Discouraged. FTP won't increase

Hey everyone.

I am struggling to increase my FTP. If there is anyone that can offer any advice or motivation that would hugely helpful. I apologize in advance for a longer post, I’ll try to be brief and to the point.

I’m turning 40 this year, between 166 and 171 pounds typically, 5’ 11”. I work 40 to 50 hours a week in a moderately stressful job, and two wonderful kids aged 3.5 and 15 months.

I started mid volume plans last August (2020) and I haven’t seen much improvement. Prior to this I was a typical low volume user for a couple years seeing my FTP bounce between 200 and 235.

Here is my Mid Volume progression:

  • Start of SSB MV 1 – 231 watts – August 2020
  • Start of SSB MV 2 – 235 watts – September 2020 – 4 watt increase
  • Start of Sustained Power Build MV – 235 – October 2020 – No change to FTP
  • Mid plan Sustained Power Build MV – 250 – November 2020 – 15 watt increase
  • Start of SSB MV 2 – 245 watts – December 2020 – 5 watt decrease
  • Start of General Build MV – 250 watts – February 2021 – 5 watt increase
  • Mid plan General Build MV – 244 watts – today – 6 watt decrease.

Super frustrated. What are some potential limiters?

Genetic potential? I don’t think so. I wouldn’t say that I am a gifted athlete, but I have always been active either in sports, lifting, or through the Army. In my early 20s I could run 3 miles in 18 minutes. I wouldn’t think that I’ve reached my potential, well, I hope not.

Poor nutrition? Maybe. I don’t eat terrible but there is always room to improve. I don’t count calories or macros. I try to fuel my workouts with carbs, drink SIS recovery drinks, and a casein protein shake morning and/or night depending on how I’m feeling. I usually feel I have enough in the tank for the workouts.

Not enough rest? Possible for sure. My Garmin watch tells me my 7 day average sleep is 6h 41m which is actually more than I thought. Again, two young kids…

Overtraining? I don’t think so. Although it has been a process to get up to a mid volume level, I feel pretty comfortable with it now.

I feel like I’m putting in the work and not getting the reward. My 3 week TR TSS average is 355, 6 week TR TSS average is 314, and 9 week TR TSS average is 315.

Any ideas or thoughts would be greatly appreciated. I’d really like to see an increase from the second half of this build phase.

I think a lot of your answers are in your post. Be realistic about what you can do with that combination of a stressful job and a young family, and the slow creep of ageing. Also, you have to accept that big jumps in your FTP are hard to come by once you have reached a certain level. It could be that you are just trying to force out the increases in FTP by throwing more at it.
From what you have said, you have gone from a FTP of around 200w to about 250 in 6 months. Many would bite your hand off if you offered them a 25% increase in FTP in that time. It’s not saying that you have to accept that you are stuck with what you have got, but more that further progress will come, but over more sustained period of time. Just don’t “burn yourself out” pushing for it too quickly.

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Are you doing additional rides and/or weight training, maybe running, outside of the planned workouts? When did you last take time off the bike? Completely off. If you’ve been training since August, that’s a solid block. It might be beneficial both physically and mentally to give yourself a week, maybe two, of absolutely nothing.

Yes, you’ll see a drop in FTP initially but I’m willing to bet that you’ll gain that back pretty rapidly. Unless you have a confirmed event looming on your calendar, I would say that some well earned R&R is worth consideration.

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That’s a lot less than the TSS for the MV plans you’re doing. So it looks like you’re not really doing all the work? Maybe let people have a look at your career, so they can comment on what you actually have been doing?

BTW: going from 231 to 250 watts is pretty decent gains I would say.

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Good spot. SPB MV with 100% compliance should have you at 428 TSS 6-week average. To the OP, Are you not managing to hit all target workouts? Do you feel burnt out? Are there other stressors that are starting to affect your performance?

