How To

Zwift How-To: Understanding & Finding Your FTP

on December 18, 2017

If you’re new to Zwift, or new to cycling and unsure what FTP means, you are not alone. It’s a question asked by many on their way to better performance. FTP, or Functional Threshold Power, is the wattage you can stay below and sustain for longer durations, while going above it causes fatigue to occur very quickly. It is one of the key training metrics used in cycling, and Zwift has built-in tests to measure it.

Think of FTP as a benchmark for you to try and beat, the same way you try to beat your max rep at the gym. It’s a number that indicates your current level of fitness, and sets the bar for improvement. It also shapes your training zones in workouts, personalizing your experience. Don’t bother comparing your FTP to anyone else’s – we all start somewhere.

Inputting your FTP

If you know your FTP number, you can enter it when you create a Zwift account. When it needs updating, you can do so in game from the ride menu. Once you’re on the menu screen, select the edit box under your name.

Info Edit Button

You can change your FTP using the box on the right beside your max heart rate

FTP- Edit Screen

Take an FTP Test In Zwift

If you don’t know your FTP, we recommend taking one of our FTP tests. Choose them from the workouts page in Zwift.

There are three FTP tests to choose from: 1 hour, 45 min or 20min. Make sure you’re well rested, and have plenty of water on hand. These tests determine your highest threshold - so there will be sections where you’ll give it your all. For more tips on how to tackle an FTP test click here.

If you have a smart trainer the warm-up will utilize ERG mode. Once the actual tests begin Zwift automatically turns off ERG mode. ERG mode needs to be off during these tests so you can generate as much power as possible. If ERG mode is left on, your trainer will hold you at a target watt range regardless of how fast or slow you pedal - resulting in inaccurate test results.

Test 1: “FTP Test”

The standard FTP test starts with a long easy warmup, a few ramps, and a 5-minute effort to get the legs pumping. After that, it's time to give it your all - and go as hard as you can for 20 solid minutes. Pace yourself and try to go as hard as you can sustain for the entire 20 minutes - you will be scored on the final 20-minute segment.

Upon saving your ride, you will be notified if your FTP improved.

Test 2: "FTP Test (Shorter)

The short variation of the standard FTP test starts off with a short warmup, a quick leg opening ramp, and a 5 minute hard effort to get the legs pumping. After a brief rest, it's time to give it your all and go as hard as you can for 20 solid minutes. Pace yourself and try to go as hard as you can sustain for the entire 20 minutes - you'll be scored on the final 20 minute segment. Upon saving your ride, you'll be notified if your FTP improved.

Test 3: “Ramp Test”

This is a ramp test designed to estimate your FTP. A ramp test uses a relatively short progressive build of one-minute steps to identify the upper limit of your aerobic capacity quickly. The ramp portion of the test should, ideally, take about 5-20 minutes to complete. It should start out feeling extremely easy. And then, rather suddenly, it will get much, much harder. It is at that point - when the difficulty really shifts - that you need to dig in.

From there, you should max out within 3-5 minutes. This is a maximal effort until exhaustion. You are trying to record your absolute best one-minute power. So keep pedaling until you simply cannot go any further. At that point, stop pedaling, and the test will automatically end and shift to a nice long cooldown.

This is a seated test with a focus on smoothness and consistency. Focus on keeping a good position on the bike with a nice steady cadence of ideally 80-95rpm. Expect your cadence to fall a bit near the end of the test; that is normal. Just don't let yourself get bogged down and mashing. The focus here is on aerobic power. Good luck!

Test 4: “Ramp Test Lite”

This modified version of our original ramp test (above) is for lighter (under 60kg/132lbs) and more novice riders (<2 w/kg FTP). This test starts at a much lower wattage, and increases in smaller steps each minute, compared to the original ramp test. This results in more accurate FTP test results for our lighter and more novice Zwifters.

Looking for tips or a better idea of what this test entails? Read the description for the original ramp test above.

What to do after the test

Done with the test? Nice work! Now you have an accurate FTP for the most effective training. Dive into one of our many training plans. Give the 6-week FTP Builder a spin - it can be found in the same workout module as the FTP test. It’s a great way to increase your FTP in a short amount of time. We suggest retaking the FTP test at the end of your training plan to see your progress.

If you want an alternative to the FTP test, enter a race! They are a fun, motivational way to push yourself to put out high amounts of power over a set period of time. Zwift is constantly tracking your FTP, so if your FTP does go up during a race we will be sure to let you know. Start by using your FTP to help you choose the correct race category.

Is My FTP Good?

FTP is just a number and an indicator of fitness level. It can go up, if you put in training to increase it. It’ll go down if you sit on the couch for weeks on end. Also, your FTP is related to your size - a heavier rider will tend to put out more watts than a lighter rider at similar fitness levels. Just focus on your number and how it changes over time. We recommend testing once every 6-12 weeks, depending on your fitness goals.

Learn From the Pros

If you really want to drill into FTP and how you can maximize yours, check out Zwift PowerUp Cycling Podcast episode 4 with Matt Rowe, Greg Henderson, and Kevin Poulton. They break down FTP and how you can reach your full potential!


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