Gaining experience points (XP) in Zwift allows you to level up, unlocking better bike frames and wheels and gaining access to certain restricted roads.
For a complete look at XP unlocks and more see “XP, Levels, and Unlocks in Zwift Ride“.
But XP is calculated in an entirely different way for structured workouts. In a workout you don’t accumulate distance-based XP, nor do you receive XP as you ride through arches. You also don’t receive powerups as you ride through arches, so you can’t get an XP bonus powerup.
Instead, Zwift calculates your XP based on the types of interval “blocks” you complete, how long those intervals last, and how well you complete them. Let’s take a closer look at how each type of interval is scored.
XP By Interval Block Type
Warmups and cooldowns (called “ramp up” and “ramp down” if they don’t bookend your workout) reward 5-6XP per minute, regardless of the wattage you set for the start and end of the ramp.
These are the simplest intervals to understand in Zwift: just a block of time at a particular wattage. Thanks to astute Zwifter Claus Jensen we know that Zwift rewards 1XP for every 5.55 seconds on Zone Blocks, or approximately 10XP per minute.
Contrary to what you may think, Zwift does not reward higher-effort intervals with more XP. One minute at Zone 1 earns the same as one minute at Zone 6!
Free ride intervals reward you 5XP per minute, regardless of effort level. We’re not sure precisely how many seconds it takes to accumulate 1XP in free ride mode, but 61 seconds earns you 6XP, and 72 seconds earns you 7XP.
“Intervals” are essentially a pair of Zone Blocks, with each block able to be set to a particular wattage and time. This pair of blocks is then repeated two or more times, as dictated by the workout.
Intervals reward you a set amount of XP based on the total time of the interval block: 12XP per minute, regardless of interval wattage.
FTP Bias adjustments
Moving your FTP bias up or down does not change the amount of XP rewarded. You may be working harder, but you’re not earning more!
Half stars, no stars
If you don’t hit your wattage accurately enough, you will be rewarded a half star instead of a full star. Half stars are worth 70% of the XP you would have been rewarded if you had received the full star.
We’re not sure where the threshold is for receiving a half star instead of a full star, but in our basic tests if you power was more than ~12% off the target you went to a half star.
If you really mess up the interval, you’ll receive no star–which is worth approximately 1XP per minute of interval length.
Although a workout may include cadence targets, cadence does not affect stars (or XP) rewarded.
There is no bonus XP rewarded upon completion of your workout, even if you earn all your stars. “The joy is in the journey,” my friends!
Can workout mode be used to accumulate XP more quickly or easily than other modes? Well, that depends. As you can see above, a hard workout doesn’t earn you more XP than an easy one. Thirty minutes of Zone 4 will get you 300XP, but so will 30 minutes of Zone 1!
For most riders, if you’re going hard, chances are you’ll get more XP outside of a structured workout. But if you’re taking it easy, a workout will probably give you more XP per minute.
Here are a couple of hacks to maximize your workout XP…
Playing with Seconds
With certain interval types, adding just one or two seconds to each minute of interval will increase the XP significantly. For example:
- 60 seconds of free riding gets you 5XP, but 61 seconds gets you 6XP
- 60 seconds of a zone block gets you 10XP, but 62 seconds gets you 11XP. (Also, 56 seconds of a zone block will get you 10XP, just like 60 seconds!)
ERGing up the Alpe
Since XP is mostly distance-based outside of workouts, riding flat routes gains you more XP than riding climbs.
You do, however, gain a lot of XP while descending!
So do your workout while riding up Alpe du Zwift, then coast down in free ride mode once the workout is finished. You’ll earn XP on the way up that is similar to what you’d earn while riding the flats, then you’ll earn a lot of XP on the fast descent. You may also earn a big XP bonus from the prize spinner at the top: 1000XP if it lands on the wheels and you’ve already got them in your garage.
It seems odd that workouts do not reward more XP for harder intervals. We would like to see Zwift change this, rewarding (for example) 8XP per minute of Zone 1, 10XP per minute of Zone 2, 12XP for Z3, etc. Zwifters shouldn’t be punished for doing harder workouts, but that is effectively what’s happening with the current system.
Secondly, giving a completion bonus for a workout where you get all the stars seems like a great idea. It doesn’t have to be a big bonus, but a little pat on the back is always nice. (If Zwift were to adopt a completion bonus they would also need to change the workout summary screen behavior. Currently, the screen pops up immediately after you finish your last interval, so you cannot see the XP you were rewarded for the last block.)
We’ve tried to be as thorough and accurate as possible with the summary above, but if you spot anything we missed or have any questions, please comment below!