Do you feel like you’re nailing every workout? I ask because if you aren’t it may actually be too much volume or intensity. I was in a position like this over the summer, trying to complete MV build and not seeing any improvement and then I crashed hard. Finally accepted that I was doing too much and backed off a little. I also had let my ego get the better of me and refused to drop my FTP despite what the ramp test results are telling me. It doesn’t sound like you’re doing that but something to consider.

There has been a lot of talk of polarized plans lately, and now TR is planning to include them in the near future. I have to say my experience is in line with many of the criticisms of TR plans that they just have too much intensity. Perhaps they’re doable if you’re able to spend all your off bike time recovering and you have great nutrition, but it sounds like you have a busy life with work and kids. It wouldn’t surprise me if you’re just running yourself down even if you don’t really feel like it. I would suggest removing 1-2 of the intensity days from the MV plans and replacing them with a z2 ride. Or even simpler, just go back to LV and add some easy ride in to get more volume. It seems counter intuitive and I couldn’t accept it for a while, but if you’re not getting enough recover between hard days, you’re never getting stronger. Just my n=1, but I’ve seen a 35w increase since August having reduced my intensity and I feel great and I’m pumped for this summer. Good luck and I hope this helps.

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Might be getting a bit burned out from jumping from plan to plan to plan and not giving it a real break from intensity. Personally I usually do 20 weeks of TR in the winter and then don’t touch it again until the following winter unless I throw in an endurance ride or something indoors on a crappy day when I can’t get out. I don’t think that recycling through the plans over and over is really beneficial especially in MV when you’re doing intervals 4x a week and never getting proper rest

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For starters, you are short changed change by an hour per day because of those two little rug rats. Try giving up some TV and going to bed earlier.

Another thing to consider is more frequent rest weeks. TR sometimes has 5 week blocks. Many amateurs will do better with 2 on 1 off or 3 on 1 off. You have to rest for adaptation to occur. That means sleep at night and rest or “adaptation” weeks.

An LV plan with extra endurance workouts might be better for you.

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All your ”FTP” results were from the ramp test? At least two assumptions are being made a) your FTP can be derived ramp test using the 75% x MAP formula. b) that your MAP is consistent day to day.

The ramp test might be absolutely fine for you but for me not so much. The ramp test over-estimates my FTP by about 10w (so it’s not 75% of the last minute but 73%). The ramp test does not necessarily result in a consistent MAP. I’ve tests that score 5-7w difference between tests taken 2-3 days apart.

6h41m doesn’t seem like a lot of sleep to me. I generally aim for 8, but I’ve not kds.

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Two things standout for me:
1 - Sleep. I wouldn’t function on <7h per night. With two kids this is challenging (I know), but anyway you could find an extra hour?
2 - TSS: weekly averages aren’t massive and could be you need a bigger stimulus.

Finally, how’s the TTE @ FTP? Nice to increase FTP, but nicer to be able to hold a high % of it for longer!

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Ok. Let’s figure this out together! Here’s a screen grab of the first few weeks of General Build Mid Volume. Note the Weekly TSS numbers…something is off between the plan and your weekly TSS over the past three weeks.

Which workouts knocked you off your TSS schedule?

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FWIW, I’m almost the same FTP as you. Mid 230s and topped out at 238 couple times, back to 231 this last FTP test after the off season and starting up the new plan for 2021.

Also, I’m 44 and my weight is just a hair under you and I have 40 hours a week job and a bunch of kids and all that too.

So I’ve had some of the same feelings and frustration you have. But there is one bright spot I can share. I posted last year the thread:

https://www.trainerroad.com/forum/t/ssb-ii-is-killing-me/

Well here I am a year later and ssbII is on the plan builder again. This time it isn’t killing me. I was about FTP 220 when I did this plan over a year ago. So even though only 10-11W higher now and it seems from my history that’s within the margin of fluctuation up/down, I’m now doing those same workouts without dying. Instead of limping through them and turning the intensity down a percentage or two, I’m keeping it right at 100. My HR gets up there and I sweat, but I just keep powering through and my legs aren’t failing and I feel great when I get it done.

