Workout Power Levels

I have been reviewing the various workouts and plans on Zwift cycling to try some more structured training but have been surprised by the low watt levels in them. My ftp is about 275 and I aim for average power of 250w for an hour when I use the bike in the gym. The Zwift workouts seem to suggest riding below 200 for much of the time. Is this really correct? Does it appear that I might need to change some settings? Many thanks in advance for any advice.

Context is everything. If your FTP has been measured accurately before being entered in Zwift (you’ll see the current number in the workout screens and you can manually alter that number if desired), then the various power numbers you’ll see in the workouts are what the workout designer expects the rider to hold in order to achieve what the workout is aimed at, normally within a larger structured plan.
There’s usually an explanation of what the workout is supposed to target, again often within the context of a plan.

To be fair, not all the plans and workouts here are created with the same level of scientific knowledge and rigour. It’s worth reading more here in the Forums and researching elsewhere around the internet about the plans in Zwift that people recommend or not.

As far as advice, I’d suggest trying some of the workouts that interest you to see if they are as taxing for you as the accompanying descriptions indicate they should be. If they aren’t, it could be that your FTP needs to be retested.

Regarding average power output during a workout, that really isn’t as important as the time spent at the higher levels, e.g. well above FTP, which works your system significantly and actually triggers the desired physiological changes, even if that’s only for less than ten minutes within an hour’s workout. The time spent warming up before the effort, plus recovering between sets (often at very low power, thus bringing down the average), is essential to being able to put in good work during the key parts of a session.

Thanks. I agree with your comments. It’s just that when i look at the workouts, most of the time is below 200w with very little time above 275. As you say, time above this is important and I didn’t see it in many of the workouts. That is why i was wondering about settings? I see my ftp there at 276 so I am not sure what I can do?

Perhaps a lot of the time below FTP is recovery, which can be very welcome.

As an example, yesterday I did the 2021 Road Academy #5 workout (Upper threshold blocks). Only 17% of the time is above FTP (zone 5, crudely speaking) and only 105% of FTP at that. Nevertheless, at the end of the second block, people were gasping for air due to the load build up and effects of fatigue over 50+ minutes. Forget what workouts look like on paper/on screen and try them for yourself?

In a workout with an FTP of 275 you should have time below 200, lots of it in a VO2 max and above session; some in a threshold session. Wouldn’t expect to see quite so much in a sub 275 session (tempo ints/sweet spot). When you say there isn’t much time above 275, how far above 275 is it though? If it’s say 320+ you aren’t going to be spending much time up there and will need the recovery

I would suggest you do a FTP test on the trainer that you are planning to do the workouts on.

Thanks all for the input. I did an FTP test and came out at a bit below 250 but feel I underperformed on the test so I have manually reset my FTP to 275 for the workouts. I have now done a few and keep ending up with an average power of about 210 and really don’t feel particularly drained at the end or during the workout - a 30 second burst at 310 every 3 mins for example. doesn’t really do much for me. When I ride with the pace partners, I go with B and stay for an hour with an average power of about 260 and feel that I have been challenged - but that is somewhat due to my lack of experience at riding in a group at a constant tempo and the relatively frequent need to sprint to catch up when my pacing has gone a bit wrong. Perhaps I am mistaking the feeling of being drained for progress? But having played a number of other sorts to high levels I think I know how much exertion is needed to progress and just don’t find that any of the workouts provide that. Next step is to try again with FTP at 300. It it seems strange that I am having to game the system to such an extent.

It sound like you did not go all out on the FTP test. you should almost fall of the bike after the 20 min.

Try the ramp test.

That’s why I upped my FTP manually on the system from 250 to 275.

Even 275 sounds possibly low if you’re finding 260 manageable - on a normal day with some fatigue you should find this too close to your FTP to ride for and hour without it feeling like a one hour FTP test. I would also suggest another FTP test as a ramp test.

Also 30 seconds at what is VO2 zone (310) every 3 minutes does also sound easy. Is that in the FTP builder plan? I have heard that’s quite easy. I’d personally do that sort of % of FTP for about 3 minutes

it depends what programme you are doing though.
some start out easy earlier and don’t ramp up until later weeks.
if you want a real test go try out a wringer Zwift workouts: Less than 60 minutes to burn » The Wringer | What's on Zwift? or mccarthy workout, as these are quite tough if your FTP is set up correctly. if you find these too easy then ur FTP is defo too low :smiley:

An introductory text to the exercise science of cycling (say Coggan & Allen’s Training and racing with a powermeter or Friel’s The cyclist’s training bible) might be helpful. The problem with the kind of workout you seem to be used to doing is that they are not as beneficial as harder effort intervals (which require recovery intervals which bring the average down for the session as a whole) but on the other hand are more taxing on the body and require more time between sessions to recover properly (either that or risk overtraining).

You can’t really take any notice of the average wattage when doing a workout as they allow for warming up and cooling down. Also say you could maintain 300w for an hour if you done 30mins at 200w then 30mins at 400w you would average 300w but could you maintain 30mins work at 400 probably not. That’s why your work hard for a bit then rest for a bit and repeat as it’s these hard sections where you push yourself that you gain
Increases in overall performance