FTP Test – Big Form Check for Road Cyclists


Ride hard on the bike trainer for 20 minutes to determine your current performance level. If you really want to make progress in training objectively visible, you can use an FTP test to determine your own performance level and your individual training zones.

The FTP now has the same status among road cyclists and triathletes as the horsepower trick used to have in the racing car card game. But what do these ominous three letters mean? Spelled out in full, FTP means Functional Threshold Power. It describes the maximum possible average power that a cyclist can generate for 60 minutes, i.e., his or her continuous performance capability.

FTP versus Individual Anaerobic Threshold

Time and again, FTP is also equated with the individual anaerobic threshold “which is not quite correct from a training science point of view, but works well as a reference point for self- and field tests, as the deviation can be in the range of one to three percent”, explains sports scientist and professional coach Björn Geesmann. “The biggest physiological difference is that when determining the individual anaerobic threshold in laboratory diagnostics, performance is determined metabolically via the metabolic pathways,” Geesmann continues.
More on the topic here: https://staps-online.com/ftp-versus-anaerobe-schwelle-ungenauigkeiten-und-pauschalitaeten/

Despite the differences in derivation, the athlete’s performance can be determined by FTP testing. However, he does not necessarily have to ride for a whole hour to complete this test. “To maintain pacing for over an hour would be extremely difficult for many athletes – both physically and mentally,” explains Geesmann. “There are different tests that can be used, however. The longer a test takes and the more consistently it is ridden, the more precise the result,” explains sports scientist Björn Geesmann. For example, the athlete usually completes a shortened test period of 20 minutes and a percentage of this is taken to determine the FTP.

And what is even more charming: the cyclist can do the test on his own – as long as he follows a “protocol”. All the athlete needs is a power meter or a bike trainer with power measurement and the motivation to ride hard for 20 minutes.

This 20-minute test in the form of an individual time trial is also the most popular field test and the best form test among professionals. “From this test you can derive the long-term performance over a longer period of time and also the training areas,” explains Björn Geesmann. “Such a test also shows whether the training has worked to improve the fat metabolism. This becomes visible by a higher average performance over the same period of time,” says the 32-year-old sports scientist. These values can also be used to plan pacing in time trials and on long climbs and to determine the training zones in a practical way. Enough reasons to take this test regularly to determine your form.

Such tests can make performance developments clearly visible. “They have the advantage that the athlete can also do them at home on the bike trainer and that they are relatively easy to complete if you know and follow the test procedure and protocol,” explains Geesmann. Especially a test on the bike trainer is very well reproducible to control the performance progress. Both virtual training providers such as Zwift and bike trainer manufacturers such as Wahoo offer FTP tests you can do on your own at home.

On test days, the entire procedure such as time of the test, eating and drinking, length and intensity of the warm-up should always be similar. Geesmann’s advice: Only ride the test when you are completely healthy and well recovered, warm up for 20 to 30 minutes and shortly peak into the red zone from time to time.

“Such a test is ridden like a time trial, no matter whether you complete it indoors or outdoors, climbing up a mountain or on a flat course. These are realistic conditions,” says Geesmann. Ideally, the athlete always stays subjectively 10 to 20 percent below his or her perceived maximum load, there is still the option to add some power towards the end of the test. Otherwise there is the danger of overdoing it already at the beginning.

Determine your Training Areas via FTP

At the end of the test, the average performance during the 20 minutes riding time counts. This is the reference value for later comparisons. However, if you train for hilly or mountainous competitions, you should always put this performance in relation to your body weight – because this is what counts when the road climbs. How this is done? Simply divide the average power by the current body weight, so that the result is watts per kilogram. Very pro-like.

However, if you expect your weight to change before the next test, put this weight in relation to the FTP – these are the magic numbers in watts per kilogram that the tour pros use.

And if you really want to compare your true FTP against others, you have to multiply the value from the FTP test with the factor 0.85 to 0.95. “The range between the 20-minute performance and the FTP is within two to twelve percent, it depends primarily on the anaerobic metabolism of the athlete – the higher the metabolism, the higher the deviation,” Geesmann explains the scientific correlation. Athletes are on the “safe side” when they simply subtract 10 percent from their 20-minute performance in the FTP test and determine their training zones based on this value. “This is also how we will proceed in the big FTP test of Alpecin Cycling Challenge on April 15, 2020″, explains coach Geesmann.