Cycle Now Logo
Close this search box.

What is FTP & Why Is It Important: An Essential Guide for Cyclists

What Is FTP In Cycling

Table of Contents

Functional Threshold Power (FTP) is a crucial metric for cyclists striving to improve their performance. As a cyclist, understanding your FTP can give you insight into your current fitness level and help you tailor your training to reach new milestones. FTP represents the highest average power, measured in watts, that you can sustain for approximately an hour.

By determining your FTP, you can set realistic goals, track your progress, and adjust your workouts to optimize your performance on the bike. This metric is essential since it reflects your aerobic fitness and is uniquely individual. When you have a clear grasp of your FTP, it allows you to train more effectively and efficiently, leading to improved results over time.

To measure and enhance your FTP, it’s essential to undergo regular testing and structured training. Testing can be done through various methods, including time trials and structured workouts. By consistently monitoring and adjusting based on your FTP, you’ll be able to unlock your highest potential as a cyclist and ensure that your training is moving you in the right direction.

What Is FTP In Cycling:

Functional Threshold Power (FTP) Definition

Functional Threshold Power (FTP) is a crucial metric in cycling, representing the highest average power, measured in watts, you can sustain for approximately an hour. It serves as a measure of your cycling fitness and ability to maintain a high but manageable power output for a somewhat lengthy duration. From a physiological perspective, it’s the cycling power you produce when your lactate production has risen, leveled off, and then closely matches your body’s ability to remove lactate. [Source: TrainerRoad]


Understanding your FTP is essential for cyclists, as it provides a benchmark to track your progress and design targeted workouts. By knowing your FTP, you can tailor your training to develop your strengths and weaknesses, and it helps you gauge your efforts during rides, making it an invaluable tool for pacing long climbs or time trials. [Source: Bikeradar]

FTP also allows you to compare your power output with other cyclists, giving you an idea of how you stack up against your peers or competitors. It’s important to note that FTP is not a fixed value, and with consistent and well-structured training, you can improve it, leading to better performance on the bike.

Remember to retest your FTP periodically, as it can change over time due to factors like training, fatigue, or even the time of year. Regular testing ensures that you’re working with an accurate value, and your training plans can be adjusted accordingly to maximize your potential.

Determining FTP

When starting your journey to improving cycling performance, it’s essential to understand your FTP, or Functional Threshold Power. This is the average power you can sustain for an hour, measured in watts. [Source: Cycling Weekly] The most common ways of determining your FTP include the 20-Minute Test, the Ramp Test, and other methods. Let’s take a closer look at each one.

20-Minute Test

The 20-Minute Test is a popular method to estimate your FTP. To perform this test, you’ll need a power meter and a location where you can ride for at least 20 minutes without interruption. Begin by warming up for 10 minutes, then perform an all-out 20-minute effort. Your estimated FTP will be approximately 95% of your average power during this effort.

Keep in mind that you should be properly equipped with a turbo trainer or a smart trainer to accurately measure your power output. It’s crucial to pace yourself appropriately during the test; starting too hard may lead to a significant decrease in performance in the latter half of the 20 minutes.

Ramp Test

The Ramp Test is another method for determining your FTP and is considered by some to be more accurate than the 20-Minute Test. This test involves gradually increasing your power output every minute. [Source: EVOQ] Start your warm-up for 10 minutes, then begin the test. The test ends when you can no longer sustain the required power, usually around 20-25 minutes.

During the Ramp Test, you’ll also work with programs like Zwift or TrainerRoad, which offer Ramp Test protocols for determining your FTP. These platforms will assist you in staying consistent with your power increases and calculate your FTP at the end of the test.

Other Methods

Apart from the 20-Minute and Ramp Tests, there are other methods to estimate your FTP as well. Some cyclists might opt for a longer, more endurance-based test, such as completing a one-hour time trial or using their average power from a recent race. Alternatively, you can establish your lactate threshold heart rate and use that as a proxy for your FTP.

Remember that your FTP may vary throughout the season and can improve with consistent training and experience. Regardless of which method you choose, it’s essential to retest your FTP periodically to ensure accurate training intensities and track your progress.

Training Zones

When it comes to cycling, understanding your training zones is crucial for improving your performance. In this section, we will cover the different training zones and how they affect your cycling performance.

Zone 1 – Active Recovery

This is the lowest intensity zone, focusing on active recovery. In Zone 1, you develop your body’s ability to use fat as fuel and enhance your aerobic capacity. It allows your muscles to recover while still maintaining a light level of activity. This zone is best utilized during warm-ups, cool-downs, and on days when you need a break from rigorous training.

