FTP: what is it and why is it important in cycling?

cycling FTP
Picture: BKOOL

FTP is one of the most fashionable acronyms in cycling, but what do those three letters stand for and why are they important in this sport? Let’s try to clear up your doubts!

What is FTP?

FTP stands for Functional Threshold Power. It is a term that refers to the highest average power range that a cyclist can develop during one hour. This metric, like any metric that measures power, is expressed in watts.

Functional Power Threshold is widespread in the cycling world as it is a great indicator of fitness and a good tool for measuring the amount of work an athlete can perform in a given (usually long) time interval.

FTP from a physiological point of view

From this perspective, FTP is the power we are able to produce with high lactate levels, but stabilized and close to our body’s limit to eliminate them. VO2Max would be our upper limit of aerobic power production and FTP the percentage we can sustain of that limit.

It is that gray area between the power that we can develop in a prolonged way (over an hour) and the ephemeral power that we only support for a couple of minutes.

cycling FTP
Picture: BKOOL

Why is FTP important in cycling?

Among the different variables that determine the performance of an athlete (VO2Max, FTP and efficiency), the Functional Power Factor is the one that can be most easily measured, analyzed and improved.

In addition, the FTP is used to establish the training zones or power zones, through which we will design our sessions. But it is also important for competition: in endurance sports, measuring effort in competition is key to a good race.

In some disciplines, such as duathlon or triathlon this becomes even more important: defining a power for racing, based on your FTP, will help you make sure you ride at the right intensity so that when the time comes to run, you can rise to the occasion.

Another aspect that makes FTP an important variable is its role as a fitness indicator. The Power Threshold tells us what our current state of fitness is, where we come from and where we are, helping to measure our progress as athletes.

How to calculate FTP in cycling?

Although some coaches bet on a one-hour time trial (the average power result would be our FTP), this test requires a physical and mental demand that few athletes can withstand.

There are simpler ways to know our Functional Power Threshold. These are two very “simple” tests that we can perform on the smart trainer. In fact, BKOOL has both possibilities: a 20-minute FTP test and a 5-minute FTP test in which the application itself calculates the power and heart rate zones and establishes your training zones. This can be done within a workout or at the velodrome.

The FTP test can also be carried out during a road ride, but the smart trainer has great advantages when facing this type of analysis: such as the elimination of external agents or distractions that may influence the result (traffic, cars, slope changes, weather, etc.).


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