Rate of FTP increase

Hi all,

I started cycling in May of 2018 but didn’t train consistently until I got into TR this past month. I first tested my FTP in late July 2018 and I got 211 watts, this was using Zwift’s FTP test. My TR ramp test in May came out to 231, so in the last 10 months my FTP increased by 20 watts without consistent training. I’m 100 kg and 181 cm.

My question is, how fast should I expect my FTP to go up with consistent training? When I go out on group rides I talk to guys and girls that have been cycling for 20+ years, never any consistent training (and usually only ride 50-75 miles/week), but can drop me on a climb like I’m standing still.

I guess my goal is to bump my FTP to 350 watts as fast as possible, as I don’t expect to lose anymore weight with my body type; I don’t want to grind away at 65 RPM up the local mountain while on my granny gear (34-32) anymore. Am I rushing things? Does it take decades to build up a huge aerobic engine?

In short, no one knows. There are simply too many variables to make anything approaching a realistic prediction.

Pick & follow a training plan, get consistent training done, make sure to rest & recover, eat well, and see where the whole process takes you.


Edit to add: A goal FTP is not a bad idea, but it’s likely not the best either. That is especially true if you are new to this type of training.

  • It’s better to consider some process goals and focus on the direct elements of training that you CAN control. See the list in sentence #2 above as the stuff that you can do and control every day.
  • Adding in some outcome goals like personal times on local segments, or power personal records are more things linked directly to yourself.
    • Your FTP goal falls into this category, but unless you have some prior experience that may be a goal that leads you astray from what is more important to a broader perspective. There is a common overemphasis on FTP. It is useful for evaluation of some progress, and is the foundation to our training zones.
    • But recognize that it is a single reference point and not really all that indicative of you abilities as a cyclist. You need to look much wider to a broad range of power info, your abilities in a group, or whatever other setting you plan to apply your fitness and skills.

My overriding recommendation is to jump into the training, focus on your inputs, and make sure to evaluate your progress with wide view (sometimes the gains aren’t easy to spot, but they are very much present).

  • I can provide personal examples where my FTP appears to be somewhat slow or stagnant. But looking at power data and PR’s from various events over the years show significant progress in my total abilities well beyond the FTP test results.
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Certainly doesn’t take decades to see improvement.

Rate of improvement is dependent on soooo many factors that it’s practically impossible to tell though. But without any consistent training prior I bet you’ll see some good gains by just keeping to a plan. Just start with SSB I & II and a steady 12 weeks and I bet you’ll see a big jump in your w/kg. Both due to a jump in FTP and a drop in weight. I know you said you don’t expect to lose anymore weight but at face value, at 181cm and 100kg I bet you’ll drop some kg’s.

I’d worry less about a specific FTP number right now and I’d just take it one training plan at a time, focus on the process and see what happens.

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For what it’s worth, I had pretty consistent gains for my first year of using TrainerRoad on a regular basis. After that, it’s been slow going.

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Doesn’t take decades to build an aerobic engine but I would re-evaluate your assumptions re your weight. Even if you’re 100kg and less than 10% bodyfat, you’re still carrying a lot of muscle that you really don’t need for cycling (for context, Chris Hoy weighed about 93kg and was competing in events that were over in a few tens of seconds at most). Log plenty of cycling miles and your body will shed some of that weight for sure.

No idea whether you can get to 350W FTP, you’d be well above average if you did, but there’s only one way to find out and that’s to train hard over a couple of years and see where you get to. I’d bet good money that you can get that weight down below 90kg though, and that’s going to have a big impact on your ability to go uphill.

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Thanks Chad!

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Thanks for the reply! I’m probably closer to 15% body fat, I haven’t done a dexa scan though. Powerlifting was my main sport for the last 7-10 years and I’m still doing strength work twice a week.

I’ve been told I’m carrying too much muscle mass for serious cycling, and I understand that. But that doesn’t mean I can’t also increase my aerobic capacity does it? I know I’ll never hit my PB in powerlifting anymore and I know I’m not going to be anywhere near the fastest on a bike (maybe descending :stuck_out_tongue:), but that’s why I’m gunning for a high FTP because even though my w/kg will be low, it’s “good enough”.

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From personal experience, I started training in December this past year and within a few month had a huge bump from 180 to 240. Fast forward to now and i’m still hovering in that arena. I’ve dropped about 15lbs though so w/kg is still going up. I think it’s common to find your legs quick. From there it’s a slow rise.

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I don’t think you should be shocked or dismayed if you plateau several times on your way up. Your body needs time to adjust to training at a higher level than it has before. If you come in relatively untrained, the low hanging fruit are easy. After that initial bump, it could take a few months of working at the same level to consolidate those gains, and extend your abilities at the new level, before you’re ready to progress upwards again.

