The infamous 4-5w/kg for a "Big guy"

So like many, I don’t live in the alpes and on the local group / race courses the split is about 40/40/20 of gravity, aero and rolling resistance which makes it a rouleur’s road.

That being said on Zwift with Alpe Zwift and all the access to climbing, certain among us who consider ourselves “big guys who can climb” [read 85kg+ riders] have to kind of accept that certain fast juniors that you may run into on zwift, who would normally not even be able to come near the draft of a larger road rider out there in the real world are pretty much king, you find them in the 3.5 - 4w/kg pace partner rides relaxing and doing it easy…

Personally I’m aware of this human tendency to reject measures of self that don’t present the self in the best way. As a result I believe it wiser to embrace the challenge for what it is knowing that when we get back to reality physics will swing back in favor.

That being said, for those that actually managed to get an ftp of 4-5w/kg while being a big rider, I’m very curious about which specific types of efforts you did to get there, and if weight loss was ultimately the only way.

I’ve been 170, 180, 185, 195, and 200 lbs over various season and while my bike a tech is also way better now, I’m also climbing way better at 200 than I ever was at 170… There are a lot of questions that come to mind about FTP and weight loss such as is it effective to try to achieve a certain FTP at 200lbs and then try to keep it while slimming down maybe 10-20lbs and that would be what gets you to 5w/kg.

Universally what I see in the pro ranks is that 84kg really is the absolute limit for 5/wkg with an ftp of 420.

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This is has been the approach I’ve tried to take, but every offseason I gain weight and spend the base season trying to get back to racing weight. I’m very curious if other ‘big guys’ have any advice or stories they can share.

Depends what definition of FTP you’re using, but most estimates put Ganna’s hour record at 440-450 and he said he thinks he could have gone harder. But true ‘hour’ power for these guys is not that relevant. If you’re a pro at that weight, you’re that heavy for a reason: short time trials, sprints, protecting your leader and punchy finishes.

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This is a timely post because there was an interesting topic on the relationship between size and power on a recent Empirical Cycling podcast.

I’m 6’5" and aiming for 200 lbs (well north of that at the moment :crazy_face:) so I’ll be watching to see what folks have to say!

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Pros at that weight are solid muscle. People who are 80-85kg but can go ‘race weight’ down into the 70s are not anywhere close to solid muscle in the 80s. It’s way different. When I read about a pro who is race weight 75kg, they are incredibly strong. I imagine they would weigh 80kg if they didn’t ride 20-30hpw week in week out. So imagine the 80kg pro who is ‘down to’ 80kg after consistently maintaining 20hpws.

It’s just a different ball game than us amateurs

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Depending on your height, if you’re climbing better at 200 compared to 170 you’re either doing something wrong or you’ve gotten a lot stronger.
Im a “bigger rider” at least in the world of Zwift at 6’2” and 167-170. Im always amazed at the 5+ w/kg riders who average 265 for a race.

I think about improving it’s about extending to longer intervals and building your aerobic engine. I really enjoy riding SS because it burns a lot of kjs and makes my legs strong for long efforts. To my detriment I don’t focus on snappy efforts and that ends up hurting me in key moments of races.

Yeah unfortunately I put on a lot of muscle in the last 2-3 years in my upper back and arms, I’ve had phases in life where I’m working and it’s inevitable that I’m going to put on some weight that doesn’t really help my riding.

5 W/kg at that weight is a very lofty goal. According to this Marcel Kittel’s all-time career peak as a pro was 4.9 W/kg with an FTP of 431 W and 438 W. Are you going to get as fast as Marcel Kittel in his prime? I’m not saying that as a put down, just to put your numbers into perspective.

While I am not as heavy as you guys, I did get faster in absolute and ~74 kg, but my peak FTP for the last two seasons was 342 W (4.6 W/kg) and 348 W (4.7 W/kg). My body fat has increased, yet I am faster. (Note that not just my (absolute and relative) FTP went up, I have become faster in other measurable ways such as particular Strava segments and in races.)

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Kittel was a sprinter who won multiple stages in the green jersey, so w/kg was clearly not his focus.

Am I going to be faster than him no, but probably a better climber.

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Yes, I understand this, but your body type is fixed. If your muscle mass is much larger than the body weight of many other riders, you will never get your weight down a sufficient amount.

E. g. according to my Withings scale, my muscle mass is 59–60 kg. Let’s take that as a ballpark figure. That’s close to the body weight of some of my team mates (I live in Japan, and the lightest male team mate is in Strava’s <= 55 kg category). Put another way, I will never be able to get down to 65 kg without losing a significant amount of body mass, something that will make me slower in all circumstances.

Assuming you are a heavier rider and what you are carrying isn’t just excess fat, but muscle, then I don’t know whether you can be a better climber than him, actually. Which is my point. Getting to a specific FTP high as 5 W/kg would put you the pro category for heavy riders — and that is unlikely to happen.

