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Is The FTP Test Dead ?

Updated: Jan 11, 2018

'Is the FTP test dead' ? We have been asked this question very recently by a few of our cyclists, and quite simply the distinguishing factor with any testing is how you use the data rather than just the tests themselves.

FTP or Functional Threshold Power is a test of what power you can hold for 1-hour. The test incorporates a 5-min time-trial, followed by a 20-min time-trial. The consequential 20-min value is reduced by 5% and this is suggested to give you the power you could hold for 1-hour.

Those of you who have been fortunate enough to be tested in laboratory, are likely to have been given a “threshold” power. The laboratory threshold is said to predict the same 60-min power as FTP.

Although the FTP test has not yet been officially “validated”, HUPHUP have processed 50 exercise tests over the last year comparing laboratory threshold and FTP threshold in very fit cyclists and triathletes and found it to be a good marker in this cohort.

This prompts the question, why would you go to a lab if it gives you the same threshold value? Well, your FTP tells you what your threshold is but not how to improve it. When we take blood, or ventilatory data we can look at your efficiency and locate what power and duration should be used to develop your cycling program. On the other end of the spectrum, we can assess the different components of your anaerobic system.

More recently cyclists are using “Profile Charts” which are a great way to ascertain the more over-threshold markers such as 1-min power or 5-min power. The Profile Charts give good insight into these shorter time epochs and can add a lot of value when used correctly.

Essentially an FTP test or Power Profile tests are two different things, and both are good metrics. Lab tests themselves have flaws too. These tests are ascertaining physiology with specific time intervals and increments. As such, their “ecological” or “real-life” utility has definite limitations.

So - is the FTP test dead ? No.

The real question to ask - no matter what testing you do - is what does this mean for me? and how can the results confirm or improve my current approach to training?

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