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FTP Testing - The Cornerstone of Training

Few components of power-based training are as important as measuring and tracking FTP. In fact, it could be argued that nothing short of actual performance ranks as highly in terms of overall importance. With this in mind, we offer the following primer on what your FTP represents, what an FTP test is, how and why we assess FTP, and when we assess it. 


What is FTP?

Functional Threshold Power is — quite simply — a measure of fitness. 

FTP represents the power (measured in watts) that you could theoretically maintain for about an hour, and it's the single metric we use to scale each of your workouts in our shared quest to keep your fitness growing.

With regards to what's taking place within your body and the muscles themselves, riding at your FTP pushes you right up to that limit where pushing any harder will drastically limit the duration of your ride.

But as long as you stay just below that acidic tipping point where your muscles light up and uncomfortably tolerable minutes become barely tolerable seconds, your muscles are in balance with the workload - for about an hour, anyway.

 

What is the FTP Assessment?

An FTP assessment is a snapshot of your fitness at any point in time. By measuring your fitness and assigning it a number, we can track changes in your fitness over weeks, months, even years.

 

How is FTP Calculated from the Tests?

TrainerRoad will automatically calculate your FTP upon completion of your test workout. Here is how we calculated FTP's for each testing format:

20-Minute Test: Your average power for the 20-minute interval is multiplied by .95 to get your FTP. In other words, your FTP is 95% of your 20-minute power.

8-Minute Test: Your average power for the two 8-minute intervals is multiplied by .90 to get your FTP. In other words, your FTP is 90% of your 2x8-minute power.

 

How is Functional Threshold Power Assessed?

During an assessment, riders first follow a consistent, structured warm-up before riding at a challenging effort level for an extended period of time, e.g. 20 minutes or 8 minutes.

The power that you average over these sub-hour durations allow us to mathematically estimate what sort of power you might be able to sustain for up to a full hour.

The goal here is to obtain a reasonably close estimate of one's sustainable power, or in power-based training nomenclature, your Functional Threshold Power/FTP.

 

Why Do We Assess FTP?

By assessing FTP, not only can we track changes in fitness but we can also establish training zones, i.e. power levels. And as your fitness changes, we can update these power levels accordingly.

Each type of interval, e.g. Tempo, Sweet Spot, VO2max, etc. represents a percentage of your FTP. For example, Tempo intervals fall in the 76-90% FTP range while VO2max intervals fall in the 106-120% FTP range.

Different types of intervals target different energy systems and consequently different training adaptations, so it's important to have a personal measure of your fitness that will allow us to tailor your workouts to your specific needs and capabilities. 

 

When Should I Assess My FTP?

It's a good idea to assess your FTP prior to beginning each training season unless you already have a good sense of your current fitness and your sustainable power. But even if you think you have a good grasp on your current fitness, it's still a good idea to back up your perception with actual performance.

It's also recommended that you assess or reassess FTP before embarking on a new training plan.

Finally, you should reassess your FTP about every 6 weeks in order to account for changes in your fitness and to keep your power levels in line with your performance potential.

 

What if I'm Feeling Stronger Before My Scheduled FTP Test?

Of course, testing roughly every 6 weeks is just a general guideline. Your FTP very well may have increased prior to 6 weeks after your last test. If you find yourself breathing easy through workouts with high IFs or that you're often manually increasing the workout IFs before it's time for your next test, don't hesitate to raise your FTP. No need to wait for an FTP test if you know you're stronger. :)

 

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Comments

  • Avatar
    Ignacio Fores Garin

    One question: in the 8-minute test. Do I maintain the pace suggested by the tool or do I go as hard as I can for the 8 minutes?
    I got a low my FTP (200) and then when I do my workouts they feel too easy...

  • Avatar
    Alex Kizis

    Hi Ignacio,

    You'll want to basically ignore the target power for the test intervals of your first FTP Test. Your FTP is set to the default value of 200 before you've completed your first test or manually entered a different FTP.

