levels of athletes.


 

Recent Posts

NSG Course Recon
2019/06/12
Ride in Oklahoma
2019/06/10
3 x 5k time trials
2019/06/06
Cleves May 28
2019/05/28
Indiana 5k and 10k
2019/05/21
Cleves May 21
2019/05/21
Blue Streak
2019/05/14
Busy Wednesday
2019/04/24
First Blue Streak
2019/04/09
Todays Classes
2019/04/03
Todays intervals
2019/03/04
Carbo Loading?
2019/02/14
session 2 of 2
2019/01/29
Indoor Time Trial
2019/01/27
session 1 of 2
2019/01/24
session 2 of 2
2019/01/24
session #2
2019/01/21
One Hour Effort
2019/01/18
One hour effort
2019/01/17
Classes today
2019/01/16
3x20 minute tempo
2019/01/05
2019 Objectives
2019/01/04
Tempo Images
2018/12/24
tempo images
2018/12/24
tempo images
2018/12/24
Today Classes
2018/12/19
Classes today
2018/12/12
FL ride
2018/12/04
Todays Classes
2018/11/28
Indoor time trial
2018/11/18
Todays Efforts
2018/11/16
Todays Efforts
2018/11/08
1x20 tempo
2018/11/05
Saturday Ride
2018/11/03
Todays Classes
2018/10/31
Todays Classes
2018/10/24
Today Classes
2018/10/17
3x15 steady state
2018/10/15
Clingmans Dome
2018/10/12
Todays Efforts
2018/10/10
Update
2018/10/09
Blue Streak
2018/10/09
Todays Classes
2018/10/03
Smoky Mountains
2018/09/21
Back At It
2018/09/19
Todays Classes
2018/09/12
Blue Streak
2018/09/11
3 hours endurance
2018/08/25
Todays Classes
2018/08/22
Last Few Days
2018/08/21
Post Race Ride
2018/08/16
Nice Day in GSMNP
2018/08/09
Cleves Tonight
2018/08/07
Cleves Time Trial
2018/07/31
Cleves July 24
2018/07/24
Fastest Tires
2018/07/23
Michigan rides
2018/07/19
Michigan Ride
2018/07/12
Appleton, WI
2018/07/04
Worth reading
2018/07/04
Cleves Time Trial
2018/06/26
6x3 steady state
2018/06/20
Smoky Man Century
2018/06/15
Blue Streak
2018/06/12
Cleves Time Trial
2018/05/29
104 mile ride
2018/05/26
Update
2018/05/16
HIIT for Seniors
2018/05/11
May Blue Streak
2018/05/08
Thursday Hike
2018/05/04
First Cleves
2018/05/01
Classes
2018/04/18
First Blue Streak
2018/04/10
104 miles
2018/03/31
Classes Today
2018/03/28
4x8 steady states
2018/03/12
One More Day in NYC
2018/03/10
HR Data
2018/03/09
Todays Ride
2018/03/06
Under Overs
2018/03/01
Todays HR Graph
2018/02/28
100 mile ride
2018/02/15
Your Indoor Setup
2018/02/03
under-overs
2018/01/15
Indoor 100 miles
2018/01/13
todays 3x20 tempo
2018/01/11
2x20 tempo
2018/01/06
3x15 tempo
2018/01/05
todays efforts
2017/12/19
20x15 seconds
2017/12/14
10 sec efforts
2017/12/11
Plank! by CTS
2017/12/01
classes today
2017/11/01
Winter Training
2017/10/27
3 x 7 hill climbs
2017/09/28
Today Class
2017/09/25
Wednesday Efforts
2017/09/21
Fueling Tactics
2017/09/15
Cleves
2017/09/05
pre-race effort
2017/09/02
Michigan Century
2017/08/19
Under Overs
2017/07/27
Back at Cleves
2017/07/25
CTS on Cramping
2017/07/25
Back on the bike
2017/07/15
Time Off The Bike
2017/07/08
Under Overs
2017/06/30
Cleves TT
2017/06/27
Being Happy!
