Maximize Your Workouts: Power Zone Training FAQs

Peloton
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Power Zone training is one of the most effective ways to level up your fitness when it comes to indoor cycling. Peloton instructors Matt Wilpers and Denis Morton address some of the most frequently asked questions so you can clip in and start maximizing your workouts.

Briefly, what is Power Zone training?

This is a method of fitness training designed to have you working at seven different levels (or zones) of exertion. In these classes, the instructor typically calls out a cadence range, but instead of giving a resistance range, they specify the zone you should be working in. Each zone is a range of output (or work) that’s appropriate for you to achieve given the desired intensity of each zone. So, the rider’s focus is on maintaining the desired cadence while adding enough resistance to achieve the desired output specific to your zone.

What is Power Zone training in more detail?

Power Zone Training is a method of intentional training based on the metric of output or power (measured in watts). Output/Power is essentially a combination of cadence and resistance and thus quantifies the rider’s rate of work on the bike.  It is a great tool to both improve and track your fitness over time. There are seven Power Zones (or ranges of output) that are based on each rider’s performance on a fitness test called a “Functional Threshold Power Test” or “FTP Test”.

During each Power Zone ride, the instructor calls out which zone they would like the rider to achieve for a specific length of time at a specific cadence range. It is then the rider’s responsibility to adjust their resistance at the desired cadence in order for their output to fall in their respective zone.

As each zone is based on the rider’s performance on the FTP Test, this allows the coach to design workouts that are achievable for all riders. So, no matter if the rider is a complete beginner or one that just competed in the Tour de France, both will be working just as hard.

Lastly, each zone is designed to stress a specific component of a rider’s fitness on the bike. So not only can the coach design workouts to achieve results for the rider, Power Zone Training allows coaches to design workouts to achieve very specific results for riders.

Can I still do Power Zone training if I am an inexperienced rider or what if I am out of shape?

Yes! Power Zone Training is great for everyone. It is like a personal training session that is perfectly customized to you and meets you at your current fitness level. Thus, Power Zone Training grows with you as you gain experience and/or fitness.

What are the seven Power Zones?

The seven Power Zones divide your possible output based on your exertion level. The table below gives information on the seven zones, including the name of each zone, their relationships to your FTP, and a qualitative description of the zone in terms of effort/exertion.

Zone

Name

% of FTP

Exertion Description

Zone 1

Active Recovery

<55%

Very Easy

Zone 2

Endurance

55-75%

Easy

Zone 3

Tempo

75-90%

Moderate

Zone 4

Lactate Threshold

90-105%

Challenging

Zone 5

VO2max

105-120%

Hard

Zone 6

Anaerobic Capacity

120-150%

Very Hard

Zone 7

Neuromuscular Power

150%+

Max

 

What is FTP?

FTP stands for “Functional Threshold Power”, which is the highest power that a rider can maintain for approximately one hour.

How do I find my FTP?

While FTP is defined by an hour, you don’t have to take an hour-long test to find it! Instead, you will take a 20-minute FTP Test on-demand. It’s a 20-minute performance test to essentially measure your fitness at a given point in time.

How do I get started with Power Zone Training?

If you have a Peloton Bike already, you already have all you need to start Power Zone Training! You do not need a heart rate monitor or any additional equipment.

A recommended schedule of classes to begin are as follows:

  • 5-minute Intro to Power Zone 6/28/2017 11:00 ET (set your filter on Matt Wilpers and 5-minute)
  • One (or more) of the 20-minute Power Zone Beginner Rides by Matt Wilpers and Denis Morton (set your filter on class type is Power Zone and length is 20-minute)
  • A 30-minute Power Zone Endurance Ride (filter “Power Zone” for class type and length is 30-minute and be sure to pick one that is labeled “Power Zone Endurance Ride” and not just “Power Zone Ride”)

You can do these with rest days or other classes in between as desired.

Once you’ve completed those items, you’ll be ready to take your first FTP test! An FTP test is actually composed of two classes, a 10-minite FTP Warmup Ride and a 20-minute FTP Test Ride. You can find these by filtering on class type, “Power Zone” and length, 10 and 20 minutes. The warm-up ride will give you information on the test, warm you up, and help you figure out what output level to start the test at. Once you finish the warmup, be sure and go straight into the test.

With the results of your FTP test, you will then be able to develop your customized zones to tailor the Power Zone classes specifically to you! Also, learn about Peloton’s new touchscreen feature for Power Zones to contextualize your output and watch yourself progress over time.

How do I develop my zones?

