Friday, May 17, 2013

Power-to-Weight Story: Len Adams

Power-to-weight (P/W) is nothing more than a fraction based on two variables: cycling power (measured in watts) and weight (measured in kilograms). The purpose in determining and tracking one’s P/W is to maximize its value relative to a specific task (such as climbing). This can be done in one (or a combination) of two ways: 1) increase power (numerator) or 2) decrease weight (denominator).

As an athlete and coach, I have experience in manipulating this ratio according to both variables in order to track performance improvements. When Len Adams first started training with PCG he was able to produce a steady state effort (max 20-minute effort) of 165 watts with a body weight of 100 kilograms, therefore producing a P/W of 1.7 watts/kilogram. This number is typical of an untrained cyclist and probably would represent about 80% of the non-training public. Len’s goals were to get in shape, lose 40 pounds, and complete a large event like the Pinarello Cycling marathon in Italy.

Len was put on a twelve-month plan of training and nutrition specifically related to his fitness needs and metabolic rate, and we measured results over the course of the year in three-month increments. Len is a disciplined athlete; he followed workouts diligently, improved through the first three quarters, and is on track to improve in the final quarter leading up to the Pinarello event. Here is a summary of his results:

As you can see, Len has made massive improvement in his power/weight ratio, improving his watts/kilogram from 1.7 watts/kilo to 3.6 watts/kilo in only a little over nine months. This came from a combined effort of increasing overall power output while losing weight. Len’s ability to focus on quality nutrition and weight loss while training hard was the key to his success and led to massive improvement over the initial nine months:

So what does this much improvement mean? Len’s initial P/W suggested that he would not be able to complete the Pinarello Cycling Marathon. The demands of the event and speed of the other riders probably would have been too much for him to complete with a P/W ratio of 1.7 watts/kilo. However, when Len completes his prep training he will have roughly a P/W ratio of 4.0 watts/kilo (140% improvement), which will not only allow him to finish the event but also indicates that he now has the fitness and ability to finish within the top 33% of all riders. A very nice improvement in twelve months! Here are his actual numbers:

Way to go, Len!

Len Adams (on left), sprint day at Camp Blue Ridge, 165 lbs!

Author Tim Cusick


  1. Definitely some dramatic improvement. Mr. Adams has a lot to be proud of.

    The second column of your our chart is labeled "Weight (lbs)" when I think you mean "Weight (kgs)".

    Also 20 minute max power is not FTP by definition. FTP is 60 minute max power.

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