Ok, so you’ve decided to do an FTP test at home, here are some tips to try and help you maximise the results to provide usable and accurate data to train with !
Unsure what an FTP test is ? or why an accurate figure is important ?
The FTP test is inherently hard to get right, it’s a fine line between going too hard and not going hard enough, between your muscles screaming as they fill with lactate to you feeling too comfortable. All to often I see FTP test data and instantly I can see the test has not been performed as well as it could have meaning the results are not accurate or useful. A good test should be a constant power effort throughout with a slight increase in the last 5 minutes of the interval but not too much as this will mean you could have gone harder at the start. By the end of the test you should should have emptied yourself and have nothing else left!
Below are some tips to help you nail your next FTP test:
- Don’t Go Out Too Hard
This is the big one, get this wrong and you might as well scrap the results. If you’ve tested before you’re going to have a good idea what watts you’re able to hold for the duration so this step should be a little easier however newbie testers I strongly recommend consulting a specialist for your first power test or using the 5 minute max effort in the Ride Harder test protocol to try and estimate your sustainable wattage for the 20 minutes, generally you are looking at around about 80% of your 5 min max power figure. The best test results are going to be the ones that are derived from a 20 minute average with as few fluctuations as possible, steady effort is the goal here. Most people opt for the sensible approach of holding a little something back to start with, going hard, as close to your maximum sustainable wattage as possible but with a little bit in reserve for when it gets really hard half way through.
- Pace It
This goes hand in hand with the above point but it’s easier said than done. 20 minutes is a long time for this level of effort especially if you’re not a seasoned FTP test pro. You can alter your cadence every few minutes along with your retrospective power. Very slight adjustments of less than 5% will be enough to relieve some stress on the muscles and or recruit different muscles. Most people find cadence adjustments useful often pushing a higher cadence than usual during testing to reduce muscular fatigue but this will depend on your training style leading up to the test and level of muscular endurance. Select your natural cadence to start with and alter it up to 5% as the test goes on.
- Stay Cool
An often overlooked part of the test is cooling, right now it’s winter and you’d be forgiven for thinking that you could get away without the fan in the garage for this effort but don’t be fooled ! Not cooling the body sufficiently during this test can negatively impact the results by as much as 15% needless to say rendering the test useless. I always advise starting out cooler than you’d like. Our protocol has a 5 minute maximal effort before the main 20 so this should give you a good idea of how warm you’re going to get but X 4 !! A large fan situated directly in front of the head / torso is the best approach I’ve found. It’s worth also remembering you WILL sweat on this one so cover your bike well with a towel to avoid it looking like a rusty from Cars 🙂
- Free Your Mind and Your Legs Will Follow
Recruiting the Velominati Rules here but it really is true !
“Your mind is your worst enemy. Do all your thinking before you start riding your bike. Once the pedals start to turn, wrap yourself in the sensations of the ride . . .”
Everything other than this test, during this test, is a distraction. Asking yourself to give everything you’ve got for 20 minutes is a huge ask and one that going to take all your concentration. Do your cadence and power calculations before hand and write them down if you need to. Come into the test hydrated and take your final drink before the 20 minute effort not during you can survive this test without a drink, make sure you’re well fed before the test this is no time for on the bike nutrition, children, dogs barking, adverts in your playlist whatever it is get rid of it. For 20 minutes you need to focus and immerse yourself in this test !
Yeah, really. Relax. I know all these things above matter but if you’ve laid the foundations, taken the above advice in and done the small amount of prep work you’ll be fine. It is just you and your bike. Clear your mind, crank up your favourite tunes and give it hell! Having some banging tunes can really help motivate you especially towards the end of the test! It can really distract the mind and can squeeze an extra few watts out. Check out my playlist on Spotify for some ideas
- Final Thoughts
Lots of other things feed into a successful FTP test, it’s an accumulation of small things but the main points are all above and if followed will no doubt lead to a great test.
I’ve mentioned above the complexity of the testing protocols and most are taken care of by planned workouts from Myself, Trainer Road and Zwift etc but there is no substitute for a professional power test. If you’d like to know more about what power test packages Ride Harder offers then get in touch
Good luck with your test !