FTP cycling: What is it, how to calculate, how to test and how to use for training

Functional Threshold Power (FTP) in cycling refers to the highest average power in watts a cyclist can sustain for an hour, serving as a proxy for the anaerobic threshold, where lactate concentration exceeds 4mmol/L of blood. The FTP concept was defined by Dr. Andrew Coggan from IU School of Health & Human Science in 2006, with co-author Hunter Allen in their book Training and Racing with a Power Meter-1st edition. FTP is a crucial metric for serious cyclists, both indoor and outdoor, forming the basis of training power zones, training apps and workout plans, and is closely related to concepts like Lactate Threshold(LT), Critical Power(CP), and watts per kg.

FTP is important for cyclists because it provides a reliable measure of their effort level and improvement over time. FTP result enables them to train more effectively within different power zones and follow structured training plans tailored to their specific fitness levels. FTP has limitations as its test results are often abbreviated and subject to overestimation, which can vary day by day and test by test due to external and internal factors such as indoor/outdoor conditions, body condition and feelings, affecting training targets and zones. FTP may not accurately reflect critical power or performance in endurance and short cycling events.

The most popular FTP test is a 20-minute Functional Threshold Power test (FTP20 test). The 2020 research led by Joshua Denham from the University of New England, Australia, found that FTP strongly correlates with lactate threshold and aerobic metabolism, and can be predicted by aerobic and anaerobic cycling tests, suggesting that a 20-minute FTP test is a practical method for assessing Vo2max, especially for those without access to advanced testing equipment.

In this article, we will analyze the definition of Functional Threshold Power in cycling, how to calculate your cycling FTP by age, gender and body weight, FTP cycling results in watts per kg, what is a good FTP in cycling, how to do a FTP test with protocol in both indoor and outdoor biking with cycling apps, how to get the best FTP test results, how FTP helps in cycling training, how to improve Functional Threshold Power and what are the limitation of FTP in cycling.

Table of Contents

What is FTP cycling?

FTP in cycling is Functional Threshold Power, a key cycling metric used to measure a cyclist’s fitness, specifically the highest average power they can sustain for an hour, indicating their ability to maintain a high work rate over long-duration endurance training. FTP acts as a cornerstone for structuring cycling training programs and setting intensity levels. 

FTP is closely related to, but distinct from Critical Power(CP) and Lactate Threshold(LT): Critical Power represents the power a cyclist can maintain indefinitely without fatigue, while Lactate Threshold is the exercise intensity at which lactate starts to accumulate in the blood faster than it can be removed, often aligning closely with FTP but measured through different physiological responses.

Functional threshold power vs Critical Power in cycling

Functional threshold power (FTP) and Critical Power (CP) in cycling are both metrics used to gauge a cyclist’s endurance and performance: while FTP represents the highest power a cyclist can maintain for an hour, CP indicates the highest power they can sustain indefinitely without fatigue. FTP is a more accessible measure for cyclists but may not be as precise as CP. Critical Power is considered more accurate for training due to its foundation in comprehensive physiological assessment.

  • Similarity: Both FTP and CP are used to determine endurance capabilities and guide training intensity.
  • FTP: Easier to test and more commonly used by cyclists, FTP is practical for structuring training but may provide a less accurate measure of sustained power capability.
  • Critical Power: Requires more complex testing, often seen as more accurate and scientifically grounded, CP provides a detailed assessment of a cyclist’s endurance and sustainable power over time.
  • Function in Training: While FTP is great for general training purposes and is widely used in personal training programs, CP offers a more precise measurement for high-level training and detailed performance analysis.
  • Accuracy: CP is generally considered more accurate for cycling training, as it is based on a longer duration and a more comprehensive physiological profile, capturing a cyclist’s capabilities more precisely than FTP.

