When you're new to the world of endurance sports, acronyms like FTP might sound like a foreign language. Fear not, as understanding Functional Threshold Power (FTP) testing is a game-changer for improving your performance as a budding endurance athlete.
What is FTP?
FTP stands for Functional Threshold Power, and in simple terms, it represents the highest average power you can sustain for an hour. It's a crucial metric for triathletes as it helps gauge your fitness level and tailor your training intensity. There are also various measures available with pros and cons for all. Starting out you will likely use a Pace or Heart Rate measure but you may also use power if you are using a power meter in training.
Keep in mind, your FTP is something you will test for over time at various stages of training. Your FTP it will change based on the impact of your training which is what you want.
Why is FTP Important?
FTP serves as a baseline for structuring your training zones. These zones help you optimize workouts, ensuring you push yourself enough to elicit improvements without overtraining. By knowing your FTP, you can set accurate intensity levels for different training sessions, making your time in training more effective and enjoyable.
How to Perform an FTP Test:
It's important to know there are different ways to tests but not all tests are created equal. A key thing to do is decided on the way you will test and the location you will do your testing. Aim to keep a test format for a season to get better quality results.
Also, you are not going to do the same test in the pool as you would for a run. Similar principles apply but you will need to define your test ahead and use the same test over a season to be more accurate with results. Here are examples of two bike tests. Here's an example of how it would work...
The 15 Mile Ride
Warm Up: 10 minutes at an Easy effort. If using perceived effort with a scale of 1-10, stay below a 3.
Go All Out for 15 Miles: Once warmed up, go as hard as you can sustain for 15 miles. The goal is a consistent effort throughout, as this will help reflect your true FTP.
Record Your Average Pace/Heart Rate/Power: After completing the 15 mile ride, note your average pace, heart rate and power if used. This number is a good estimate of your FTP.
Calculate FTP: To get your FTP, multiply your average power by 0.95. This accounts for the fact that your true FTP would likely be around 95% of your average pace, heart rate, and power.
The 20 Minute Test
Warm Up: Spend at least 15 minutes warming up. Gradually increase your intensity to get your muscles ready for the effort ahead.
Go All Out for 20 Minutes: Once warmed up, go as hard as you can sustain for 20 minutes. The goal is a consistent effort throughout, as this will help reflect your true FTP.
Record Your Average Pace/Heart Rate/Power: After completing the 20-minute effort, note your average pace, heart rate and power. These number are a good estimate of your FTP.
Calculate FTP: To get your FTP, multiply your average power by 0.95. This accounts for the fact that your true FTP would likely be around 95% of your average 20-minute power.
A couple things to note here, heart rate is extremely variable and a test in colder temperatures can produce a different result than in the heat. If you can, try to execute in the same or similar situations.
You can do the testing indoors as well but if using settings on a platform like Zwift, make sure they are the same and even use the same flat course each time.
There are a lot more types of tests you can do. As a beginner to the sport you may not have all the gear or equipment for tracking and you use what you have. The key thing is to start looking at your training from a data driven perspective so you can know and measure against it for improvements.
The last note is on calculations. There are so many tools out there, simply find one that works best for you which you and you can easily input your test data and it will show your zones for you. If you are using a platform like Training Peaks, they have the zone calculators under the settings section.