    Go ahead and maintain the highest possible power output for each of the two, eight-minute intervals in order to get the most accurate FTP value.

  • Avatar
    Stephen Jackson

    Hi, I am looking to get the Sufferfest Rubber Glove, but was wondering how it would calculate FTP? The 20 minute (or 8 minutes) TR sessions calculate and display the option to change FTP and .. the other one ... automagically at the end of the session. Does the TR Rubber Glove session do the same - i.e. auto calc the ftp and prompt?
    thanks

  • Avatar
    Alex Kizis

    Hi Stephen,

    We've set up Rubber Glove to automatically calculate your FTP/LTHR and display this prompt after the workout just as the TrainerRoad FTP tests do.

    Additionally, if you're using an electronic trainer (KICKR, Computrainer, Powerbeam Pro), TR will relinquish control of the trainer during the test interval such that your power isn't limited by ERG mode.

    Finally, the math used for the calculation is also the same as the TR's 20-minute test. Your FTP will be derived from your average power for the 20-min interval multiplied by .95.

  • Avatar
    Stephen Jackson

    Alex
    a perfect answer, Many thanks. I am on the Kikr. It is starting to get dark and cold here as we head towards winter, and the kangaroos are heading for the bitumen as it is a warm place to lie down. Bikes at speed and roos don't mix too well, especially in the dark, so the Kikr and TR and Sufferfest... the things we do to ourselves :)
    cheers
    Stephen

  • Avatar
    Alex Kizis

    Hey Stephen,

    You're very welcome! Glad I could help out.

    Hehe, TR + the KICKR + SF videos certainly make for better training conditions than the roads on which dodging kangaroos is a necessity. :-)

    Happy training, Stephen!

  • Avatar
    Sebastian Carvajal

    I´m totally newbie. Today I tried to do the 20 minute FTP workout. But could not complete the warm up fase, my fitness level is very low...
    There is a way for me to estimate my FTP? Maybe using the percentage multiplier or low down my FTP before doing the work out (was on 200). Or I have to improve my fitness level before trying this?

  • Avatar
    Stephen Jackson

    Sebastian, go to the your profile page on TR and set your FTP to 100. Try that and see how it goes. 200 is a random start point that doesn't always work for everyone. Hang in there, try 100 as a start point... and if that doesn't work try another value. Just think of each attempt as another bit of training in the bag.

  • Avatar
    Sebastian Carvajal

    Excellent. I'll do that. Thanks Stephen.

  • Avatar
    Wilco Oudijk

    I just completed my first FTP, but am unsure what to do next. My FTP did not update automatically in my profile. What value should I set it to?

  • Avatar
    Nick Knecht

    Hi Wilco,

    It looks like you didn't have VirtualPower set up during your 20 minute test, and as a result, your VirtualPower outputs weren't recorded during your ride. This is why the automatic FTP calculation didn't occur after your test. VirtualPower is based on your speed readings and the specific trainer you use. Your VirtualPower output is then used to calculate your FTP. This Help Center Article explains how FTP is calculated: http://support.trainerroad.com/hc/en-us/articles/201681830-FTP-and-LTHR-Calculations

    Taking a look at your ride from my end, I can see that your speed was recorded behind-the-scenes. So if you let me know what trainer you used(make and model), I can restore your test ride, with VitualPower included, and calculate your FTP. :-)

    Just let me know what trainer you have when you get a chance.

  • Avatar
    Wilco Oudijk

    Hi Nick,

    Thanks for offering to do that! I have an Elite Fluid Alu trainer.

    Cheers.
    Wilco

  • Avatar
    Nick Knecht

    You're welcome, Wilco. :-)

    I reprocessed your ride with VirtualPower and the software automatically calculated and set your FTP. I selected the "Elite Fluid" power curve, so if you wouldn't mind, take a look at your 20 minute test workout to make sure that the power output looks ok to you.