The 2021 research led by Professor Bettina Karsten from European University of Applied Sciences (EUFH), Berlin, Germany in 2021 indicated that there’s a 91.7% probability that critical power (CP) is higher than functional threshold power (FTP) in trained cyclists and triathletes, with CP being on average 7 watts higher than FTP, despite a strong correlation (r = 0.969) between them. The research suggested that the two measures should not be used interchangeably due to meaningful performance differences and large ranges in their limits of agreement.

Functional threshold power vs Lactate Threshold in cycling

Functional Threshold Power (FTP) and Lactate Threshold (LT) in cycling are both crucial metrics for performance: FTP is an estimate of the highest power that a cyclist can sustain for an hour, whereas LT is the intensity at which lactate accumulates in the blood faster than it can be cleared, to be more specifc, when lactate concentration exceeds 4mmol/L of blood. Both FTP and LT serve to gauge endurance and inform training intensity, but they are measured and applied differently.

  • Similarity: Both FTP and LT are indicators of a cyclist’s endurance capacity and are used to set training intensities.
  • FTP: More practical to measure, typically through a 20-minute test extrapolated to an hour’s effort, FTP is a proxy for endurance ability but may not precisely reflect physiological changes in the body.
  • Lactate Threshold (LT): Directly measures the exercise intensity at which lactate begins to accumulate in the blood, providing a more specific indication of a cyclist’s metabolic response to exercise.
  • Function in Training: FTP is widely used for its practicality in personal training programs, while LT offers a more precise approach, particularly in professional settings or detailed performance analytics.
  • Measurement: FTP can be estimated with field tests and is thus more accessible for most cyclists, whereas LT typically requires laboratory tests or specialized equipment for accurate measurement.

The study led by Pedro L. Valenzuela from the University of Alcalá, Spain, found that while functional threshold power (FTP) and lactate threshold (LT) were strongly correlated (r = .95) and not significantly different overall in male cyclists, FTP tends to underestimate LT in recreational cyclists compared to trained cyclists, suggesting that FTP’s accuracy as a marker for endurance fitness varies depending on the athlete’s fitness status.

Functional threshold power vs Maximal Lactate Steady State(MLSS) in cycling

Functional threshold power (FTP) and Maximal Lactate Steady State (MLSS) in cycling both represent a cyclist’s endurance capability, with FTP being a practical, time-efficient estimation of the highest power sustainable for an hour, whereas MLSS is a more precise, laboratory-measured intensity at which lactate production and clearance are balanced, typically requiring longer and more complex testing.

The research led by PhD Erin Calaine Inglis from the University of Calgary, Canada, revealed that the power output at FTP20 is greater than at MLSS, with MLSS representing 88.5% (4.8%) of FTP20, indicating that FTP20 may overestimate a cyclist’s sustainable power compared to MLSS.

What does FTP mean for cycling and training?

The meaning of FTP for cycling and training lies in its role as a critical metric to set training goals and understand one’s fitness level, representing the threshold limit a cyclist can sustain over an hour. It serves as a basis for creating power zone training plans, offering a quantifiable target for performance improvement. However, FTP should not be the only metric considered, as test results can vary due to daily fluctuations in body condition and motivation, and metrics like watts per kg often provide a more accurate and crucial insight for training effectiveness.

Why FTP is important to cyclists?

FTP is important to cyclists because it provides a reliable threshold metric for gauging their power output, essential for structuring training with power and heart rate, creating power zone training plans, and is easily applicable for anyone with a power meter, offering a practical tool for performance analysis and improvement.

FTP Calculation

FTP calculation in cycling commonly involves taking 95% of your average power from a 20-minute test as a standard practice. It’s the most popular FTP calculation for cyclists, the FTP 95% protocol was defined by Hunter Allen, co-author of Training and Racing with a Power Meter and founder of Peaks Coaching Group.

However, this percentage can vary based on an athlete’s characteristics. Coach Tom Bell (co-founder of High North Performance) notes that for athletes with higher power outputs over short durations (like 2 to 5 minutes), FTP might be closer to 90% of their 20-minute power. Conversely, for athletes who have a smaller difference between their 5-minute and 20-minute maximal powers, 95% is more accurate. Athletes with characteristics between these two extremes might use an intermediate percentage, such as 93%. Individuals without a coach can subjectively assess their strengths and weaknesses to decide which percentage most accurately represents their FTP.

