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Cyclist training hard on his bike

Welcome to the second in our series of Wiggle Guides on Training with Power. In our Part 1 Training with Power guide we discussed the advantages of training with power and why power is a good metric to use. In this guide we will consider some sessions that you can do out on the road using your power meter; ranging from short interval sessions to longer steady sets.

The FTP Test

The first part to getting started with using a power meter is to perform an FTP test. What is FTP? It's Functional Threshold Power. That is the power that you can sustain for one hour at your "lactic threshold". Once you have established your FTP you can use it to calculate pacing, session intensity, targets and objectives; ultimately your main objective will be to increase your FTP with your training.

If you do a 25 mile time trial this can be one of the best ways to calculate your FTP; at roughly an hour it is a good gauge of your sustainable output.

Alternatively however there is a shorter session that can be used to generate the same result:

  • Warm up for 20 minutes: ride along at a moderate pace, or about 65 percent of your max heart rate
  • 5 mins moderate pace: Back to moderate pace to regain composure
  • Three high RPM efforts:  3 x 100RPM for 1 minute, with 1 minute moderate pace in between

Now it starts...

  • ALL OUT for 5 mins: "Punch it and hold it" Start high paced, but leave some in the tank to really kick in the last minute. The goal is firstly to open up the legs for the rest of the effort, but also to show what you can produce in terms of wattage at VO2 Max level.
  • 10 minutes moderate pace: Endurance level, regain your composure
  • 20 MINUTES TIME TRIAL: Do this on a flat road, put in a strong steady effort. Imagine it is a ten mile time trial. Sometimes it can be beneficial to do this on a slight climb or into a slight headwind,
  • 10-15 minutes moderate pace: Endurance level again to regain composure
  • 10-15 minutes Cool Down

Power training tips

The goal during the main 20 minutes set is to produce the highest wattage you can. However, it must be a steady effort, it is no good giving it everything then burning out. If anything it is better to gradually build it up throughout the set.

Once the test is over you need to work out your average power for the 20 minute effort. This is where the PowerTap Joule GPS computer is extremely useful. During the FTP test you can simply hit the interval button at the start/end of each interval, and the data will be right there in front of you in the PowerAgent software when you finish.

Take the average for the 20 minute effort and subtract 5 percent from the wattage to give your FTP. This is because the FTP is your wattage for an hour, not 20 minutes, so you need to take into account that you will be able to sustain less for a longer period. The reason for doing a shorter 20 minute test rather than a full 60 minutes, is that it is easier to do higher quality tests, and it is less time consuming and boring!

Note: FTP Test & Training Levels taken from H. Allen and A. Coggan's 'Training and Racing with a Power Meter' (2006)

Functional Threshold Power

Power Training Levels

You've now got your FTP Value. From this you can work out your power training levels.

  • Level 1: Active Recovery : <55% FTP : <68% Threshold HR : <2 Perceived Exertion Level
  • Level 2: Endurance : 56-75% FTP : 69-83% Threshold HR : 2-3 Perceived Exertion Level
  • Level 3: Tempo : 76-90% FTP : 84-94% Threshold HR : 3-4 Perceived Exertion Level
  • Level 4: Lactate Threshold : 91-105% FTP : 95-105% Threshold HR : 4-5 Perceived Exertion Level
  • Level 5: VO2 Max : 106-120% FTP : >106% Threshold HR : 6-7 Perceived Exertion Level
  • Level 6: Anaerobic Capacity : 121-150% FTP : N/A Threshold HR : >7 Perceived Exertion Level
  • Level 7: Neuromuscular Power : N/A FTP : N/A Threshold HR : Extreme Perceived Exertion Level

Now you know your zones we can move onto some great outdoor sessions...

