A Functional Threshold Power (FTP) test is easy to perform, you only need a power meter. However, the insights you get from knowing your FTP are also limited. In this article we share what science has to say about FTP. We also introduce a very similar test protocol that gives you a full view of  your athlete performance – metabolic profile, instead of just one number.

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Functional Threshold Power (FTP) is the highest power you can sustain for about 60 minutes. It’s a key metric used by cyclists, runners, and rowers to measure fitness. Functional Threshold Power or FTP essentially measures your threshold power in a functional context.

You can get to know your functional threshold power via a FTP test. A common way to test FTP is by performing a 20 minute all out effort.

You can calculate functional threshold power by multiplying your 20-minute power by 0.95. In other words: FTP is 95% of your 20 min power. Here’s the functional threshold power formula:

FTP =  20 minute average wattage * 0.95

A good functional threshold power depends on your gender, weight, age and should match with your desired fitness level. An FTP chart can give you a rough idea on whether your FTP is good or bad.

FTP Chart For Man

MALE <50 kg 51-55 kg 56-60 kg 61-65 kg 66-70 kg 71-75 kg 76-80 kg 81-85 kg 86-90 kg 91-95 kg 96-100 kg
World Class 302 320 351 381 411 441 471 502 532 562 592
Exceptional 276 292 320 347 375 402 430 457 485 512 540
Excellent 249 264 289 314 338 363 388 413 438 463 488
Very good 220 233 255 277 299 321 343 365 387 409 431
Good 193 205 224 244 263 282 302 321 340 360 379
Moderate 164 174 191 207 224 240 256 273 289 306 322
Fair 138 146 160 173 187 201 215 229 242 256 270
Untrained 111 118 129 140 151 162 173 184 195 206 218

Scroll Right to see the full table

FTP Chart For Woman

FEMALE 0-50 kg 51-55 kg 56-60 kg 61-65 kg 66-70 kg 71-75 kg 76-80 kg 81-85 kg 86-90 kg 91-95 kg 96-100 kg
World Class 268 284 311 338 365 391 418 445 472 499 525
Exceptional 243 258 282 307 331 355 380 404 428 453 477
Excellent 219 232 254 276 298 319 341 363 385 407 429
Very good 192 204 223 242 261 280 300 319 338 357 377
Good 167 177 194 211 228 244 261 278 295 311 328
Moderate 141 149 163 177 191 206 220 234 248 262 276
Fair 116 123 135 146 158 170 181 193 204 216 228
Untrained 92 97 106 115 124 134 143 152 161 170 179

Scroll Right to see the full table

Before you start to interpret your FTP test results, it’s important to understand the origin of FTP. This enables you to see FTP for what it is, and what it isn’t.

Let’s have a look at what science tells us about interpreting FTP test results.

Functional Threshold Power vs Lactate Threshold (LT2)

As you’ve learned in the video, functional threshold and lactate threshold (or anaerobic threshold) are not the same. While both FTP and lactate threshold try to describe the highest intensity at which lactate does not accumulate, the difference is in the way you measure it. 

FTP is measured in a power-only test, while the lactate threshold test is often a ramp test in the lab, using blood lactate samples. As a result the anaerobic lactate threshold (also known as LT2) is not exactly the same as FTP.

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Literature:

Functional Threshold Power as an Alternative to Lactate Thresholds in Road Cycling (2022)

  • “Significant differences were also observed for power at FTP, fixed blood lactate concentrations of 2 mmol/L, and lactate increases of 1 mmol/L above baseline.”

Functional Threshold Power Is Not Equivalent to Lactate Parameters in Trained Cyclists (2021)

  • “We encourage athletes and coaches to use alternative field-based methods to predict cycling performance.”

Is the Functional Threshold Power a Valid Surrogate of the Lactate Threshold? (2018)

  • “Caution should be taken when using FTP interchangeably with LT, as the bias between markers seems to depend on the athlete’s fitness status.”

Functional Threshold Power in Cyclists: Validity of the Concept and Physiological Responses (2018)

  • FTP20 and FTP60 should not be used interchangeably (…) and their validity against anaerobic threshold should be interpreted with caution.

Functional Threshold Power vs Critical Power

The same is true when comparing FTP with Critical Power. Although FTP and Critical power might both aim to find the intensity that you can maintain for a long amount of time, the exact definition and test differs.

