Leg strength doesn't equal FTP

Looking for some advice, when I tested my sprinting I could push 1400 plus watts and I see max wattage over 1000 just about every ride I do off the trainer. My FTP just doesn’t seem to be in line with those numbers, I am bigger running about 197lbs and 52 years old which may be part of it. FTP was at 238 up from 140 in April after a pretty lengthy recovery from back surgery. Seems like I have the leg strength, just don’t have the ability to push the high numbers over time, what type of training should I be focused on?

I am starting my 3rd season rode about 1,000 miles first year this year got in a little over 3,000 average about 100 or so miles a week 4-5 hours.

How are you measuring your power? Seems odd that you can hit such big numbers with a lower FTP.

My FTP is 310 and top out at around 800 watts in a sprint on a good day. I’m using a 4iii power meter + Hammer trainer on my indoor bike and Assioma Duo power meter pedals on my outside bike. 57 years old and 77kg. I train for TT’s mainly and do about 14,000km per year and 10 hours per week.

I’ve had a 5 Sec pb of around 1500w with an ftp of around 250 ish before, it’s just down to body composition

Cycling is primarily an aerobic sport. That’s cardiovascular / metabolic fitness. Sprinting is primarily an anaerobic activity. That leans much more towards muscular fitness. There’s a little bit of overlap, but not a ton. It’s pretty common to be good at one, but not the other.

Generally, if you want to improve your fitness for a particular type of riding, you train for that. So if there’s a race/event you’re interested in, you can focus your training around that. If you just like riding, find the type of riding you want to do, and train as if there was an event of that type.

FTP is an aerobic test. Sprinting is a leg-strength test. Efforts less than ~30 sec don’t really have much of an aerobic component to them at all. So seeing a disconnect there doesn’t seem too surprising.

Practically all of the TrainerRoad training is aerobic. :slight_smile:

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Here’s a great video that compares short power vs FTP essentially.
Track sprinter vs Cat 2 racer

**The Vegan Cyclist

Published on May 25, 2018

"We pit a pure road cyclist against a pure Olympic track sprinter in this “who’s the better cyclist video”. We do 6 challenges with the winner getting a 30-second time bonus on each challenge, then a final showdown on a climb wraps up who’s the better overall cyclist.

I am the Roadie in this test, I am a Cat 2 with a 5 watt per kilo FTP. Tomas is an Olympic caliber track sprinter who has one hell of a sprint on him. the challenges are a MAX Sprint, 30-second Sprint, a Beachbody Challenge, Max Cadence, a heads up Sprint, and a 20-minute crit. **We really get to see each cyclist, the Roadie and the track star shine in their respective disciplines."


Garmin Vector 3 PM, I used to be very strong squat was over 800lbs at one point (When younger)

Sounds like I should be focused on muscle endurance training close to my current FTP, I have been working threshold and Vo2 Max efforts trying to get stronger “Might be a mistake”

I have actually never even tried to push my hardest, as I’m never in a situation I would do that. I have seen 1400 plus trying to catch some of the other smaller riders on hills and just happen to see my wattage after the ride.

I see max power > 1000 on most outside rides, but can’t squat to save my life. Heck I can’t even do a leg press in the gym without irritating my knees.

Are you following a TR base/build/speciality plan? Or just cherry picking threshold/VO2max workouts?

You can think of this as someone with an 800lb squat who can’t run 5K in 25 minutes. That’s actually probably fairly common. Your ability to express your FTP and your sprint power recruit two totally different energy systems and require entirely different muscular recruitment. If you want to improve your FTP, you need to improve your aerobic capacity. The TR method for doing so is a combination of Sweet Spot, Threshold and VO2max work. For you, I’d probably do a lot more in the sweet spot realm to bring up your body’s ability to sustain higher power for longer intervals. You may have plateaued with your ability to improve aerobic capacity through anaerobic training.

This is also an interesting data point regarding whether strength training impacts performance for aerobic athletes. I’ve always thought the answer was, “Yes, to a point.”

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@Ken_Cook A few comments:

3,000 miles/week is a big step up from 1,000 (nice progress!), but not a lot of miles for someone who wants to achieve a significant endurance platform (although mileage isn’t a great measure) . I’ve been riding about 5k+ per year and that is just adequate. Serious endurance riders are 7/8k+.

100 miles per week is 5K/year. 3K is about 60mi.

100 miles/week at 4-5 hrs is 20-25mph. Even on flat roads, that is ridiculously FAST!!! That’s what Cat 1 and Pros do as their averages!

