No FTP increase through Base in year 2

I’m struggling with what seems like little gain in my second year of TR training. Wondering if the oracles on this forum may pick up something obvious!

I started using TR in November 2019 training for the 2020 season, when I was really pleased with my FTP increases and all-round riding using:

  • Mid volume mtb marathon plan
  • 2 days per week in the gym based on recommendations from Joe Friel’s MTB Training Bible.

My high point was an FTP of 234 and a weight of about 72kg in March 2020. I got my best ever race result (4/26) in one of the few races in 2020 (Dirty Duo, North Vancouver).

I came back keen in October 2020 to plan for a 2021 season. I figured after such good results in 2020, even if I wasn’t going to race in 2021 because COVID I should train anyway for fast, long MTB rides. based on my gains last year, I decided 3.5w/kg would be a fun goal to push for.

Today I did my ramp test for the start of the build phase, and my FTP had hardly moved all the way through the base phases - it’s still 178. Is a low / no increase to be expected in year 2 of base phases? Am I doing something wrong? I still feel good and my Strava times seem OK (hard to tell with a new bike / awful weather recently).

What’s different from last year:

  • Gym. I am doing 1 leg squats, jumps, planks at home with no weights but much higher reps. Last year I was going all Joe Friel with knee extensions, leg presses and squats with weights.
  • Weight. I have been ‘sensible’ (i.e. cutting out crap) with food and have dropped my weight from 75kg in late summer to 69kg now. FWIW I am 178cm tall.
  • My indoor riding is on a ‘dumb’ turbo where last year I was on a more ‘intelligent’ bike in the gym.
  • Because I started earlier, I put more time into each phase of my training when planning.
  • I’m a year older - now 42.

I’m sure I’m not the only one having a hard time in year 2 - pointers much appreciated! With a full time job, family and volunteering commitments, more time training is a no-go.

Are you measuring power on the same device/power meter?

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Good question! I was using a different power meter last year. All tests last year on 1 device. All test this year on 1 device. I know there will be a difference between them but what is frustrating me is I am not seeing an increase through this year using the same ramp test on the same device.

Edit: to clarify, I dont have a power meter in my bike. I’m using virtual power on a dumb trainer. I trust this setup because it is consistent

Since you have been losing weight, the caloric deficit might have something to do with your stagnant FTP, in which case a w/kg improvement might actually be a better indication of improvement. Maintaining FTP while losing weight is a big win in itself.

Also, have you been checking how your heart rate has changed for similar intensities/durations over time, especially sub-threshold intensities? This is mostly anecdotal, but sometimes when you go into base training you lose some of your anaerobic fitness, but still improve your low end. This doesn’t always translate to a FTP improvement in the ramp test because there may have been an anaerobic contribution.

If not, maybe you need a break, to change things up, or, as a last resort, to add some extra volume. (I like to throw in a few hours of zone 2, or even a whole block of zone 2 if I want to change things up).

Sounds like my story - same age, approx the same weight and height (180/71) and same TR history - I’m on my second year now, gaining from 237 to 262 W in the first year (Nov '19 to April '20), rode a lot during summer (including structured workouts), started my second TR indoor season Oct '20 and now, after SSB LV i’m at 267W. Same trainer (Suito), same bike.

I know my sleep is worse that it has been, I’m actually quite struggling to get each night with quality sleep. That could be it for me, take a look at things around the training itself if you don’t experience other blockers / more life stress.

But I feel you, putting the work in and not getting returns kinda sucks.

Yeah. Base training isn’t designed to increase FTP.

Also, like anything, making gains at the beginning is easy but becomes more difficult as you improve.




Do you have any other way to measure your progress? Strava segments, power PBs from races etc?

This is my third year on TR and I’ve found I go through phases where my FTP doesn’t increase but I’m certainly getting quicker. Without the other measures (and with little or no racing at the moment) it’s hard to tell.

One other thing is that I did an 8 minute test instead of the ramp after seeing that my PBs indicated a higher FTP than the ramp gave me. Using this I got a bump from 267 to 283W. It might have been psychological, pushing a power I know I can do is easier than pushing until failure (for me). So maybe try a different test protocol.

How do you feel doing the workouts? I wouldn’t compare your FTP from the “intelligent” bike to the dumb trainer. It’s like apples and oranges. What’s important is your relative progress this season on the current bike. If you are consistent and completing the workouts, you should see an improvement. However, if you are skipping them and modifying them, then it might not explain why you aren’t improving, but should be a symptom. On the flip side, if they are too easy, then perhaps your FTP is too low. The workouts are progressive, so I know I’m going to get some kind of a bump based on the last 1-2 weeks of the program. If I complete Mary Austin, or Spencer, or Leconte without issue, I know I’ve improved from the beginning of the block.

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What did you do from March through October? Did you do structured training and test?

You may have come into October with good base fitness and thus aren’t seeing gains doing more base. Maybe time to switch it up.

I’m just skeptical of virtual power. A poor quality smart trainer derailed my training for quite a while. I bought a real power meter and then lost 50 watts and it took me six months to sort it all out.

Oh my. Glad I posted! So much help - thank you!

I’m consistently using the same trainer and equipment this year, so I know I’m not making any gains during this season. I try hard not to compare with last year on different equipment, but it’s hard sometimes ;p

I’m really pleased with the weight loss - more w/kg!

I didn’t do much structured training from about June through October. I did ride a lot though. I also ate a lot, hence my weight increase! I guess it’s possible my base stayed fairly good, hence no FTP increase so far this season.