Zone 2 – Aerobic

Zone 2 is where you build your aerobic base. By training in this zone, you improve your body’s cardiovascular system and increase the capacity to transport oxygen and nutrients to your muscles. In Zone 2, you should be able to maintain a conversation while cycling, making it ideal for long, steady rides and endurance-focused workouts.

Zone 3 – Tempo

In the Tempo zone, you ride at a moderate pace that starts to challenge your aerobic system. This zone helps to increase your body’s lactate threshold, enabling you to maintain higher intensities for longer periods of time. Tempo rides should be challenging but still sustainable, making it a useful zone for medium-length rides or targeted interval training.

Zone 4 – Lactate Threshold

Zone 4 is where you push your body to its lactate threshold, the point at which the production of lactate begins to outpace the rate at which your body can clear it. By training in this zone, you increase your ability to ride at higher intensities without fatiguing. It is crucial for time trials and sustained efforts during races. Interval sessions with targeted time at Zone 4 are common for lactate threshold training.

Zone 5 – VO2 Max

This high-intensity zone targets your body’s oxygen consumption, specifically its maximal oxygen uptake (VO2 max). Training at this level improves your body’s ability to absorb and utilize oxygen during intense efforts, leading to increased power output and speed. Short bursts of high-intensity intervals, followed by recovery, characterize training in this zone.

Zone 6 – Anaerobic Capacity

The Anaerobic Capacity zone focuses on the energy systems that generate power without the use of oxygen. Training in this zone increases your ability to produce short bursts of high-intensity efforts, essential for sprinting and attacking during races. Exercises in this zone typically involve short, all-out efforts with ample recovery time between intervals.

Zone 7 – Neuromuscular Power

This final zone targets the development of your neuromuscular power. By training in this zone, you enhance the connection between your nervous system and the muscles required for powerful, explosive efforts. Exercises typically consist of very short, maximal efforts like sprints or jumps, with plenty of recovery time between sets.

FTP and Training

Training Plans

A well-designed training plan is essential for improving your cycling performance, specifically in relation to your Functional Threshold Power (FTP). Your FTP is basically the highest average power you can sustain for approximately an hour, measured in watts. By following a structured plan, you can work on increasing your FTP consistently over time.

Structured Workouts

Structured workouts are the backbone of effective training. They involve a variety of intervals, endurance rides, and intensity levels tailored to your specific cycling goals. These workouts target different energy systems, such as the aerobic and anaerobic energy systems.

In order to make the most of your training sessions, consider incorporating:

  • High-intensity interval training (HIIT) to engage your anaerobic energy system
  • Steady-state rides targeting your aerobic energy system
  • Tempo rides and threshold intervals to build endurance and fatigue resistance

Intensity and Duration

The key to a successful training plan is balancing intensity and duration. You can’t expect to ride at your highest intensity for an extended period without experiencing fatigue. It’s crucial to intelligently vary the intensity of your workouts, enabling your body to recover, adapt, and ultimately become stronger.

When considering workout intensity, remember:

  • High-intensity workouts should be shorter in duration and followed by periods of rest or low-intensity exercise
  • Lower-intensity training sessions can be longer and more frequent
  • Mix up workout intensity throughout your training schedule to promote optimal performance improvements

By focusing on your FTP and structuring your training accordingly, you’ll be on your way to becoming a stronger, faster, and more resilient cyclist. Remember to listen to your body, remain consistent, and enjoy the journey towards improved cycling performance.

Tools and Apps

When it comes to FTP cycling, there are a variety of tools and apps you can use to help improve your performance and reach your goals. In this section, we’ll discuss Power Meters, Training Apps, and Heart Rate Monitors.

Power Meters

A power meter is an essential tool for accurately measuring your FTP. It measures the force you put on the pedals and calculates your actual power output in watts. Nowadays, you can find a wide range of power meters available, including crank-based, pedal-based, and hub-based meters. When choosing a power meter, consider factors such as accuracy, ease of installation, and compatibility with your bike.

Training Apps

Training apps play an important role in helping you monitor and improve your FTP. Some popular apps that integrate with power meters include:

  • Zwift: This virtual training app enhances your indoor cycling experience by providing structured workouts and simulated races in a virtual world. With Zwift, you can connect to both your power meter and heart rate monitor for a more immersive and engaging training session.

