The Myth of FTP

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ftp-test
ftp-testing

#1

What does everyone think about this?
Read the comments from Dr. Coggan as well.

http://marktallonphd.com/the-myth-of-functional-threshold-power-ftp/


Have you ever held FTP for 60 minutes?
#2

If you can’t easily measure something directly (lab testing), then you come up with a general way to estimate it. The ramp test, 8 min test, and 20 min test are just general ways of estimating power at threshold. Each test protocol will do a better job estimating for some than others.


#3

What the author wants to know is the quantity carbs, fat and O2 he is using at any particular intensity and the relation of that intensity to lactate production. Looks like he is targeting Ironman distance triathlons. So yeah that would be great to know. But, short of living in a lab and being monitored by scientist each workout, that amount of information isn’t feasible for 99.9% of us at this time.

I still think the 20 minute -5% test is a good compromise for a wide range of athletic abilities. It’s easily repeatable and accurate (way more so via the TR ramp test than outside) especially when you have a little experience using power. Pacing outside can be tricky for the 20 minute test and for where I live 60 minutes just isn’t realistic for many reasons.

I lurk a bit over on Slowtwitch and Dr. Coggan seems to be annoyed (My opinion) with everyones over obsession with FTP and the power to weight ratio chart that he published. Many, myself included, are “stepping over a dollar to save a dime” type thinking. We’re missing that training is a continuum.


#4

I think I’m beginning to share his views about everyone’s preoccupation with FTP. It’s a useful and relatively easily estimated metric. It’s certainly not the be all and end all of training or charting progress. I remember have a chat with a track sprinter about power a while back and talking about peak and 10sec power figure which were incredible. I asked him what his FTP was and he just shrugged.

I’m my view, and it’s based on nothing other than my own experience and reading, is that understanding your power curve and how it relates to what you want to achieve is much more important than the slavish drive to improve FTP.


#5

Agree a lot with this, with the caveat that for a majority of cyclists it’s a good metric to track as a base for other improvements.

I can’t help but think that a lot of the discussion about FTP that I’ve seen is mostly status-chasing. If it were more socially acceptable to offer our body parts for comparison that would get done instead,


#6

I mostly agree with this – except when FTP and/or W/Kg correlates perfectly to what you’re trying to achieve. For me, it does.

Plus…and I know this has been said over-and-over on the podcast…FTP is more about anchoring your training to a baseline than true hour-power. The track athlete you mention talks about his peak 10sec power - clearly his training is anchored there.

When my FTP goes up, I do better in the events I care about. Also, my ego feels good :wink:


#7

But what if threshold itself doesn’t exist. I’ve been reading and researching lately and finding that there might not even be such a thing as lactate threshold.


#8

What if none of us exist?

(I didn’t expect this forum to wander into existential/philosophical questions…but, here we are :laughing:)


#9

I tend to agree with @AndyGajda, It’s a useful proxy for physiological markers and defining approximate intensities. As he points out if you are a track sprinter whose power over a 250m lap is important or an Ironman triathlete who is interested in power over a 4 hour duration the overall power duration curve it may not be a primary driver.

I think a lot of riders want to distil FTP down to a single precise number based on a one test, at one moment in time, over a different duration than the one it’s supposed to represent (which in itself is an imprecise duration)…and then worry whether it should be 250W or 248W when that’s well within the margin of error of most power meters anyway.

IMO FTP is a useful concept to inform your training but it doesn’t of itself define you as rider.


#10

I’m not sure where you’ve been reading that a maximal lactate steady state does not exist. I’d be curious to read those studies.


#11

Ok. Ok. Rather, what if lactate threshold is not a valid gauge of performance or applicable to training zones. It seems lactate threshold can vary from day to day. It also doesn’t seem to accurately predict or line up with Vo2 max.


#12

I guess besides the blog link in my OP with the studies listed, I been listening to this podcast with Dr. Andrew Sellars


#13

I sort of agree with Tom’s doubts. How do we know that MLSS (as a single point) scales beyond an hour? Two, three or more?

One of the reasons that I think that the power profile (distribution?) is the real gem of a tool we get from all our “field” work. I also like the idea, as others pointed out, of focusing on your target durations.


#14

The blog post you linked anchors on 60 minutes being associated with lactate threshold, which is incorrect.

FTP/LT/MLSS can be held for a time to exhaustion somewhere in the 30-70 minute range, which is usually between 80-88% of an athletes VO2Max, depending on rider phenotype. Obviously that is a wide range, but it doesn’t mean that MLSS doesn’t exist.

I’ll check out the podcast.


#15

TR cyclists obsess over FTP simply because that’s the metric TR test on. If TR started using a different power metric for their primary test most people wouldn’t give a second thought to their FTP.


#16

If the goal is to get faster and have a measurable metric FTP works great.

Even if your ftp measuring device is not that great at measuring actual power, as long as it is directional it will suffice.

Programs like TR are good for two things;

  1. Improving your FTP which should make you faster.

  2. Improving your ability to suffer repeatedly in different ways. Which should make you a better rider overall.

For your average rider we might be over thinking? Maybe, I’m not thinking enough?


#17

yes this is basically what I’m getting at.
In my particular case, based on my performance numbers, my power curve shows my 5 min power fairly high compared to my 1 minute, 20 minute and 60 minute power. If I go by ONE number and I set all zones based on my 60 minute “FTP” then when I’m targeting Vo2 max, those efforts are too easy and im not taxing my anaerobic system adequately. If I set my FTP based on a short test that benefits from my 5 minute anaerobic contribution, then my aerobic workouts and even sweet spot are too hard and I’m not training the correct metabolic system. What I need is a proper power curve assessment and then custom training zones to target specific metabolic and energy systems.


#18

What I think is that it has a very important message that most people dont want to hear - that the science of training is in its infancy. I was really quite surprised when I started training at how little we seem to know about the human body given the huge advances in biology these last hundred years: the conclusions of studies of say a dozen people put forward as fact? I mean, come on.

Power based training is a step forward, but there is no reason to see it as the end game.


#19

This summer I went back to the old school way. I used TR all winter so started the season knowing exactly what my FTP was and recognising what my power curve showed. I recced the courses of the two races I wanted to target and did race simulation hill reps come rain or shine, none of which I rode to a target power. However, by race day I knew very precisely my repeatable 3, 5 and 10 min power. I also worked on my limiters which were my weight and my sprint. I guess the point I’m trying to make is that if you really want to up your game, you really need to get focussed and specific rather than just looking at one number.


#20

I’ve just recently questioned this very condition in myself – VO2 workouts being easier than Threshold workouts as based off of FTP.

This is where it takes some art to interpret the science. As others have said, unless you train 24/7 in a laboratory, it’s going to be a best guesstimate scenario. I have my FTP but my pVO2 might not be bang on 120%, so I up the interval intensity a bit. My LT might not be bang on 100% FTP but even if it’s lower, training at that intensity will probably improve it, just means I have to suffer more.

No one is saying you can’t test different points on the power curve which will allow you to create your own personal training program. But then again, you have to know how all the pieces fit together. I think perhaps most of us have plenty of room to improve by doing FTP-based training before we move on to more specialized and personalized metrics. :man_shrugging: