FTP Testing and its importance to your goals

In every sport, coaches often point out the importance of evaluating the athlete’s physical condition, before commencing their training. That’s how they get to know their athlete’s fitness level; also, their strengths and weaknesses. Besides, only after evaluating an athlete can they create a holistic, personalized training program for them. For every sport and skill the coach considers during the evaluation, there are several tests they can run on the athlete. Hence, in the world of cycling — as well as triathlon, since it includes this sport — coaches extensively use the terms FTP and FTP testing. By using sport-specific terminology, the training process becomes targeted to the athlete’s training goals; as well as their capabilities, and needs.

In this article, we’ll cover the basics of FTP and FTP testing. We’ll also highlight its importance in helping athletes achieve their goals; but also yours, as a coach.

What is FTP and FTP testing?

To repeat, when we talk about FTP, we’re referring to the sport of cycling; whether, as a stand-alone sport or as part of a triathlon race. Now, to get to the point, FTP stands for Functional Threshold Power, and it’s the average number of Watts that a cyclist can maintain for one hour of steady effort. The FTP is used to determine overall fitness; and, FTP testing is an assessment that helps decide on the athlete’s training zones.

Types of FTP testing

For a coach to find their athlete’s FTP, first, they need to choose the appropriate FTP test for them. Alternatively, they can combine more than one, for even more valid results. At this point, any FTP testing the athlete will undergo is important to be preceded by warm-up workouts. Warming-up will not only prepare the athlete’s body for the test, but also help them recover efficiently after its completion.

20-minute FTP test

Τhe athlete rides at their maximum possible pace — as steadily as possible — for 20 consecutive minutes. Upon completion, the coach calculates the average power, multiplies it by 0.95, and extrapolates the athlete’s FTP.

FTP ramp test

The FTP ramp test is one of the most widely-used FTP tests, because of its validity. As to the process, it is carried out in stages that last 2-4 minutes, where the athlete rides at a constant wattage. After the completion of each stage, the athlete increases the Watts — usually 25 Watts per stage — without stopping, until they’re unable to maintain constant wattage. That’s when the test is over. 

Typically, the test starts at 75 Watts, but this mainly depends on the athlete’s level. At the end of the FTP testing, the coach calculates the average power of FTP at the last minute of the test. Then, they multiply it, this time by 0.75, and get the athlete’s FTP.

The importance of FTP testing for both athletes and coaches

As mentioned, the importance of FTP testing lies exactly in what it implies: the determination of the athlete’s FTP. The FTP value will help the coach accurately create a safe, personalized training program for their athlete. In other words, by knowing their capabilities, the coach will be able to provide precise instructions on the intensity of each workout, etc. Another important contribution of the FTP testing is that, after the test, the coach can pinpoint the athlete’s training zones, based on their heart rate; that is, in addition to the Power Zones.

Summing up

To sum up, FTP testing is a tool the coach uses on their athletes to find a critical parameter for increasing cycling performance; namely, their Functional Threshold Power. The coach will choose an FTP test that suits their athlete’s needs, as well as fitness level. Take note that the athlete needs to undergo this test at regular intervals — about every 4-8 weeks. 

Using the scientific data from the FTP test results, the coach can, on one hand, create a personalized training program for their athlete; that is, based on their needs, and goals. On the other hand, they can properly adjust the training plan according to the progress their athlete makes at every training phase. 

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FTP Testing and its importance to your goals was last modified: July 11th, 2022 by Marilena Kokkinou