None of my comments above are meant to be critical. They are meant to suggest that it is important to have a accurate view of the investment you have made when analyzing your performance.

Perhaps, most important, is to understand the type of rider you are, known as your “Phenotype”. Generally speaking there are 4 types: Sprinter, Time Trialist, Climber and All-Arounder. Basically, what distinguishes them (i.e. where you fit) is the shape of your Power Distribution Curve (PDC), that is, how much power you can deliver over each time interval.

It doesn’t take a lot of analysis to see that you would fall into the Sprinter category (i.e. really high short term power, not so high 20min to multi-hour). Of course, through training you can improve any place along your PDC that you want (until you hit a genetic max). And as the saying goes: “Train your weaknesses; Race your strengths”.

Best of luck!

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Interesting, I was basically a muscle bound “Very strong” young man weighed in at 280 lbs at one point "College football years. Now I aspire to be a healthy lean endurance type athlete total 180 from the rest of my life, hopefully I can train into this and am not limited by body type. I would like to get leaner and get an FTP over 300 at some point.

Yes. I think this is more or less the point:

LSD rides initially rely heavily on slow twitch muscle fibers. As they fatigue fast twitch fibers are eventually recruited more and more.

Strength training conditions (focuses) more on fast twitch fiber recruitment. Therefore, strength training can actually help a rider out very late in the game/race event etc…

My year was cut short training wise this year as January I had a back surgery and didn’t recover enough to get back on the bike till April. I am thankful for the ability to recover close to 100%

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The ability to push high #s over time is what Coach Chad describes in the workouts as “Muscular Endurance” and “Strength Endurance”. Sweet Spot work (88-94% of FTP) is the primary focus of these efforts. Of course, they need to be complemented by an aerobic base, and you do get benefit from Threshold work (i.e. 91% to 105%), but Sweet Spot is focused on this area.

TR, of course, has plans, such ass SSB MV1 to help you. But outside of the TR plans, what you would typically do start with sets of 3 x 8min intervals in SS range. As you become successful at these, you would increase the # of intervals to 4 and then the interval length to 12, 15 and 20mins.

btw: Galena (3x20) that is near the end of SSB MV1 is a good muscular endurance test. Monday I substituted it with Galena+4 (4x20), perhaps an even better test.

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You can definitely train into it. You can definitely become a very strong climber, for example. Chad talks about it on the podcast how he’s a big boy with big power numbers well-suited to flat TTs and crits, but he can out-climb a lot of little guys too. It’s going to take a lot of work and be a bit of a process, but you can definitely get there. There’s a limit for everyone everywhere, but as the guys have said on the podcast, not many - if any - of us are making a living at this, so it’s about having fun while being competitive. While my power profile is basically the opposite of yours, and naturally I’m better suited as a climber or TTer, I want to spend some time this year working VO2 and sprinting because it seems like a fun change of pace… maybe I’ll race some crits where I’m likely to be at a disadvantage… but who cares? I’ll go out, have fun, and kick ass as best I can.


We have very similar goals. You can absolutely train into an endurance athlete. Exactly 3 years ago today I bought my first road bike at the age of 53. After training with local club, and a lot of solo “sweet spot” rides outside, I was able to complete an event with 15,000 feet of climbing on 5 mountain passes over 117 miles. At my weight (204) and ftp (~260), that meant 8 hours of climbing in a single day!

A structured base/build/speciality plan like TrainerRoad will likely deliver quicker results than semi-structured riding outside. Before signing up for TrainerRoad a year ago, I was following Strava/CTS plans outside. I made plenty of mistakes, but was able to bump my ftp up to 277. I think 300 is possible by following TR plans, unfortunately this past year I’ve been rehabilitating and old knee injury (ski accident almost 40 years ago).

Hope that helps.


Everyone is going to have a different power profile. If you have a lot of fast twitch fibers and you activate them a lot with high intensity efforts, your power profile may reflect this, but it may also be relatively lower in the longer efforts. In that case your profile would be that of a Sprinter. In contrast, if a racer has a time trialist profile, then their profile will reflect higher efforts in the 20m range and higher, but not as good in 5s, 20s, 30s, 1m, etc. So this a factor of both nature and nature: your muscle fiber composition, VO2max, and several other bio indicators (nature) and how you train (nurture). Point in case: Sagan is an amazing sprinter, but sucks at time trialist.

This article explains some of this, and provides example power profiles.