  • TrainerRoad: Focused on improving your fitness, TrainerRoad offers customized training plans and structured workouts tailored to your goals and your current FTP. The app also helps you track your progress over time, providing insights and analytics to guide your training.

  • Strava: Known for its social features and segments, Strava also offers in-depth analysis of your cycling data, including estimates of your FTP. By connecting your power meter and heart rate monitor, you can better understand your performance and compare it with other cyclists in the community.

  • TrainingPeaks: This comprehensive training platform provides detailed workout analysis, performance metrics, and customizable training plans. With TrainingPeaks, you can plan your season, track your progress, and analyze your key performance indicators, including your FTP.

Heart Rate Monitors

While power meters provide a direct and accurate measure of your FTP, heart rate monitors offer an additional metric to help you understand your performance during a workout or race. Your heart rate can provide insights into your exertion levels and help you fine-tune your training to target specific zones. Modern heart rate monitors typically come in the form of chest straps or wrist-based devices.

By combining the use of power meters, training apps, and heart rate monitors, you can better understand and track your FTP, tailoring your workouts and training plans to help you achieve your cycling goals.

Power-to-Weight Ratio

Importance for Cyclists

As a cyclist, your power-to-weight ratio (W/kg) plays a vital role in determining your performance, particularly on climbs. This ratio is a measure of the watts of cycling power you produce per kilogram of body weight and provides a basis for comparing your abilities with other riders. A higher power-to-weight ratio means that you can generate more power relative to your weight, allowing you to efficiently tackle steep ascents and maintain higher speeds on flat terrain. It’s essential for both professional and amateur cyclists to focus on improving this ratio to boost their overall cycling performance.

Calculating Your Ratio

In order to calculate your power-to-weight ratio, you need two essential pieces of information: your Functional Threshold Power (FTP) and your body weight. Your FTP represents the steady pace you can maintain for an extended period of time, typically an hour, and is measured in watts. You can determine your FTP by conducting an FTP test or using reliable cycling software that tracks and analyzes your training data.

Once you have your FTP and body weight, you can calculate your power-to-weight ratio using this simple formula:

Power-to-Weight Ratio (W/kg) = FTP (in watts) / Body Weight (in kilograms)

For example, if your FTP is 250 watts and you weigh 75 kg, your power-to-weight ratio would be 3.33 W/kg.

When evaluating your ratio, keep in mind that higher numbers generally correspond with faster riders and greater overall performance. Furthermore, consider that your ratio may vary based on factors such as fatigue, training periods, and weight fluctuations. Tracking your power-to-weight ratio over time can be instrumental in guiding your training progress and helping you stay motivated in your quest for improved cycling performance.

Performance Metrics

In the world of cycling, understanding your performance metrics is crucial for improving your skills and abilities. One of the most crucial metrics you’ll encounter is FTP (Functional Threshold Power), which refers to the average power, measured in watts, that you can sustain for an hour. Let’s dive deeper into two important sub-metrics that can help you better understand and utilize your FTP: Training Stress Score (TSS) and Intensity Factor (IF).

Training Stress Score

Training Stress Score (TSS) is a useful metric that provides insight into the overall intensity of your training session. By quantifying the total workload, it considers both the duration and intensity of your ride. Calculating TSS takes into account your normalized power, the intensity factor, and the ride duration.

Understanding your TSS can offer valuable insights into your overall training status and help you make informed decisions about when to push harder or ease off. For example, if your TSS consistently remains low, you may not be improving your FTP effectively, indicating a need to increase the intensity or duration of your training rides.

Intensity Factor

Intensity Factor (IF) is a measurement of how tough a particular ride was in comparison to your FTP. Essentially, it represents the ratio between your normalized power for a ride and your FTP. An IF of 1.0 means that you maintained an effort equal to your FTP throughout the entire ride, while an IF lower than 1.0 indicates that your pace was less demanding.

Monitoring your IF can help you choose the right training sessions for your level of fitness and your goals. For example, if you’re looking to increase your FTP, you’ll want to ensure that your rides are consistently challenging enough to stimulate improvement.

By understanding and using these key metrics of FTP, Training Stress Score, and Intensity Factor, you can effectively monitor your progress and adjust your training to reach your full potential as a cyclist.

Monitoring and Adjusting

Reassessing FTP

As a cyclist, it’s crucial to regularly reassess your FTP (Functional Threshold Power) to ensure you’re training effectively. This metric gauges the power you can maintain for an hour, measured in watts, [Source: Cycling Weekly] and naturally, it fluctuates with fitness level changes.

