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FTP, VO2 max, MAP, max HR: what are those?

These are the questions every cyclist asked themself once

🕒 3 min read

Category: Bikes

Tags: bike, training

Yeah, I'm into cycling. Road cycling, to be precise. It's been two years now. I've never felt so good in my life. I've become a sportsman. Me, who used to smoke half a pack a day and do no exercise at all.

So after two years of ramp-up, I have now reached a stage at which I'm into improving my performance through data. Of course I already got myself a bike computer, a heart rate strap and a cadence sensor. The next level is now to measure body metrics, beyond the "simple" heart rate. We're talking FTP, VO2 max, MAP, max HR. BOOM.


What on Earth is that? Well it stands for Functional Threshold Power. Basically it's the most accurate metric about how fit and how well a person is performing that one can use to establish training zones. It is the maximum mean power (aka MMP) one can sustain for one hour, measured in watts (absolute value or watts per kilogram). Known as CP60, for Critical Power 60. In other words, the best average power that can be held during a full hour.

How to measure it

With a specialized sports doctor in a laboratory or with a power meter (in the pedals for instance).

Instead of a full hour, a 20-min test can be done (CP20). 95% of the results is often considered to be close enough to the FTP.

VO2 max

It refers to how much oxygen one's body can absorb. This is a measure used to determine other metrics, such as the MAP (see below).

How to measure it

As far as I know, only in a laboratory, on a stationary bike or while running.


It stands for Maximal Aerobic Power (in French "PMA", for Puissance Maximale AĆ©robie).

It is the power in watts reached when at VO2 max (when the body is consuming the maximum of 02 it can).

How to measure it

Either with an incremental test, with a warm up phase ahead of the test. Otherwise, measure the maximum mean power (MMP) held during 5 or 6 minutes (= CP6 - Critical Power 6).

Like the FTP, it must be measured with a power meter.

Max HR

Well, it's the maximum heart rate one can reach. As simple as that.

There are a few criticized inaccurate but known formulas to calculate the theoretical maximum hear rate of somebody:

Oftentimes, a fit person will exceed their theoretical max HR. I'm 29, supposedly my maximum HR should be 190-191. Yet, I reached 194 twice recently.

The best way to find out what your max HR is to go crazy, climbing some hills, or sprinting, repeatedly. Google should be able to help you find ideas or protocols.

What to do with all of that?

Now that you measured some metrics and gained data, you can start establishing training zones, for instance based on your FTP or max HR.

Have fun on the bike :)