Functional Threshold Power (FTP) calculator in cycling

Functional Threshold Power (FTP) calculator in cycling is based on the facts that FTP results vary from one’s best 20 minutes cycling power out, body weight and gender. We use Hunter Allen’s FTP 95% as the protocol to build the FTP calculator, along with watts per kg value categories for cyclists who want to know how good if your FTP.

FTP Cycling Calculator

For example, a male with 75 Kg body weight, if his best 20-minute cycling power output in Watts is 220 watts, then his estimate FTP is 209.00 watts, the power-to-weight ratio is 2.79 W/Kg, so he falls into Male Cat 5 cycling power category as Fair.

How to calculate FTP cycling?

To calculate FTP in cycling, the most common method is to take 95% of your average power output from a 20-minute FTP test, and for a more comprehensive understanding, factor in body weight and gender to determine watts per kg, which is the actual key metric that matters for cycling training.

FTP watts per kg

The “FTP watts per kg” method is originally developed by Dr. Andrew Coggan, involves dividing a cyclist’s Functional Threshold Power (FTP) by their body weight in kilograms to get a power-to-weight ratio expressed as W/kg. This FTP calculation is crucial for comparing performance across cyclists of different sizes. Dr. Coggan extended this concept to shorter durations like 5 seconds, 1 minute, and 5 minutes, representing a cyclist’s power capabilities for very short and moderately sustained efforts. These variations correlate with different aspects of a cyclist’s profile, from explosive power (5s) to sustainable high-intensity efforts (5min), relating closely to the concept of critical power, which describes the power a cyclist can sustain over longer periods without fatigue. 

FTP power category

FTP power category, is a classification system sorted in watts per kg, calculated by body weight and gender, based on Dr. Andrew Coggan’s power-profiling table in the book “Training and Racing with a Power Meter”. The FTP W/Kg categories include Untrained, Fair, Moderate, Good, Very Good, Excellent, Exceptional, and World Class for both men and women, each associated with specific power ranges and racing categories.



(FTP watts per kg)


 (FTP watts per kg)

Untrained / Non-racer1.86 – 2.43 W/kg1.50 – 2.02 W/kg
Fair / Cat 52.43 – 3.00 W/kg2.02 – 2.55 W/kg
Moderate / Cat 43.00 – 3.56 W/kg2.55 – 3.07 W/kg
Good / Cat 33.56 – 4.13 W/kg3.07 – 3.60 W/kg
Very Good / Cat 24.13 – 4.70 W/kg3.60 – 4.12 W/kg
Excellent / Cat 14.70 – 5.27 W/kg4.12 – 4.64 W/kg
Exceptional / Domestic Pro5.27 – 5.83 W/kg4.64 – 5.17 W/kg
World Class / International Pro5.83 – 6.40 W/kg5.17 – 5.69 W/kg
FTP power category chart
Cycling FTP by age chart

FTP (Functional Threshold Power) chart by age for cyclists can be challenging, as FTP varies greatly depending on individual fitness levels, training history, and physiological differences, rather than age alone. However, generally, peak cycling performance is often seen in the age range of late 20s to mid-30s, after which there can be a gradual decline in FTP. Below is a cycling FTP in watts per kilo by age chart.

Age GroupAverage FTP (Watts/kg) for MenAverage FTP (Watts/kg) for Women
Under 203.0 – 4.02.5 – 3.5
20-293.5 – 4.53.0 – 4.0
30-393.0 – 4.02.5 – 3.5
40-492.5 – 3.52.0 – 3.0
50-592.0 – 3.01.8 – 2.8
60+1.5 – 2.51.3 – 2.3

Cycling FTP by age chart

The special issue led by Cristian Marín-Pagán from the Research Center for High Performance Sport at Catholic University of Murcia (UCAM), Spain, showed that significant physiological differences exist between the Youth and Junior cycling age groups, with minor changes between Junior and U-23 categories, suggesting that FTP/BW (Functional Threshold Power/Body Weight) differences across age categories can be effective predictors of performance and cycling potential.

