If you are fortunate enough teach in facility with bikes that have power meters, you might be wondering about how to use this tool most effectively in your classes. The first step is to establish a benchmark value to help define intensity and structure class profiles. The most commonly used benchmark for power training is functional threshold power (FTP). FTP represents your maximum sustainable power for a period of about an hour.
Physiologically, FTP occurs at approximately the same effort as other thresholds you might be familiar with, like lactate threshold (LT) or anaerobic threshold (AnT). Tested in a laboratory, LT and AnT will occur at slightly different points, but for practical training purposes, we can think of LT, AnT, and FTP as occurring at the same level of effort—around the point where your body’s energy system shifts from primarily aerobic to primarily anaerobic. It’s also a powerful predictor of performance, and one we can train to improve.
How does this effort feel? it’s at the point where you’re on the borderline of challenging but sustainable and hard and unsustainable. Breathing is deep and rhythmic, but not ragged, muscles are working hard, but not burning. Working just a little bit harder pushes you over that threshold into an effort where where breathing become labored, muscle fatigue begins to set in, and eventually you are forced to back off and recover.
There are several methods you can use to measure or estimate FTP, which we’ll cover in more detail in the next post on power training. Once our riders have an idea of their FTP, we can begin to use that value to define training zones and design profiles that help our students work at the right intensity to become stronger and more efficient.
The table below defines power-based training zones commonly used by cycling coaches for power-based training.