TR makes you this much faster – 185 data points and a model

Trainerroad makes you a faster cyclist, but how much faster? From the thread ‘The Bell curve of cyclists’ we already know how fast the average TR cyclist is. But what about the average improvements realized using Trainerroad? The thread ‘Your FTP improvements’ has 1098 comments as of today, and answers this question for individual users. Here a best-effort exploration of the aggregate data in that thread.

Of the 1098 comments posted, 185 self-reported results could be retrieved that included 1) starting FTP, 2) plan and plan volume, and 3) resulting FTP. This data-set might include some doubles as many members posted updates, and certainly does not include all results posted as some were hidden in longer posts. Posts that mentioned re-calibration of power meters, intermittent illness or doubts about FTP test accuracy were ignored. This resulted in a raw data-set, which contains no information about age, gender, weight, prior training history, general health, consistency of training, etc, etc.

The average user in the forum thread had a starting FTP of 235 and reported a 17-Watt improvement after a (any) single training plan phase, or a 7.9% gain.
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What happens when fitness improves, what is the difference between low-, mid-. and high-volume plans, and which specific training plan phase results in the biggest gains? Plotting all 185 data points it becomes apparent that improvements are getting smaller as starting FTP increases, as expected.


More than 90% of self-reported results were from low- and mid-volume plans (evenly distributed), the remainder was on a high-volume plan. Separating these out leads to three different linear correlations (R-squared 0.52, 0.34 and 0.65):

The choice of a linear correlation can certainly be debated but keeps the logic simple. The low number of data points for the high-volume plans is a limitation, but with the correlations above one can calculate an average expected gain from a (generic) plan as function of starting FTP. So what is the influence of the type of plan? Here the size of the data-set is again a limitation, but for low-volume plans it looks like this:

From the limited data one can conclude that none of the plans leads to better results across the full range of users, and for the average TR user (~230W, ~3.0FTP/kg) the difference is not substantial. Remember all the blog posts stating: ‘the real improvements will come after the base phase’? This limited data-set does not support such conclusion.
Finally, what FTP gains could an average TR user expect from a number of consecutive weeks of dedicated training? Using the linear correlations from the low-, mid-, and high-volume plans (and ignoring plan-phase-specific influences) one can get a rough estimate. As not all plans have the same duration this was (arbitrarily) set to seven weeks. And as data points for mid- and high-volume plans are not available for lower starting FTPs they are not plotted in that range.

The (invisible) error bars on this plot are huge, the data is probably biased (stronger incentive to self-report positive results), and FTP is a concept with limitations. But still interesting, and safe to say that Trainerroad will make the vast majority of us a lot faster!

Update

The results above only apply to the average TR cyclist. For individual TR users the question still is how age, build and gender factor in when predicting FTP improvements. The raw data does not answer those questions, but this blog by Joe Friel (Author of the Cyclist’s training bible) does provide more insight and is surprisingly consistent with the data above. It also turns out that the linear correlation between reported FTP percentage gains and starting FTP is a first-order nonlinear differential equation that can be solved analytically :nerd_face:. Using the analytical solution and Friel’s rule-of-thumb to scale the parameters, one can predict (average) FTP gains more specifically for individuals based on their age, gender, build, current FTP and plan volume.

Link to the Spreadsheet below (again, best effort), hope it provides some additional insight!

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hey, neat stuff. I had thought about this stuff before, so good on you for digging through and putting this together.

my idea for an analysis regarding SSB volumes would be to compare averages in ftp changes between the 3 volume levels and control for gender, age, and some sort of proxy for experience (I would use w/kg categories as a rough indicator). I envy the amount of data the TR has, I’m sure they can do some really great analyses

Thanks for putting this together! Very interesting stuff!

Great analysis! TR have certainly done this already. There are frequent references on the podcast to improvements by consistency and plan volume, and metrics like workout completion rates. They’ll never release actual numbers, so well done you on putting this together.

