How Zwift Calculates XP for Cycling Workouts

How Zwift Calculates XP for Cycling Workouts

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/Cooldowns

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.

Zone Blocks

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 Riding

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

“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.

FAQ

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.

Cadence Targets

Although a workout may include cadence targets, cadence does not affect stars (or XP) rewarded.

Completion Bonus

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!

Hacks

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.

Improvement Suggestions

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.)


Your Feedback

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!

About The Author

Eric Schlange

Eric runs Zwift Insider in his spare time when he isn't on the bike or managing various business interests. He lives in Northern California with his beautiful wife, two kids and dog. Follow on Strava

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Jason
Jason
1 year ago

Being penalized by getting no star due to a smart trainer power drop is soul crushing

Jake Dube
Member
Jake Dube (@jakedube2)
1 year ago
Reply to  Jason

Last night I decided to pair my pedals with the app instead of the trainer…Zwift only picked up on half the power and I lost all of the stars until I realized what happened. 🙁

Marcus Yong
Marcus Yong
10 months ago
Reply to  Jason

I had this same problem. I worked out that if I detected the drop-out early enough, I could pause the workout using the Zwift Companion app and when my power comes back on I un-pause it. No stars lost!

Dawid Kowalski
Dawid Kowalski
1 year ago

Thank you for that explanation. That solves my puzzle why I got almost no XP for an hour of Zone 2 workout that I got unfortunately interrupted twice. That resulted in no star and almost no XP!

Moving forward I will modify this single workout block to be 60 x 62 seconds Zone 2 interval blocks. Hack!

Andrés Vargas
Andrés Vargas
3 months ago
Reply to  Eric Schlange

Actually, 60 intervals x 56 seconds gets you the same XP and saves you 10.7% additional time spent on 10% additional XP!

Victor Solberg
Victor Solberg (@victor_solberg)
1 year ago
Reply to  Dawid Kowalski

Have you tried this and successfully managed to get more than 12XP/min?
I have now switching from zone blocks to intervals based on the above, and get 12XP/min instead of 10XP when ERG’ing the Alpe. When I tried 2x(1:05 + 1:10) intervals, I only get 53XP (11.8XP/min).

Alan Jolly
Alan Jolly
1 year ago

Do you know how workout xp are awarded in Zwift running? I know you also get the distance point so running in workouts is always the best option

Carl J
Carl J
1 year ago

I swore that I read somewhere, that you don’t earn your stars _unless_ you complete the entire workout.

Ritchey
Ritchey (@richard-kohler)
1 year ago

One more thing – if you need to interrupt your workout (answer the doorbell, got to bathroom or whatever), just pause it. This way, you will still get the XPs for that workout segment.

Carl J
Carl J
1 year ago

“Thirty minutes of Zone 4 will get you 300XP, but so will 30 minutes of Zone 1!”
Technically, this may be right (and they should reward you for harder efforts), however, the more power you’re putting out/the higher the zone, the more kms that you’ll ride. So, although the workout itself won’t give you more XP for the harder effort, the extra distance gained will (or should). I think

Caleb Chapman
Caleb Chapman (@chap34)
1 year ago

I joined Zwift to import my TriDot workouts, I hope they update this soon

Antonio Prado
1 year ago

Regarding the last tip about workouting while climbing, and free riding while descending.

How can I switch from workout to free ride? I’m wondering since when I finish a workout I don’t get any extra xp even if I’m riding 40km descending…. No xp and no drops if I’m not pedalling

Benjapol Piyawanichpong
Benjapol Piyawanichpong
1 year ago
Reply to  Antonio Prado

Have the same questions. thanks for bringing this up hope Eric come and answer this.

Alan Jolly
Alan Jolly
1 year ago

I guess you would structure your workout so that it finishes at the top? Either by distance or time. If you were to get to the top of the Alpe before your workout had finished, you could always manually navigate to stay on the loop at the top and then descend when the wrokout ends?

Joe Dogs
Joe Dogs
1 year ago
Reply to  Alan Jolly

If you’re near the top you can skip the remaining workout blocks by pressing TAB on your keyboard. After that you can descend and collect your 20XP per km.

Brent Knutson
Brent Knutson
1 year ago
Reply to  Antonio Prado

My 90 minute “road to the sky” workouts generally end near the top. Once they end, I free ride up to the top to get through the banner and then free ride down.

Peter Wilmshurst
Peter Wilmshurst
1 year ago
Reply to  Brent Knutson

And do you get the benefit of the wheelspin (gloves, helmet, wheels) when you get to the top? And does it could towards the masochist badge when you climb the Alpe doing a workout

Joel
Joel
10 months ago
Reply to  Antonio Prado

You won’t get drops if you’re not producing power but you do get XP each Km – I do this all the time. Rolling down the Alp you go about 70km and can take 10-minutes so I use this time to make a brew and watch the XP rise, ending the ride when I stop at the bottom.

