Plateau'ing - glass ceiling?

I’ve been riding/training/racing for about 20-odd years, always with the same pattern. When i’m lazy, i go down to about 270w FTP, but never below and with some effort, i quickly come up to 300-305w and stay there, no matter what i do. (I’m about 172-175lb). i then lose motivation, skip sessions and then slide back to c270.
Previously, I’ve done unstructured stuff, either entirely outside, or lots on Zwift, or Sufferfest, but always making it up on my own. In a year of doing lots of very high intensity efforts on Zwift, i got to 305, maybe a little more. That’s the strongest I’ve been.
I had hoped TR’s structure would be the thing to break through this glass ceiling, but it’s been the same story.
I started TR last summer at about 275w after a few months of laziness. I quickly came to 300 then 304, and I’ve been there for several months now, even dipping to 302 at the last assessment.
I’m quick, but not fast, good but not great, but worse still, i’m demoralised because i’m not seeing improvement. My head drops, consistency suffers and obviously i then decline.
It’s not just the ftp figure, but race results and times are just the same as i’ve done for several years.
I’m 48, but i doubt age is the thing, as it’s been this way for 20 years. I’m in good health with no systems failures yet.
Diet is ok, but not great, maybe a little low in carbs but weight is stable with a little more fat than i’d like.
Sleep is short (c6.5 to 7h) but solid.
I’m an overthinker and anxious, with a fairly stressful job.
I have about 8-10 hours a week for riding.
I’m doing the mid volume MTB marathon plan.

what changes do you think are most likely to get me through this barrier?

If I could just see steady improvement, that would motivate me to keep going but i can’t keep putting in this effort just to stand still.



I’m close to you in age and very similar in Numbers. Just from reading your lost there are some things that stick out to me as they are similar ‘flags’ that I’ve noted for improvement in my own training.
In no order:.

What your volume like. Can you do more? Or do you need to do less?..

Can you improve body comp / do you even have the desire

Are you doing any strength training. The older we get the more important

But most importantly, and this is it for me, do you even care about getting better or are you happy with what you are at this point in your life?
.I’d assume that the fact you made this post says you want to improve, so I’d recommend the three points above as a start point.

Either way I wish you luck in getting to your goals.


fitness = volume x frequency x intensity

Once you have exhausted pushing intensity and frequency, there is no other option than increase volume.


More Volume and more sleep.
Tricky because both realistically require more time and often compete against each other.


Like others I don’t have the answer but things to consider:

  1. Stress - plays a huge part in how our bodies interacts with the world around us, and causes havoc on our systems when not checked.
  2. Sleep - again huge element to recovery
  3. Diet - I cannot express how much changing my diet changed both my stress, sleep and also my training. I changed my diet and focused on fueling workouts (up to 120g of carbs an hour on the bike) and it’s been an absolute game changer.

If you think you’ve exhausted your training and you are doing what you can - look at the other areas of your life that impact the way your body adapts to the training.

Good luck, keep pushing forward mate and trying things. Worst thing you can do is give it all up in frustration, your general wellbeing and life is more important than your w/kg :slight_smile:


This is a very good point. I also would assess your power curve to judge the effectiveness of the chosen plan. Most athletes with great anaerobic abilities could benefit from a more polarized approach. Athletes with a more endurance inclined profile usually tolerate more intense training. With these pointers in mind you could reevaluate your choice of plans.

That said, consistency is the most important factor in the long run, don’t give up in frustration over lack of improvement.


Very true, everything else is to support consistency (sleeping habits, daily diet, fueling workouts, easing before reaching unproductive fatigue levels, etc).

To OP: reaching ~4w/kg with 8-10h/week is actually pretty good already, for me it took ~12h/week. Some get there with less but it may require some genetic luck :slight_smile:


We are virtually carbon copies. I’m 47, +/- 175 lbs usually but 171 lbs currently. Up until last year I was stagnant with a FTP around 315. I seemed to not be able to improve this for 2-3 years, but worse yet, my race performance seemed sub par. My performance was much less than the effort I was putting in. It was quite demoralizing and I started blaming my genetics, as in, maybe this is the best I’m capable of. Which was further frustrating because my teammate and riding buddy was seeing improvement and I was left in the dust.

So, as a last ditch effort I started focusing on raising my CTL. I had always been in the mid 70s CTL with only a handful of times getting above 80. As an experiment late last summer I focused on raising my CTL above 100 and saw noticeable improvement. Finally I’d broken my plateau.

For this season I focused on raising my CTL even higher to peak in mid June with a CTL of 130. I’m only starting Build 2 next week and fitness and performance has drastically changed even though my FTP isn’t much higher (321). However, my ability to express that FTP is amazing, and I’m still early in my training season for 2024. Not to mention, both physically and mentally I feel great. Currently I’m at 4.13 w/kg which is a lifetime high for me. More importantly, I can perform with heavy fatigue, as in, racing at the end of week 3 Build.

IMHO, I’d look at your CTL in the past when you felt the strongest/fastest, and build to increasing that by 10%. I can’t recommend this enough.


in addition to volume, which is always good to add, for me a big thing was changing my training block structure away from TR’s base/build/specialty approach, and more in terms of the following

If I’m going to do vo2 work, for example, I’ll only do that for a block and not generally mix in other types of work.

The following is some power curve highlights, the left is from like 2023 forward and the right was the 2021 year where I completely let adaptive training dictate what I did (and I had already been training consistently for several years before that). I feel a combination of things, like not being married to just doing workouts in erg mode guided by percentages, focusing my blocks more, have yielded some breakthroughs across the board for me. Granted, it’s not huge, but my ftp previously was stuck around 290-295 and now it’s 310



:100: %. I moved away from TR structure a couple years ago. It worked in the first few years of my cycling journey, but I have since outgrown it.

