FTP improvements in percentage of VO2max


First post here. Been listning to the podcast more than a year now, inspiring to hear it all.

As the title suggest i’m curious to know if this what i’m stating here is actually truth.

Began training with a trainer june 2018. did a test and came out at an ftp of 320 @ 80,9 of vo2max.
Half a year later of intense training and racing i did another test in jan 2019. Saw improvemenst in my ftp. 340 @ 86,1 % at vo2max. With vo2max absoluut numbers increased aswell from 5070 to 5194.
Numbers were tested on a stationary bike indoor’s. I’m very poor at riding in this kind of setups though.
vo2max figure should be around 400 watts somewhere.

Clearly i became a faster cyclist. The gains i made are pure riding at a higher % of my vo2max.

Now my big question is, when am i botteming out. I know that riding on one’s ftp @ 90% of vo2max is possible. To further increase growth i might think i need to get a higher vo2max . The higher my vo2max the higher the wattage will be when i’m riding on 85/90% of it. vo2max is just not that trainable as is your ftp.

Had some great results this year with a 22th place on dutch nats TT with almost 370 watts for an hour. My weight was around 77 kg. End the season i hit 400 watts for 20 minutes on my TT-bike. So still growing but where is ones limit in all of this?

Does your vo2max grows equally when training and racing to further increase the % of riding on it?
Clearly my trainer did a great job by increasing this number but it has to stop somewhere as i’m not a pro and i’m 32 years old.

My conclusion in all of this is that your wattage @ vo2max is one’s potential. Clearly this wattage grows when training. But as an cyclist training 15 hours a week, this figure will end somewhere, wheres your potential to grow when riding @ 90% of vo2max @ ftp.

So if i want further improvements i need to grow my vo2max.

Sorry for any typo’s as i’m dutch ;).

I don’t believe it’s possible for FTP and pVO2max to converge.

pVO2max grows with FTP, although perhaps not proportionally. Best way to increase VO2max power of course is to do VO2max workouts. There’s an anaerobic contribution to pVO2max as well, so doing anaerobic workouts can also help.

Here’s a good TR blog article:

I’m kind of the opposite of you. Although I train both, end of the day I rely on training my VO2max and anaerobic power to lift my FTP.

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Thanks, will dive into this article :-).

I think its all about the o2 you can get in the system. Thats why i think the pro’s do have vo2max upwards of 75 so their power at vo2max is so high and therefore can get massive ftp’s. I think youre ftp is highly restricted to ones pvo2max and not the other way around. Therefor for us amateurs we have to seek gains in operating at a hight percentage of vo2max. also gain more workload at a certain % of vo2max as this, i think, is highly trainable. Only those high figures are for the gifted among us.

This could be entirely wrong. Maybe vo2max is not as sealed as we think and can be trained with the correct training. Thats what i’m to find out.
Its just a fact that if youre pvo2max is 450 watts and you are operating on 90% of it on ftp, you will be a monster on a bike, and i’m asking that just that pVo2max is the magic number here.

About training, all i do is efforts from 30s tot 5 min. I think i only did 2 or 3 sessions with longer durations then 5 min. So my training is mainly vo2max focused. a Typically training session is someting like 2 sets of 5 reps of 3 minutes at 110 to 115% of ftp with 3 mins rest.

Is this the polarized training method, that I think I’ve read you mention before?

Not so much that, but rather my biggest gains are seen during heavy VO2 and anaerobic blocks.


BlockquoteI would have to say that this 40% improvement represents one of the largest jumps I have seen, and it’s not typical. However, in my experience, jumps far greater than the 5-15% cited in the literature, with sustained aerobic training, are routine.
In fact, when I model the average response to training across the entire group that I have VO2 and long-term training data for, I see an average shift from 54 to 67 ml/kg/min (a change of 24%) when a long-term, high-volume training plan is undertaken.

