FTP stands for Functional Threshold Power, which is defined as the highest average power you can sustain for approximately an hour, measured in watts.
FTP is one of the most common training metrics used in cycling and is frequently used by coaches as a benchmark metric and to determine training zones when using a power meter, while the latest training apps also use FTP to set workouts and training plans when using a smart trainer.
In this guide, we’ll look at how to determine your FTP, what you can do with that number, and how to improve your FTP. We’ll also consider why FTP might not always be the best number to use to guide your training effectively.
Cycling coaches use FTP in the same way – to measure progress and to personalise specific training intensities. This is the same process whether working with World Tour team riders or keen amateurs.
The previous standard, lactate threshold, involved measuring blood lactate every few minutes while ramping up intensity on a trainer.
To measure your FTP, you need a bike with a power meter or a smart trainer with an integrated power meter. A bike with a power meter is ideal because you are generally able to generate more power outside than when you’re on a fixed bike inside.
The key, however, is to make the test repeatable, so you have consistent results from one test to the next.
After a good warm-up, including one or two hard efforts of four to five minutes, ride as hard as is sustainable for 20 minutes.
Moninger recommends finding a road grade of anywhere between 2 and 4 per cent if possible because this will engage more of your glutes and back muscles and result in the best possible power.
The first time you do a 20-minute test, you will probably start out too hard and see your wattage number gradually fade – even if the effort feels the same, start to finish.
This shows why it’s helpful to have a power meter quantify your power production instead of just relying on feel.
The more you ride with a power meter, the more you will understand your abilities. Starting a 20-minute climb? Let your buddies blow themselves up going hard for the first couple of minutes while you carefully pace out your effort, riding at your FTP.