Big post about FTP increases, plateaus, weight training and other stuff!

Hi everyone, please excuse the long post!

I’m looking for some advice on how to improve my power on the bike. In terms of background, I am a 50yo male long term (beta) user of TR. When I started my FTP was around 220w and over the last 3 or 4 years it has yoyo’d from 220 to 255 and is now sitting at 238w. I’ve been mostly training indoors the last 18 months although last year I did a few long outdoor rides including the Ride London which I finished in a shade over 5hrs. I felt awful on that ride and tired/underprepared. I lost a close family member last year who was sick for most of the year before so I guess that for the last 2 years my training has been a bit disjointed and not very consistent. My training tends to follow the Triathlon plans as I love running but due to a shoulder injury I don’t do the swims. I guess I average around 350 – 450 TSS a week, with perhaps 150TSS coming from running.

This year I am heading to the Alps on a week cycling trip and want to go strong and ready for the climbs. I did the Dolomites in 2017 on a compact with 11/28T and managed everything although there may have been a few moments of deep inner reflection and some silent tears on the Mortirolo and Zoncolan. I want to be able to ride confidently in the Alps this year.

I weigh 72.5Kg and so have a w/kg of around 3.3w/kg. My all-time high was 3.5w/kg. Ideally I guess I’d like to crack 4w/kg and have been inspired a great deal by another thread on here with guys my age and older crossing the 4w/kg line. I think I can get my weight down another 1 – 2 kgs by July. Target FTP then would be around 280w.

I can understand why my FTP seems to have stagnated given my training inconsistency, but I also feel that because I have been doing a lot of base (and more long course triathlon training plans) I’ve not had the upper end ‘oomph’ to push my FTP up during ramp tests. My FTP over the last 6 months has hovered around the late 230’s (236, 238 etc). That’s a long time with no improvement. Given I started years ago on 220 I don’t consider 238 to be anywhere near my max FTP.

I’m about to finish Half Ironman Mid Vol Base (I like the longer weekend bike sessions and runs) but I appreciate I will need to focus more on the riding from now to be fit for the mountains.

My plan (or at least my sketch of a plan) is to switch to Rolling Road Race and Climbing Road Race plans during the remaining 20 or so weeks until the big event. I don’t want to lose my running fitness so I’ll find some time to do 1 speed session (40 mins) and one endurance session (60 mins) a week.

So (thanks for sticking with this so far!), my questions are:

I feel my reported FTP is low as my endurance now feels much stronger compared to last year but my top end has definitely dropped which would have an affect on a ramp test. Should I raise the FTP by for example 5w to 10w to get the right systems working?

With 22 weeks to go, should I go build/base/build/speciality – all road bike focused – and go with my plan of throwing in runs to keep those ticking over (or should I stick with Mid Vol Half distance Ironman plans and add rides and remove runs for example)?

I don’t weight train. Should I? I’ve heard people say that once you’ve conditioned your muscles, the only way to get more improvement is more muscle (makes sense) so if I should weight train am I looking at a 5x5 approach to build strength or something more cycling specific?

Has anyone else experienced this plateau in their training before (an almost permanent sticking of FTP to a similar number) and how did you break the cycle (no pun intended)?

I’ve no kids and a wife who’s almost more addicted to cycling than me so I have the time and flexibility to try different things if anything weird and wonderful is suggested. I appreciate there’s a lot here and so any nuggets you might have would be gratefully received. I’m tinkering with WKO5 at the moment so any advice also on things to track within the software (or any other software that may be useful) again would be welcome.

TR is a great training tool, and the staff and community are top-drawer. Thanks in advance for any advice.

I have a similar profile. Same age, similar FTP but less W/kg as I am heavier. My FTP does not increase when I don’t train consistently. I have found the most improvement when I hit your TSS numbers through cycling only. I do weight train for maintenance and have found it does help my cycling fitness. When I mix in running TSS, my FTP gains stall. I think if you focus on one of the MV cycling plans you will be all set. As an aside, I have found that I get the most gains when I mix in a long outdoor ride - I know there science suggests sweet spot rides will have the same effect but my adherence rate improves when I can mix in a long ride, even if it is unstructured.

