Increasing weight with the goal of increasing absolute FTP

Hey all,

I submitted this to the podcast so maybe it’ll get answered, but I’m curious about the group thoughts as well.
So in short, I’m 6ft, ~155 with an FTP around 3.2w/kg (220.)
I’m happy with my gains and continue to work on that. At the same time, I’ve seen untrained riders come in with an FTP equal or higher than mine (albeit at a much lower w/kg) with a higher body weight.

This got me thinking: We all talk about w/kg in terms of a measurement after the fact, but I don’t think I’ve seen much discussion in terms of increasing weight for the outcome of a higher absolute FTP. As a triathlete, I’d be willing to trade away a little climbing ratio for some higher absolute FTP on the flats.

That said: I’m aware that simply adding weight (fat) won’t give me more power, of course.

I’m also aware that the podcast has dicussed that strength training isn’t necessarily worth it, compared to more time on the bike. So where is, specifically, that added body weight equates to higher absolute output? Or does it even? I’ve been riding more than a decade, and my body weight is pretty stable, so I don’t see myself adding a bunch of weight just through cycling at this point.

So, in short:

  1. Is it worth it to add body weight for the goal of increasing absolute FTP?
  2. If so, how should a person go about that? Low rep strength training with the goal of hypertrophy?

EDIT: To be clear, I still know I have lots of gains on my current FTP as well. This isn’t intended to be an either or, but more of a “Both?”

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In general yes if you live in an area that’s no super climby. But you probably have room to improve with your current FTP to body weight. I would eat to optimize fueling of your workouts and not worry about w/kg just yet.

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Will you lose time on the run if you are heavier though? Something to consider and balance

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At your height/weight, there is likely zero (or even negative) ROI in putting on weight to increase absolute FTP.

Has your FTP development stalled out? If so, share what your training composition looks like.

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In general yes if you live in an area that’s no super climby. But you probably have room to improve with your current FTP to body weight. I would eat to optimize fueling of your workouts and not worry about w/kg just yet.
Certianly true, I definitely have room to grow my current FTP as well. I’m curious is there’s a “Both” element that could come in to play as well. Like… If I could hypothetically gain +50 and +10lb, sort of thing.

“Will you lose time on the run if you are heavier though? Something to consider and balance.”

Yes, a bit. General rule of thumb is 2s/mile/pound. So 10lb would be 8 minutes or so.

"At your height/weight, there is likely zero (or even negative) ROI in putting on weight to increase absolute FTP.

Has your FTP development stalled out? If so, share what your training composition looks like."

No, FTP growth is fine. I’m trying to see if there’s ways of doing two things at once. I guess my point is… There is some physiological result of being larger, right? Because I read read plenty of people coming in untrained and dropping in a 200 FTP, and I’ve ridden a long time to get up to that. I guess my point is, does some FTP just result from having more mass?

Weight alone is not faster. Bigger, heavier riders that come into this game with bigger FTPs to start are carrying more muscle mass. They have tree trunk legs that can push on the pedals harder but a guy like you probably drops them in the hills.

I do think strength training is great and worth your time.

It does seem to take a while to ramp up with strength training (well, at least for me). I started a few weeks ago and mostly I’ve been doing a lot of conditioning exercises in order to prepare for the big stuff. I just started some of the harder stuff and four sets of walking lunges and step ups with dumbbells left me sore for three days. I’m going to soldier on and do base miles with sore legs this winter in the hope of getting faster. :smile:

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In absolute oxygen consumption, yes, there is a correlation with mass. On a relative basis, no. Most people that add mass and gain max O2 consumption have the same relative VO2max. How this affects your own personal CDA and output within a triathlon is very complicated and would have to relate to whether the mass changes your CDA negatively or positively within the context of a tradeoff in power.

From an FTP perspective (as a percentage of VO2 max), it has much less to do with mass and much more to do with training composition, fiber type, etc etc.

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I’ve thought about this too at 5’8 and 142. I’ve been lifting in the 5 rep range for strength since October, but wonder if I should do a hypertrophy block to try to put on a few pounds of muscle in the legs.

I’ve been doing squats, deadlifts, and front squats so far. I need to add in some lunges or step ups.

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There was a guy in my college club team like that. I’m not good at guessing weight, but thicc boi. Absolute monster on the flats, but then of course died on any hill/mountain.
I’ve started doing a bit of Stronglifts 5x5 and got to the point where I was squatting 5x5 @ 1x bodyweight. Like you said, soldier on!

@stevemz Very interesting, thanks. I’d love to learn more about where that inflection point takes place, but I suspect that would involve being on a pro team, etc. Not some casual info.

@wiscokid 100% relate. Because like… Okay, so say you train your ass off and get to 4.5w/kg. Great effort, but then still struggling more on the flats or gravel than a larger rider with a higher absolute FTP. Very interesting.

I am right around 3.5 w/kg at the moment, so it’s a little disheartening knowing that if I put on a few kg I would be playing catch up for the w/kg metric. I still think some muscle on the legs could be a net positive though. As a long time runner, I’ve always had pretty skinny legs.

I just don’t know how much extra muscle through squats and deadlifts will translate to the bike.

I could see focusing on strength work and/or body composition, but you should have plenty of room to grow your FTP at your current weight. Adding bulk isn’t going to be the answer. Definitely would not focus on hypertrophy.

FWIW, I’m 2” taller and 1 or 2lbs heavier than you. I can assure you that you can get to a much higher FTP at your current weight given the right composition and training.

