What is Functional Threshold Power (FTP)?
Functional threshold power is the maximum power that you are able to sustain over a one hour period.
How To Determine FTP
Firstly, functional threshold power is a moving target and will constantly be changing. FTP will increase with the proper stresses of training, but decrease when overly fatigued, sick or due to a lack of training. In order to determine FTP you require a power meter.
What is My Functional Threshold Power?
There are 2 ways to determine your functional threshold power. Both should be done when you are properly rested and performed on a slight and continuous uphill. Ensure there are no traffic lights or stop signs that may interrupt your test. Also ensure that you get a proper warm up in before either test.
The 1 Hour FTP Test
The obvious and least practical way to determine functional threshold power is to do a one hour ride as steady and as fast as you possibly can. The reason why I say least practical, is because it is unlikely that you will have the will to go as fast as you are able. You probably will not be as rested as you should be, you will not be racing anyone, and no one will be judging you if you go slow or congratulating you if you go quickly. If you choose to ride for an hour and it is not during a race you should take the average power output and add 5% – 8%. So if your average watts were 250 then your functional threshold power would be between 262.5 and 270 watts.
The 20 minute FTP Test
The easier and more practical test can be done in 20 minutes. Again your goal here is to maintain the highest average wattage possible. It is easier to start out too fast in a 20 minute test, so ensure you get up to speed quickly, but do not push it too hard as you will tire too quickly and it would result in an inaccurate result. Once you have completed the 20 minutes reduce the average wattage by 5% – 8%. So if your average watts were 250 then your functional threshold power would be between 230 and 237.5 watts.
How To Improve FTP
Everyone’s goal on a bike is to become faster! Some focus on becoming a better sprinter, while others focus on endurance or hill climbing. I focus on functional threshold power.
Why do I focus on FTP? It is simple, a higher FTP will allow me to ride away from the other cyclists not leaving it to chance on a sprint. There are two basic ways that I increase FTP:
Riding at FTP
The best workout to do for any cyclist is a 2×20 interval:
The workout is fairly self-explanatory – you are going to ride two 20 minute efforts. In between is a 5 minute slow recovery pedal. You will want to pace your effort such that you maintain a steady pace throughout the first effort that leaves you feeling pretty tired, but knowing you held back a bit. For the second effort, you still want it to remain relatively even paced, but you should be about as close to falling over as you can push yourself. If you’ve done things right, your efforts should be about the same power output (or pace if you don’t have a power meter)
Increasing Your Stress
By increasing volume, duration and intensity by 10% – 20% you will form positive adaptions that will increase your FTP. If you are so fatigued that you start cramping then you have gone too far; however, if you are just quivering then you have likely pushed the perfect amount.
Getting to the next level is no easy task and takes commitment. Are you ready for it?