    I've also enabled VirtualPower in your profile, so you're all set for your next workout. :-)

    Happy training!

  • Avatar
    Brand Ahn

    When you take an FTP test does your profile FTP automatically change to the most recent result or do you manually enter the new FTP? Thanks.

  • Avatar
    Alex Kizis

    Hi Brand,

    The TrainerRoad application will automatically calculate your new FTP and prompt you to update it following one of our FTP test protocols. A pop-up box will appear after closing out of the test workout, and you'll see an option to either update to your new FTP or keep your old FTP saved.

    If this doesn't automatically happen, it's easy for us to manually calculate and update it. If this is the case, go ahead and email us at support@trainerroad.com.

    Thanks!

  • Avatar
    Nicholas Hausman

    I did a FTP test and it appears that with my trainer setup FTP and NP is quite high - just wanted to check that something isn't amiss? I've been doing a few base sessions and they feel about right, might bump up the FTP another +10.

  • Avatar
    Larry Sussman

    Hi Nicholas, I've sent you an email regarding your FTP test.
    I think the issue might be that you followed the target power during the test interval, instead of ignoring that value. I think you should be able to go a little harder, and after your FTP is re-assessed, your workouts will be scaled at the correct level.
    I also want to make sure you're using the right mag setting for that power curve, since you said the power readings seem high.
    Cheers!

  • Avatar
    Catherine McDonald
    I don't yet have a speed sensor so will be using just a Wahoo Tickr HR monitor to start out. Can I still do the FTP test?
  • Avatar
    Lee Ager
    Hi, My confusion with the 20min test in general is the prescribed warmup routine. Allen and Coggan state a 5 min 'blow out' effort which I understand is in reality a 5min power test to rid your anaerobic capacity? Then recover then the 0.95 of the 20min value. Your test does not look to include this. Please can you clarify why the difference as the intensity of this pre 20min effort has a large effect on the 20min power output. I have personally abandoned a test to the 'blow out 'effort as I found this very fatiguing in the start of the base period after a few months without any super threshold efforts. Thanks in advance.
  • Avatar
    Alex Kizis

    Hi Catherine,

    In order for you to derive your Functional Threshold Power from one of our FTP tests, you will need a way to measure power. When using TrainerRoad, that can either be done with a power-reading device (power meter or electronic trainer), or using our VirtualPower feature. VirtualPower readings are derived from speed readings, so you will need a speed sensor. Unfortunately, there's no way to derive VirtualPower readings from a HR monitor.

    Check out this article for more information on the minimum hardware requirements: http://support.trainerroad.com/hc/en-us/articles/201661500-Minimum-System-Requirements- This section of our help Center will go over everything you need to know about VirtualPower: http://support.trainerroad.com/hc/en-us/sections/200363300-VirtualPower

  • Avatar
    Alex Kizis

    Hey Lee,

    I’m a little confused about what you mean. Our 20-Minute Test protocol actually does have that 5-mintue “clearing” effort you mention. Check out the interval just prior to the 20-minute interval: https://www.trainerroad.com/cycling/workouts/1270-20-Minute-Test

    In actuality, this 5-minute effort is more useful at making sure you’re completely warm, and more importantly, giving you a good measurement of your VO2 Max than minimizing anaerobic contribution to the 20-minute test. As it turns out, the 5-minute recovery period just before the test interval will give your body a chance to replenish a good deal of the energy stores that fuel anaerobic activity. Anaerobic contribution to your 20-minute test is not only okay, it’s expected. Here’s why:

    Your aerobic system isn’t the only energy pathway fueling your output during a 20-minute period of steady work. In fact, during intervals of any kind, your different metabolic pathways are working in conjunction. Let’s use the 20-minute test as an example. While your aerobic system certainly is the predominate source of ATP, your other systems are at work as well (albeit to a lesser extent). Abandoning a 20-minute test following an intense, 5-minute effort wouldn’t necessarily indicate that the 5-minute effort ruined your 20-minute capabilities.

