Understanding FTP
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Understanding FTP

Photo: Chis Peeters from Pexels.com


Most cyclists will have heard of FTP, but might not know what it is, how to test for it, or how to use it to determine training zones. I thought it would be good to go over the basics.

What is FTP? 

FTP stands for Functional Threshold Power is the maximum average watts you could sustain for approximately one hour.

How to test to determine FTP?

There are a number of ways to do a test to determine your FTP.  Below I describe the two most common tests. If you ride at T Train, we will be conducting periodic FTP testing together in the studio and virtually. Our next test will take place during the week of February 13, 2022.  We will be running the RAMP test described below.


Option One: 20-minute Test


One way to test your FTP is to ride an ALL OUT 20-minute interval (following a solid warm up) and get the average watts. You then take 95% of that number to estimate your FTP (the watts you could hold for an hour). This method was developed by Hunter Allen.


While not many people love FTP testing in general, the downside of the 20-minute test is that pacing is critical. The test is best done with a taper (reduction in training) beforehand. For those athletes who have a hard time with pacing, this is likely to hurt…a lot. Going out too hard may result in not being able to finish strong or not being able to complete the test. Ideally, riders can start the first 5 mins a little bit lower than FTP and finish the last 5 mins above FTP, without leaving anything in the tank. With practice and pacing riders can get a solid result.

Option Two: Ramp Test

Another way to test your FTP is to do a Ramp Test. In this test, you increase your watts every minute by 15-30 watts until failure. You want to push as hard as you can in the last few intervals. You then take 75% of the power of the last minute interval (highest watts you hit) to estimate your FTP (the watts you could hold for an hour).

The advantages to this test (and why we use it at T Train) is that it takes less time, it only hurts (A LOT) at the end of the test, and you can repeat this test more frequently. 

How to Determine Training Zones from your FTP:

Zones are established based on a percentage of your FTP. I have also included the analogues RPE (perceived effort on a scale of 1-10) for training zones to use when watts are not available to you. You can also use RPE when you’re training in a fatigued state and not able to access your typical training power numbers.


Zone 1:  Recovery:  0-55% FTP, RPE 2-3

Zone 2:  Endurance:  56-75% FTP, RPE 3.5-4.5

Zone 3:  Tempo:  76-90% FTP, RPE 5-6.5

Zone 4:  Threshold:  91-105% FTP, RPE 7-8

Zone 5a:  VO2 max:  106-120%, (2-6min intervals), RPE 8.5-9

Zone 5b:  Anaerobic capacity (30s-2min intervals):  121-150% FTP, RPE 9.5

Zone 5c:  SPRINT:  150%++ FTP, RPE 10


It can be much easier to nail an FTP test with company so consider joining us in studio during the week of February 13! See you then!

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