Overanalyzing the past: should I have kept training with higher FTP?

Hopefully folks will indulge me, and maybe commiserate if they’ve shared the same experience. But this is kind of a ridiculous topic (it’s a rest week, this kind of thing happens!) and I really should just keep up and go forward. Anyhow, Feb last year I started general build HV with a self selected FTP of 280. Looking back, I was doing stuff like 9min @ 102% and 5min @ 110% with no pauses and even over-under stuff like Picket Guard with only a couple of pauses. It seems like in the 2nd half of general build, around the time of Spanish Needle +3 (lol), I must have decided that maybe I was overreaching with the FTP target and set myself back down to 275. I see, for example, South Twin +6 (3min @ 120 in sets of 3) was one in which I paused a ton.

I completed general build once, and for some odd reason decided it would be a good idea to start general build again, but set my FTP to 275 in hopes I would be more successful in workouts, which I was (like McAdie +1 with no breaks). I only did the first half of general build the 2nd time around and then I had a long road race at the end of April and then got into SSB2 as I was kind of resetting to race CX. I’ve kept my FTP at 275 until now (I feel really good and will definitely be going up a notch for SSB2)

But as I look back and now read about others’ experiences with stuff like over-unders and at 120%, I’m kind of looking back and wondering if I might have shortchanged myself a bit in not continuing to challenge myself at the higher level as opposed to taking the safer route just because I was struggling at times and viewing those struggles and occasional pauses as signs that I was aiming too high with the power.

Anyhow, this is a rambling post, just curious to see what some other people think and if anyone had any similar regrets in hindsight where you maybe should have kept pushing. Is it possible to get through some of these workouts too easily (like over-unders and 3min at 120%) where it’s hard not hard enough to make you want to give up at least once or twice?

So, if I understand your questions:

  • Should you have set your FTP down to 275 last year?
    (If you couldn’t complete workouts without pausing, probably.)

  • Should you have done General Build immediately after General Build?
    (Probably didn’t kill your progress, but sounds painful to me.)

  • Should you have kept your FTP set at 275 for a year?
    (Not unless your ramp tests were telling you 275.)

On the latter point, I think you’re suggesting that some of the workouts others struggle with feel relatively easy for you. If O/Us aren’t hard your FTP is too low and you aren’t getting the full training benefit. That’s why the plans have ramp tests at regular intervals.

Recommendation: Take the ramp tests as scheduled. Ride the first couple of workouts after. If those feel easy, bump it up 3-5 watts. If it feels hard, it’s probably okay. If it’s killing you and Rule #5 isn’t the problem, bump it down 3-5 watts.


5 watts is not a big deal and you didn’t short change yourself much if anything. Just stick with a consistent benchmark going forward.

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The obvious question is why are you self selecting your FTP and not using the results of a ramp test? ( or 8/20 test )


While always 100% compliance may indicate going too easy, a very high compliance rate is imo better than failing and needing a lot of backpedals. In '18 my tested ftp was only about 5 watts higher than in '17 but i had much better compliance and a better power curve in '18.

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Agree with the others, if you want to know your ftp is, do a ftp test, guessing you ftp tests is just a guess, and then stops all the “is my ftp to high to low” that you seem to have in your post. I’m injured at the moment and don’t particularly want to do one in fear of aggravating injury, which is surviving SSB2 at the moment, but I have to accept the what I have my ftp set to is not optimal and I may not be getting the most out of workouts (but better than not doing)

It sounds like you adjusted your ftp based on one failed workout … it happens, time of day, illness, tiredness, stress can all play a part, if I do thresshold or v02 in the morning, I have to knock it back a little bit (not ftp, % of workout) . But also remember that your V02 might not be 120%, so knock these workouts back 3% (or so if you can’t get through them), adjusting your ftp (once you find out what it is) means that you aren’t doing the other workouts correctly

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I just don’t test well and haven’t ever under any protocol, so I’ve kind of used performance to be an indicator of where I should be, realizing I’m far enough along with training that any jumps, if any, aren’t going to be very big, since at near 4.0w/kg, I could very well be at the upper end of my potential. It’s just that I hadn’t taken any time to look at my past year until yesterday, and looking at how well I did in the first half of general build HV was making me wonder why the heck I was scaling myself back after the 2nd half of the plan where maybe I could have done stuff like reduce the percentage of the harder vo2 workouts.

