If you train with a power
meter (highly recommended) then you probably know that setting up power
training zones is best based on your Functional Threshold Power (FTP). That’s
the average maximal power you are capable of sustaining for one hour. I’ve
written here many times before describing how to do a field test to find your
FTP. Here's one of those posts.

Athletes often ask me what their FTP should be. That’s hard to answer because (as usual) there are so
many “it depends.” But here’s a quick and dirty way to estimate what your FTP
based on body weight, age and gender…

Step 1. Double your body
weight in pounds (1 kg = 2.2 lbs). Example: A body weight of 154 pounds (70 kg)
estimates an FTP of 308 watts (154 x 2 = 308).

Step 2. Subtract 0.5% for
every year beyond age 35. Example: If the above 154-pound rider is 50 years old
he would subtract 7.5% from 308 (50 – 35 = 15 x 0.005 = 0.075). This would
predict an FTP of 285 (308 x 0.075 = 23.1, 308 – 23.1 = 284.9).

Step 3. Women riders
can subtract 10% from the estimated FTP as found in steps 1 and 2 above. Example: A
120-pound (54.5-kg) woman who is 40 years old would have an estimated FTP of
211 watts (120 x 2 = 240, 240 – 2.5% = 234, 234 – 10% = 210.6).

If your actual FTP based on
testing falls short of the estimation then you may have a new training
objective for this winter. If your known FTP exceeds the estimation then
congratulations for doing something right in your training. (In a future post
I’ll discuss how to train to raise your FTP.)

Not all of the possible
variables are included in the 3-step estimation above. There could well be
others. One of the most significant for some athletes is altitude. As the
altitude increases above sea level aerobic capacity declines which means that
one’s average max power over a one-hour period would also decline. For example,
at 5,000 feet (1,516 meters) the negative effect of altitude is between 5%
(acclimated to altitude) and 9% (not acclimated) according to Bassett et al, 1999. So an
FTP determined in Boulder, Colorado would be roughly 5-9% greater at sea level.
Example: Our 50-year-old rider from above is going from Boulder to sea level
for a race and wants to know what his power zones should be at the lower
altitude. Since he lives at altitude we can assume he is acclimated. So if we
add 5% to his altitude FTP of 285 the new FTP is estimated at 300 watts (285 x
0.05 = 14.25, 285 + 14.25 = 299.25). He would then reconfigure his power zones
based on an FTP of 300.

Of course, if you are going
to altitude from sea level to race you would subtract the estimated power change
to reconfigure your zones. (I’ll post an altitude adjustment table based on
Bassett’s study in an upcoming blog.)

And, of course, excess fat
or muscle, especially upper-body muscle, will also skew the results. If you
have a considerable amount of either of these then your estimated FTP is likely
to be too high. Knowing lean body mass from testing would be a better predictor
if fat is an issue. That won’t help for overly muscular riders, however. (Side note: While
the weight of your bike is often not included in the power-to-weight ratio it
certainly is an issue. A heavy bike will diminish the effect of an otherwise
high FTP estimated from body weight. This is a real issue for a small woman. A
15-pound (6.8 kg) bike is a heavy load to carry uphill for a small rider. But
it’s still not included in the estimation of FTP.)

I’m certain there are even
more variables, such as experience in the sport and familiarization with the
testing protocol, which I have don’t know how to include in the estimation of
FTP. And the above method is not scientifically proven. It’s just something I’ve
come up with from coaching a small number of riders and talking with others.
But give it a try to see what your FTP estimation is. I’m curious to see how
far off it is from what you have found your actual FTP to be.

Glenn--Thanks for posting your numbers. There are lots of people who exceed their estimated FTPs, and by quite a bit. They tend to be highly trained and elite riders.

Posted by: Joe Friel | 08/27/2010 at 05:13 AM

Formula says 297 Watt, tested on the road with pretty good but not perfect headwind: 287 Watt.

I am at the end of Base III - I hope to reach 305 Watt during peak/race.

How much could usually be added in the Built period (in %)?

Thanks

Posted by: Jon | 09/03/2010 at 08:19 AM

Hi Jon--Thanks for sharing your FTP numbers. I wish I could tell you a % that works for everyone but I can't. It depends on many variables, perhaps the most significant of which is how close you are to your potential at the start of the Build period. A complete novice may be able to increase it 20-40%. An experienced athlete who has been training 'right' for years may not be able to improve it at all.

Posted by: Joe Friel | 09/03/2010 at 09:07 AM

This is great advice. There is no point in training beyond what your normally capable of and if you do you will damage yourself.

Posted by: Toms web ftp | 09/09/2010 at 10:08 AM

Hi

Actual FTE 305 - calculated FTE 300 (weight 74 kg age 50) Live in Oslo Norway at sea level or just above.

Posted by: Ole Herman Larsen | 10/11/2011 at 02:04 AM

This is cool. I calculated my FTP based on your formula and it is very close. The FTP was done after base 3 in 2011. Hoping to get tiny bit higher or the same FTP after base 3 this season...hoping to be at the same weight I was in 2011...confident. Thanks, this is fun.

Posted by: Angela | 01/15/2012 at 08:23 PM

Hi Joe,

I race principally IM70.3s.

I’m a big follower of your blog. I’ve ‘studied’ your books and train in accordance with the principles and suggested plans therein. After six years I’m still getting year-on-year improvements in my swim, run and overall times.

Just using your ‘rule-of-thumb’ as I guide to a potential target for my FTP, the maths work out for me to be around 240W (male, 63kg, 49 years old - and by the way I’m short at 5’6””). In race season my FTP ranges from 195 to 205 W (dropping to around 175W at end of Base 1 in the following season).

Potentially, I could improve my power by around 40W (20%) on my best FTP. How best should I go about this, what do I need to do differnely – would I be better to bring forward my Sub-threshold/ threshold training (Zones 4/5a) in my programme?

Best,

Andy (UK)

Posted by: Andy Griffin | 01/30/2012 at 06:49 AM

Andy Griffin - It comes down to 3 things: aerobic capacity, lactate threshold and economy. Search these on my blog to find how to improve each. They will raise your FTP.

Posted by: Joe Friel | 01/30/2012 at 08:24 AM

You can get a fairly accurate estimate of your FTP by doing an all out

effort of 20 minutes, then subtracting 5% from that value.

Posted by: FTP Hosting | 08/03/2012 at 09:15 PM

If you have an FTP that strong, you are on a training plan with periodic testing and you probably don't need to be estimating your FTP anyway.

Posted by: FTP Hosting | 08/07/2012 at 04:07 PM

Joe, I know this is an old post, but I am looking for a good way to estimate FTP for the beginning of the season based on "last year's" FTP? I'm sure all riders lose a lot of fitness when not cycling for awhile... especially at my age of 79. But I think I tend to use season-beginning FTP that is too low.

I try to do my first FTP/LTHR test of the season in the 4th or 5th week. Should I do it sooner?

Posted by: L. Steve Varnum | 12/15/2016 at 10:37 AM

L. Steve Varnum - Yes. Understood. The body weight etc mentioned in this post is a painless way of estimating it, but it's just a ballpark number. Testing is the only way to get the ballpark smaller. But I understand the reluctance to do a 20- or 30-min test right at the start of the base period. So perhaps try this... Do a 5min all-out test on a slight hill. Subtract 12% and you have a somewhat smaller ballpark number than the 20min test would give you. Not perfect but will get you started.

Posted by: Joe Friel | 12/15/2016 at 02:14 PM