How to Use Power in Cycling

Team MaccaX member Wendy Noffke asks: I’m looking for some advice on using a power meter for training. I had a crank-based Pioneer installed on my bike and am hoping to get back outdoors with my training again soon.

…What I really need is an idea how to start using it as a training tool. I did one easy ride with it and just let it record data but did not alter my riding based on the numbers. I desperate need some advice how to use it for improving my training. Thanks.

"What I really need is an idea how to start using [a power meter] as a training tool."

MaccaX coach Tim Ford suggested:

Hey Wendy, I think the best place to start with power is to do an FTP test. This will then give you a rock solid benchmark and you can start establishing power zones to implement in your training. There are a whole heap of different types you can do. I like the 20-minute FTP where you do a a 40-minute warm up with some efforts to get the legs firing. Then 20 minutes basically as hard as you can maintain (imperative you don’t go out too hard) then after the 20 minutes you take your average power and 95% of it is your ftp. You can also see your heart rate data as well. I think the trainer is great for an FTP test but you can also do them outside.

MaccaX member Pawel Chalacis added:

To add to what Tim said – after you have your FTP set you can start planning your training according to your numbers. You want easy recovery ride? Keep it under 65% of FTP. Endurance / Ironman ride – 75%. Wanna do some quick intervals? Start with few 5-minute efforts around 90 – 95% (called often sweet spot, even though there is nothing sweet about them). Wanna work on anaerobic capacity – short bursts around 120%. 

I’d start with three basic rides – endurance ride, sweet spot intervals and VO2Max intervals. When you want more – add more sweet spot rides. After 8 to 12 weeks – retest your FTP and adjust training to alight with your planned races (you don’t need anaerobic capacity for Ironman race the same way you don’t need to go for a 180km ride if you’re planning a spring start).

Once Wendy had done her FTP test, MaccaX team sports scientist Ben Hammond assisted with interpreting the power file and discovered that her Garmin was only reading power from one crank, leading to inaccurate readings. Click here to read more from our team forum…

MaccaX offers a wide range of triathlon training plans to suit your fitness and goals. You may also inquire with our coaches for customized plans.



(Photo credit: Visual Hunt)

Noelle De Guzman
Noelle De Guzman
Noelle De Guzman is a freelance writer with ten years of experience in the field of fitness and wellness. She blogs at about endurance sport in the Philippines and beyond.