VO2 Max and Functional Threshold Power (FTP) are distinct but closely related parameters of aerobic fitness that need to be fully understood when programming training. First, it is important to understand them both and where they link together.
This doesn’t mean that strength training should be used alone to improve performance; it must be done alongside endurance training in a method known commonly as concurrent training.
VO2 Max (or maximal aerobic capacity) is the maximum volume of oxygen that your body can ‘uptake’ during exercise, measured in mL/kg/min. It is a benchmark of what your aerobic system can maximally achieve – and it is not very sustainable. In theory, the greater your VO2 max, the more oxygen your body can uptake and the more effectively your body can use that oxygen to generate energy. It is at this level, that anaerobic processes being to kick in to produce further power capabilities, but this is also brief and non-sustainable for more than a couple of seconds.
We discussed the basis of FTP during one of our previous articles , but to recap; it is the maximum power than you can sustain for one hour and is influenced by numerous factors such as muscular endurance and anaerobic capacity.
As previously mentioned, VO2 Max is the maximum uptake of oxygen by the body, but it is important to remember that you can have the highest VO2 max in the world, but if you don’t utilise it effectively, then you aren’t going to cycle fast. This is why pVO2 max is a more important metric to consider, rather than just solely VO2 max, as it illustrates the power produced whilst consuming that maximal volume of oxygen. pVO2 max is something that can be improved gradually through tailored training programmes, like the ones produced by our coaches at Technique Health and Fitness!
Going back to FTP, it is highly sustainable due to being a lower level of oxygen consumption than VO2 Max. Fractional Utilisation (FU) is the percentage of your VO2 max (aerobic capacity) you can utilise sustainably during riding. Both FTP and FU can be improved via training, particularly during sweet spot (84-94% of FTP) and threshold sessions – with the aim of sustaining a higher power output. Raising your FTP and increasing your FU can allow you to delay the onset of fatigue and be able to ride at a greater fraction of your aerobic capacity for longer.