FTP for threshold vs VO2 workouts

I mostly ride outdoors, and have my FTP set based on the 8min test (with the 5 min max effort). But I have realized that most threshold workouts are a little too hard for me with that FTP. Compare that to the VO2 workouts, which are relatively much easier. For example, a level 4 VO2 workout is just moderately hard for me, but a level 4 threshold workout is too hard.
Is it right to compare workout levels in that way, and is it possible that the VO2 workouts feel easier for me because I’ve a better ~5min engine than a ~1hr engine (which would go in line with the fact that my FTP was determined by a 8min test)?

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No. Levels are not comparable between zones.

Yea Vo2 and threshold levels are not comparable. I feel the same thing and my ftp is set too low

If your FTP (Functional Threshold Power) was estimated accurately, a level 4 threshold would be very achievable. But you estimated it based on a test that would skew your estimate more towards VO2.

Level 7-8 threshold is about right for an accurate FTP number.

This post is an example why I wish TR would stop using “FTP” for their anchor point.

This post is why I wish people would stop using progression levels to discuss workouts.

FTP is a very good anchor point for threshold and below, with individualization being driven by how long you make the intervals and the number of intervals. That is essentially what changes as you move from lower progression levels to high progression levels.

On the other hand, cyclists should use max repeatable efforts as the basis for vo2max and anaerobic work. This is where I personally disagree with TR’s approach, however one part of vo2 and anaerobic progression levels is to scale up intensity.

@Nikhil_Sharma for the threshold workouts that cause you to struggle - what do the intervals look like? For example are they something like 4 x 10 minutes at 100% FTP? I ask that way because with some muscular endurance training (Sweet Spot in TR plans), most should be able to do 40 minutes of work at threshold.

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That’s true - when you have a good idea of what your threshold is. That isn’t often the case with the TR assessments.

I’m a huge fan of the levels! It allows a granular focus on increasing fitness without trying to nail down specific power targets. There is tons of overlap between level 4 at one “FTP” setting and level 8 at another “FTP” setting. Which is why the “FTP” part doesn’t matter. Take an initial guess and start working your way up.

The level ratings aren’t perfect, but they’re pretty darn good and enable incremental progress and normalization across different styles of workouts. It’s a huge improvement!

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Nailing specific power targets is perhaps another misconception. Endurance, tempo, and sweet spot are primarily about extending the interval duration :man_shrugging:

Yeah, I have been happier with slight decoupling of FTP-> Vo2/anaerobic workouts and AT progression levels. It allows for slightly finer grained changes during the build phase than I would have previously had and I feel it is a better fit.

Previously, I would try and mess around with the intervals on my own and often be a little too heavy handed and dig myself a hole. The personalization of how FTP applies to higher zone workload and repeatability is, unfortunately, not very standardizable in my experience.

Even for myself, I’ve had to dial down intensity in TR app to 92%. That in and of itself is a problem - because I’m forced to do the 120% * .92 calculation to figure out I was at 110% for Spencer +2 (6 x 3-min on / 4-min off). Has that changed? If TR is going to use FTP as an anchor, why cause confusion in the app with Intensity setting that hides % FTP? It makes no sense to me.

Back to my point, I’ve done 3-min vo2max intervals at various % FTP, some as low as 110% and some above 120%. What I’ve determined is that (somewhat counter-intuitively) doing more zone2/zone3 work results in a higher % FTP while doing vo2max intervals. So not only is personalization required, but it will vary depending on my base aerobic fitness.

Unfortunately, that part hasn’t changed, but I feel the workouts being targeted to me are more appropriate. I’ll get some higher power targets for shorter intervals but with more repetitions. In the past I would get the same old same old 3-5mins vo2 workouts and I felt I wouldn’t really progress in build until I did my own, custom% for the intervals that actually got me breathing heavy/working.

So AT may take some of your history into account and look at length vs repeatability vs raw power%, who knows. I like the newer variety though

100%!!! Once you know what you can do for threshold efforts, you have a pretty good gauge on what you can do for sub threshold. But the margin for error goes way way down once you start going above threshold.

Another reason why I vote for TR to just stop talking about “FTP”. People use it with all different types of meanings and it just confuses things. It is not easily assessed, it confuses setting of targets, most cyclists don’t need to know it (no TR users need to know it), and it has a different meaning to different people.

Does ramp/8min/20min test give an accurate estimate of FTP? No.

Is it necessary to know your FTP to train and race effectively? No.

Does everyone agree on what FTP means and use it with the same meaning? No.

Is it a good singular metric that demonstrates fitness? No.

Then why are we talking about FTP so much???

A long time ago I heard Coach Chad recommend personalizing workouts, and from that point forward I ignored the ‘follow the plan’ crowd and started personalizing. Before TR I did that to great success, and somehow lost my way when seeing so many on this forum recommend simply following the plan along with what seems in retrospect an obsession with hitting power targets rather than focusing on the fundamentals of what you are trying to accomplish in a particular zone.

