What is an FTP Test and Why is it Important?

What is an FTP Test and Why is it Important?
A Functional Threshold Power (FTP) test is a 20 or 60-minute bike test to see what your anaerobic threshold or Zone 4 is on the bike. You ride at a hard effort throughout the test maintaining a steady cadence of about 80-90 RPMs. Take your average power minus 5% if you do the 20-minute test or take the average power for 60 minutes. We usually suggest doing the 20-minute test since 60 minutes is brutally hard for the average athlete to push and focus their highest power for!  

Once you have your FTP, you can then determine your other training zones.

If you don't have power on your bike did you know that you can do an FTHR test? The Functional Threshold Heart Rate is determined the same way. After a good warm-up, re-start your heart rate monitor and ride consistently as hard as you can for 20 mins. This test will give you a good indicator of what your threshold heart rate or Zone 4 is. 

Why does FTP or FTHR matter?
These numbers give you strong metrics to train by so you can target specific zones in your training. In my experience, most athletes prefer to do all of their training in Z3 because it feels hard but not too hard so they feel like they are getting a good workout. The most important zones for endurance athletes to train are their Z1/2 or long slow distance zones followed by Zones 4 and 5.

Which metric is a better guide?
FTP definitely trumps FTHR. The problem with heart rate is that it is really a reaction to your work, not an actual indicator of the work being performed at the moment. Heart rate monitors can take time to catch up to your intervals as there is often a delay to getting to a steady state heart rate. Your heart rate can also be "naturally" higher or lower on somedays from changes in sleep, caffeine, heat, hormones or just because you love that song playing!

If you need help with figuring out training zones and need a little structure in your workout plan, please feel free to get in touch and set up a coach meeting! Reach out via email to info@pbest.ca

Julia Aimers is the Owner and Head Coach of Team Triumph Triathlon Club and Online Store. She is a Certified Clinical Exercise Physiologist, High Performance Specialist, Triathlon, Cycling and Swimming Coach and Accredited Training Peaks Coach.

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