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FTP test: What is it and how do I measure it?

Watch our 3-minute video with everything you need to know about the FTP test. In association with Wattbike

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5 Jan 2021

How is it that Team Ineos (née Team Sky) consistently crush all opposition? Part of the reason is its dedication to data, and particularly its understanding of functional threshold power (FTP).

‘It’s the power output that represents the tipping point from “sustainable” to “unsustainable”,’ says Wattbike’s training consultant, Dr David Nichols.

Applied to the peloton, riding to your FTP is the reason some teams can time-trial across entire stages, setting an almost inhumanly fast pace, yet never blow up.

‘It’s an estimate of the highest power you can sustain for one hour, so it’s about learning to manage your efforts,’ Nichols adds.

An important and ever-changing baseline, knowing your FTP is also now the starting point for the majority of training plans.

FTP test: how to measure your FTP

To work out your FTP, perform a 20 minute test with a power meter. Start with a warm-up of at least 15 minute, slowly increasing effort and throwing in a few short (30 second) sprints. Spin in an easy gear for a few minutes in readiness for the test.

For the FTP test, ride as hard as you can for 20 minutes. Aim to pace yourself so you maintain a similar power throughout (it may take a few tries to get it right). Finish with a cool down.

Note your average power for the 20 minute. Your FTP is 95% of that number. A 300W average, for example, means an FTP of 285W.

What do you do with it?

‘FTP is a repeatable and reliable measure that can be used to track performance over time, and it can be used to inform the intensity of specific training sessions,’ says Dr Nichols.

The effort required can be expressed as a percentage of FTP.

‘For example, sessions targeting VO2 max will be performed over a relatively short duration and well above FTP (110-120%), while tempo “climbing” efforts might occur over longer durations at below FTP (85-90%).’

To do this workout and many more, download the Wattbike Hub app, available free in the App Store and the Google Play Store.