What Do FTP Test Results Mean For Cyclists
In the last article we covered what is the FTP for e-Bike cyclists and how to test it, today we talk about what is the FTP test results for cyclist.
1 – Active Recovery
“Easy spinning” or “light pedal pressure”, i.e., very low level exercise, too low in and of itself to induce significant physiological adaptations. Minimal sensation of leg effort/fatigue. Requires no concentration to maintain pace, and continuous conversation possible. Typically used for active recovery after strenuous training days (or races), between interval efforts, or for socializing.
2 – Endurance
“All day” pace, or classic long slow distance (LSD) training. Sensation of leg effort/fatigue generally low, but may rise periodically to higher levels (e.g., when climbing). Concentration generally required to maintain effort only at highest end of range and/or during longer training sessions.
Breathing is more regular than at level 1, but continuous conversation still possible. Frequent (daily) training sessions of moderate duration (e.g., 2 h) at level 2 possible (provided dietary carbohydrate intake is adequate), but complete recovery from very long workouts may take more than 24 hs.
3 – Tempo
Typical intensity of fartlek workout, ‘spirited’ group ride, or briskly moving paceline. More frequent/greater sensation of leg effort/fatigue than at level 2.
Requires concentration to maintain alone, especially at upper end of range, to prevent effort from falling back to level 2.
Breathing deeper and more rhythmic than level 2, such that any conversation must be somewhat halting, but not as difficult as at level 4.
Recovery from level 3 training sessions more difficult than after level 2 workouts, but consecutive days of level 3 training still possible if duration is not excessive and dietary carbohydrate intake is adequate.
4 – Lactate Threshold
Just below to just above TT effort, taking into account duration, current fitness, environmental conditions, etc. Essentially continuous sensation of moderate or even greater leg effort/fatigue. Continuous conversation difficult at best, due to depth/frequency of breathing.
Effort sufficiently high that sustained exercise at this level is mentally very taxing – therefore typically performed in training as multiple ‘repeats’, ‘modules’, or ‘blocks’ of 10-30 min duration. Consecutive days of training at level 4 possible, but such workouts generally only performed when sufficiently rested/recovered from prior training so as to be able to maintain intensity.
5 – V02 Max
Typical intensity of longer (3-8 min) intervals intended to increase VO2max. Strong to severe sensations of leg effort/fatigue, such that completion of more than 30-40 min total training time is difficult at best. Conversation not possible due to often ‘ragged’ breathing.
Should generally be attempted only when adequately recovered from prior training – consecutive days of level 5 work not necessarily desirable even if possible. Note: At this level, the average heart rate may not be due to slowness of heart rate response and/or ceiling imposed by maximum heart rate).
6 – Anaerobic Capacity
Short (30 s to 3 min), high intensity intervals designed to increase anaerobic capacity. Heart rate generally not useful as guide to intensity due to non-steady-state nature of effort. Severe sensation of leg effort/fatigue, and conversation impossible. Consecutive days of extended level 6 training usually not attempted.
7 – Neuromuscular Power
Very short, very high intensity efforts (e.g., jumps, standing starts, short sprints) that generally place greater stress on musculoskeletal rather than metabolic systems. Power useful as guide, but only in reference to prior similar efforts, not TT pace.
- 0 – nothing
- 3 – moderate
- 7 – very strong
- 10 – extremely strong
THE 7 training results correspond to The 7 training zones
Zone 1 – Active recovery
In zone 1 you’re only focused on recovery. Training in this zone often occurs the day after a competition or very intense training.
Zone 2 – Endurance
During a zone 2 training, you’ll work on your endurance. This means a nice, long ride, but at a speed that’s easy to maintain for an entire day. Endurance training lasts 3 hours at least.
Zone 3 – Tempo
A zone 3 tempo training is starting to become a lot more intense. You’ll be cycling just below your FTP value. This is a tempo you can maintain for longer, but the difference with endurance training you won’t be able to talk to your cycling buddies as much.
Zone 4 – Threshold
You’ll be cycling at near-FTP speeds during a zone 4 training. A threshold training consist of a multitude of relatively long intervals. Starting with this zone, it’s important to take extra care of your nutrition before and after your training.
Zone 5 – VO2-max
Zone 5 is all about short intervals. For example: an uphill sprint on a mountain bike or a peloton breakaway on a road bike. Repetition is key. Between intervals, you allow your body to reasonably recover.
Zone 6 – Anaerobic
In zone 6 your trainings are interspersed with short but intense intervals. This will allow you to train intermediate sprints or a varying mountain bike course with multiple steep climbs back to back. In this zone you’re training to acidify your muscles. You’ll produce a lot of lactate, but give your body just too little time to break it down. This will train your body to break down lactate faster.
Zone 7 – Neuromuscular (max)
This zone is about extreme performance. You’re giving it your all, which you’ll only be able to maintain for roughly 10 seconds. A true sprint training like this is necessary to make your body work harder and faster.
How much wattage is normal for a racing cyclists or a mountain biker?
Comparing your FTP to that of other cyclists?
Compare your FTP to that of other cyclists in the table above. For convenience, we used a 30-year old man or woman as a point of reference. That’s roughly your peak age. Are you older? Then you can add 1% per year to your W/kg for an indication of how high your FTP is compared to that of others.
So that’s not an adjustment factor for your FTP, but you can use it to see how you compare to other athletes of different ages. This allows you to compare your FTP to that of others.
Let’s say you’re a 50-year old man who averages 3.3 W/kg. This means you could add 20 percent to that, 1 percent for every life year above 30, to roughly determine your level. So 3.3 + 20% = 3.96%. The same age adjustment factor applies to women.
Your heart rate during your FTP test
Your heart rate during an FTP test and during training can say a lot about your condition. Is your heart rate lower than you’re used to during intense trainings? This could be a sign you’re fatigued or possibly getting ill.
When training intensively, does your heart rate rise above your threshold easily? This can signify your body was well-rested before starting the training.
You do need to monitor your heart rate over a longer period of time than the wattage you generate. This is because your heart rate needs some time to adjust to the intensity of your training.
For example: does your training consist of a few 30-second sprints? It’s likely that your heart rate will only rise after 15 seconds and reach its maximum at the end of your sprint. Afterwards, it can last up to a minute or more for your heart rate to lower again.
Heart rate says something about your shape, not the intensity
A sub-30km/hr speed at 95% of your maximum heart rate might not sound impressive on paper. However, if you know you were cycling in a hurricane, of course that’s not a bad result.
Your heart rate value on its own can be quite misleading if it’s the only thing you’re using to determine your training and shape. If you aspire to train seriously, it’s important to look at more than just heart rate.
In this case, a power meter will provide you with a much more accurate representation of your training intensity. It will show you the exact wattage corresponding precisely with the moment of exertion.
Determine your optimal and maximum heart rate
To assist you even better with your training, you can also fill in your Threshold Heart Rate (THR) in our calculator. You can determine this value together with your FTP. It’s also possible to do a separate test.
To measure your THR, naturally you’ll need a heart rate monitor and a cycling computer with lap functionality. Are you not measuring your THR using your FTP test? That’s an option too. Start with a short, 10-minute warming-up. Then speed up to time trial tempo.
After 10 minutes, mark the start of your THR reading by pressing the round button. Now cycle in time trial tempo (so at a max) for 20 minutes. After these 20 minutes, press the round button again. Now you’ll have cycled an exact 20 minute lap at your maximum heart rate. This is the value you can use as THR.
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