2017/06/17
Century Ride
2017/06/10
Interpreting Data
2017/06/09
USAC Nationals
2017/06/02
This week
2017/05/11
Day 2, 3x12's
2017/04/21
Clingmans Dome
2017/04/21
3x12 tt efforts
2017/04/20
This Week
2017/03/24
HR breakdown
2017/03/13
various intervals
2017/02/27
Hotel Workouts
2017/01/11
Mondays Workout
2017/01/02
2017 Goals
2017/01/02
30 minute tempo
2016/12/24
Time Trial Warmup
2016/12/07
Indoor 30
2016/11/20
Century Ride
2016/11/17
Indoor Time Trial
2016/11/13
Training Updates
2016/10/31
Clingmans Dome Ride
2016/10/20
Taper Weeks
2016/10/20
Century
2016/10/15
Blue Streak
2016/10/11
Endurance, Inside
2016/10/01
Mental Fitness
2016/09/30
Steady States
2016/09/29
14 mile hike
2016/09/22
Intervals today
2016/09/15
Blue Streak
2016/09/13
Endurance
2016/09/10
Cleves
2016/09/06
Day Before Ride
2016/09/03
10 Stomps
2016/09/01
Cleves Time Trial
2016/08/30
Back at Cleves
2016/08/23
Michigan Century
2016/08/19
Century ride map
2016/08/12
Blue Streak
2016/08/06
Cleves Time Trial
2016/08/02
Cleves Results
2016/07/26
took yesterday off
2016/07/21
Michigan Century
2016/07/19
Michigan Century
2016/07/19
Back on the bike
2016/07/14
10x30 seconds
2016/07/08
Hydration Myths
2016/07/07
Cleves
2016/07/05
Cleves Time Trial
2016/06/22
Photo's
2016/06/19
20x30 seconds
2016/06/09
Cleves Time Trial
2016/06/07
Saturday Century
2016/06/04
Cleves Time Trial
2016/05/31
Nationals Comments
2016/05/28
Cleves Time Trial
2016/05/24
Indiana State Games
2016/05/22
Cleves
2016/05/17
Smoky Mountain Hike
2016/05/13
10 x 30 seconds
2016/04/28
100+
2016/04/23
Todays Efforts
2016/04/18
12 second efforts
2016/04/16
Ramsey Cascade Hike
2016/04/15
Clingman's Dome
2016/04/14
10 x 10 seconds
2016/04/08
Varied Workout
2016/04/06
Some Rest Days
2016/03/29
13.4 mile hike
2016/03/25
Smoky Mtn Century
2016/03/24
12x1 minute, inside
2016/03/19
Step Exercises
2016/03/18
Wednesday Training
2016/03/16
Max HR vs LT Zones
2016/03/10
Sunday rides
2016/03/06
Todays efforts
2016/03/05
day 2....3x12
2016/02/19
This Week
2016/02/12
Indoor TT Prep
2016/02/06
WLWT Flying Pig
2016/02/01
Steady state 4x10
2016/01/25
Missed the storm
2016/01/22
Cadence test
2016/01/15
Saddle Height Test
2016/01/15
Crank Length Test
2016/01/15
Link to TT Results
2016/01/10
Indoor Time Trial
2016/01/10
Fox 19 Interview
2016/01/07
Training Mediocrity
2016/01/05
Off Day
2016/01/05
20 minute effort
2016/01/03
6x4 hill repeats
2016/01/01
Strength Training
2015/12/28
Rainy Weekend
2015/12/26
Hill Repeats
2015/12/22
10x1 minute
2015/12/14
Indoor Time Trial
2015/12/13
Recovery Day
2015/12/12
USAC CEU Totals
2015/12/08
December Training
2015/12/06
Over Unders
2015/12/04
10x1 minute
2015/11/20
12x30 seconds
2015/11/16
10x1 minute efforts
2015/11/13
Weekend training
2015/11/01
Training Updates
2015/10/30
Tempo Efforts
2015/10/05
4x15 tempo efforts
2015/10/02
Hate to Hear This!
2015/09/29
Power Intervals
2015/09/25
Cleves Time Trial
2015/09/15
Cleves
2015/09/01
Cleves
2015/08/30
Cleves, August 18
2015/08/21
Easy day
2015/08/18
Blue Streak
2015/08/14
Cleves August 11
2015/08/11
Steady States
2015/07/31
State Time Trial
2015/07/25
Back at Cleves
2015/07/25
Michigan Century
2015/07/19
Race Day!
