I was quite surprised when I came across a recent post where a member expressed their indifference towards increasing their FTP. According to them, there were other activities in which they excelled better than ever before. They seemed content with their current level of fitness and urged others not to take the test too seriously, along with any strategies to maximize their score. While I can appreciate their perspective, personally, I believe that many of us have invested a significant amount of money and made a strong commitment to achieve our personal best through this training. I acknowledge that not everyone shares this viewpoint, as it is an individual choice.
However, for those of us who are dedicated to continuously improving, I’d like to share a few additional thoughts on how we can effectively manage our energy to optimize our score.
FTP Test Strategies
If you initiate the Peloton FTP Test with an output wattage lower than your average from the previous test, you’ll need to generate double the difference in wattage (previous FTP average output minus your current FTP Test output in watts) to even out your overall output and match your previous performance. For instance, if your average output from the last FTP Test was 150 watts and you pedal the first 5 minutes of your new test at 125 watts, then you’ll have to aim for 175 watts during the next 5 minutes to achieve an average of 150 watts over the first 10 minutes. As mentioned before, this catch-up game is quite challenging. Instead, starting immediately at 150 watts will lead to an increase in FTP even if you raise your output by just a few watts. While Matt suggests starting in zone 4, the advantage of a more gradual increase in output throughout the test becomes apparent.
Consistently following your regular Peloton Power Zone training with dedication will provide sufficient fitness gains, allowing you to start at or above your average output from the previous test. By beginning at this level, you guarantee an improvement in test performance by gradually increasing your output over the 20 minutes. By avoiding a disadvantageous starting point, you give yourself a better opportunity to push harder if you feel strong after the first 10 minutes. After the 10-minute warmup ride, take a brief rest (perhaps a sip of water, as drinking becomes challenging when you’re exerting yourself), and then commence the test. Remember to reach your desired wattage just as the countdown timer is about to start the ride.
In my opinion, the third 5-minute block is where you can determine the extent of your performance increase if you started the test as I suggested. This is the phase where you can push yourself a bit further without reaching the point of exhaustion, thereby enhancing your score. Since the final five minutes can be a gradual build-up to the final push, even if you maintain the same output as minutes 10-15, you will have already surpassed your previous score. Many of us tend to exert even more effort during this period. Your Power Zone training should enable you to persevere at this point and realize that the finish line is within reach.
For the final sprint, increase the resistance slightly more than you think is necessary and stand up! Utilize efficient shifts of your body weight to maximize each pedal stroke, resulting in a higher output. *MEDICAL DISCLAIMER: It’s essential for each trainee to assess their ability to pedal at high resistance and adjust the resistance accordingly. Getting injured will impede your training progress.
To summarize: Avoid starting too low, as the subsequent catch-up phase will exhaust you and diminish any potential improvement. Have confidence in your training and utilize the second 10 minutes to achieve the desired increase!
Thoughts on New FTP Zones
The saying “the cure is worse than the disease” may be a common refrain, but when it comes to increasing your FTP, the benefits outweigh any temporary discomfort. An elevated FTP will necessitate new Power Zones for your regular training. While it’s true that initial experiences at higher zones might be uncomfortable, these zones are well within your physiological capabilities as determined by scientific assessments of your FTP. The SAID Principle (Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demand) applies to all organisms, including our bodies. To achieve improvements in fitness based on traditional metrics such as VO2MAX, watt output at specific heart rates, body composition, blood hematology and chemistry, we must provide our bodies with the stimulus necessary to prompt adaptation. This means consistently challenging ourselves to slightly higher levels, allowing our bodies to become more scientifically and physiologically efficient.
While some may be tempted to settle and declare themselves “fit enough,” it’s important to recognize that further improvement creates headroom. This headroom ensures that our most intense efforts in other activities no longer come close to reaching our true maximum. Drawing from my extensive experience as a medical practitioner specializing in heart surgery, I can attest that individuals who have conditioned their bodies to operate near the edge handle stress levels that push them to their limits far more effectively.
Ultimately, the choice is yours regarding the type of person you want to be and what goals you wish to achieve. By diligently following the training plan meticulously developed by Matt and Denis, and by implementing a sound strategy for your FTP Test, you can tap into the combination of your fitness level and mental acuity to attain true maximal results. While new zones may present challenges, they are precisely calibrated to align with your actual performance levels, ensuring that your progress accelerates.
This article is part of an ongoing series on Power Zone Training. You can find the other entries below in suggested reading order:
#1 – What is Peloton Power Zone Training?
#2 – Peloton FTP Test Strategies & Lessons
#3 – Peloton Power Zone Training – My Zones Are Too Easy!
#4 – Living with new zones & more FTP test (This article)
#5 – Post Peloton FTP Test New Zone Struggles (Mental & Physical)
#6 – Decreases in Peloton FTP
#7 – Age-related limitation & degradation of FTP in Power Zone Training
#9 – Resting Heart Rate: Why Power Zone Training reduces it
#10 – The “Training Effect”