I’m in the middle of one of those plateaus. It’s annoying, but part of the process.

That’s where consistency from month to month and season to season comes in. If you start at 200, and build to 250 over one season, you ideally want to start the next season close to 250, rather than going sedentary for 6 months and starting over at 200 again.

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Where do you live and what type of climbing are you talking about? If you are 100kg and climbing against guys that are 68kg and you are literally going up mountains, you probably just aren’t ever going to catch them (without losing weight/muscle).

If you are however going up rollers or gentle climbs and you get to 3.5w/kg you will be a monster and inflict a lot of pain on your friends.

How long it will take is somewhere between soon and never, literally. How many hours a week are you willing to train? 3 hours a week? You probably will never get there. Locked in on a high volume TR plan from base to specialty, proper sleep, proper nutrition, you might get there fast enough to really surprise your friends. That full cycle is roughly SSB 1 - 6 weeks - SSB II 6 Weeks - General Build - 8 Weeks - Climbing Road Race - 8 weeks, so 28 weeks for one complete cycle. Be willing to commit to that and see how close you are.

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Results do vary week to week and month to month, but the principles of how to get faster are pretty concrete over the long run.

  1. Structured training beats unstructured training
  2. Eating to fuel your goals beats eating to satisfy your appetites
  3. Discipline beats motivation
  4. Regular recovery beats overtraining
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Absolutely you can increase your aerobic capacity, suspect you’ll find that the work needed to build that capacity will naturally cause you to shed a fair bit of that weight along the way as well! Put the work in, see where you end up. I had a friend at university who was naturally a fairly similar shape to you, 6’1" and mid to high 90s kg, all muscle, freakishly powerful, gravitated to sports like rowing and rugby. Over the subsequent ~25 years he got into cycling, then triathlon, then marathons, then trail running ultras. Still got wide shoulders and a barrel chest but he’s about 80kg and super lean now.

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Thanks!

I live near a mountain with a 7 mile climb of about 6% average gradient. I know I’ll never be fast up this climb, but I’d just like to be out of the granny ring and not feel like I’m dying the whole way up. I’d like to be able to enjoy the scenery and spin.

You make a very good point on the training routine. I’m on SSB1 low volume, due to time constraints I can’t really go more than this.

Thanks! That gives me hope, I know I’m never going to be a lightweight but hey, maybe 90kg is within reach! And isn’t TR’s Pete Morris in this category as well?

As others have said, your rate of performance gains is going to be totally unique to you. But for context, here is a chart of my improvement over time and the TR plans I used.

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Also keep in mind that your two FTP tests were done with different protocols, so a 20 watt increase may not really be that (could be more or less).

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I don’t recall his exact weight, he’s said it several times on the podcast. He’s definitely ‘heavier’ though, but it should be noted he’s trying to max out power to kill it in crits. Even with his enormous FTP (from memory it approaches 400w at peak) I he’s get handily dropped by Jonathan on a 7 mile 6% grade. With that kind of climb weight is going to be a significant factor, physics just isn’t helping you here. If cycling has become more of a priority the weight side if the equation probably deserves as much reflection as the power side. For your long climbs 90/315 is as good as 100/350 and likely faster to achieve.

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Thanks and good point on the ratio. Do you remember any podcasts about what Pete’s training regimen is?

+1 for this. I’m exactly the same FTP as a year ago following the same plan protocol but I am a FAR BETTER cyclist today (climbing, short power bursts, etc.) than I was last year. Not even by a little, by a bunch.

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For fun, a quick example: Here is the bike leg from my duathlon race last weekend. My FTP is up a bit this season, but the prior 3 years were all very close. I’ve done this race 4 years now (same course, same power meter, and only a different bike this season). I made a season for each race day to make comparison of each specific race day possible.

The chart shows the current 2019 race in red, and the others in blue (2018 dark blue, 2017 medium blue, 2016 light blue).

Based on my FTP progression (or minimal bumps), there wasn’t much to expect. But my performance in each race shows a marked increase in power over time.

  • I got more fit each year, as seen by the continued increase in the 10 minute and above range.
  • I got WAY better at pacing, largely from the incredible coverage during the big TT phase years ago. This is seen in the more “flat” power profile in each season (less slope on the left side means less spikes and lower peaks for those spikes).
  • My Variability Index improved massively from year to year and was a whopping 1.01 this year (about as good as it can get with rolling hills, headwind on the out stretch and tailwind on the back stretch.

So, this one race shows more than any single FTP test result could hope to show.
As I said, there is much more data to mine to see your progression.

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