How much can I increase my FTP?
So you have been training a lot but you are wondering how much can I increase my FTP before you start to plateau. Maybe you are looking to bump up your FTP by 100 watts before the summer. While this is possible, it is a difficult question to answer because of the many variables involved.
From fitness to genes, there is a variety of responses to exercise even if, everyone’s doing the same amount of work.
Recently there was a study on responses of maximal aerobic power incapacity to aerobic training.
They put 24 subjects on a twenty-week aerobic training program and found that the individual responses ranged from just five percent to eighty-eight percent for maximal aerobic power and sixteen percent to ninety seven percent for maximal aerobic capacity.
This is a huge difference in considering that the training was identical for these individuals. This points to a large genetic component here.
Other studies have found the same thing, meaning there is a large difference in how individuals respond to training. Some have found differences of almost no gain up to a 100% increase in large groups.
Understanding these studies you may now understand why it is hard to predict how many watts you may gain in your FTP. According to these studies, you may double your FTP without knowing your genetic predisposition or be stuck where you are already at.
Functional threshold power and genetics
Don’t give up on training just because you assume you have poor genetics.
Genetics is the biggest determinant of how much you can raise your FTP, but also how well trained you already are. A person getting up off the couch has the potential to gain a lot more watts than somebody who’s already been training for a long time.
Some people don’t respond as well to training as others. This is often what separates the elite. Generally, elite cyclists are high responders, this is why somebody who trains 15 hours a week can still get beaten by someone who trains just 5 hours a week
As you gain fitness it gets harder and harder to get fitter. Many seasoned riders often describe hitting a fitness plateau and breaking past this plateau can be extremely difficult.
How much can i increase my FTP?
Over the years I have observed a pattern from coaching athletes of various levels. If you have never trained in your life before, you could potentially gain 50 or more watts in your first year. Some may gain more and others less but taking an average across the 400+ people I have coached this seems the norm. If you follow good training practices with each year, the amount that you can potentially increase your FTP decreases given that you stay consistent the whole time.
If you use the best training practices you could probably expect to gain half as many watts as you did the previous year. So if you went from 200 watts to 250 in your first year, you might get to 275 watts in your second year and 287 watts in your third year and so on. This is by no means a set rule because fitness breakthroughs to happen where you experience a huge jump in fitness one year. You may also find you may struggle to see any fitness gains.
Other factors that affect your FTP
Changes in weight can have a big impact and lead to fitness breakthroughs. It is important to take note of cycling workouts you did when you had a fitness breakthrough and keep that in mind when planning your cycling training plan.
When it comes to age this doesn’t affect junior riders because development will increase your performance substantially. Older riders on the other hand will see less fitness gains each year because the natural VO2 max decreases. As you get older then the game becomes about preserving your FTP and not necessarily increasing it.
How do i increase my FTP?
So after all this how do i increase my FTP? First you want to understand the concept of progressive overload, which means you need to stress your body more and more. This allows fitness gains once your body has adapted to a certain level of stress. With exercise your body generally stops making adaptions until you stress it further. This is usually done by increasing volume or intensity or both.
Usually in a training block you want your training stress to be increased throughout the block. For example during one month you might do 8 hours in the first week, ten hours in the second week and 12 hours in the third week. This is then followed by a recovery week where you bring the volume down to five hours. The recovery week is important because it gives the body a chance to rid your body of the fatigue you you have built up. If you ignore these recovery periods you will get to a point where your workout quality suffers and that will in-turn stagnate your progress.
Quality FTP Workouts
The quality of your workouts is important and you must have the right number of intensity days per week. Too much will not necessarily make you faster and will likely have the opposite effect. Three high-intensity days per week is optimal and any more than that and your workout quality will suffer because you won’t be fully recovered between workouts to do those high-intensity sessions.
The best practices for training intensity and duration distribution in endurance athletes advocated, is for two or three high intensity or threshold intensity sessions per week.
Additional increases in high intensity frequency do not induce further improvements and tend to induce symptoms of overreaching or over-training.
You want these two high-intensity sessions to be after a rest day so you can be as fresh as possible for them and if you want you can do a lower intensity interval session after the higher intensity one but I wouldn’t do this every week. For most weeks you should have two recovery days where you either ride extremely easy at zone one or take the day completely off. The rest of the rides in the week should be done at zone two or endurance zone.
What happens if I Plateau?
Using the best practices for bike training and doing them correctly will get you a long way. But let’s say you’ve done that and your fitness gains are starting to taper off and you’re starting to experience that plateau. What can you do to break through to a new level of fitness?
This may be a good time to try something different,like block periodization. For example, block periodization can be done in a couple of ways, but the most common way is to preload your training month with an intensity block in the first week.
During the first week you might have five interval sessions and then in the following three weeks you might just have one interval session per week. This will help you to recover from that extremely high intensity week.
The block training method appears to be pretty effective. For example one study on the month of block periodization found that mean power during high-intensity workouts increased with each session, along with power at lactate, max power and maximal oxygen consumption.
None of these changes occurred in the control group that stuck to a more traditional training pattern, and another study that looked at doing block periodization for twelve weeks had a similar training pattern just stretched over a longer period. This study found that the block periodization group had a greater increase in vo2 max power, lactate hemoglobin mass and power during a 40-minute time trial.
Block periodization may be just what you need if you find yourself in a rut. Continuing to give your body the same amount of stimulus it will stop adapting. So try something new every once in a while can help you break out of your plateau.