Sure i can get massive relative vo2max improvements as i’m @ 16.5% bodyfat. Dropping to 10% Would mean a increase of 5 ml/kg by just dropping weight. Best Bike Split would gain 3 seconds faster time’s over my typical TT of 20 minutes. I then rather increase my absoluut vo2max as this would mean i can
produce more power. The article is all relative vo2max, and not so much absoluut. And what about the power this atlethe can substain at its vo2max. Its not all about having a massive vo2max but also being able to produce power at that rate.

I’m also in the camp of one can improve more than just the marginal 5/15% but its not all about that magic number. but the real gain with training is this absoluut number, cause bodyweight will fluctuate over a season and fitness can be the same over an entire season.

I was going to post this but you got there first.

The thing with vo2max is now we know its trainable it’s actually great to know it’s not a death sentence. But worry about getting your FTP up first. If your FTP is getting close to 90%+ of VO2max, then it’s time to think about how to raise you VO2max ceiling.

Thats the whole point i’m curious about this subject as the test i did was januari 2019. With all the suffering i did the past 10 months, including some power pr’s i think i’m now darn close at this 90%.

Its more about me being afraid of botteming out as i’m not a natural sprinter aswell i’m 32 and i’m not gifted with a huge vo2max. This in combinations with ambitons i have, got me wondering about this subject.

i’m afraid there is only 1 thing to find out. To suffer another 10 months :sweat_smile:

I’m interested in this topic too, as I suspect that I need greater VO2 capacity to help drive further FTP improvements.

May I ask how you get your power number at vo2max (i.e. 395 watts)? I am interested in finding out my pVO2max number.

I submit this for your reading (read the entire blog!):

VO2max Power (PVO2max, or other terms like MAP, PPO, Pmax, Wmax, etc.) is a theoretical power target that corresponds to VO2max.

TR states it as being:

pVO2 max falling around 118-128% FTP.

So…the quandary being that you have to know where your VO2max process tops out (e.g. lab test) in order to find your exact pVO2max (however, as the article details, different tests will give different results). You don’t want to be doing 128% intervals if your VO2max is actually 118%.

Or just look at what your 3min max is and start cranking out 3min intervals.


edit — also including this awesome podcast:

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All great articles, Thanks!

I did just simple math. My ftp was 340 watts @ 86.1 % vo2max. So my 100% vo2max value is 340/0.861 = 395 watts.
Its all just so relative as i can achieve a huge workload doing intervals @ 395, more up to 40 minutes of total duration in that zone with interval training. That got me thinking this value is a bit low.

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There was a lengthy discussion about the trainability of VO2Max in Podcast episode 214. Nationals, VO2 Max, Rotating Mass and More – Ask a Cycling Coach 214

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All great articles, Really.

@GlenNL how did you determine your FTP? What test protocol did you use and where did the 86.1% value come from? Sounds like you did these tests in a lab with measured gas exchange for VO2?

in a lab on my own bike in a stationairy setup, with gas exchange mask. Ftp is measured by an given gas exchange at an certain wattage. My trainer tends to under estimate FTP. Part because i’m indoors on a stationairy setup. Gives me the ability to nail the workouts and feel strong :slight_smile:

Been trough the podcast but will listen again!

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Any plans on continuous re-testing? VO2max value does change over time due to various factors, so that 86.1% might not be relevant (or true) six months from now.

The attached article is a good read. VO2 max is trainable, but the response to training is itself in part based on genetics.

In summary, VO2 max is trainable, but the impact you see could be smaller or larger based on genitics.

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Yes, within a month or 2.

@GlenNL any recent insight or thoughts? I only ask as I’ve done a couple months of consistent Z2 with a focus on SST and subsequently reached a new FTP PR (last week) via the 20 minute method. Curiously, I also reached a new pVO2max (today) while doing 5 minute repeats. FTP is 86% of pVO2max which, in my minds eye, seems pretty consistent over time as FTP and pVO2max rise and fall.

What I’m hoping is this traditional approach to massive miles followed by some specificity will preserve FTP and maybe increasing pVO2max. Or pushing 5 min power to 6, 7 maybe 8 minutes…