I managed to push myself out of an almost identical plateau last year after being there for several years myself largely by focusing on volume. I’m hanging out there now (FTP 295ish?) because it’s early season and I’m in the process of ramping up my volume again with two 4-ish hour gravel events two consecutive weekends. Some of that volume got axed in the two weeks before my event on 4/20 due to the combination of a cold, viral pinkeye, and the Shingrix vaccine whacking me out. But last year I was able to get up to 10-12 hours a week for a while and it was kind of a revelation.

And referencing the bit I highlighted: I don’t think it’s possible to overestimate the impact of work and other off-the-bike stress on the body’s ability to train and recover. I spent a couple years at a very high-profile (within the company), extremely stressful job and ended up leaving last fall because the toxicity reached truly epic levels when we got a new CTO and senior leadership devolved into a Lord of the Flies scenario.

The differences between a year ago and today are pretty stark. I’m sleeping better, recovering better, and just generally feeling like a better human. There was a bit on one of Kolie Moore’s Empirical Cycling podcasts where they were talking about how the body doesn’t really distinguish between physical stress like the bike and emotional/psychological stressors, and this seems absolutely true. Those 60+ hour weeks add up, and trying to maintain volume and intensity at the same time can be brutal on the body.

So I would maybe add one thing to @svens ’ great equation above:
fitness = volume x frequency x intensity - work stress


Thanks for all the helpful comments.

“do you even care about getting better or are you happy with what you are at this point in your life?”
absolutely, that’s why it’s getting me down. As Garmin would put it, i want to beat yesterday. I just want to see steady improvement, and the effort I’m putting in is not worth it if i only maintain.
Getting to, and maintaining this level is easy, and the extra work seems to bring no real return.
I have reduced my outdoor, unstructured road riding, dropping my usual 4 hour saturday ride in favour of the usually 90 min workout in the plan because “unstructured is bad”. I do wonder if, in doing so, i’m missing some volume and endurance that i really need in order to progress.

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If you need to average 300 watts for 30 minutes … an FTP 10 watts above that rather than 10 watts below that is huge. :clap:


A couple of observations.

More is more. More volume might be the answer for you to break that plateau. But, you won’t really know until you try it for a consistent period of time, and you need to have the time to do it, and you have to be able to recover from the volume and absorb more work consistently.

Switching approach to something a coach might prescribe might be the answer. If you look at Tim Cusick’s WKO webinars, there’s the concept of “Raising the Roof” with a dedicated VO2 Block, followed by Threshold and Over/Under Blocks. TR is great, but it’s not the answer to everything.

Lastly, at some point we’d all maximize our genetic potential regardless of how much we push. At that point, it’s focus on fatigue resistance, ability to ride at a high percentage of your FTP for a long period of time, sprint / anaerobic performance, tactics, racecraft, descending, etc. There are other ways to get faster that aren’t your FTP.

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Also 48 here, but at this point whilst I care about staying fit and healthy (maintaining) I don’t really care about the FTP anymore; what is satisfying I’ve seen my self get faster and more sustainable despite a decline in FTP. I’m on a LV plan with a lot of outside riding (TT’s and group rides), if I did care about FTP however, I think I could switch to an MV and cut back on the social riding but social riding gives me more pleasure these days and other things are more important in life.


You are doing really well on <10 hours, but there are likely decent gains to be had with a significant volume increase. Another 5+ hours a week might give you 10 extra watts, maybe more. Maybe much more. But it also might take 10 extra hours to gain 10 watts. Some folks respond better than others, but it’s very unlikely you are anywhere near your genetic limit on 10 hours a week. But the juice may not be worth the squeeze depending on your priorities. Would you double your training time for 10 extra watts? Maybe not, but what if that was 30 extra watts? Every additional bit of fitness is harder to gain as you climb closer to your genetic potential. Getting close to it isn’t a reality for most amateurs who have jobs and other priorities. And there is no way to tell how you’ll respond to more volume besides doing it for a while (possibly multiple seasons).


I’m not sure this is the best approach unless the weather is bad. You can definitely do a structured workouts outside depending on the workout. To me, racking up TSS in Z2 is a lot easier outside. It takes some discipline staying in zone though.


Don’t do that. I made exactly that mistake, believing the “train smarter, not more” hype, and never even got back to my previous power numbers. I’m a bit like you in that my FTP never seems to shift much. The only year I had where both my FTP and crucially my race results were better was the year I did high-volume “just riding around” (a lot of long 5h commutes and weekend centuries). After that, I tried to “train properly”, and have never got back to the same fitness. Now about 5 years later, I don’t know if I still can. High endurance volume is for me the absolute best base for fitness. I think ideally I would do some sort of intervals during or in additon to those rides, but definitively not instead of them.


At 36 years of age, I faced a similar plateau:

  • Initially, my FTP settled around 4 w/kg.
  • Despite 9-10 hours of mixed training consistency, I hovered between 4-4.3 w/kg for 2 years.

My breakthrough came with:

  • Increased riding time: 10-15 hours/week for 3 months.
  • Prioritizing sleep: Ensured at least 7 hours nightly.
  • Strategic dieting: Maintained a 200-300 calorie deficit daily, aiming for double my body weight in grams of protein. At 67 kg, I’d target an intake of 134 g of protein daily.
  • Adopted a polarized model focusing on anaerobic training, avoiding zones other than upper threshold and VO2 max. Previously, I adopted traditional training approaches of sweetspot, threshold, you name it.

The result after 3 months: FTP bumped from 4.2 to 4.8 w/kg.

Hope this helps!


Have you considered that this is not a glass ceiling, but an actual ceiling? Maybe just accept it and move on, enjoy other parts of cycling rather than fitness? If you can’t accept that, then sacrifice other things and get more time on the bike.