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i think it may depend on what your limiter is. A simple model for FTP is as follows:

  • FTP is driven by VO2max and the % of VO2max you can sustain for, say, 60 minutes (Fractional utilization)
  • VO2max is driven by your cardio system’s ability to deliver oxygen, and your muscles’ ability to use oxygen.
  • The percent of VO2max you can sustain is in large part dictated by your rate of lactate production - which is driven by muscle fiber composition

If you are not cardio constrained, I’d say adding the right kind of muscle mass could increase your FTP. If you are cardio constrained, adding mass will only slow you down.

A simple check on if you are cardio constrained: when you do a ramp test, why do you stop? Do your legs get tired and you just can’t turn the pedals any longer? Or does your heart feel like it will explode and you’re about to pass out? If the latter, you’re cardio constrained.

There’s ways to improve the capacity of your cardio system, but adding weight is generally not needed.

If your legs just get tired, and your cardio system feels relatively OK, then more muscle mass may help.

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I guess I didn’t do a good enough job of seperating the question from my own body, which I should have done. Well aware that I have plenty of FTP gains to make at my current weight, don’t worry. :sweat_smile:

Let me put it another way:
Say you have a rider who is 140lb and trains a ton and gets up to a very respectable 4.5. That’s 286W.
Rider B is 185lb. This rider would only have to train up to 3.4W to get the same FTP. I suspect it’s agreeable that Rider B would have a much easier time achieving their FTP than Rider A.

So the real question is: Assuming that our bodies don’t magically just… pop into being, at what point is it worth trying to go from Rider A to B? I mean, it’s not like these two riders just magically materialized at 140lb or 185lb. Something is different between them. And if something is different, then it can be affected. I guess that’s the root of the question.

It’s genetics. Think Egan Bernal vs. Peter Sagan

My club does mostly the same ride every Saturday. We race up the first big hill for about 17 minutes. There are guys that beat me up that hill every week.

But when we are rolling fast and furious on the flats at 26-30mph, those guys get dropped and I’m at the front taking my pulls and participating in the sprint.

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First off, Rider A kicks Rider B’s arse in pretty much every conceivable cycling situation. Even on the flat he has less weight to accelerate and less frontal area to push through the wind (assuming comparable kit and position), but the same watts to push with. So it’s never worth going from Rider A to Rider B, especially not if you’re a triathlete who has to run as well. But I think you already know that!

You asked why rider B can achieve that FTP more easily than rider A. Simple answer is that all else being equal (ability, body composition and body shape, level of training) everything is scaled up. Muscles, length of levers, lungs, heart, etc. But there are 2 big caveats. First is that it’s not a linear relationship, it’s diminishing returns - all else being equal, somebody who is 10% bigger will put out more watts, but they won’t put out 10% more watts. This should be obvious looking at pro road racers - if watts scaled with body size then you’d expect to see some much bigger guys out there winning races, whereas the vast majority of the pro peloton is <80kg, and the middle of the bell curve is probably somewhere around 70kg.

The second caveat is that putting on mass that is useful (i.e. muscle that is the right kind of muscle for the racing you’re doing, and in the right places) is far from straightforward. There are a few examples of pros doing it e.g. Wiggins bulking up after quitting road racing and going back to the track, but they’re generally examples of guys reverting to a previous and arguably more natural weight, rather than trying to get bigger than they naturally are (plus a 4 minute track pursuit with no climbs is very different to a triathlon…). Hitting the gym to put on muscle mass might help things like injury resistance, it’s not going to enable you to put out more watts for longer durations unless lack of muscle mass is a real limiter for you.

Which brings me onto my last point - you’re pretty much in the sweet spot sizewise for triathlon already. If you were 6’ and 130 pounds then this might be a different conversation, but there are a whole bunch of top pros who are around your size so there’s really no reason to think that it’s holding you back. Focus on doing the right kind of training for your event (including strength training, especially for long course triathlon where resilience is important), focus on fuelling that training properly, and your body will end up the size it needs to be for your event. Might be a few pounds lighter, might be a few pounds heavier.

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Fascinating, thanks. Don’t take my short reply as lack of interest, I just don’t have anything smart to add. I appreciate your time in helping me learning more about it, very cool.

Lionel Sander ftp will be up closer to 400 not 330.
That aside, I agree that your current body weight is about perfect assuming good composition. If ftp hasn’t stagnated, i wouldn’t look to bulk, keep being consistent and patient, you’ll get there :muscle:

No need to bulk up but I assume if you are at the lower end of the spectrum weight wise it is even more important to adequately fuel your workouts to see gains?

Extra mass helps with:

  • Zone 6 efforts (though it may not be much)

  • Zone 7 efforts (though it may not be much)

  • Big gear grinding

  • Having more mass to feed with more food, if you’re into that kind of thing (which I am)

I dieted down to 71kg last year for a mountain summit finish and then held that weight through October – a rib cage problem prevented me from lifting last year after April.

Once I started lifting, my Dad’s “football genes” took over and I’ve gained 2.5kg, even while maintaining 300mi+ weeks with one a little Base period intensity thrown in. Most of that has been upper body and trunk.

Watts for an hour at 147bpm, 71kg: 335; FTP 350

Watts for an hour at 147 bpm yesterday, 73.5 kg: 332; FTP is 345.

My anemic sprint is slightly less anemic. Up a whopping 20w. I still can’t crack 900w for 1 sec.

But. I my wife says I look better, so I’ll take it.

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Maybe try to video yourself and see if your sprint is suffering from technique. I’m about 600 watts higher than you but with a lower FTP, but sprinting has always been there for me so I would guess I probably just have better technique because I’ve never trained it. Just a thought…