Cycling FTP by gender chart

Cycling FTP by gender chart is based on the understanding that men typically have higher absolute FTP values compared to women, but when adjusted for body weight, the watts per kg value offers a more equitable measure, reflecting physiological differences and the direct impact of body weight on power output. Below is the cycling FTP by gender chart.

Cycling FTP by gender chart

Cycling FTP by weight chart

Cycling FTP by weight chart reflects how an individual’s body weight affects their Functional Threshold Power (FTP), with the watts per kg ratio being a key determinant of cycling performance. Using the FTP watts per kg data, here’s a table with calculated FTP values for different weights for both men and women.

Body Weight (kg)Men’s FTP (W)
[2.43 – 3.00 W/kg]
Women’s FTP (W) [2.02 – 2.55 W/kg]
45109.35 – 135.0090.90 – 114.75
50121.50 – 150.00101.00 – 127.50
55133.65 – 165.00111.10 – 140.25
60145.80 – 180.00121.20 – 153.00
65157.95 – 195.00131.30 – 165.75
70170.10 – 210.00141.40 – 178.50
75182.25 – 225.00151.50 – 191.25
80194.40 – 240.00161.60 – 204.00

Cycling FTP by weight chart

For example, same male cyclist who is in “Cat 5 Fair” with a 2.43-3.0 W/Kg power-to-weight ratio, the FTP is 157.95 – 195.00 Watts under 65 Kg body weight, but the FTP power goes up as 170.10 – 210.00 watts if his body weight is 70 Kg.

Is your FTP cycling result realistic?

Yes, your FTP cycling result is generally realistic because it estimates the threshold level for cyclists who can make training with power plan more reliable. A study led by PhD Eanna McGrath from School of Medicine at Trinity College Dublin, Ireland, found that the FTP test is representative of the uppermost power that highly-trained athletes can maintain in a quasi-steady state for 60 minutes, with satisfactory agreement between repeated 20-minute FTP tests and a 5% reduction in 20-minute FTP data closely aligning with quasi-steady state conditions.

What’s the difference between males and females FTP in cycling?

The difference between males and females FTP in cycling are typically seen in absolute FTP values, with men generally having higher FTP due to physiological factors like muscle mass and hemoglobin levels, but when adjusted for body weight (watts per kg), these differences can become less pronounced, reflecting a more equitable comparison of power output relative to size.

What is a good FTP?

A good FTP varies individually, but generally, a good FTP for male cyclist is 260 Watts, while a good FTP for female cyclist is 200 Watts. In watts per kg value, a good FTP for male cyclists is 3.56-4.13 W/Kg, and a good FTP for female cyclist is 3.07-3.60 W/Kg. A higher FTP or a better watts per kg ratio indicates stronger cycling performance. According to Cycling Analytics Data from 2018, 49% of males have an FTP below 260W and 48.6% fall below 3.4W/kg, while 46% of women have an FTP below 200W, with 47% below 3.2W/kg.

What is a good FTP

What is the average FTP of a pro cyclist?

The average FTP of a pro cyclist is typically very high, with world-class international male pros ranging from 5.83 to 6.40 W/kg and female pros from 5.17 to 5.69 W/kg, the average male pro cyclists FTP is 387 Watts, the average female pro cyclists FTP is 248 Watts, based on data from Procyclinguk.com. 

Specific examples include FTP of Men pro cyclists: Ben Wolfe with an FTP of 490W at 5.7 W/kg, Mathieu van der Poel with 485W at 6.46 W/kg, and Michał Kwiatkowski with 420W at 6.18 W/kg. FTP of women pro cyclist like Kristen Faulkner with an FTP of 323W at 5.21 W/kg, Teniel Campbell with 317W at 5.03 W/kg, and Chloe Dygert with 298W at 4.6 W/kg for women in 2020.