And I realize I’m splitting hairs with this whole line of thought (especially over 5w, though sometimes it seems huge); truth is, I had a pretty good year, trained well, got to do some epic riding in Europe with nearly 12k feet of climbing, got a lot more successful in CX races by working on my weak vo2max and anaerobic stuff, and see potential for more this year. I’ve got another 6 weeks of SSB2, which I can handle easily, so I can sweat the other stuff later!

I would focus your ftp setting on what you can do with steady state intervals, just do your suprathreshold stuff in resistance mode, if you can do 120% fine, but don’t let those intervals frustrate you if you can’t complete them. Not everyone can, so it might be better to self select a power that is repeatable for you as long as your setting is fine for over unders and similar threshold intervals.

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Do the prescribed ramps tests, it is not your typical FTP protocol that you’re used to. All you need to do is give it 100% and don’t quit until your legs or lungs give out, no matter your cadence. The ramp test is not based on experience, pacing, etc. that faults the traditional FTP test protocols. If you do a test inside of a TR plan you will be set up for success (ramp test follows a recovery week). Stop guessing your FTP and trust the process… it will work so don’t over complicate it. If you don’t “test” well, you may need to explore why that is and try to remedy that.

Regarding doing back to back builds, that is NEVER recommended. If you have plenty of extra time before your “A” race event the progression is Base - Build - Base - Build - Specialty. That assumes 48 weeks, which is a long training season, but would take you through the off season, into race season and peaking for an A event at the end of the season. So, depending on how much time you have and what your race event goals and dates are, you’d adjust your training accordingly.

Maybe, but likely not. You certainly haven’t reached any genetic potential, but possibly your potential based on life obligations, stressors and your time and ability to train/recover. At 4.0 w/kg you are considered a good and serious competitor, “but upper end of potential” talk starts as you near 5+ w/kg (depending on age, experience, limitations, etc. and other factors of course). Though not a definitive chart, this gives you an idea of where you stand in the watt/kg:
image c

by upper end of my potential, I mean the notion that the average person can get to about 3.9w/kg at best for FTP, which Dr. Coggan theorized here https://forum.slowtwitch.com/forum/Slowtwitch_Forums_C1/Triathlon_Forum_F1/What_FTP_can_be_expected_from_the_average_Joe%3F_P2830186-2/

Of course, I have tons of other stuff I can work on besides FTP (like one thing I’d like to do this year is be a lot better riding over threshold for 10mins), so I’m trying not to sweat it

This is a really good point, and goes directly to the question asked. Lowering your FTP a few watts has the effect of making VO2max intervals a little less than 120% of your old FTP. But as the workout text on these usually states, the repeatable power in this range is highly individual, and seems to correlate less strongly with FTP than for threshold or sweet spot etc. Your change was small enough (less than 2%) that the training adaptations should not have been compromised. To the contrary, if it increased your ability to repeat these intervals for the prescribed duration, without extra breaks, and without falling apart, it may have been a net win.

That said, changing FTP may not be the best way to do this. You can just reduce the workout intensity for workouts with intervals over 110% of FTP while keeping your FTP unchanged. This limits your reduction to VO2max workouts, without reducing it for threshold, over-unders, etc., which you were doing fine at 280W. If you find yourself reducing the intensity on a wide range of workouts, though, then it’s likely time to revisit your FTP.

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We’d have to get into the discussion of defining “average person” to really dig into this issue. Nonetheless, I’d argue that someone who is following TR is NOT the average person already.

Dr. Coggan may have “theorized”, but as @Nate_Pearson starts to dissect TrainerRoad‘s “ big data”, theories will be replaced with tested conclusions. No other study or business is in a better position or has more data to draw upon and determine an “average person’s” (more accurately an “average TR user”) fitness potential. I’d argue and guess that any serious competitor and consistent TR user given enough time and dedication, without obvious “life/physical restraints” can achieve 4.0 watts/kg given the aspiration to do so. This would be near a baseline rather than their “potential”.

Limiters to achieving this 4.0+ watt/kg seem to be either life obligation or self imposed rather than their actual “potential”. Not everyone wants to consistently train, recover and fuel properly just to enhance a “hobby”.


I agree with this. There is a lot of clustering around 4.0/300w and it seems to be the level of most weekend group rides. While there are exceptions, I’ve yet to meet someone who is stuck at 4.0 who has actually maxed out their genetic potential in a meaningful way. There is only one person that comes to mind who couldn’t get above 4.0 that I’ve read about who switched to track racing and now has a 2kw+ sprint. So talents were in other areas.


I believe that Dr Coggan’s theorized calculation is based on a VO2max that is still quite high. How he gets the power at VO2 is where I think the math might get a little fuzzy.