Woah, thanks so much for this, I’m time crunched and only able to sustain low volume at this stage and was worried it wouldn’t develop my FTP as much as the medium or high volume plans but your last graph makes me feel MUCH better!!

Thanks for having too much free time! :laughing:

I’ve often wondered if HV plans gave that much more than MV plans. Now I kind of know. Looks like MV and HV plans develop similar FTP but HV will develop non-FTP attributes (eg. muscular endurance) to a greater degree.

I can see why TR recommends MV plans for 99% of users — more recovery time is more beneficial for most people than developing non-FTP attributes. MV will make you faster, HV will make you faster and stronger.

I can only imagine what an actual High Volume plan, ~20 hours/week, would do for your FTP.

:+1:

Nice! Expected yet another ’ what are your ftp gains’ thread, so this was a pleasant surprise!

What is the median ftp gain, around 5%?

LV will make you faster; MV and HV will make you even [a little bit] faster. But I’m not sure where you get stronger from?

Great analysis :+1:t3::+1:t3:

My guess is the source data set is biased however, by people with small or no FTP gains being underrepresented in the data - as people who experience smaller FTP gains are less likely to talk about it than people who experience bigger FTP gains.

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perhaps, but the people seeing results are probably also more adherent to the program and so are a better representation. If someone is adhering the program and not seeing improvements, please prove me wrong.

I don’t have the data, so I don’t know. Just a guess based on human nature.

“Stronger” in the sense that HV will increase your muscular endurance, TTE, lactate abilities, etc over and above a similar MV FTP boost. HV will condition your body to handle more physical stress than a MV plan would (and certainly more than a LV plan). :+1:

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My interpretation would be different. All the curves are flattening off with increased fitness, and HV will likely flatten off at a higher FTP than MV. Not very visible in the graphs, but keep in mind that the number of data points with a starting FTP >300W is really limited (~5%). That is consistent with the Bell-curve-thread showing only few percent of TR members having an FTP north of 300W. And under 300W the LV and MV plans still look quite efficient and are likely easier to comply to, hence the TR recommendation.

MV vs HV:

FTP =how hard can you go
CTL = how long can you go hard

They are related, but independent – a high CTL does not necessarily mean you are race-ready, having tuned all aspects of your fitness, and a high FTP does not necessarily mean you have the muscular endurance for a long race.

Most folks can reach close to their FTP potential with MV plans – follow MV for three or four years, and your FTP will probably be – just to toss a number out of my butt – 95-98%+ of your FTP potential. High volume would get you that last ~2-5%. It would also improve a number of other aspects of fitness that have been discussed.

MV is really best for most riders’ cycling goals and life circumstances. For the 30+ crowd, training more than 12 hours a week is only for those thinking about national medals, or who, from whatever quirk and/or compulsion, desire to spend that much time on a bicycle rather than doing something useful (I fall into the latter category)

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This has been my experience 100%

Once my CTL gets into the 120’s I can handle a TON of work and still feel very fresh. Long, hard rides just don’t take as much out of me.

After letting CTL drop in the fall I’m currently building back up with Z2 and plenty of tempo/ss work. My FTP is still solid, but I’m not quite to that point that I have the extra strength and durability I seem to have after weeks and weeks of 800-900TSS.

FWIW I’m one of those people with a compulsion to put more into my training than I probably need to. No specific goals and not able to race much, but I like to be fit.

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Good stuff! Congrats for the huge work. Still it doesn’t come has something we where unaware off. Training plans and in this case TR make us faster!

So this would suggest I can go from 200 to 300 in just over a year?

I went from a FTP of 193 in July 2018 to 298 August of 2019. So my n=1 experience is that it’s certainly possible.

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What’s your weight mate? Fantastic gains!

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At my peak in September 2019 my weight was 170+/- (77kgs). Off season right now I’m probably just under 180.

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