What is a respectable FTP in cycling?

A respectable FTP in cycling can be the “Cat 2-Very Good” cycling power category, which ranges at 4.13-4.70 W/kg for male cyclists, 3.60-4.12 W/kg for female cyclists, based on Dr. Andrew Coggan’s power-profiling table.

What is a respectable FTP in cycling

How good is my cycling FTP?

How good your cycling FTP is depends on your best 20-minute cycling power output, body weight, and gender. For a male cyclist weighing 70 kg with a best 20-minute power of 220 Watts, his FTP (95% of the 20-minute power) would be approximately 209 Watts. When converted to watts per kg, this is about 2.99 W/kg. According to commonly used categorizations, this places him in the ‘Moderate’ or ‘Cat 4’ category for male cyclists. Use our cycling FTP calculator you will see how good is your cycling FTP.

FTP Test

FTP test is used to determine a cyclist’s Functional Threshold Power, includes several methods: the Ramp test, which gradually increases intensity until exhaustion; the 8-minute and 20-minute tests, where the average power for these durations is adjusted to estimate FTP. The Hunter Allen and Joe Friel Cycling FTP test protocol are the two most popular test method, which can be conducted both indoors and outdoors. Numerous cycling apps, such as Zwift, Garmin, Peloton, Rouvy, Wahoo, and MyWhoosh offer integrated features to conduct an FTP test, making it accessible for cyclists to assess and monitor their fitness levels and training progress.

What is an FTP test?

An FTP test is a cycling workout designed to measure a rider’s Functional Threshold Power which typically through a 20-minute sustained effort, it takes 95% of the average power output during this period adjusted to estimate the highest power a cyclist can maintain for an hour.

Can an FTP test improve performance?

Yes, an FTP test can improve cycling performance because it provides a key metric for creating tailored training plans based on power zones, enabling cyclists to optimize their effort levels and train more effectively with necessary performance information.

Why do my FTP test results change?

Your FTP test results change because FTP can fluctuate due to various factors like your fitness level, fatigue, nutrition, hydration, mental state, and external conditions such as equipment and environment.

How to do an FTP test?

To do an FTP test, you’ll need a bicycle and a power meter. The most popular methods include the Ramp test, the 8-minute, 20-minute(FTP20), 60-minute test(FTP60) and Joe Friel’s single 30-minute time trial test, among which the 20-minute FTP test protocol created by Hunter Allen is the most widely used. For an indoor test, a smart trainer with power meter functionality is necessary, while for an outdoor test, an uphill climb with moderate steepness (3-5%) and minimal stops is ideal to maintain consistent effort throughout the duration of the test.

  • Ramp Test:
  • Procedure: The test begins at a low power output and increases steadily, usually every minute, until you can no longer maintain the required power.
  • Purpose: This test quickly estimates FTP without the mental and physical strain of longer efforts.
  • Analysis: FTP is estimated based on the highest power output you can sustain during these short, intense intervals.
  • 8-Minute FTP Test:
  • Procedure: After a good warm-up, you perform two 8-minute efforts at the highest consistent power you can sustain, with a 10-minute easy pedaling break in between.
  • Purpose: It’s designed to be less taxing than the 20-minute test while still providing a reliable measure of FTP.
  • Analysis: Your FTP is calculated as 90% of the average power from these two efforts.
  • 20-Minute FTP Test(FTP20)
  • Procedure: This test requires a sustained, steady effort for 20 minutes after a proper warm-up.
  • Purpose: It’s considered a more accurate reflection of your FTP, as it closely mimics the effort you could theoretically maintain for an hour.
  • Analysis: Your FTP is typically calculated as 95% of your average power output during this 20-minute effort.
  • 60-Minute FTP Test(FTP60)
  • Procedure: This is a true test of FTP, requiring you to maintain the highest possible power output for a full hour.
  • Purpose: It’s the most accurate measure of FTP but the most challenging both mentally and physically.
  • Analysis: Your average power for this hour is your actual FTP, without any need for adjustment.
  • Joe Friel’s single 30-minute time trial FTP test
  • Procedure: This FTP test combines both Functional Threshold Power (FTP) and Lactate Threshold Heart Rate (LTHR) assessment in a single 30-minute time trial test, providing efficient and practical insights for training
  • Purpose: The protocol is elegant in its simplicity, as it doesn’t require any correction or adjustment for the FTP value.
  • Analysis: Your average power for this 30 minutes test is your actual FTP, without any need for adjustment.

