Mike’s 8 week cycle training guide

So you want to get really strong on your bike? Maybe you need to get in shape for the race season or you have a big sportif coming up or you just want to get into that fast group with your club and don’t want to be last up the hills. Well here is what you need to do: listen to Mike and you’ll never get dropped again! Mike is our director, bike racer, coach and cycling tech expert. Suffice to say, he knows a thing or two about training with power meters.   

Why is it so important to train with power?

The reason every cyclist who gets to a certain level starts to use power data to train with is simple:

  1. Accuracy – There is no ambiguity when comparing efforts over different terrain – unlike speed, cadence, heart rate data or that feeling you have in your legs you can always compare power data absolutely and accurately. This is particularly important for interval training. Heart rate will give a lag so is not a real time indicator of performance, where power is.
  2. Zone based training – Used for interval training (or more intensive: High Intensity Interval Training, HIIT) where you train at a variety of intensities during a workout. It is proven to enhance your endurance more than just training at a consistent rate (see references). No matter what your fitness level, you can use a power zone based training system. Zones are based on your specific fitness and power output, so it is effectively designed for your current fitness level and will maximise the effectiveness of your training.
  3. Quantifiable fitness goals – With numbers it is so much easier to see your improvement over time, you can also upload it into Strava or Garmin Connect to keep track of it. From one week to another you can see that your FTP has increased and therefore your fitness has increased! This is also a huge motivator.
  4. Power to weight ratio (for going up hills faster) – If you take your FTP and divides it by your weight in kgs you will get your power to weight ratio, described as w/kg. If you are 80kgs and your FTP is 270 then your power to weight ratio number is: 3.4 W/Kg if you improve this number you improve your climbing ability by improving your speed on climbs. There are two aspects at play here, it may sound obvious, but the heavier you are the slower you will go up hills for a given power! Chris Froome is around 6 W/Kg at race fitness with 6.8 W/Kg on the queen stages of the Tour de France, it’s considered a bit of a golden number for those at that level (he’s an obscene 67.5kgs by the way and standing at 6’ 1” 😲).

How to do an FTP test

First things first – you need to establish your FTP – your Functional Threshold Power. This is the maximum power you can hold as an average over an hour. Don’t worry, there is no need to do an hour at threshold!! There’s a formula to work it out from a 20 min effort.

Indoor testing will suffice (doing away with traffic lights, junctions, wild animals and l’angliru) and reducing the overall test time to what is now a standard 20-minute test.

Taking the resulting average power after the tested 20 minutes, and remove 5%, will give you a reasonable measurement of your FTP. You should update your FTP score once every 4 to 6 weeks.

Power based training zones

Now you need to work out the power zones that you are going to work in. Write them down and stick them to the top of your training program for each day so you know exactly what power you should be doing for each part of your training – this is called your “zone sheet”. Your zone sheet and your daily training guide should be stuck to your handle bars for ease of reference.

Zone 1 – Active recovery <55% of FTP

Zone 2 – Endurance >55% – 75% of FTP

Zone 3 – Tempo >75% – 90% of FTP

Zone 4 – Lactate Threshold >90% – 105% of FTP

Zone 5 – VO2 Max >105% – 120% of FTP

Zone 6 – Anaerobic Capacity >120% – 150% of FTP

Zone 7 – Neuromuscular Power  >150% of FTP

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  1. Seiler S og Tønnessen E. Intervals, Thresholds, and long slow distance: The role of intensity and duration in endurance training. Sportsscience, 2009; 13: 32-53
  2. Rønnestad BR et al. HIT maintains performance during the transition period and improves next season performance in well-trained cyclists. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 2014;114:1831-1839
  3. Stöggl T og Sperlich B. Polarized training has greater impact on key endurance variables than threshold, high intensity, or high volume training. Frontiers in Physiology, 2014; 29:1–9
  4. Seiler S. What is best practice for training intensity and duration distribution in endurance athletes? International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, 2010;5:276-29