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I am going through something similar and basically the coaches are saying it’s very important to get a valid “FTP” to set zones. Guessing is not recommended.

No idea how to mix running in.

I think strength training is valuable to cyclist for sure. Basically, you are getting more fibers to engage…But, it should be more a focus in the prep phase prior to base. Once base and build hit maintenance only as the stress of lifting will take away from on the bike specificity. Important for injury prevention. With 22 weeks to go, however, I’m not sure what and how much lifting you should do?

Yes. I’d recommend looking and planning your ramp rate in training peaks/WKO+. The idea is to build CTL as high as you can about 6 weeks prior to your big event and sort of switch from base/build to race specific training. So, for 16 weeks, including recovery weeks, try and figure what kind of ramp rate you think you can do and get the TSS done to achieve max CTL. After that switch to a specialty plan to fine tune that fitness for your event. Bottom line, to break through a plateau there is no way around you have to “ride more” to stress more to cause more adaptation. No free lunch.

Just want to reemphasize ramp rate. I can’t speak for all the TR plans but, some I’ve noticed don’t ramp or perhaps not enough for you. To get more fit (given you can recover) you have to systematically overload. To do this requires consistency more than anything. With no kids and an obsessed wife you have the green light to push it. So push it. There is only so much each of us can handle so a plateau is inevitable.

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‘a few moments of deep inner reflection’ :rofl:

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Same age as you :wink:, last summer was 3.5w/Kg (255w, 72Kg) and decided to try and hit 4w/Kg for an event in July 2020.

Currently 3.64w/Kg but about to test and exxect to be 3.9w/Kg (275w, 70Kg), I have done this by;

Gradually increasing TSS per week, last yr consistent peak weeks were 400TSS, just about to complete a fifth consective week above 520TSS (approx 8hrs / wk). Figure I can get to over 600 consistently before July.

All weeks have been as per plan (mid vol base / build) with extra added on as based on how I feel.

To do this I’ve had to improve my eating, more carbs, less sugar.

Weight’s twice per week.

Don’t miss / skimp on the hard workouts (Vo2, Threashold) I think these are the ones that make athe biggest differance.

Just my experience.

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Same situation with me, I’ve changed my perspective a bit backing off on trying to raise my less than 20 minute power and increasing my 20+ power. This has helped me last longer in races while my ftp hasn’t grown much. I find time constrained longer duration over unders and criss cross intervals help the most. Cheers and know you’re not alone

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A lot of this is probably good advice to generally get faster / stronger but your plan may need to be different as a masters athlete. You should expect strength training to become more important as you get older. Similarly, you may need to do high intensity work (anaerobic) more often vs. what you would have done to get faster when you were younger. It’s just simply due to what happens as we age and just grinding out the low intensity miles, or trying to build CTL or whatever, eventually will stop cutting it.

Check out this: http://alancouzens.blogspot.com/2013/06/taking-aerobic-training-too-far.html

there also was a good blog post by Joe Friel with excerpts from one of his books, “Fast After 50.”

Long story short, a measure of anaerobic capacity is required in order to truly fulfill your aerobic capacity, anaerobic capacity diminishes disproportionately with age, and if you don’t do work to keep it available to you, your “muscle pool” that you can draw on will be diminished.

So go hit your intervals! Maybe TrainerRoad has a plan or two for Masters Athletes

@swgregg As in ‘WTF am I doing this for!’. Sometimes you need to have a quiet word with yourself…

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Hi Carl, what plan are you doing? Cheers, James

this is the other article i was thinking of: https://www.trainingpeaks.com/blog/periodization-and-mixed-training/

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Sept 19 -SSB1 MV (FTP 232)
Nov 19 - SSB2 MV (FTP 251)
end Dec - Short power build MV (FTP 262)
Didn’t finish it as I got ill over Christmas :unamused:

Jan - General Build MV (just finished and completing workouts easy (ish) so think I’ll be 270 ftp

All weeks I’ve added approx 1hr and 50-60TSS via extra rides or adding 15mins at the end of workouts plus 2 sessions of “general weights”

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Thanks Landis, much appreciated.

Thanks, great info.

Great articles, thanks for sharing.

Interesting, you’re right I’m not interested really in FTP, more my ability to climb.