So I’m sort of excited for the new AT program that can measure and show progress on more than just FTP because I feel like FTP isn’t telling the whole story. My FTP isn’t a lot different but my results during workouts are certainly different.

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Nothing additional of any substance. No running. I have a set of dumbbells next to my desk that I pick up once a day but no real weight training.

Last time off the bike… er… I don’t know. My last true 0 week was in June of 2020. Not a bad idea.

No I don’t get 100% compliance. I end up skipping a lot of the warm ups and/or cool downs in an effort to save time. Maybe this is wrong but I’ve always felt like if I hit the meat of the workout (the intervals) I will be getting the majority of the benefits. Also some weeks I’ll skip the recovery ride, again, in the interest of time. During most workouts I’ll need to back spin in an interval or two for 15 seconds then start again to finish. Feels more weak minded than anything.

Honestly no. I really don’t. The first time I tried SSB MV the 6 week cycle really beat me up, had to skip the last week and went straight to the recovery week. That was last fall sometime. But since then I’ve been doing better. This last 4 week block I felt really good before the recovery week, felt like things were going good.

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This is awesome. Thanks. I really don’t feel as though I’m running into the ground, usually feel excited for the work, but that very may well be it. I’ve been known to have that stubborn ego in the past… haha

Which z2 rides are you doing? For this next 4 week block I might just try to replace all the Sunday rides with something less stressful. That would leave 3 intensity days and two recovery rides.

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Yeah, all from the ramp test. I’ve actually considered re testing.

I’m always trying to find extra sleep. Seriously this is an active goal of mine to sleep more. We aren’t much of a TV family so unfortunately that isn’t something that I can just cut out.

Yeah. For sure. I do think this has increased over the past 6 months and is a little harder to quantify.

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  1. My TSS history is lower than the plans have. Yeah. 100% truth. Three things are probably contributing to this:
    a. Often I skip the warm up and/or skip the cool down. This is in the interest to save time in my day. I have always assumed that if I still do the meat of the workout (the interval section) I am still getting the majority of the benefits. This makes a surprising difference to the overall TSS of the workout, often my workout TSS is less than 80% of the workout expected TSS.
    b. I take the rest weeks really light. I often don’t complete all the recovery rides.
    c. If I need to drop a workout in the week I try to drop the recovery ride.

  2. I’m positive I have room for improvement in the precent of workouts that I complete with 100% accuracy. This is something I’m actively working on. Fueling well before a workout helps a lot. I’ve found that a bowl of Steel Cut Oats with an apple maybe 20 minutes before with a gel 20 or 30 minutes into the workout really helps me.

In Bashful +6 last week the first set of 5 I completed all with no breaks, second and third set of 5 I needed one ~15 sec back spin on the 5th and 4th interval respectively. That’s pretty representative of my workout completion.

Are these two items tanking my training? Thoughts?

That’s awesome. Thanks for the story. I’m interested in how you do with the new 2021 plan. Sounds like we have a lot of similarities.

I’m the same but caps out at 240 and hooves around 230 with TTE under 40 min to over an hours as FTP drops. What’s you FTP to VO2 Max ratio? If it’s higher than 75% and you are ok with your time to exhaustion at FTP, then maybe you should work on improving your VO2 Max with Short Power Build. My VO2 Max estimate from WKO4 is 290 with current estimate FTP of 235 which puts my ratio at 81%. I tried doing a VO2 build (modified Short Power Build LV as backbone) in January followed by Sustained Power Build but it was too brutal as my base wasn’t there. I had to take three weeks off/easy to shake off the fatigue. Pretty sure my power is back down to 230. I plan to rebuilding my base after this week with more emphasis pushing my weekly duration higher with less intensity (brushing off my old FasCat SS training plan with modification for longer endurance rides) so that I can push my VO2 higher later in the year.