How to set power training zones

A guide to getting started with your power meter – how to set power training zones based on your FTP.

Cycling power meters, something once the preserve of well-funded professional teams and national elite level coaching programmes, have now been made accessible to cyclists of all abilities, budgets and disciplines.

Whether you’re a relatively new convert to cycling, already a battle-hardened veteran or someone returning to the sport after some years of a lay-off, structured training with power is one of the most effective ways to take your performance to the next level. Here’s our guidance on getting started with a power meter and setting your power training zones.

Training with a power meter allows you to isolate the key factor underpinning performance in a way that training with just speed or heart rate data simply does not. Speed and heart rate can and will be influenced by many extraneous factors such as hydration levels, nutrition, wind speed and direction and body position, whereas the power you produce through your legs will always remain an excellent indicator of performance on any given day.

In order to productively begin training with power first you must perform a Functional Threshold Power or FTP Test. Watts is the measure of rider output and therefore power, the increase of which is the objective of any structured training programme. In a nutshell the test aims to capture the maximum number of Watts you can generate on the bike over the course of an hour. Periodically running the FTP Test will tell you whether you are improving (increasing your power) or regressing (witnessing a decrease in your power output).

In order to use your FTP Threshold productively, training should be structured around certain ‘Zones’ or percentages of this figure. These are called power training zones and can be roughly broken down in the following way:

Zone 1: Active Recovery – 55% of FTP figure (Easy effort).

Zone 2: Endurance – 56% to 75% of FTP figure (Easily sustainable for several hours, excellent for building general endurance).

Zone 3: Temp – 76% to 90% of FTP figure (Ride interval times to be between 20 minutes and 3 hours, a more focussed effort).

Zone 4: Lactate Threshold – 91% to 105% of FTP Figure (More serious effort, ride interval times to be between 15 minutes and 30 minutes).

Zone 5: VO2 Max – 106% to 120% of FTP figure (Hard effort with intervals to last no more than 2 minutes to 8 minutes).

Zone 6: Anaerobic capacity – 121% and above of FTP figure (Almost maximal effort with intervals to last no longer than 30 seconds to 3 minutes).

It should be clear however that in order to use this approach most effectively, both your FTP figure and any subsequent power data must be accurate, which is to say both true and precise.

There is only one power meter out there that takes its claims of accuracy seriously, and that’s the InfoCrank. The proprietary technology within the InfoCrank makes it stand out as head and shoulders above the rest – independently proven to be the most accurate power meter in the world. The go-to choice for most of the successful national cycling federations, globally the InfoCrank is capable of providing data of a quality all other power meters simply cannot.

There is no doubt that with a thoughtful and consistent approach to training with power any cyclist could steadily increase their individual performance. And there is little doubt that as performances improve, the accuracy of the data will become decisive in who crosses the finishing line first.

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