We've posted once or twice before on Functional Threshold Power (FTP), and the importance of knowing both power zones (for biking) and heart rate zones (for biking and running). Today, we're going to revisit FTP, and give you a few quick tips on how to begin training with power. While the majority of FTP philosophy discussed here applies to both indoor and outdoor cycling, this guide's main focus is on the indoor rider.
WTF is FTP?
Simply put, FTP is your body's ability to consistently maintain, or "put-out," the highest level of power (measured in watts) over the course of 45-60 minutes (though we usually test in 20 minute increments). You can imagine power, or watts, as a number found by multiplying your speed (cadence) by your resistance. So, if you hop on the bike with very little resistance, but pedal very, very fast, your power output will be low. Conversely, if you load up the resistance but can only pedal at 30 RPM, your power output will be low. To get the most efficiency out of your pedal stroke, and make the biggest gains in your overall fitness, you will want to find the right balance between resistance and pedal stroke to maximize your power output.
How do I find my FTP?
Today, most higher-end indoor cycling bikes will include a measurement for watts on their computer display. Hopefully yours does! If not, check back with us in a few weeks. We'll get a post up about heart rate based training zones.
To Find Your FTP the Old Fashion Way
1. Spend 10-15 minutes on the bike warming up (break a sweat).
2. Reset your bikes computer (you may have to stop pedaling for up to a minute)
3. Go as hard as you can for 20 minutes (remember, you need to be able to go for 20 minutes, so you may approach it in four, five minute blocks, increasing the intensity just a hair each time).
4. Stop pedaling and check out your bikes average watts (most bikes will display average watts somewhere on the readout once the rider stops pedaling)
5. Multiply your average watts (over that 20 minute interval) by .95 to get your FTP
To Find Your FTP the Easy Way
1. Sign up for one of Ken's Cycle Classes at Mecka (or find a club with an awesome system like Spivi)
2. Tell your instructor "I want to do an FTP test!"
3. Sit back, follow the instruction, and enjoy the ride.
Why is FTP Important?
FTP gauges the true measure of work you're putting out on the bike, regardless of other external factors that might impact how you feel. At the end of the day, an average of 200 watts over the course of hour, always equals 200 watts over the course of an hour. Knowing this allows you to target a very specific goal. Heart rate, on the other hand, can be effected by a variety of external factors such as hydration levels, air temperature, rest, stress, etc.
What Should I Do with my FTP?
Once you know your FTP, you can figure out your Power Zones. Check out the Training Zone guide below for a quick overview of the Power Zones, and why you would want to ride in each one.
Training Zone Purpose % of FTP
Ken Presutti is a certified ChiRunning instructor, ACE Personal trainer, Spinning instructor, and coach. This blog is a mix of new articles and posts from his original blog, Overkill is Underrated.