Well, the Coach Chad, the head coach of TrainerRoad, had this to say in an article that was updated last year:

I honestly don’t understand the calls to stop talking about FTP. To recap:

  • its important FTP esimtates your actual sustainable power at threshold, as closely as possible
  • its the basis for all your training
  • an effective test can extrapolate the point where you are balancing hard and too-hard work

The issue is that some folks we accept ramp test results without question, without understanding the above. That we should stop talking about where FTP is useful and where it isn’t.

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All of that stuff Chad says is great in theory. But the secret sauce behind TR is combining science with a practical implementation that everyone in their basement can access.

TR may say they are using FTP, but they aren’t. Their chosen method is a ramp test, which most closely estimates Maximal Aerobic Power (MAP). So they are then scaling MAP to estimate FTP and then scaling that estimated FTP to estimate training zones. And then have introduced levels to cover the super wide margin of error that comes from that.

So with levels, what exactly is being accomplished by calling something FTP that probably isn’t FTP? It is an antiquated terminology that only works if you can measure it really well. Most people can’t or don’t want to, and so it is pointless to keep talking about it.

I disagree with both of these. Your actual sustainable power is what gives you your FTP. Until you go out and do an effort as hard as possible for 30 - 60 min, you don’t know what your FTP is.

Second, doing different types of workouts for different durations and different intensities is the basis for all your training. The only thing TR uses the assessments for is an initial guess of where to put targets. It is nothing more and nothing less and it works great.

If any of what was written in your post was sufficient, then we would have zero need for adaptive training.

TR has unequivocally made the claim that the Ramp Test gives a better estimate of FTP versus the 8-min and 20-min tests that TR previously used. And the original workouts were designed around Coggan Classic zones, which are based on an accurate FTP estimate, are still in the TR plans, and are still in TR’s library.

Personalizing training levels doesn’t require the use of progression levels. It simply requires looking at your power duration curve and a few other simple metrics. It really is that simple. All the talk of Progression Levels (PLs) simply obscure the fundamentals. If TR works for you then PLs can be a fine approach, but focusing on PLs is side stepping the fundamentals and will cause many to lose sight of those fundamentals.

As victim of this, my reasoning was:
I knew nothing (like completely nothing) about cycling and training. I have started TR in 2019 after being on a road bike 4 times total :slight_smile: I followed the first phases quite blindly - and they worked wonders. And I have to admit that blindly following plan is very convenient…till you hit some kind of bump (in my case it was single workout).
My mentality is that if I do something I want to know as much about it as I can.

So after 2 years of gathering some scraps of knowledge, despite being task oriented person and having a huge problem when someone ask me to “have fun” on the bike, I see that rigorously following plan, watts and percentage provides no added value. I started to focus on a very broad picture and continuously asking “why?”. Like “why 120% of FTP?”, “why 6 min SST intervals are quite pointless” and "why I have failed with particular approach. So in the end, bursting the bubble of a given plan and asking more and more questions become the most fun of training for me;)

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The intervals are more like 3 x 12 at ~98 % of FTP.
It could also be that the training stress is getting too much for me (I’m on a mid volume plan).
I started structure training (and using TR) just 2 months ago. Before that, it was just random rides during the week and 8-10hr rides on the weekend - which I did for about 6 months.
Looking back at some of the rides earlier in the year, when I did do some interval training (with no structure, but just to see what interval training feels like), I once did a 4 x 8 at 244 W (when my FTP must have been around 228W based on 20min tests). I feel like my fitness in general has increased since then, but maybe it’s just more fatigue that’s preventing me from reaching such numbers now.

TR can say what they want. But they are taking a 1 min power from a ramp and using that to anchor everything. That is not FTP. They just convert it to an FTP estimate cause it correlates well enough to use established training zones. But that number isn’t FTP. That’s why so many people have issues.

Agreed. Reading between the lines of some of the data in the “Ramp Test Makes FTP Testing More Efficient and Less Stressful” blog post leads me to believe TR’s adoption of the ramp test is solving a problem related to retaining trial users, rather than trying to figure out how to best estimate FTP. And then Adaptive Training is partly a solution to the problem created by the ramp test and using % FTP for vo2max/anaerobic. Before TR, I got faster simply by going on drop rides, blowing up, and using that knowledge to go out solo and do longer and longer Sweet Spot and Threshold intervals by HR and feeling.

Pretty sure Adaptive Training does not have this capability. It just gives you a workout of the type based on your plan and difficulty based on your PL.

But if you use only TR, you don’t have a power duration curve of maximal efforts. Not sure what your beef with PL is. They address the fact that (a) FTP estimates from the ramp test are different for different people and (b) power duration curves have different shapes for different people. Those were the two big problems TR had before and PL solve that.