Hearing the words “time for a test” can elicit  a range of emotions among athletes. Some immediately go into fight or flight mode while others get excited to “see where they are at”. Next week in our computrainer sessions with The Doctrine we will be doing Functional Threshold Power Testing (aka FTP testing).

What is Functional Threshold Power (FTP)?

Simply put, FTP represents the amount of power output, in Watts, a person can sustain for 45-60 minutes.

What is a FTP test?

The way we test for FTP in class is by doing a 20 minute time trial.  And yes, that is why some athletes want to run for the hills at the mention of “FTP test time”!  After a thorough 20 minute warm-up and a second calibration, athletes ride as hard as they can for 20 minutes. When finished, they should feel like they can’t possibly ride for another minute.  Anyone who finishes and says “that was not that bad” did not ride hard enough! You will likely resemble this:

How are FTP results calculated?

The average power from the test is not a rider’s FTP; it is just average power over the 20 minute test. To calculate a rider’s FTP,  average power from the test is multiplied by .95. Remember that FTP is the power a rider can sustain for 45-60 minutes. The 20 minute test data therefore needs to be degraded by 5% to arrive at the rider’s FTP.

It’s also important to note that power is an absolute number but to be relevant, it should be divided by the rider’s weight. Consider the following example: Athlete A has a FTP of 190W and weighs 55kg and Athlete B has a FTP of 328W and weighs 95kg. At first glance, the 328W FTP for Athlete B seems far more impressive than the 190W FTP for athlete A. However, when you look at Watts/Kg for each athlete, they both equal 3.45. Each rider has different strengths and limiters outside on different terrain (uphill / downhill) and given length of ride.

Based on Watts/Kg, if you want to improve your performance you can increase your power while maintaining your weight, maintain your power while losing weight, or increase your power while also losing weight.

How do you prepare for a FTP test?

Ultimately, this is specific to each rider as everyone’s physiology is different. But in general, it’s a good idea to go into the test a bit rested. For many, this means taking a day off from training two days prior to the test. Do not expect your body to perform well in an FTP test if you’ve raced a half marathon a few days prior! It can also be helpful to get some quality sleeps in leading up to the test, and also stay hydrated. The day before, it can be a good idea to wake up your legs a bit with a short ride adding in brief periods of intensity.  The duration of your warm-up and cool-down should equal the duration of your main-set.

Why should you do FTP tests?

  • It’s good to test and repeat so you can monitor your progress over time
  • It’s a great way to work on mental strength
  • It allows you to experience and work through ‘performance anxiety’
  • It’s good to get a snap shot of your current fitness
  • The results, as expected or not, can boost training motivation
  • The results will define training zones specific to you for class sessions

Coaching comments:

First and foremost don’t forget that FTP day is a great opportunity to get in a very solid session with a great training stimulus. Cyclists often get caught up in the ‘testing’ aspect of it and forget the benefits. Approach FTP day with the motivation to see what you are capable of for a 20 min effort on the day and know that it is beneficial regardless of the numbers. ~The Doctrine Owner / Coach Trev Williams

Happy testing!