2015/07/19
Race Day
2015/07/11
5x6 steady states
2015/07/03
Taper
2015/07/02
Off Days
2015/06/28
Cleves Time Trial
2015/06/16
Blue Streak TT
2015/06/10
Saturday Century
2015/06/06
Easy Days
2015/06/01
Omnium TT Results
2015/05/16
Blue Streak TT
2015/05/13
Mountain Century
2015/04/27
Century plus
2015/04/20
Blue Streak TT
2015/04/08
4x12 steady state
2015/03/09
Indoor TT History
2015/03/06
4x10 steady state
2015/03/02
GSMNP photo's
2015/02/08
Mountain Ride
2015/02/05
10x30 seconds
2015/01/23
Indoor TT
2015/01/11
Complete Results
2015/01/11
New Year
2015/01/01
Back At It
2014/12/19
Down and out
2014/12/15
Training summit?
2014/12/11
Fitness Myths
2014/12/06
4x8 steady state
2014/12/05
3x20 minute tempo
2014/11/26
This Past Week
2014/11/07
Long Tempo Inside
2014/10/31
4x12 tempo
2014/10/21
3x30= 1x90
2014/10/16
Off Day
2014/10/14
3x30 tempo
2014/10/13
3x20 minute tempo
2014/10/10
two days of tempo
2014/10/04
Training Zones
2014/10/01
Smoky Mtn Century
2014/09/26
Clingmans Dome
2014/09/25
Cleves Time Trial
2014/09/23
Cleves Time Trial
2014/09/16
Blue Streak
2014/09/10
Cleves Time Trial
2014/09/09
Challenging Week
2014/09/07
Cleves TT
2014/08/22
Cleves Time Trial
2014/08/19
Blue Streak TT
2014/08/13
Roaring Fork
2014/08/12
Cleves TT
2014/08/12
Cleves TT
2014/08/05
8x5 steady states
2014/08/01
Cleves TT
2014/07/29
Ohio State TT
2014/07/27
Cleves Time Trial
2014/07/22
Last Ride in MI
2014/07/17
Michigan Century
2014/07/13
Cleves Time Trial
2014/07/02
This week….
2014/06/20
Blue Streak TT
2014/06/11
Isagenix users
2014/06/03
Isagenix
2014/06/03
Century Plus
2014/05/31
This Week So Far
2014/05/30
Smoky Mtn Century
2014/05/22
Cleves Tonight
2014/05/20
This Week
2014/05/13
Mega-Hike
2014/05/13
Weekend of TT's
2014/04/30
Day 2 of 15x1's
2014/04/22
15 x 1 at Ault park
2014/04/21
30 second efforts
2014/04/18
Hill Accelerations
2014/04/11
Link to Results
2014/04/10
Light Week
2014/04/06
Some Steady States
2014/03/31
TT Bike Position
2014/03/29
More TT efforts
2014/03/27
Hiking and Riding
2014/03/21
Saturday Century
2014/03/16
Beta Alanine
2014/03/14
Long Tempo's
2014/03/14
Indoor Tt Efforts
2014/03/07
Stages Power Meter
2014/03/07
Food on the bike
2014/03/04
TT Gear
2014/02/26
Todays Efforts
2014/02/25
Time Tennessee
2014/02/23
more tempo
2014/02/15
60 minute tempo
2014/02/14
5x10 steady state
2014/01/25
5k comments
2014/01/16
Small Taper
2014/01/08
Last Few Days
2014/01/04
Over Under comments
2013/12/28
over/under graph
2013/12/26
Over Unders
2013/12/26
Field Test Comments
2013/12/24
Field Test Graph
2013/12/24
4x8/2 comments
2013/12/21
day 2, 4 x 8/2
2013/12/20
5 x 8/2 efforts
2013/12/19
Todays PI's
2013/12/07
12x1 comments
2013/12/05
12x1 comments
2013/11/30
12x1 results
2013/11/26
Spin Class
2013/11/11
The Lunge
2013/11/03
4x12 steady states
2013/10/29
LeMond vs Lance
2013/10/22
Endurance Ride
2013/10/12
Century Graph
2013/10/05
Endurance Day
2013/10/03
Monday Workout
2013/10/01
Strava
2013/09/29
10x6 graph
2013/09/26
Off Day
2013/09/22
5x5 results
2013/09/15
Century
2013/09/07
over under graph
2013/09/06
Over/Unders
2013/09/06
So Far This Week
2013/09/04
over unders
2013/08/30
Cleves, again