How to do an FTP test

Cycling FTP test protocol

Cycling FTP test protocol includes both Hunter Allen’s and Joe Friel’s methodologies, each offering different approaches to estimating a cyclist’s Functional Threshold Power. While both FTP test protocols involve intense efforts and use a certain time of  power output to estimate FTP, Allen’s method focuses on a 20-minute test, whereas Friel’s varies with combining both FTP and LTHR in a single 30-minute time trail full effort test.

1. Hunter Allen’s FTP Test Protocol (FTP20)

  • Procedure: After a thorough warm-up, this protocol requires cyclists to ride as hard as they can for 20 minutes. The key is to maintain the highest average power output possible across this duration.
  • Analysis: FTP is calculated as 95% of the average power output during these 20 minutes, under the assumption that this figure would be sustainable for an hour.

2. Joe Friel’s FTP Test Protocol:

  • Warm-Up: Begin with a thorough warm-up to prepare your body for the intense effort ahead.
  • 30-Minute Time Trial: Perform a 30-minute time trial on your own, simulating race conditions. It’s crucial that this effort is solo without the influence of training partners or the dynamics of an actual race.
  • Measuring LTHR: Ten minutes into the time trial, hit the lap button on your heart rate monitor or GPS device. After completing the test, examine the average heart rate for the last 20 minutes of the test. This figure serves as an approximation of your Lactate Threshold Heart Rate (LTHR).
  • Determining FTP: Look at the average power output for the entire 30-minute effort. This number approximates your FTP. The protocol is elegant in its simplicity, as it doesn’t require any correction or adjustment for the FTP value.
  • Efficiency: This method efficiently captures both FTP and LTHR in one test, omitting the initial 10-minute period where heart rate typically climbs more rapidly, and focusing on the more stable last 20 minutes for LTHR assessment.

Cycling FTP test protocol

Both Allen and Friel’s FTP protocols aim to gauge the highest power a cyclist can sustain over a relatively long period, but Allen’s 20-minute test is widely used for its balance between accuracy and practicality, while Friel’s requires measurement of Lactate Threshhold Heart Rate (LTHR) without no correction of the FTP result.

Indoor vs. outdoor cycling ftp test

Indoor and outdoor cycling FTP tests share the same fundamental goal of determining a cyclist’s Functional Threshold Power, but they differ in environmental variables, cycling equipment used, and the influence of external factors. While indoor FTP tests offer precision and repeatability, outdoor tests provide a more realistic assessment of a cyclist’s performance in actual riding conditions.

Indoor FTP Test

  • Controlled Environment: Offers a controlled setting, free from traffic, weather variations, and road conditions, allowing for a consistent effort.
  • Equipment: Typically performed on a stationary bike or a smart trainer, which can provide accurate power readings.
  • Consistency: Easier to replicate conditions for future tests, ensuring more consistent data.

Outdoor FTP Test

  • Real-World Conditions: Involves variables like wind, terrain, and temperature, which can affect performance.
  • Equipment: Requires a reliable power meter on your bike like mountain bike or road bike for cycling.
  • Dynamic: More representative of real-world cycling conditions and skills.

Indoor vs outdoor cycling FTP test

How often should I do an FTP test?