Example Session 1: All Zone Training

Ride Time: 4 hours
Main Power Zone: Endurance

  • Warm Up: 30 minutes at Level 1-2
  • Focus Set: 2 x 20 minutes at 91-105% FTP. With 10 minutes easy spinning between
  • Recovery Cruise: 30 minutes of easy riding at Zone 2
  • Six Sprints: Three in the small ring from a low speed (75m). Three in big ring from 20 mph (300m). 5 minutes rest between each sprint.
  • Recovery Cruise: 30 minutes of easy riding in Zone 2
  • Five Hill Repeats: These will hurt! VO2 Max Pace. Varying Lengths. Rest well between each.
  • Recovery Cruise with Speed Bursts: 30 minutes of easy riding in Zone 2, with 8 second bursts every 5 minutes.
  • STOP and Refuel: Drink some sports drink and eat something.
  • PUSH IT!: Back on it for 45 minutes at "Sweet Spot" - 88-94% FTP (Zone: TEMPO)
  • Cool Down: 10-15 minutes at Zone 2 or less.

Note: Session taken from Cycling Plus "Train with Power" Issue 258 p. 142

This session is ideal for a weekend training ride; it takes in all the elements of power training, and will help to improve many zones of your power profile. It's hard going, and that last 45 minutes at 'Sweet Spot' will really burn, but push through it and you will start to see the results.

Example Session 2: Tempo Training

Ride Time: 2.5 hours
Main Power Zone: Tempo

  • Warm up: 15 minutes <68% FTP
  • Tempo Ride: 40 minutes 76-90% FTP
  • Lower Cadence Set: 20 minutes at a lower cadence (approx 75 RPM)
  • Tempo Ride: 40 minutes 76-90% FTP
  • Higher Cadence Set: 20 minutes at a higher cadence (approx 105 RPM)
  • Cool Down: 15 minutes at <55% FTP

Note: Session taken from H. Allen and A. Coggan's 'Training and Racing with a Power Meter' (2006)

Your tempo level is a great thing to improve. Training at this level will not make you a better sprinter or a better climber, however it will be sustainable; therefore it is a great area to use in the spring, before you move up to higher intensity sessions in the summer.

Example Session 3: VO2 Max Booster

Ride Time: 2 hours
Main Power Zone: Maximum Effort: VO2 Training

  • Warm up: 15 minutes <68% FTP
  • Blowout Effort: 5 minutes 100% FTP
  • Recovery: 5 minutes 70% FTP
  • Interval 1: 5 minutes 113% FTP --- 5 minutes easy spinning
  • Interval 2: 5.5 minutes 113% FTP --- 5 minutes easy spinning
  • Interval 3: 6 minutes 113% FTP --- 5 minutes easy spinning
  • Interval 4: 6.5 minutes 113% FTP --- 5 minutes easy spinning
  • Interval 5: 7 minutes 113% FTP --- 5 minutes easy spinning
  • Hard Effort: 2 x 3 minute >100% FTP. 5 Minute Rest Between.
  • Cool Down: 15 minutes at <55% FTP

Note: Session taken from H. Allen and A. Coggan's 'Training and Racing with a Power Meter' (2006)

VO2 max is crucial for racing performance. A race winning move will more often than not have to be at VO2 max; to break off the front of the peloton you need a serious burst of speed, and these intervals help to imitate the kind of acceleration needed to "break the elastic".

Objective Results

These sessions will really help to improve certain parts of your "Power Profile"; if you are a sprinter then you likely want to improve you endurance "Tempo" capabilities, so that you can become a more balanced rider. If you are a good long distance rider, but you lack that "kick" then VO2 workouts will give you some huge improvements.

The key to getting the most from your power training is to record all your data and compare it to past sessions and results. Use software like that on the PowerTap Joule GPS and you'll find it easy to track improvements in your power output, and be able to see where you can make your sessions better and more targeted.

Object results for your Power Profile

About the author

tim's picture
Tim Wiggins
Published on: 05 May 2015

Tim Wiggins is an avid cyclist, who is involved in all aspects of the sport. Whether it is mountain biking, road racing or riding non-stop for 480km; it is all about life on two wheels.