I have been trying hard to keep to the plans and keep consistent. I’ve been much better at not modifying sessions, and I’ve not missed many.

It is a little disheartening to not see gains so far, but I’ll stick to the plan and stay consistent through the build phase. I know I can hydrate / fuel myself better. Interested to hear strength training exercises people are succeeding with without any equipment at home?

I’ll mirror some of what was said above.

Generally speaking, base training isn’t where you are going to make huge fitness gains, it’s where you are building the aerobic foundation for fitness gains

If you are lacking base, then a base phase, especially sweet spot, may well help you increase ftp before even getting into build.

That said, if you come into the base season pretty fit, and the base training isn’t enough of a stress to your system to force adaptation, you aren’t going to see an ftp increase. Many people will come from their main seasons, and actually drop quite a bit of fitness before restarting base, and then will see an increase from a lower starting point, with a fresh body etc. If you didn’t have this rest time, decrease in FTP to start rebuilding from, then using base to even maintain your FTP might actually be rather impressive.

Additionally, as was said before, if you are maintaining this way AND losing weight, that’s w/kg increase. That’s fitness increase.

Maintaining your fitness while at a caloric deficit is often no easy feat.

Honestly, this all ready to me like things are going quite well, and you might be ready to crush a build season, though the build season will likely go better if you take a break from weight loss while doing it :stuck_out_tongue:

I have MUCH better fitness gains while I am fueling more than I think I need to, and then often see body composition changes that work for me as well, less fat, more muscle, more power.


Good info. Thank you. Your advice and encouragement @dfquigley , especially on the weight loss during base and build.

I have learned a lot about nutrition lately and have kept a journal of what I’m putting in so that I know how I can change it in the right ways when I need to. I need to learn about fueling for workouts / riding / racing, and changing for build phase will be a good first step…

When I first raced back in the 90s I was a teenager and I used to worry about getting hungry during races. I’d often eat a burger before the start. I won’t be doing that again any time soon! :laughing:

I do not recommend tacos or spicy burritos before hard efforts,learned the hard way, hahaha


A quick ‘wrap up’ for this thread for anyone looking at this because they are in the same situation. Now I am a few days into Build I suddenly remember what hard work feels like! I rode last night with tired legs from a tough (but I did complete!) Avalanche Spire session on Wednesday. I could already feel that there is a difference. I was close to PBs on quite a few Strava segments and I felt great, despite the tired legs.

So, my guess is I came into the Base phases already reasonably fit, and so didn’t see the same gains as my first TR season. I probably under-fuelled (and possibly under-slept?) through the Base phases so I lost weight but did not gain power, but I know appreciate maintaining power and losing weight is an achievement. Doing this again, I would consider shortening the Base phases by a week or 2 because if I’m being honest with myself there wasn’t much challenge towards the end of Base.

Now my focus will be on sticking to the Build plan and fueling well. COVID allowing, I may hit the gym for some strength training again if I feel like I need it. I think my 3.5 w/kg by March target is a bit of a moon-shot, but it’ll be fun to see how close I get.

Thanks for all the encouragement and advice folks! Really helped when I was feeling crappy about my training.


Glad to hear it!!

Let us know how the season ends up shaping up for you!

An update on this a month or so on…

I’ve kept to my Build phase mid-volume plan religiously! I have also paid more attention to fuelling before and after indoor sessions. I have been trying to do all hard sessions indoors, keeping the light / recovery sessions for outdoors.

I have not been consistent with any strength training off the bike - just a few stretches so that I don’t stiffen up.

I did an ftp test earlier this week and it came out in the mid-180s - about a 3% increase. But I FEEL faster. A big boost was discovering that I am fastest for a long time on a local Strava segment climb.

I decided to do something I had told myself I didn’t need to do: go and text myself on different equipment that I am sure from previous experience is accurate. I did the same ftp test on a bike I was using at a local gym through 2019/20 and got… a completely different result much more in line with my hopes. An ftp of 228, putting me at 3.25 w/kg. This puts me ahead of where I was last year without any weight work! I’m pretty happy with that!

I think this has proven 3 points:

  • For me at least psychologically, the whole idea that the accuracy of your power meter is irrelevant as long as it’s consistent sucks. I could not get over the lower number than last year, even though I was pretty sure I knew most of the difference was down to equipment.
  • Training consistency is no.1. We’ve heard it all before. Guess what? It’s true!
  • Calculating virtual power on a cheap mag trainer is not easy. I’m going to post about this separately to see if I can improve accuracy.

Hope this is helpful for others!

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3% improvement ALREADY is huge man.

Glad to see the results!!

Psychologically, seeing lower numbers can suck, but that’s been my life for years now, it seems every time I get better equipment my numbers drop!! Hahaha.

This all reads like really good progress, keep up the fueling, the work, and maybe try to save up some pennies to improve your setup. I’d recommend a used powermeter to use both indoors and out. Sometimes old powertap rear wheels can come by cheap!

Base training is there to support ftp and can grow it.

I did a terrible (spiky) 20 min ftp test last night to score 3.8wkg down from the 4wkg of August 2020. With some analysis I haven’t ridden over threshold or at power VO2max for 3.5 months, and despite the drop my ftp is +5% on the same period last year. Following that curve I should be 4.1 i

It’s a bit much to expect your body to nail 20 mins of threshold close to best performance with no similar effort after such a long period IMO.

If you are working hard on the power, working smart on the weight, then there’s only one more thing you need to somehow improve.

I’ve tried really hard to fix the same metric for myself, but fail every year.