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Want to Boost Your FTP? It's Time to Pump Up the Volume

cyclist riding down the road at sunset

As endurance athletes, we're always looking for ways to improve our performance and push our limits. One key metric that gets a lot of attention is Functional Threshold Power, or FTP. Essentially, your FTP represents the highest average power you can sustain for around an hour, (30-70 minutes) and it's a strong predictor of endurance performance.

So how do you go about increasing your FTP? While there are many factors at play, one often overlooked piece of the puzzle is training volume. That's right, sometimes the key to going faster is simply putting in more time in the saddle.

The Science Behind Volume and FTP

The idea that higher training volume can lead to increases in FTP is rooted in exercise physiology. When you spend more time training at lower intensities (think Zone 2), you stimulate a number of adaptations that enhance your aerobic capacity and efficiency.

First, you increase the density of capillaries in your muscles, which allows for better oxygen delivery and by-product removal. Second, you boost the number and size of mitochondria in your cells, which are essentially the powerhouses that convert fuel to energy. Finally, you improve your body's ability to utilize fat for fuel, sparing precious glycogen stores. All of these adaptations add up to a more efficient aerobic engine, which translates to a higher FTP.

Putting It into Practice

So how much volume do you need to see results? While there's no one-size-fits-all answer, a good rule of thumb is to aim for a 10-20% increase in weekly training hours. So if you're currently riding 8 hours per week, bump that up to 9-10 hours and see how your body responds.

Of course, adding volume needs to be done gradually and strategically to avoid overtraining or injury.

Here are a few tips:

1. Focus on Zone 2: The bulk of your added volume should be at a low to moderate intensity, where you can carry on a conversation. This is the "sweet spot" for aerobic development.

2. Recover properly: More volume means more stress on your body. Make sure you're getting enough sleep, eating well, and incorporating rest days into your schedule.

3. Don't neglect intensity: While volume is important, you still need those high-intensity workouts to maintain and improve your top-end speed and power. Aim for 1-2 hard sessions per week.

4. Listen to your body: If you're feeling consistently fatigued, sick, or unmotivated, it may be a sign that you're doing too much too soon. Back off and reevaluate.

The Long Game

Increasing your FTP through higher training volume isn't a quick fix - it's a long-term strategy that requires patience and consistency. But if you stick with it, the results can be transformative.

Think of it like building a house. High-intensity work is like putting up the walls and roof - it's flashy and noticeable. But volume is like pouring the foundation. It's not glamorous, but it's absolutely essential for a strong, sturdy structure that can weather any storm.

So if you're looking to take your performance to the next level, don't be afraid to go long. Ramp up that volume strategically, recover smart, and watch as your FTP - and your race results - start to soar.

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