A key aspect of this reassessment is to consider factors affecting performance, such as age, fitness, and lactate production. To get an accurate reading, use Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) alongside a power meter. By doing this, you can synchronize your subjective feeling of effort with objective data.

Reassessing your FTP monthly or bimonthly is a reasonable frequency when constantly training. This way, you can update your training zones, set clear goals, and monitor your progress effectively.

Adapting Training Based on Results

Once you’ve reassessed your FTP, use your newfound data to adapt and fine-tune your training. As an athlete, your primary goals should be to improve performance and minimize risk of overtraining or injury.

  1. Training Zones: Update your training zones based on your new FTP, ensuring accurate workout intensities.
  2. Age and Fitness Level: Adapt your training plan to accommodate your age, fitness level, and available training time.
  3. Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE): Use RPE alongside your power data to ensure you’re pushing yourself adequately without risking over-exertion.
  4. Lactate Production Tolerance: Incorporate workouts that increase your lactate threshold, allowing you to ride harder for longer.

Paying close attention to these variables allows you to efficiently tailor your training program. Proper monitoring and adjusting will keep you on the right path to achieving your cycling goals.

Pro Cyclist FTP Comparisons


When discussing FTP in cycling, it’s helpful to look at some examples of professional cyclists and their FTP numbers. FTP, or Functional Threshold Power, is the maximum power a cyclist can sustain for an hour’s ride, which is used to set training zones and gauge riding efforts. [Source: Procycling UK] For instance, Bradley Wiggins, a former pro cyclist, had an FTP of around 450 watts during his peak years. [Source: Cycling Weekly] In comparison, an average non-professional cyclist’s FTP would likely be around 200-300 watts. [Source: Cycling Analytics]

It’s essential to remember that pro cyclists have spent years perfecting their cycling skills and endurance, which directly impacts their FTP. Therefore, comparing your FTP to theirs should be approached with caution, as the differences in training and physical capabilities are vast.

Individualized Strengths

While comparing FTP numbers between cyclists can give some context, it’s crucial to consider individual strengths. Every rider has unique abilities that can impact their FTP, and a high FTP does not automatically translate to success in all aspects of cycling. [Source: TrainerRoad]

For example, a rider with an excellent FTP might be able to maintain a high average power output on flat and rolling terrain. However, this same rider might perform poorly in a sprint or struggle with repeatability. In contrast, someone else might have a lower FTP but excel in sprinting or climbing steep hills.

In conclusion, FTP is a valuable metric for understanding your capabilities in cycling, but it’s essential to consider other factors and your strengths when assessing your performance. Comparing your FTP to that of a pro cyclist can be informative and motivating, but remember that they have achieved their numbers through years of dedicated training. So, focus on improving your FTP over time while also developing your unique skills within the sport.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I calculate my FTP in cycling?

To calculate your FTP (Functional Threshold Power) in cycling, you need to perform an FTP test. The simplest way to do it is to warm up and then ride as hard as possible for 20 minutes, then multiply your average watts by 0.95. This will give you an estimated FTP value, which is the highest average power you can sustain for approximately one hour.

Is an FTP of 250 considered good?

An FTP of 250 watts can be considered good or average, depending on factors such as age, gender, and experience level. Comparing your FTP to group averages can give you a better idea of where you stand. However, focusing on improving your own FTP and setting personal goals is more important than comparing with others.

How long can you cycle at FTP?

You can cycle at your FTP level for approximately one hour. It represents your maximum sustainable power output during that time. Keep in mind that fatigue and conditions might affect your performance, so monitor your body’s signals and don’t push beyond your limits.

What is the FTP for 20 minutes of cycling?

To find the FTP for 20 minutes of cycling, you’ll need to perform a 20-minute test. After warming up, ride as hard as you can for 20 minutes and record your average power. Multiply that number by 0.95 to estimate your one-hour FTP.

How to measure FTP in cycling?

You can measure your FTP in cycling by performing an FTP test or using a cycling computer with a power meter. The most common method is the 20-minute test mentioned earlier. Another option is using cycling apps like Zwift or TrainerRoad, which can guide you through FTP testing and automatically calculate your FTP based on your performance.

What are the average FTP values by age and gender?

Average FTP values vary by age and gender. Though specific numbers differ, generally, younger cyclists and males tend to have higher FTP values than older cyclists and females. Keep in mind that these are just general trends, and your FTP can be improved through consistent training and targeted workouts.

You May Also Like

Leave a Comment