From your post (“I’m climbing way better at 200 lbs that I ever was at 170 …”) I deduce that you don’t have a bunch of excess body fat, and that you are naturally a higher-weight athlete — just like I am not a 65 kg athlete, but more of a 71–75 kg athlete. Hence, your goal of 5 W/kg seems quite unrealistic. I’d even say that you could make yourself a weaker rider by even attempting this. If your strength is absolute power, do what Marcel Kittel did: exploit that during races which suit you and sit out or sit back in races that involve a lot of climbing.

I have a lot of muscle that I gained from my job I work as an arborist in the summer so I do a lot of overhead pressing saws, ladders, polesaw, etc. But it was actually the winter before where I was doing a form of pest control where we burn infected beetle trees where I put on a solid 15lbs of muscle in my back.

Right now, I’m waiting for it to go away which it slowly is, but I also have probably 5-10lbs of fat as well as a fair bit of water weight from both a previous crash and this really weird allergy I picked up in the last year. I get a rash all over if im not taking at least 20mg reactine per day I assume all the hives are just water weight.

I’m already the top guy in Ottawa Gatineau for the 84-90kg category on the popular long climb segment so yeah it would take a lot of hard work, but here I am on TR.

Yeah I’m pretty huge, like 6’5" size 12 feet tree trunks for legs and a fairly skinny torso most people guess I weigh 180 when I’m more like 205

And yes, 5w/kg Isn’t really a goal as a much as a benchmark, I think realistically to get there I would need to go down to at least 80kg

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I listened to the whole thing, very insightful, thanks for sharing.

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Being the fastest climber in your weight category sounds like a reasonable goal. However, is focussing on becoming a better climber (regardless of weight) a good goal for you? I doubt it. I’d wager it’d be better for you if you focussed on your strengths.

I remember someone else posting a question quite similar to you. But he already was at 4.7 or 4.8 W/kg (don’t remember) and had a ~400 W FTP. He also wanted to become a better climber, and I remember just asking him whether he was nuts (in the most loving way possible :grin:).

It’s really hard to guess body composition by appearance. I’d highly recommend getting a dexa scan if there is a place nearby that offers them. That would give you a better idea of whether there is a path to dropping a few pounds without losing muscle or not. It will also tell you where you are carrying the muscle and fat. Most people are not walking around at 10% body fat, even if they are well defined and you can see every vien in their body.

I don’t think you mentioned your current FTP, but there are certainly big amateur guys pushing well over 400w FTP’s. But many of the guys I see are really big (often 200lbs or more) pushing those kind of watts, so it’s hard to get to the 5w/kg mark carrying that weight. And there are certainly pros pushing well over 420 watt FTP’s that aren’t even considered big riders. The big guys are typically over 450 and some closer to 500.

Don’t sleep on Kittle (or any pro) as a climber, regardless of size. They look like they can’t climb that well when they are in a hilly race with the climbers, but even the “low FTP” pros are in the 5w/kg territory and can climb much better than most amateurs.

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Two things: for an hour record, what matters is your power in a very aero position, which is likely lower than the FTP. And if you remember Alex Dowsett’s hour record, he was slightly behind up until the point where he had to sit up the first time.

I have heard rumors that MvdP and some other athletes has an FTP in the 460 W range or so at a weight in the high 60s. I’m not sure how accurate these are, I reckon this data is a highly guarded secret.

MvDP is far more likely in the 75kg range than the high 60s. At 184cm, he’s a machine of power. While not published in any accurate way, his likely ballpark FTP is ~420W, putting him in the 5.6 range. MvDP and WvA are both considered bigger riders in the pro ranks. By comparison, Pidcock (~58kg) looks like a child when riding near them or standing on the podium this CX season.

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I agree, a DXA scan is the gold standard and gives you so much information. Not just overall body fat percentage, but breakdown by region. It is especially interesting to see changes in abdominal fat if you significantly increase time on the bike.

DXA scan is also widely used in academic research, so you can compare your results to nomograms derived from studies involving thousands of people, such as this one.
NB. Body fat percentage readings from calipers tend to be several percentage points higher than DXA readings and cannot be directly compared.

You have to be either blessed with a sizeable aerobic engine or quite lean* to be much over four watts per kilogram at 85+ kg.

Five plus at 90+ kg is World Tour material.

(This is not just for the weight component. It is also because lower body fat means less blood flow is needed to cool your internal organs. This, at least in theory, effects the watts size of the equation as too. Maybe that’s why overweight people don’t tend to succeed even in “flat” sports like heavyweight rowing and track pursuiting. You don’t really hear about fat guys being discovered to have massive untrained FTPs.)

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I don’t know all the science behind it, but I’m definitely my strongest when I’m at my leanest, even when holding a similar training load. It could be other contributing factors that happen at the same time (like diet), but leaner always translates to stronger for me (so win/win on both sides of the w/kg equation). I know there is a point where you can lose muscle/power if you drop too much weight or drop it the wrong way, but I think that danger is greatly overplayed.

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Most of us are usually at our leanest at the same time we are peaking for events. No wonder we feel our strongest.

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