    It’s more likely your 20-minute expectations didn’t quite fall in line with the reality of your aerobic fitness at the very beginning of your Base phase.

    I hope this helps, Lee!

  • Avatar
    Rob Walker

    Did Rubber Glove in new TR / Windows version today and it didn't seem to switch from ERG to Resistance at start of 20min test - I had to stop and manually click it over. It did flip back to ERG at the end, and also calculated my FTP at the end too. Wondering does it flip to resistance at the start of the 20min slot or only after the initial 5min "steady pace" part.

    I'm using a CycleOps PowerSync Ant+

  • Avatar
    Bryce Lewis

    Hey Rob!

    The 20 min test should switch into Level or Resistance mode when the test interval begins, so there is definitely a problem there.
    The TrainerRoad Application itself was working as usual today; your problem is likely caused by interference or some type of connection issue. To get to the bottom of your problem, just drop us a line at support@trainerroad.com! We would be happy to help you out:)

    Cheers,
    Bryce Lewis

  • Avatar
    Rob Walker

    Thanks Bryce - just wanted to confirm when the switch was meant to happen. Will do another FTP test in couple of months - if the switch doesn't happen again I'll raise a support issue.

    Overall - I like the newer Windows version. Definitely think you need to put the Calibrate button back on the main training screen with auto-save, so we don't have to get on and off our trainers to do calibration and can just then ride straight into the session after calibration. Stability so far seems better on PowerSync Ant+ though which is good

  • Avatar
    Noah Rubinstein

    I'm brand new to all of this, and have a question about gear selection. For the FTP test, what cadence is optimal? Should I have a lower cadence at a high gear, or vice versa?

  • Avatar
    Ming Chung

    Hi Noah,

    There's not really a specific cadence that we recommend for the FTP test since it's supposed to be tailored to you and your style of cycling. Use whatever you're comfortable with and a cadence close to what you train/race with. If we HAD to give a number, it would probably be in the 80's to 90's.

    Hope that helps, if you have any other questions just shoot us an email at support@trainerroad.com! Thanks!

  • Avatar
    Glen Bolosan

    I'm new FTP and this would be my first FTP test. I have a Kickr and it defaulted to ERG mode. Should I set it to Resistance? Also do I then set the resistance before starting or do I adjust it as I'm doing the test (don't know if that would be possible).

  • Avatar
    Larry Sussman

    Hi Glen,

    Great question! The KICKR will default to ERG mode for every workout, but in FTP assessments, it'll automatically switch to Resistance for the test intervals. You can learn more about this here: http://support.trainerroad.com/hc/en-us/articles/201869584-Testing-on-an-ERG-Trainer
    Best of luck with the FTP test! :)

  • Avatar
    Pierpaolo Aymar

    I'm new to FTP and indoor training. I did my 8 min FTP test got my FTP and now during the subsequent workouts my target FTP levels too high. Even during the recovery phases of the intervals the target FTP feels really high. I adjusted it manually to a level that seemed fitting. I feel something is amiss. Should I try it again or do I need to keep my recorded FTP and as I get stronger the workouts will feel more inline with my fitness?

  • Avatar
    Rob Walker

    Must admit Pierpaolo I've always found FTP tests come out a bit high for me (I do the 20 min test). I usually end up doing the next few weeks at 90%, then 95% until gradually I work into the new level. After a few months if it starts to become too easy at 100%, you know it's time to test again. FTP will be up, but then you'll have to go through the adaptation weeks working back up to the new level. FWIW - I had an outside sports science lab test done some years back, and the FTP was within 5% of what the home FTP test on trainer road had shown. Difference was, I was on the floor gasping and nearly vomiting at the end of the sports lab VO2Max test. I think the other aspect of this is how hard it is to really push yourself to 9/10 and 10/10 RPE at home. I won't even do it if my wife is out in case I black out ... ;)

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