When you’re searching for a good power training on the internet, you must have noticed that the term ‘FTP’ comes up every time. In this article, we’ll explain what it is, why it is useful for your training and how to perform a FTP test on your indoor trainer.
What is it and what’s in it for me?
Let’s start with the meaning of this often-heard abbreviation. FTP stands for Functional Threshold Power and is the maximum power you can sustain for one hour, measured in Watts. It is a part of training on power and this type of training is getting more and more popular because it’s very accurate. Instead of training on heart rate, which used to be the standard, you can now exactly measure the power your muscles provide. With the tools we have nowadays, like power meters for road bikes and bike trainers with built in power meters, this training is in easy reach for many riders.
Measuring your FTP is easy and the best part of it is that it’s trainable. When you know your FTP level you can set your training zones and train exactly on the threshold of your muscle power. Because of this, you’ll use your training time more effectively, increase your FTP and become stronger in a faster way. That’s what we all want, don’t we?
How do I measure my FTP?
To determine your FTP, you can perform a field test. The only extras on your bike that you’ll need are a power meter and a cadence sensor. The most used field tests are the short and long test. The short field test takes an all-out time trial of 20 minutes, the long one takes up to 60 minutes (both without the warming up and cooling down time included). Make sure your cadence is around 90 rpm. When you perform the test, go as fast as you can for the period of time that is set for the test. Keep in mind that you’ll need to keep your effort as constant as possible. After this intensive test, you’ll not only be exhausted but you will also know your average FTP. Make sure that when you’ve done the 20-minute test, that you take 95% of your result to get an accurate estimate of your FTP.
The only problem with this field test is that you’ll need a flat road without obstacles and without any interruptions to get the best result. It is much easier to perform this test on a bike trainer with a built in power meter and cadence sensor, like the NEO Smart or FLUX Smart trainer. With popular training software like the Tacx Training app and Zwift you can perform a ready-made FTP test. Just follow the instructions on your screen and off you go. After this test, your FTP is automatically set and saved in these apps. Also, the training zones based on your FTP are set automatically so you can perform focused training plans. By following a FTP training program, you’ll notice that your FTP will increase and that you will become a stronger rider.
Do you want to test your FTP? You can do so for free in the Tacx Training app. Download this free app in the App Store or Google Play. In Zwift, you can find the FTP test (the shorter version as well) in the workout menu.
When you know your FTP, you can determine your power zones. Just like heart rate zones, these zones build up in intensity (from Z1 to Z7). Here’s an example to calculate your zones. If you’ve used a bike trainer with training software, your zones are calculated automatically and saved within the software.
When you train in specific ranges below and right at your threshold, you will increase your FTP. A lot of interval trainings are performed on this threshold because this is the hardest exercise you can perform without blowing yourself up. With this kind of training you can raise your threshold and thus produce more power for a longer period of time. We will post an article about this type of interval training on our blog soon.
To measure your progress, it is best to test your FTP level every six weeks. When you’re getting stronger, your FTP will rise and you have to adjust your power zones to make even more progress. These zones are adjusted automatically when you use training software.
There are endless power workouts you can perform to improve your FTP. Later on we will explain you more about enhancing and improving your training based on power (like the Sweet Spot Training, steady state tempo, threshold workouts and VO2 Max).
Good luck with your FTP test!