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How To Improve Your Functional Threshold Power for Cycling

Updated on August 1, 2017
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Defining Lactate Threshold with Power

To put things simply, your Lactate Threshold is the point in which lactic acid begins to accumulate in your blood. This is that burning sensation in your muscles that you get during exercise. In power terms, this is also referred to as your Functional Threshold Power, or the power you can handle for an entire 60 minute period. While this number employs the concept that the power you can produce is variable or stochastic and not a constant, your actual lactate threshold is pretty much set. Both your FTP and your Lactate Threshold can give you powerful insight in to your training intensities as well as a predictor for your potential endurance sport performance. While improving your Endurance Base is important, improving your threshold power will bring your competitive prowess to new heights.

If you are not sure where to begin after reading this guide be sure to get yourself a good quality cycling coach and get yourself on the right path, you will not regret it.


How do I train to improve my threshold power?

Training is easy, planning your training is not. The three factors that will determine weather or not your training program is effective are: Volume, Frequency and Intensity.

With Threshold, the intensity is just as important as the frequency. Intensity will be on the upper levels of physical exertion that a human body will be able to produce. Generally speaking as you work to improve your Threshold Power, your volume will decrease, while frequency will continue to be similar to the frequency in Endurance Training, it will decrease some.

Typically speaking the efforts that will be utilized the most will be between 90%-105% of your Functional Threshold Power. Typical efforts are as follows:

  • Efforts of 15 minutes 90-95% FTP
  • Efforts of 10 minutes 95-100% FTP
  • Efforts of 8 minutes 100-105% FTP

Intensities are kept with in 5% of each other depending on the amount of time spent at that power. While Functional Threshold Power is power that you can handle for 60 minutes, training at Threshold for that long will drain you completely and is ill advised for making gains. Training to long and to hard will keep you from being able to perform well on back to back days and severely hamper your ability to also maintain the frequency needed to get stronger.

Balancing Efforts for Frequency

It can sometimes be difficult to know exactly how often or how many intervals should be done in a typical training load. Often it requires intimate knowledge of the athletes fatigue and body's current abilities. In any event, please take these as merely suggestions on frequency and seek professional guidance in determining you own training plan.

  • Efforts of 15 minutes @ 90%-95% should be done for a maximum of 2 per session and 8 per week.
  • Efforts of 10 minutes @ 95%-100% should be done for a maximum of 4 per session and 8 per week.
  • Efforts of 8 minutes @ 100%-105% should be done for a maximum of 4 per session and 8 per week.

Some elite and world class athletes will be able to handle going over our recommendations, and some amateurs will struggle to even maintain half of our maximum guidelines. This is a variance which varies based on your current abilities, conditioning and recovery. As such, we recommend that you seek out the aid of a professional coach to help you best succeed in your efforts.

Typical Monthly Training Program

Week
Monday
Tuesday
Wednsday
Thursday
Friday
Saturday
Sunday
1
Endurance Ride(non-tempo)
2x15 @ 90-95% FTP
2x15 @ 90-95% FTP
Rest Day
Endurance Ride(non-tempo)
3x10 @ 95-100% FTP
3x10 @ 95-100% FTP
2
Rest Day
3x8 @ 100-105% FTP
2x15 @ 90-95% FTP
Rest Day
3x10 @ 95-100% FTP
Endurance Ride(non-tempo)
2x15 @ 90-95% FTP
3
Rest Day
3x10 @ 95-100% FTP
3x8 @ 100-105% FTP
Rest Day
3x8 @ 100-105% FTP
Endurance Ride(non-tempo)
2x15 @ 90-95% FTP
4
Rest Day
3x8 @ 100-105% FTP
3x10 @ 95-100% FTP
Rest Day
Endurance Ride(non-tempo)
2x15 @ 90-95% FTP
2x15 @ 90-95% FTP
All efforts include a 20 minute warm up period with three 30 second bursts to open the legs up and 10-25 minutes of cooling down as required. 5 minutes of recovery spinning between intervals.

Tips & Tricks

  1. Sleep 8 hours per day, no excuses, get your rest
  2. Consume 250 calories in the 30 minutes post exercise, a 3-1 ration of carbs-protein is recommended.
  3. Take days off the bike, if you are burnt out and in severe pain a day off may be what the doctor ordered.
  4. Massaging the muscles will help facilitate blood flood with improves nutrient delivery to your muscles. Rub your legs down each night and you'll be good to go.

Recovery, it's important

With the increase in intensity and still needing to maintain a relatively high level of frequency, it's imperative that you as an athlete undertake a very strong approach to your physical recovery. The added stress will make it exceeding difficult to recover enough to make strength gains. Recovery will consist of days off the bike with adequate sleep and proper nutrition. All three of these things must be perfectly balanced for the most effective gains.

Nutrition is almost impossible for an amateur to hash out properly with out spending copious amounts of money on personal aids and more expensive foods. Most peoples nutrition will be adequate enough that only minor supplementation will be required. Follow a balanced diet and take in extra carbohydrates and protein post exercise. A Recovery drink can help you restore your body in that precious post work out phase.

Lastly be sure to get a minimum of 8 hours of sleep each night. This is essential, and one area of training that we can easily maintain and adapt as needed. There is no excuse for not getting enough sleep, NONE. Take at least 2 rest days a week off the bike to ensure that your body is not put under stress and able to repair muscle damage. Should your fatigue levels be to high, more rest days or non-interval based rides will be needed. If this is a recurring problem that you can't manage seek help from a professional cycling coach.

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    • Paul Rinkenberg profile image
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      Paul Rinkenberg 3 years ago from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

      Sounds to me like you don't have a choice in the matter. Your children should be your main focus, not trying to improve your FTP. You are at a point in your life where sleep will not be available, and with out it, you will not make the gains quickly. Train hard, and sleep often. When you can, take a power nap.

    • profile image

      james gillies 3 years ago

      Regarding no excuse for not getting 8 hours sleep. I have two young children that wake multiple times during the night and can stay awake for an at a time and then wake early. How do I get 8 hours sleep?

    • Paul Rinkenberg profile image
      Author

      Paul Rinkenberg 3 years ago from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

      Active Recovery rides are part of a sound training program. The program I give as an example may be hard for most people. No matter what your ability level though you should still take 1 full complete rest day off the bike. Active recovery rides play a much more important role during sub-threshold and base building periods. Of course balancing all of this is one of the main reasons to hire a coach.

    • profile image

      Emmanuel 3 years ago

      During rest day, wouldn't that be better to ride a bit at about 55% of FTP? I don't like the notion of rest day.