2013/08/21
Cleves Time Trial
2013/08/06
6x3 Power Intervals
2013/08/01
Cleves July 30
2013/07/30
Nationals, Day 2
2013/07/25
Nationals
2013/07/24
Cleves Time Trial
2013/07/16
Back at it
2013/07/15
A little tempo
2013/07/10
Another 100
2013/07/09
More Michigan Miles
2013/07/08
M22 Century
2013/07/05
Tempo
2013/07/04
5k State TT
2013/06/26
6x5 graph
2013/06/23
6x5 steady states
2013/06/23
Cleves Time Trial
2013/06/18
Weekend
2013/06/16
15x1 comments
2013/06/08
15x1's
2013/06/08
7x3, day 2
2013/06/07
7x3, day 2
2013/06/07
7x3 Power Intervals
2013/06/06
7x3 comments
2013/06/06
Cleves June 4 2013
2013/06/04
This Week
2013/06/02
Cleves Time Trial
2013/05/28
140 miles
2013/05/26
Hill Accelerations
2013/05/24
Cleves Time Trial
2013/05/22
Weekend Workouts
2013/05/19
Smoky Mtn Century
2013/05/16
Cleves, May 14
2013/05/15
Blue Streak TT
2013/05/08
Cleves Time Trial
2013/05/07
135 mile day
2013/05/05
Climbing Repeats
2013/05/02
BodPod Results
2013/04/23
Day two of 8x2's
2013/04/22
2x30 Tempo
2013/04/14
Steady States
2013/04/13
2x30 minute Tempo
2013/04/13
First Blue Streak
2013/04/10
Saturday, April 6
2013/04/06
Muscle Tension
2013/04/03
one hour tempo
2013/03/26
2x60 minute Tempo
2013/03/23
Tempo
2013/03/18
Tempo Data
2013/03/14
Weekend Update
2013/03/10
4x12 comments
2013/03/04
4x12 steady state
2013/03/04
4x10's
2013/02/28
4x10's at Ault Park
2013/02/18
8x2's, day 2
2013/02/05
8x2 comments
2013/02/04
8x2 graph
2013/02/04
6x2's
2013/01/29
15x1 results
2013/01/22
Indoor TT
2013/01/20
15x1's, comments
2013/01/17
3x20's, again
2013/01/08
3x20 Steady State
2013/01/03
Lifetime Miles
2013/01/02
Graph for 3x15's
2012/12/24
3x20's
2012/12/24
3x15 Steady State
2012/12/13
3x15, details
2012/12/13
The Rest Helped
2012/12/12
5000
2012/12/12
Race Results
2012/12/11
Book Review
2012/12/11
Windy Century
2012/11/23
multi-workout day
2012/11/21
4x8 Steady States
2012/11/19
The Last Week
2012/11/17
First Indoor TT
2012/11/11
4x15 Steady State
2012/11/10
30/30's, outside
2012/11/02
30/30's, again
2012/11/01
30/30's
2012/10/24
Crankenstein
2012/10/21
Multi-workout day
2012/10/17
15x1's, day 2
2012/10/10
Back to the PI's
2012/10/09
Lots of Tempo
2012/10/07
Cadence
2012/09/29
Cycling Past 50
2012/09/24
Training Update
2012/08/20
Random Comments 4
2012/08/12
Random Comments 2
2012/07/29
Random Comments
2012/07/21
State Time Trial
2012/07/07
Tapering
2012/06/30
Cadence and Power
2012/06/20
Metabolic Rate
2012/05/28
Time to Evaluate
2012/04/04
January Training
2012/01/19
Testing
2011/12/16
Stretching
2011/11/22
Strength Training
2011/11/06
The Rules.....
2011/09/26
Tour de Kentucky
2011/09/13
Training Updates
2011/08/28
Riding A Century
2011/07/04
February Training
2011/02/04
January Training
2011/01/01
Testing Yourself
2010/12/10
Ready to Train?
2010/11/27
Indoor Training
2010/11/20
Interval Training
2010/11/13
End of the Season
2010/09/25
State Time Trial
2009/06/24

Home | About Coach | Time Trials & Clinics
Heart Rate Zones | Energy Systems & How To Train Them
Blog | Photos & Other Links | Contact Us

Optimizing Web Sites Magnet Digital


1180 Beverly Hill Drive | 513.207.4269
peterwimberg@gmail.com