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How to Find Your Functional Threshold Power for cycling. Two Test to get started using FTP

Updated on August 1, 2017
Team Fluid East riders Greg Skinner and Paul Rinkenberg. Both understand the importance of testing yourself to push through your limits.
Team Fluid East riders Greg Skinner and Paul Rinkenberg. Both understand the importance of testing yourself to push through your limits.

How to find your FTP

Once you have made the choice and decided which Power Meter you should by. Finding your FTP or Functional Threshold Power, is a simple process, but quite painful if done properly. It will require anywhere from 7-20 minutes of a lot of suffering in the saddle.

For best testing result perform your test outside in 50-70 degree weather. To cold an you will have to layer to much to perform well and to hot you will struggle to cool off and consequently overheat during the most stressful points of the test.

There are two reliable tests to find an athletes Functional Threshold Power, the 20 minute max test and the Maximum Aerobic Potential test. Each have its unique qualities. See Below for a process to performing one.

The 20 minutes Test

The 20-minute Critical Power test is conducted as follows:

•On a relatively flat, UNINTERRUPTED section of road, warm-up easy for 15-20 minutes

•Over the next 5 minutes, do five (5) hard 30-second efforts, followed by 30 seconds of soft-pedaling. The purpose of this drill is to open up the blood and oxygen flow and to increase the heart rate prior to the 20-minute effort, so don’t go too hard. Push a wattage you think you can sustain for 10 to 20 minutes.

•Pedal easy for 5-minutes and prepare yourself mentally for the 20-minute test, as it’s going to hurt!

•Start a new interval on your power meter and immediately begin the test. Start the 20-minute test by selecting a wattage you think you can sustain for the full-20 minutes. The cardinal rule of time trialing applies here: don’t start out too hard. Keep in mind that the best cyclists in the world can only sustain 400-500 watts over a 1-hour period of time, so if you find yourself starting out at 500 watts, you know you are likely going much too hard. It’s best to start out easy for the first two minutes, and then build progressively to a wattage level you think can sustain.

•Hold that level for the first 15 minutes, and then give it your best effort during the final five minutes. (If you find yourself fading in the last five minutes instead of holding steady or building, then you may have gone out too hard. Keep this in mind for your next test).

•After 20 minutes, immediately start a new interval to save the precious power data you just worked so hard for! Cool down completely and head home.

Your Functional Threshold Power will be 95% of you average power during the 20 minute effort

The M.A.P. Test

The Maximum Aerobic Potential test is conducted as follows:

•On a relatively flat, UNINTERRUPTED section of road, warm-up easy for 15-20 minutes

•Over the next 5 minutes, do five (5) hard 30-second efforts, followed by 30 seconds of soft-pedaling. The purpose of this drill is to open up the blood and oxygen flow and to increase the heart rate prior to the M.A.P. effort, so don’t go too hard. Push a wattage you think you can sustain for 10 to 20 minutes.

•Pedal easy for 5-minutes and prepare yourself mentally for the M.A.P. test, as it’s going to hurt!

•Beging a new interval and maintain a constant wattage of 200watts for the first minute. Increase by _ Watts (20 watts for Cat2[300+ftp or higher], 25 watts for Cat3[>300ftp] or lower.) with each Subsequent minute. Continue to increase each minute until you can not continue to maintain the increase for that minute. You're M.A.P. Test is complete.

Ride for 30-45 minutes post test easy to clear the legs from your effort. Upload you're file A.S.A.P.!

Your Functional Threshold Power will be 75% of the 1 minute max power you pushed during your effort.

Tips & Tricks

  1. Find a stretch of road that has little undulation, little to no traffic, stop signs or stop lights. This will reduce the need slow up or brake for safety.
  2. If you can find a flat section that raises slightly, 4-5% grade at the end. This will provide an ideal ramp for the last effort of your test.
  3. SLEEP well the weak before. Be sure to get either hours of better every night leading up.
  4. If you can, caffeine can be your best friend. While prolonged use of stimulants is bad and excessive amounts will contaminate the results slightly. Some caffeine will help energize your body.

The Pro's and Cons

The 20 Minute Test

This test is good for beginners who have no true idea as to their FTP figure. The cons is the mental fatigue you will experience towards the end of your effort. It is also extremely difficult to find the perfect conditions to perform a 20 minute interval. To much undulation in the road, traffic lights and stop signs or a stray animal could very well come into your path and cause you to have an increase variance, and thus and in accurate FTP figure.

The M.A.P. test

Great for the time crunched cyclist, but poor for the cyclist just starting out with power. Most people will struggle to make it past the 10 minute mark, so the test is fairly quick. This test is extremely painful physically but not as mentally challenging. The effort also changes quickly and is easier to focus on pushing your numbers higher. Whereas with the 20 minute effort you must also exercise caution as to not go to hard early, the M.A.P. test provides a set interval value to utilize in the test.

No Mater which you chose, you're sure to experience Power like never before.

Your New Power Zones

Zone
Low %FTP
Max %FTP
Active Recovery
0
55%
Endurance
55%+1 watt
75%
Tempo
75%+ 1 watt
90%
Threshold
90%+ 1 watt
105%
Vo2 Max
105%+ 1 watt
120%
Anaerobic
120% + 1 watt
9999

Do You Use Power?

Do You Use Power?

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