Climbing FTP

Hi,

sorry for asking such a question. But just wondering, is there such a thing called Climbing FTP. For e.g. we should be climbing at a certain percentage of our FTP. Or should we do it to our heart rate zone. Just to not blow ourselves up midway. It is super difficult to maintain our FTP more than 20 mins on a straight flat road let alone on a climb.

Thank you so much.

Your FTP is the maximum power you can hold for 1 hour. I think some people find it easier to get the power out on a climb so technically you could have a slightly higher FTP on a climb rather than the flat. However what I think you’re asking is what percentage of FTP should you climb at? That would depend on how long the climb is, and obviously what speed you hoped to climb it at. Holding FTP for 20 minutes should be doable (after all FTP is your 1 hour power) but that doesn’t mean it will be easy. Think about the average power of the 20 min blocks in Hell Hath No Fury vs your FTP. What percentage of FTP you wanted to do a climb at would also depend on how that climb fitted in to your overall ride duration and intensity.

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What I think you might be referring to might be your MAP - 5 min power as most of the climbing workouts seem to target this.

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It really depends on how long your climb is.

For an extremely large fraction of the population, 20 min FTP does not correspond to their one hour power. There is too large an anaerobic component to their 20 minute number.

What you really need is your Time to Exhaustion (TTE) for a given power number which is given in a Power Duration Curve. With this number you can either estimate how your long a climb you can do at a given power level, or estimate how fast you can go up a given climb.

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Thank you to all so much for your kind advice.

@Alistair_Brown. I always thought that it will be easier to sustain higher power on the flats than on climbing (e.g. fighting against gravity and air atmosphere starting to thin as we climb. In your opinion, at what percentage of FTP should I climb?

@ErickT. I didn’t know that MAP is our climbing ability. Always thought it was meant to gauge how good we are in chasing other people. Hahahaha. I asked because I didn’t know I can sustain my MAP since it is much tougher than FTP. But I would definitely look into it. (Best to always be over prepared than underprepared right?)

@Heretic. That was my thought too. I always underestimate my FTP rather overestimate. So I won’t bonk (which I do frequently…Hahaha). But will definitely go and research on TTE and Power Duration Curve.

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It’s difficult to answer that, it depends how it fits in to your overall ride and goal for the ride. Are you trying to get a PB up it, or climb steady as you have several climbs to do?

This article by @Coach.Neal.H is excellent on pacing, I’ve used it all season to pace my races. Even if you’re not racing it may give you a guide on how to pace a ride, but for a typical social ride I’d aim for GAP to be in zone 2-3 but with a bit more variation in power. How much would depend on various factors including the length of the climb.

Pacing for performance

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Here is an article that goes into more detail about this:

The author also has a podcast which discuss science and cycling. The topic of FTP often comes up.

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@Fatboi, might be helpful to start with the basics / first princples.

First, for every amount of power that you can put out in watts, there is a duration over which you can sustain it. And although the difference is likely imperceptible if you’re talking single-difference in power, really the max duration for each power level is different. If you can hold 1000 watts for 5 seconds, then you can hold 500 watts for longer. And then if you have an Y axis that is power and an X axis that is duration, and put each of these maximum efforts on the graph and draw a line through them, you get a curve, called the Power-Duration Curve. The PDC is not what you can sustain over the course of one effort, rather each point represents a different effort.

Second, every single person’s PDC is different. Certain things will always be true about them (such as duration goes down as power goes up), and they’ll likely be somewhat similar because of physiology, but each one is different.

Third, 4DP is like a “simplified” PDC. It’d be great to test every conceivable duration but it’s not practical and would get you diminishing returns. So 4DP picks a couple of durations based on certain known physiological touch points based on how your body creates energy to do the effort. But they make you test each one–rather than just having a test that estimates FTP and then doing the rest by %–because as per above, each person’s PDC is different.

Then on to FTP: FTP is supposed to be an estimate of Maximal Lactate Steady State (MLSS), which is the highest work load (in watts in our case) that can be maintained over time without a continued blood lactate accumulation. It implies some anaerobic contribution but a small enough amount that you can keep using the lactate for fuel and it doesn’t build up. You can think about it as like, the hardest “hard” effort that you can sustain for an appreciable period of time, OR you can think about it as like, the effort level below which you can sustain for longer than an hour, but above which you fatigue non-linearly more quickly.

So “FTP” basically means an estimate of MLSS that you obtained by doing a power test (i.e., a “functional” test). One way of estimating it is one-hour power (although note your MLSSw may or may not be sustainable for precisely one hour), Sufferfest 4DP is another way of estimating FTP.

Putting it together, you’re basically asking, what power (expressed in relation to FTP) should i be climbing at, and it should be clear that just like @Alistair_Brown said, there is no one single right answer. It depends on the length of the climb (power/duration), how fast you’re trying to go, and how many times you need to repeat it. If each climb is short (4 mins) and you’re doing a one hour ride and trying to really crush it, maybe you can climb around MAP. If you’re doing a ride that will take 8 hours and has 9000 feet of elevation gain, you will likely get your fastest time by climbing below FTP, starting conservative and trying to negative split it.

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One additional thing: WKO5 and Training Peaks both can give you an approximation of your one hour effort based on what you have done in the past. WKO5 can give you Time to Exhaustion as well. The longer it takes you to get to TEE, the better you are at sustained efforts. However, the 4DP test, as it was pointed out, gives you specific information on what happens on a timed effort. The five (seven) second efforts are all out sprints and measure your ability to produce maximum effort power using energy stored in the muscle tissue. The next is the ability to produce maximum power at maximum aerobic intake (MAP). After that is the maximum sustained effort over time, and still at or just above maximum aerobic intake (FTP) and last is the maximum sustained effort at exhaustion and will take you deep into your aerobic/anaerobic levels (AC). These set up levels in the training program to increase those numbers EXCEPT FTP. Strangely, you have to increase MAP and AC in order to bring up FTP, unless you are physically constrained (not enough engines in the muscle). And thus the ratings and semi-customized training plands.

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@jmckenzieKOS Thank you so much for your info. Will definitely look into WKO5 and Training Peak.

@devolikewhoa. Whoa. Sir, hats off to you for taking such an effort to write such a long paragraph to let me know 4DP better. DOnt think I deserve such effort. Hahaha. Thank you so much. Your reply has been super educational to me, as to all the helpful Sir who had replied me.

Thank you so much :man_kneeling: :man_kneeling: :man_kneeling:

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Above answers are all good, I would suggest you to check the webinar series or WKO5 on YouTube. According to their theory, ftp is just a term describing a status that your lactate acid level will be sustained in a high level when putting certain sustained effort that you can still manage the pan. It does not mean every time you hit a new ftp number you will be able to ride at it for an hour. It might be 40 to 70 min. Basing on your past data, the WKO gives you a TTE which estimate how long can you hold your ftp. At certain phase of your training year, you should apply a progressive plan block to lengthen your TTE, and every time you do interval you should pay attention to the total time in target zone, it should be longer than your TTE and a step further every next time. How to structure or choose the workout might get tricky if raising ftp is your main goal. For me I’m following SUF block plan and adding more ride after each workout to achieve it, you can do that by jump back to certain point of the video to add some more sets or simply ride on Zwift afterwards for more gain. But how you structure this can be more complicated, I strongly recommend checking those videos on YouTube, you will definitely know much better on what you need to improve.

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