BlueMynock
BlueMynock
1 year ago

I’m confused by two statements made (1) “Intervals reward you a set amount of XP based on the total time of the interval block: 12XP per minute” and (2) “60 seconds of a zone block gets you 10XP, but 62 seconds gets you 11XP.”

So if trying to get the most XP, do intervals get you 12xp/min or 11xp/min (if you use 62sec interval)? what’s the best way to structure a workout to be the most economical?

Kyle
Kyle
11 months ago
Reply to  BlueMynock

So I made a workout using 1:02 intervals in zone 1 and used it yesterday, alternating between 54 and 56% of FTP, 2 of each (four blocks) per star. Each star was received after 4:08 seconds (1:02 x 4). This awarded 49 XP each time. Thus, I received 49 XP for 248 seconds of effort, or 11.85 XP/min –>((49/248)*60) = 11.85.

Garry Kirkland II
Garry Kirkland II
11 months ago

I’m only level 11 and I don’t have the Lightweight Meilenstein wheels yet, so I conduct my 1.5 hour+ structured workouts up Alpe du Zwift. I usually make it to marker 4 or so, where I finish up the mountain in free-ride. When I finish past the loot wheel (gloves x 1, helmet x 4 so far), I pedal all the way back down the mountain. This lets me “rep out” my legs in recovery/endurance for additional training, AND, I earn drops all the way back down. I typically earn over 60k drops in these sessions, which last ~ 2… Read more »

Garry Kirkland II
Garry Kirkland II
11 months ago

Also, just thought I’d mention that pedaling down ADZ has been worth ~ 10k drops a trip.

Jonno
Jonno
11 months ago

I would like to see the workouts monitor the distance in the background and award you with the greater of the workout based XP or the distance XP. This would mean you’d probably get more XP for harder efforts as the distance would become the dominant factor. I did an easy workout on the TT bike around the desert recently and had a significant shortfall in XP vs what I would have got in free ride. (I was curious and monitored my distance vs workout XP.)

Ashley Masen
Ashley Masen
11 months ago

Do you get xp for a workout if say you’re doing an interval that has 5* repeats and you skip the last two?

Kuba
Kuba
10 months ago

We should not constant XP gaining pace as penalty. If you do training you should not push as hard as you can. You should push as it is configured in the trainig in order to achieve specific traingi effect. Especially doing whole plan – Active Recovery at 70%FTP is as important as MAX/Over unders intervals etc. The Journey is the joy. Do plans as they are defined 😉

Rick
Rick
8 months ago

So I generally ride structured workouts on Zwift. If I am feeling good, I turn off the ERG on my Computrainer, and try to exceed the target watts, particularly on the ramp up blocks. If I am successful, I get less XP points due to the deviation from the target watt output (i.e., I get no stars for completing a block because my power was too high above the target). The weird result is that I am at level 26, while my Zwfit mileage should put me at level 32, according to this table anyway: https://gearandgrit.com/zwift-xp-levels-and-unlocks-explained/ My conclusion is that… Read more »

Cedric Boisne
Cedric Boisne (@cboisne)
5 months ago

Hello, does someone know where I can find the full list of workouts with their details?

Maarten Wouters
Maarten Wouters
5 months ago

Free riding gives me XP points every Km and not by time. Whatever time it takes me to complete that Km, XP will be the same.

Guilty
Guilty
4 months ago

I would love to see some real examples of this. For instance, creating a “playing with seconds” workout and showing us the build.

Basically it would follow the other articles like the “best climbing frames”. This would be the “best way to get XP using workouts”. So basically the workout and what course would be best.

Ben
Ben
4 months ago

In a paused workout, do you accrue distance XP? For example, if I ride Surrey Hills (several ups and downs), can I ERG up to get the workout XP, pause and coast down to get the distance XP, unpause, pause, etc. I would do this instead of the Alpe to get the Surrey Hills route badge bonus.

Ben
Ben
4 months ago
Reply to  Ben

Tried it. For others, no, paused workout does not put you in sim mode (distance XP).

RaoulT
RaoulT
4 months ago

If you can ride at least at 33 km/h, you will earn more xp out of a workout.

It’s better to make intervals of 55 secondes rather than 62 (642.86 per hour versus 638.71). Yeah, on ly 4 xp’s but it’s about optimization.

Anyway, once you have the Lightweight, a workout ont the Alpe is better than anything else.

One question : Everytime I climb the Alpe, I get the 1 000 xp’s bonus when I’m in a workout, wich doesn’t happen in a free ride. Is that normal ?