You should do an FTP test every four to six weeks because it allows you to track your progress and adjust your training plan according to improvements in your fitness level. Additionally, it’s advisable to conduct a test after any significant events that affect your training, such as a recovery period from injury, an off-season break, or substantial changes in your training regimen.

How To Get The Best FTP Test Results?

To get the best FTP test results, one should ensure adequate rest prior to the test, perform a thorough warm-up, use a fan for indoor testing or choose a day with favorable weather for outdoor testing, and pay attention to diet including rich-carbohydrates and hydration to maintain optimal energy levels.

Cycling app for FTP test

Cycling apps for FTP tests, such as Zwift, Garmin, Peloton, Rouvy, Wahoo, and MyWhoosh, offer structured protocols and interactive platforms for indoor cycling to help cyclists accurately determine their FTP in an engaging and efficient way.

  • Zwift FTP Test: Provides a gamified environment with structured FTP test workouts, offering a unique blend of virtual cycling experience and accurate FTP assessment.
  • Garmin FTP Test: Integrates with Garmin devices to guide cyclists through the FTP test, offering detailed analytics and compatibility with various Garmin cycling computers.
  • Peloton FTP Test: Available on Peloton bikes, this test is designed to be accessible for users of all levels, featuring guided instructions and real-time performance tracking.
  • Rouvy FTP Test: Offers a virtual and augmented reality experience, where cyclists can perform FTP tests on simulated real-world routes.
  • Wahoo FTP Test: Compatible with Wahoo trainers and devices, it provides a straightforward and efficient way to conduct an FTP test with reliable data tracking.
  • MyWhoosh FTP Test: A newer entrant to the market, MyWhoosh offers an immersive experience for FTP testing, combining interactive features with robust workout analytics.

Cycling app for FTP test

FTP Training

FTP training is a structured approach in cycling that focuses on improving and utilizing Functional Threshold Power, which is pivotal for determining cycling power zones and tailoring the intensity of workouts. Training with FTP aids in enhancing aerobic capacity, endurance, and the efficient utilization of oxygen, leading to increased FTP and delayed fatigue during prolonged efforts. 

In a 2020 review led by PhD Sebastian Sitko from the Department of Physiatry and Nursery at the University of Zaragoza, Spain, concluded that power profiling from recorded training FTP test value and competition data offers an alternative for assessing a cyclist’s fitness level without laboratory tests.

However, it’s important to note the limitations of FTP training, as it primarily reflects sustained power output and might not fully capture a cyclist’s anaerobic capacity or performance in variable intensity scenarios, like short sprints or highly dynamic races. Cyclists who train with power should combine all necessary training metrics like FTP, heart rate zone, lactate threshold and personal fitness level.

Cycling Power Zone

Cycling power zones as a fundamental concept for training with power, is popularized by Dr. Andrew Coggan and essential for optimizing endurance cycling performance. These cycling power zones are based on key physiological markers like lactate threshold (LT), VO2max, and FTP power output levels, offering a more precise approach than traditional HR-based training. 

There are six distinct power zones in cycling: Zone 1 (Active Recovery), where intensity is low and recovery is the focus; Zone 2 (Endurance), aimed at improving aerobic capacity; Zone 3 (Tempo/Sweet Spot), a balance between intensity and volume for improved efficiency; Zone 4 (Lactate Threshold), focusing on efforts around the LT to increase the ability to sustain high power; Zone 5 (VO2max), targeting improvements in maximal oxygen uptake; and Zone 6 (Anaerobic Capacity), aimed at enhancing short, high-intensity efforts. These zones provide a structured framework for cyclists to train specific aspects of their performance effectively, below is the cycling power zone chart.