The most straightforward difference is that FTP is measured in a single 20 or 60 minute effort, while Critical Power takes multiple efforts on the power-duration profile into account. Learn more about Critical Power (CP), power-duration curves and the physiology behind critical power in our webinar.

Literature:

Do Critical and Functional Threshold Powers Equate in Highly-Trained Athletes? (2021)

  • “The concept of both CP and FTP representing a maximal metabolic steady-state requires further investigation as the mechanical power at CP was significantly greater than at FTP.”

Relationship Between the Critical Power Test and a 20-min Functional Threshold Power Test in Cycling (2021)

  • “CP was significantly higher compared to FTP (…) these values generally should not be used interchangeably.”

Functional Threshold Power vs Ventilatory Threshold (VT)

What if you compare Functional Threshold Power with the ventilatory threshold, also known as VT or VT2? By now you start to see the pattern. In a study with 46 cyclists, FTP power turned out to be significantly higher than power at the ventilatory threshold.

Literature:

Relationship between functional threshold power, ventilatory threshold and respiratory compensation point in road cycling (2022)

  • “Power output and relative power output at the functional threshold power are higher than at the ventilatory threshold.”

Functional Threshold Power vs Maximal Lactate Steady State (MLSS)

Last but not least, as the video shows, Functional Threshold Power and Maximal Lactate Steady State are not the same. Again, they may both try to describe the highest intensity at which lactate does not accumulate, the difference is in the way you measure it. In fact, MLSS is the only test that actually measures the highest intensity at which lactate remains in steady state.

Literature:

Functional threshold power is not a valid marker of the maximal metabolic steady state (2022)

  • “FTP should not be considered a threshold marker between heavy and severe intensity.”

Is the Functional Threshold Power a Valid Metric to Estimate the Maximal Lactate Steady State in Cyclists? (2022)

  • “Validity results revealed that MLSS differed substantially from TT20”

Maximal Lactate Steady State Versus the 20-Minute Functional Threshold Power Test in Well-Trained Individuals: “Watts” the Big Deal? (2019)

  • “The large variability in the data is such that it would not be advisable to use FTP as a representation of MLSS.”

 GCN: “There’s not a strong physiological basis to your FTP.”

Interpreting FTP test results

FTP is the highest power that you can sustain for about 60 minutes, which is often measured by taking 95% of a 20 minute FTP test. That’s what it is: the highest average power in a test.

The test result itself doesn’t tell you anything about how your FTP power is composed. In fact, FTP is a combination of aerobic and anaerobic power. So it’s not 100% aerobic nor 100% anaerobic.

GCN: “You can produce your FTP in different physiological ways. It doesn’t tell you anything about race winning moves”

One athlete may have a 90% aerobic and 10% anaerobic energy contribution, while another athlete may have a totally different mix. Moreover, an athlete can have a certain combination of aerobic and anaerobic energy contribution on day 1, and a different one on day 2.

Learn more about the contribution of aerobic and anaerobic energy systems on your FTP in this video:

That brings us to the limitations and possible alternatives. Here are the 3 biggest limitations of FTP, with an easy to perform alternative.

1. FTP is not a good measure for progress

When FTP increases, you can’t say you increased aerobic- or anaerobic power. You simply don’t know.

In fact, an increase in FTP could be a combination of a decrease in anaerobic power and an increase in aerobic power.

Moreover, for many athletes, increasing FTP might not be the goal to pursue anyway.

If you want to track progress, you need to know how the body responds to training in more detail. For instance by looking at changes in aerobic power (VO2max) and anaerobic power (VLamax).

The INSCYD Power-Performance Decoder test is a perfect alternative for the FTP test, since it also only requires a power meter (cycling) or GPS watch (running). However, instead of giving you one single FTP metric, you get a full 360 metabolic profile. Continue reading to learn more about the test and test results.

The INSCYD gauge compares metabolic test results with a comparison group.
The INSCYD Power-Performance Decoder test is very similar to the FTP test, but it gives you a full metabolic profile, instead of just one FTP metric.

2. FTP doesn’t predict performance

FTP tells you something about your 20 minute (or 60 minute) time trial performance. However, most races are much longer and/or won after an attack or sprint.

If your races are longer, then your performance highly depends on the carbohydrate vs fat energy contribution. If two athletes have the same FTP, but one is able to produce the power with a higher energy contribution from fat, then this athlete has a big advantage over the other athlete in endurance events.

