Mend Physical Therapy Blog and Injury Information

Unlocking Performance: Understanding Functional Threshold Power (FTP) Zones in Physical Therapy

February 27, 2024

What is Functional Threshold Power (FTP)?

FTP is a critical metric in cycling that represents the highest average power output you can sustain for approximately one hour without fatiguing. We often use this metric in our Boulder Physical Therapy and Lafayette Physical Therapy clinics because it serves as a benchmark for gauging a patient’s aerobic fitness level and is often used to set training intensities. FTP is typically measured in watts and is expressed relative to body weight to account for variations in size and strength among cyclists.

Several methods can be used to determine FTP, with the most common being a 20-minute time trial effort. To do this, find a flat or slightly uphill course where you can maintain a steady effort for 20 minutes or by utilizing a smart trainer such as Wahoo or Zwift. After a thorough warm-up, ride as hard as you can for the entire duration. Record your average power output for the 20-minute effort and multiply it by 0.95 to estimate your FTP. Research indicates that a cyclist’s FTP is more predictive of performance in a race setting rather than their VO2 max.

Once you’ve determined your FTP, you can establish training zones based on a percentage of your FTP. These zones help structure your workouts and ensure that you’re training at the appropriate intensity to elicit specific physiological adaptations. Here’s a breakdown of the typical FTP zones:

– Zone 1: Active Recovery (50-60% of FTP) – Zone 2: Endurance (60-70% of FTP)
– Zone 3: Tempo (70-80% of FTP)
– Zone 4: Threshold (80-90% of FTP)

– Zone 5: VO2 Max (90-105% of FTP)
– Zone 6: Anaerobic Capacity (105-120% of FTP) – Zone 7: Neuromuscular Power (120%+ of FTP)

By incorporating FTP-based training into your routine, you can target specific energy systems, improve your performance, and reach your cycling goals more effectively. At Mend, we can incorporate FTP training into a strength, core conditioning, and mobility program to ensure overuse and other injuries risks are reduced throughout the biking season.

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