When calculating what does FTP stand for

FTP and FTHR: This is how you measure your performance level on the bike

In order to optimally analyze and align your bike training, you can orientate yourself on various values. Two of the most commonly used output values ​​are Functional Threshold Power (FTP) and Functional Threshold Hearth Rate (FTHR). Here you can find out how to determine them and what they are useful for your training.

You can simply train by feeling on the bike or just keep an eye on your pulse. But in order to be able to perfectly understand and plan an increase in performance and endurance, it is helpful to record the training with a bike computer or GPS watch. Here we introduce you to two values ​​that you can record yourself relatively easily and that you can use to align your cycling training: FTP and FTHR.

What do FTP and FTHR mean?

FTP and FTHR stand for "F.unctional Threshold P.ower "or"F.untional Threshold Hearth R.ate ". These values ​​represent the currently maximum possible continuous output over an hour, either in watts (FTP) or as a pulse value (FTHP). They are a good comparison value for your current performance. That means: the higher the FTP value, the higher your performance. As an example: If two drivers with different FTP values ​​drive one and the same mountain with 90 percent of their FTP value each, the fitter driver is faster up there, even if they have exerted exactly the same amount.

In order to record the FTP value, the bike must be equipped with a watt system. The systems are relatively expensive; A purchase is recommended for athletes who want to focus their training on competitions. Anyone who cannot record watt values ​​can also work well with pulse values.

How does the FTP test work?

The functional threshold power values ​​are determined with a 20-minute test (plus retraction and extension). Originally the values ​​were measured over an hour, in the meantime it has been found that the value can also be determined over a shorter period of time. For the test, you drive 20 minutes at maximum power - but in such a way that you can survive the duration of the test. For the FTP value, you then calculate the average watt value and multiply by 0.95 to take into account the fatigue within an hour. This is especially important in the 20-minute test. This lays the foundation for further training planning.

For example, the FTP test can look like this:

  1. easy retraction, possibly with a few short sprints / fast sections to prepare the muscles
  2. 20 minutes of "everything-that-works" - but in such a way that you can hold out the entire time
  3. easy extension to loosen up the legs
  4. Calculation of the FTP value = average of the watt values ​​from point 2 * 0.95
  5. Determination of the training zones (see table below)

The shorter 20-minute test is slightly less precise, but usually more practical: where can you find a route that is flat and without curves - and that takes you 60 minutes? Except on the roller or the indoor trainer, of course.

How does the FTHR test work?

The FTHR test works in a relatively similar way, the pulse is measured here. The test takes a little longer at 30 minutes. This is because the pulse always takes a little to adapt to the actual exertion: it always lags a little. That's why you drive 30 minutes at maximum power in the FTHR test - the average value is only obtained from the last 20 minutes. The pulse has ten minutes to rise and adjust.

For example, you can do this:

  1. easy retraction, possibly with a few short sprints / fast sections to prepare the muscles
  2. 30 minutes of "everything-that-works" - here, however, deliberately not full throttle from the start, because the pulse should slowly approach the load:
    • 10 minutes during which the pulse increases
    • Keep the load as high as possible for 20 minutes
  3. relaxed extension to loosen up the legs
  4. Calculation of the FTHR value = average heart rate of 20 minutes in maximum exercise
  5. Determination of the training zones (see table below)

An entertaining and instructive video on FTP / FTHR is available from the Global Cycling Network:

Determination of the training zones

What do you need the FTP and FTHR values ​​for? Basically, training plans usually consist of endurance, strength, sprint and recovery units. With the help of the FTP or FTHR values, you can now calculate so-called individual training zones, which you can use as a guide during your training. These can be calculated using these percentage values:

Training zoneFTPFTHR
Active regeneration
Basic perseverance56-75% of the measured watt value69-83% of the measured pulse
tempo76-90% of the measured watt value84-94% of the measured pulse
Lactate threshold91-105% of the measured watt value95-105% of the measured pulse
Aerobic capacity106-120% of the measured watt value106% + of the measured pulse
Anaerobic capacity121% + of the measured watt valueNot measurable
Speed ​​power"Anything goes for 10 seconds""Anything goes for 10 seconds"

Based on these values, you can specifically pursue the respective training goals and work on weaknesses. Especially with interval training, the combination of different training zones is central and effective. So that the training areas can also be adapted to the most current fitness level possible, it is advisable to repeat the test after a certain time.

Use in training

As you can see in the table, overall higher training zones can be calculated with the FTP, which is due to the fact that watt values ​​always show the current performance, while the pulse value always increases a little late. For the calculation of the anaerobic capacity as well as for the quick strength phase, the training loads are already so short that the pulse does not move so quickly into the desired range.

Important for everyone who trains by pulse: Always keep an eye on the time, because the pulse rate takes a little time to move into the actual stress zone. If you drive off too fast to get your heart rate up quickly, you probably won't be able to sustain this load for the full length of time!

It is particularly practical that the various training areas can be saved on modern bike computers that are linked to a heart rate belt or watt system. This means that you can have it displayed "live" in which phase you are currently.

This is also where many training software providers come in, where you can summarize and clearly compare your training data. You can find a comparison of different systems and their functions in this post:

Conclusion on the FTHR and FTP test

The FTP test and the FTHR test are good ways to identify progress and improve your own performance on the bike. The advantage of this method is that you can easily determine the values ​​yourself. So you don't necessarily have to go to a performance analysis laboratory. It is true that other values ​​such as lactate, maximum strength, etc., which are more precise, can be determined there - but these are also a lot more expensive and usually not so easy to transfer to training. Based on the data, you can control your further training planning.

Sources and literature tips

The market-leading training analysis platform Training peaks (used by many professional cycling teams) has published some articles on FTP and FTHR in their help section and blog.

Cycling and triathlon trainer Joe Friel has written some books about bike training and also provides information on his blog:

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