Mike Tighe
Mike Tighe (@mbdtighe)
3 months ago
Reply to  RaoulT

@RaoulT, it’s actually the other way round for the speed. Just doing the maths on it, and if you go at 33 kph on a regular ride you get roughly the same XP points as a workout using 62sec intervals, or approx 12XP/min. If you ride slower than that you get more XP points per time riding in a workout than you do on a non-workout ride. That’s assuming the volcano circuit on a TT bike so you get extra XP points each lap (or 4km). If you don’t do it on a TT bike then the crossover speed is… Read more »

George Green
George Green
2 months ago
Reply to  Mike Tighe

Which is exactly what he stated.. ‘out(side) of a workout’

Mike Tighe
Mike Tighe (@mbdtighe)
3 months ago

I did a little experiment today to see how a Workout session on Volcano flat would compare to a non-workout ride, on a TT bike. I did a 31min interval session for a total of 20.7 km, or 5 laps of the volcano circuit. I got a full star and received 371XP points. I set the intervals at 62sec each (30 in total). If I had done the same in non-workout mode on the TT bike I would have received a total of 450 XP points, 400 for the distance of 20km, plus 50 for doing 5 laps. That’s 17.5%… Read more »

Mike Tighe
Mike Tighe (@mbdtighe)
3 months ago
Reply to  Mike Tighe

FYI, I did get 12XP points a minute, as you say above. I averaged 261W and 39.6 km/hr so you effectively get penalised the faster you go, or you don’t get more XP points if you’re at higher watts (as you mention in the article).

clasher
clasher
3 months ago
Reply to  Mike Tighe

Above ~33km/h it makes more sense to just ride without a workout, especially if you are doing laps on a TT bike since the bonus XP from the arch will add up quickly. Paris is the best course to do this on but it’s got a wee bit more climbing than the volcano circuit but two arches every lap.

Mike Tighe
Mike Tighe (@mbdtighe)
3 months ago
Reply to  clasher

Yup, agree with that clasher. Above 33kph assuming you do on a TT bike. If on a non TT bike it’s above 36.5 kph approx. Good tip on the Paris route. The traffic there is terrible though, and there’s loads of dog poop in Paris. 😉

clasher
clasher
2 months ago
Reply to  Mike Tighe

I’ve found an even better spot to do loops on the TT bike. This segment: https://www.strava.com/segments/10898888 now connects with the latest roads added to watopia. I’ve done it clockwise and in the opposite way, doesn’t seem to make much difference… I did a 62 minute ride using Figure 8 reverse to start, then made the manual turn left before crossing ‘360 view bridge’ (approx 4.5km into the route) which takes one back to the sprint banner. Just keep turning left before the 360 bridge and left to the sprint banner. In the 62 minutes I got 760xp; 600 for the… Read more »

Mike Tighe
Mike Tighe (@mbdtighe)
2 months ago
Reply to  clasher

Hi clasher. Yeah, I just found that myself last week, I had wondered if it would give you XP points each time you passed the sprint arch. And lo and behold! So that’s 25 XP/km basically, or 40/mile. That equates to about 925 XP points an hour for me. Of course I found it after I’d already reached Level 50 a couple of weeks ago, lol!

Mike Tighe
Mike Tighe (@mbdtighe)
2 months ago
Reply to  Mike Tighe

And there are also a couple of good routes in NYC:

https://www.strava.com/activities/4658838210/segments/2787425235336364594
It’s 2.8km per loop (11m climbing) with a single sprint banner.

Or the longer central park loop going through the baseball fields at the northern end at 8.32km per lap (22m climbing) with 2 banners, more or less the same as the volcano lap (4.08km and 13m climbing) in terms of XP points.
https://www.strava.com/activities/4658838210/segments/2787425217566567242. 

curvenut
curvenut
2 months ago

Let say I do a workout of 2 hours on a Route A , will i get less or more ZP point than riding 2 hours on that same route A ?

Mike Tighe
Mike Tighe (@mbdtighe)
2 months ago
Reply to  curvenut

Hi curvenut, the answer to your question is further up in the comments, but to answer it again, it depends on the average speed you do, and whether you ride an in-game TT bike or not. For a TT bike, if you ride above 33kph (and assuming you ride on a short circuit like the volcano circuit where you get an additional 10XP points every lap), you get more XP points if you ride a standard ride than a workout ride. If you ride a non TT bike you get more XP points in a normal ride if you ride… Read more »

Matt
Matt
1 month ago

Can you get route badges (and their bonus XP) when in a workout?

Ken
Ken
8 days ago

Regarding Zwift not rewarding us more XPs for harder intervals, here are my counter arguments to Eric: A. If they did reward us more for harder intervals, it would become possible to game the system by underreporting your FTP which will make the intervals appear harder than they actually are, assuming the intensity of intervals is determined by %FTP. B. OTOH, it would unfairly penalize smaller riders if the intensity were determined by the absolute wattage numbers. C. The higher intensity intervals are important to your training, but so are the lower intensity and rest intervals, just as much (if… Read more »

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