Updated: Apr 8, 2020
You may have seen Functional Threshold Power (FTP) being held up as 'the single most crucial factor in cycling performance', and in some ways that's true.
It's a simple, repeatable test protocol which hands you consistent zones to train in, as well as a measurement of the gains you make. But...
It's not the whole picture and threatens to blur a rider's vision of overall fitness and race-readiness. Here, we aim to debunk some of the myths surrounding the supposed 'holy grail' of metrics.
We'll also hand over some effective pointers for increasing your FTP, if it's the most relevant threshold for your goal or event...
FTP IS NEITHER AEROBIC OR ANAEROBIC
Whether you undertake a 60-minute or adapted 20-minute test, you will have an anaerobic component within a largely aerobic effort. This translates to the intensities which will increase your FTP.
In our experience, the majority of training to increase your FTP must be done below the threshold, working on extending volume. Training above it will also increase FTP, but across all forms of endurance riding the split of aerobic activity to anaerobic activity is 90 per cent aerobic versus 10 per cent anaerobic, giving a good guide of how to increase FTP.
FTP VARIES THROUGHOUT THE YEAR
If you are using FTP as the anchor for setting your training zones you need to adjust it to reflect your form and fitness.
By persisting with inflated or reduced numbers you will be training the wrong intensities, leaving you under or over training. The less destructive option is to have a slightly lower FTP rather than chasing a higher level. Poorly set FTP can be extremely damaging to even the best planned training.
WHEN RIDING AEROBIC ENDURANCE FORGET FTP!
The threshold you need to focus on to improve aerobic endurance is the aerobic threshold. This physiological threshold is the first significant increase in glycogen usage during exercise.
The aerobic threshold does not necessarily move in direct proportion to FTP and/or the anaerobic threshold. You can't assume that as your FTP increases, your endurance intensity will follow suit.
For aerobic endurance, if you don't have access to lactate profiling, we recommend keeping a close eye on heart rate and respiration to establish exactly what is going on in your body. Riding too hard can lead to unnecessary stress and maladaptation from your training.
FTP IS NOT ANAEROBIC THRESHOLD (AnT)
You'll rarely hear the Peaks group (Training Peaks etc) mention anaerobic threshold. They leave the idea floating, because in contrast to the anaerobic threshold, FTP is not a real physiological line.
In all the data we analyse, the physiological area defined as sweetspot is around AnT or AT4 (4 mmol blood lactate concentration) for most amateurs. Therefore, if you are using the theory that the majority of training needs to be below AnT to increase it, then this can become a powerful weapon.
If you would like our help at Elevation Coaching to formulate a progressive training plan to smash your goals and make the best of how you train FTP get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org
We offer a range of bespoke plans ranging from £75.
Go straight to our homepage www.elevationcoaching.cc to learn more