Training ZoneZone FTP RangeHRmax RangeCycling Duration
Active RecoveryZone 11-55% of FTP50-60% of HRmaxAs long as you want
EnduranceZone 256-75% of FTP60-70% of HRmax3+ hours
Tempo/Sweet spotZone 376-90% of FTP70-80% of HRmax20-60 minutes
Lactate ThresholdZone 491-105% of FTP80-90% of HRmax10-30 minutes
VO2maxZone 5106-120% of FTP90-95% of HRmax3-8 minutes
Anaerobic capacityZone 6> 121%n/a30 seconds to 3 minutes

Cycling Power Zone

Professor Riggs J Klika from the Department of Kinesiology at University of Indianapolis, USA mentioned in an original research that an 8-minute field test is effective for assessing and prescribing exercise intensity in cycling training with power zones, with participants experiencing a 9.2% increase in maximal steady-state power (MSSP), a 12.9% increase in power at lactate threshold (PTlact), and significant improvements in maximal power (Pmax) and maximal oxygen uptake (O2max), indicating the test’s validity in measuring fitness changes and the efficacy of biweekly power-based training in enhancing overall cycling fitness.

What can you do with your FTP in cycling?

With FTP in cycling, you can determine your training zones based on FTP value, set appropriate heart rate levels and training effort, and create effective power-based training plans, along with other performance-focused strategies.

  • Determine Training Zones: FTP is used to establish personalized power zones, enabling cyclists to train at intensities tailored to their fitness levels.
  • Set Heart Rate Levels: FTP helps correlate power output with heart rate zones, providing insights for training sessions where power data might be unavailable.
  • Training Effort: Understanding your FTP allows for more precise control over the intensity of your workouts, ensuring that you’re training effectively without overexerting.
  • Power-Based Training Plans: FTP is crucial in designing power-based training programs, focusing on improving endurance, speed, and overall cycling performance.
  • Performance Analysis and Goals: Regular FTP testing offers valuable data for tracking progress and setting realistic performance goals.

What can you do with your FTP in cycling

How to improve your FTP?

To improve your FTP, focus on enhancing your aerobic energy system with cycling training including increasing endurance, boosting VO2 max, training in the sweet spot, choosing a specific FTP builder plan, regularly testing your FTP every 4-6 weeks to adjust your training plan, emphasizing recovery, and incorporating strength building in your cycling regimen.

  • Increase Endurance: Gradually extend your ride durations to enhance aerobic endurance, crucial for raising FTP.
  • Boost VO2 Max: Include high-intensity interval training (HIIT) in your routine to improve your maximal oxygen uptake.
  • Sweet Spot Training: Train just below your FTP for extended durations to improve efficiency and threshold power.
  • Choose an FTP Builder Plan: Select a structured training plan focused on incrementally improving your FTP.
  • Regular FTP Testing: Test your FTP every 4-6 weeks to track progress and adjust your training plan accordingly.
  • Focus on Recovery: Ensure adequate rest and recovery to allow your body to adapt and improve from training stresses.
  • Strength Building: Incorporate strength training exercises to improve overall cycling power and performance.

How to improve your FTP

What happened to your body when you FTP increases?

When your FTP increases, your body experiences enhanced aerobic efficiency, increased muscular endurance, improved oxygen utilization, a higher lactate threshold, and better overall cycling performance, indicating a more effective and resilient physiological response to cycling efforts, which strengths the healthy benefits of cycling.

What are the limitations of FTP in cycling?

The limitations of FTP in cycling include its inability to accurately reflect real-time power fluctuations and body condition during a ride, as well as its potential divergence from other critical metrics like Maximal Lactate Steady State (MLSS), VO2max, Critical Power (CP), and Lactate Threshold (LT). While FTP provides a useful benchmark for endurance capacity, it may not fully capture a cyclist’s anaerobic capabilities or short-term power potential, making it less applicable for races with varied intensity or for evaluating sprint performance.

Why cycling beginners shouldn’t test FTP?

Cycling beginners shouldn’t test FTP because they may not yet have the endurance or experience to sustain a maximal effort safely, their power output can be highly variable and less meaningful, and such an intense test could lead to discouragement or undue strain without a solid foundation of basic cycling fitness. Beginners cyclists might get injuries from trying too hard with overestimated FTP result, which leads to knee pain or other risks of cycling.