Once you’ve completed the 20-minute test, you will take the average output (this is measured in watts) and put it in a calculator to get your zones. There are many options available to get your zones including a calculator found on Matt Wilpers’ website (http://bit.ly/MWZoneCalc).

Who teaches Peloton Power Zone classes?

Currently, there are two Peloton instructors who teach Power Zone classes: Matt Wilpers and Denis Morton.

What does a Power Zone class consist of?

In the Power Zone classes, the classes will consist of a combination of zones that structure a workout with specific fitness objectives.  When you take a class, you will aim to achieve the output for you that corresponds to each zone given by the instructor.

What types of Power Zone classes are offered at Peloton?

In addition to the Power Zone Beginner classes, tests and warmup rides, there are three types of Power Zone classes offered: Power Zone Endurance classes, Power Zone classes, and Power Zone Max classes. Each of these focuses on particular areas of fitness and thus certain zones.

The endurance rides focus on the lower intensities and will have intervals in zones 2-4. The “traditional” power zone classes that are labeled just as “Power Zone” class by Peloton can include any of zones 1-6, but will typically have a focus on zones 4-6. And Power Zone Max classes can include any of zones 1-6, but typically focus on zones 4-7.

Is it important to take different types of Power Zone classes?

Yes, the various classes work on different areas of your fitness and in particular the physiological processes by which you generate the energy needed to exert force. The three types of Power Zone classes offered, Power Zone Endurance, Power Zone, and Power Zone Max.

How many Power Zone classes should I do each week?

Depending on how much time you have and want to ride, this can vary. Matt Wilpers prepared a recent challenge that gives great guidance as to what structure of classes to take a week. This is the Train Smart Challenge that consists of four different eight-week schedules varying based on riding frequency/duration. These are available at http://bit.ly/PZTSCFiles.

Do I need a heart rate monitor for Power Zone Training?

No.  While you can definitely wear a heart rate monitor while doing these classes, you do not need one. You will be riding in certain zones that are based on your output, which is the work that you are generating on the bike. The level of this output is produced by the combination of the cadence, or speed your legs are moving, and the resistance that you have on the bike.

If you do decide to wear a heart rate monitor during a Power Zone class, it’s great to look at the data after the class to see how your body handled the different zones and possibly compare that to previous rides to see if there has been any changes in how your body is responding.

How often should I retest my FTP?

It generally takes 4-6 weeks of consistent training for the body to see a noticeable adaptation (or performance improvement) from an increase in training stress load. This can be shorter or longer depending on the experience level of the rider as well as their training schedule so retesting every 4-6 weeks is a general guide. That said, if you feel that your zones are no longer appropriate for your fitness level, that could be a good time to retest! There is also no shame in keeping your zones the same for longer periods of time, especially if your goal is to simply maintain your current fitness level.

Should I retest my FTP if I haven’t been riding for a while?

Yes, you should definitely retest as your fitness may have changed during this period. You will get the most benefit from Power Zone Training if you are riding in the correct zones. The classes are designed to be attainable by each person riding within their correct zones. Keep in mind, if you think your zones have gone down this is not something to get discouraged about.

Why is my total/average output less for Power Zone classes?

While your end goal may be to improve your total/average output, that doesn’t mean that you should try to achieve this in every single ride. Power Zone training will help you achieve this goal faster by stressing your body in many different ways that result in you getting stronger more quickly.

But, in order for it to work, you have to let go of focusing on total/average output during power zone classes and focus instead on executing the instructions set out by the instructor. This includes actually recovering between intervals which is what drives your total/average output down.

At the end of each ride, you should review your output graph to see how well you did execute the instructions of the class.

What are my goals in a Power Zone class and in Power Zone training in general?

Power Zone classes are focused on achieving specific output levels at different times throughout a class in order to improve your performance. There are seven Power Zones, each zone representing a target output range. These output ranges are customized for each rider. During a Power Zone class, your instructor will cue a specific zone, which will direct you to hit the corresponding output range on your bike. Your goal is thus to be in the output levels that correspond for you to each zone called. Therefore your focus should be on the structure of the intervals rather than average or total output.

In addition to this focus in individual classes, you will be able to see and feel yourself improve over time as each zone becomes easier to achieve and as you retest to update your zones as your fitness develops.

I want to read more about training with Power Zones. Can you recommend a book?

Hunter Allen and Andrew Coggan’s Training and Racing with a Power Meter is the definitive book currently available. It’s extremely good but can be a bit technical. A second option that is a bit more accessible is Joe Friel’s Power Meter Handbook.


Ready to jump in? Starting today, 6/4/18, clip into the Intro to Power Zone Training Challenge. Find more details on Matt Wilpers’ Official Facebook Page here.