The INSCYD Power-Performance Decoder test shows exactly what the energy contribution is at any given exercise intensity:

INSCYD Graph - Fat and carbohydrate combustion at any given exercise intensity
Fat and carbohydrate combustion at any given exercise intensity.

Learn more about fat combustion and carbohydrate combustion.

If your races include accelerations like attacks and sprints that far exceed the FTP intensity, then you should look at how long you can maintain a certain intensity above FTP. It’s equally important to know how well you’re able to recover fast from an attack.

Contrary to the FTP test, the INSCYD Power-Performance Decoder test shows both these functions. The good part: you only need to perform 4 all-out efforts, using a power meter (cycling) or GPS watch (running).

INSCYD graph show how fast athlete accumulate fatigue and recover
The INSCYD Power-Performance Decoder test results show how fast you accumulate fatigue (lactate) above anaerobic threshold (purple) and how fast you recover from a lactate buildup below anaerobic threshold (grey).

Learn more about the lactate recovery and accumulation graph in our free whitepaper:

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3. FTP cannot be used for training zones

FTP is not the most efficient and precise way to prescribe training intensities and training zones. For instance, the fat and carbohydrate combustion rate can vastly differ between athletes at 60% of FTP. The same is true for aerobic vs anaerobic energy contribution, lactate concentrations, etc. As a result, it’s not very accurate to do endurance training based on %FTP.

We created a full webinar about why you should or shouldn’t base training zones on FTP. It’s full of practical examples and easy to implement alternatives. Watch the recording for free:

The limitations of FTP are also very obvious when applying it to high intensity training and sprint training. Athletes that have a high FTP don’t necessarily produce high power values at short explosive intervals. Creating such workouts based on FTP would not make sense.

More importantly: why use an FTP test for training zones when there is a better alternative that is as easy to test? The INSCYD Power-Performance Decoder test gives you the opportunity to create training zones on the metric that matters. For instance:

 

GCN: “Knowing your FTP is of limited benefit for training (zones).” 

If you like the convenience of FTP testing, but want more details about athlete performance, the INSCYD Power-Performance Decoder (PPD) is your solution.

Similar to the FTP test, it only requires a power meter (cycling) or GPS watch (running). You can do the PPD test on Zwift, just like the Zwift Academy team does on the GCN YouTube channel:

Parameter INSCYD PPD Test FTP Test
Equipment Power meter or GPS watch Power meter
Protocol, all out-efforts 20sec, 3min, 6min, 20min 20-60min
Training Zones Based on metabolic parameter Based on FTP
Anaerobic Threshold MLSS FTP
VO2max (maximum aerobic power) x
VLamax (maximum anaerobic power) x
FatMax (intensity at which the most fat is burned) x
Fat and carbohydrate utilization at any intensity (kcal/h and g/h) x
Lactate accumulation rate at high intensities x
Lactate recovery rate at low intensities x
Scientifically validated x

The PPD is as accurate as a lab test, according to an undercover test and scientific publications:

“Correlations between power output at the MLSS derived from laboratory and INSCYD athletic performance software was very strong.”

“No significant differences were found between laboratory and INSCYD athletic performance software derived V̇O2max values for absolute and relative.”

Stop relying on FTP testing only and integrate the latest sport science and data-driven training approach. INSCYD is here to help you avoid falling behind.

For coaches and labs

Go Beyond FTP: Embrace Scientific Training Insights for Peak Performance

As a coach or lab professional, you now understand the limitations of traditional metrics like FTP in revealing the full athletic potential. INSCYD’s Power-Performance Decoder offers a groundbreaking alternative, providing a comprehensive metabolic profile that goes beyond just numbers.

🔍 Why Choose INSCYD?

  • In-depth Analysis: Dive deeper into athlete performance with metrics that matter.
  • Personalized Strategies: Tailor training with precision, based on unique athlete profiles.
  • Data-Driven Decisions: Make informed choices with scientifically validated insights.

Book a FREE DEMO and see how INSCYD can transform your approach to training and performance analysis. Discover the power of data-driven coaching and stay ahead in the competitive world of sports.

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Athletes why train with generic plans when you can have a program tailored to your unique physiology? INSCYD is the key to unlocking your full potential. Find your dedicated INSCYD coach or lab here. 

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