When the Ramp Test doesn't track well to FTP

ramp-test
ftp

#1

Just thought I would share this for those of whom, like me, do not believe that the Ramp Test correlates well to FTP.

I did the Ramp Test this morning - 314 (https://www.trainerroad.com/career/john%20barclay/rides/41610576-eichorn). This is down from 321 before a week off for a vacation. But immediately afterwards I did 2x20min at 340W (https://www.trainerroad.com/career/john%20barclay/rides/41610576-eichorn). I should note that Powermatch was struggling hitting the target power in the last few minutes of the Ramp Test, and this may have cost me a few Watts on the FTP calculation.

I’ve known for a while that my steady state abilities are much stronger than anything related to V02max. Therefore I believe the Ramp Test gives a decent snapshot of my current V02max capabilities and I will uses my Ramp Test FTP to guide real V02max efforts (ex. 110% and above); however, an FTP of around 340 should guide Endurance/SS/Threshold efforts.

This also suggests that I need to specifically train V02max in order for me to see improvements to my Ramp Test FTP…which risks specifically training to improve this number as opposed to increasing power relevant to what I want to do out on the road (hill climbs!).

So I think I will continue to do Ramp Tests as a way of measuring V02 max improvement and set my FTP to what I can do for Threshold efforts for the sake of more accurate IF and TSS tracking.

Just some food for thought for those who are discouraged/confused by their Ramp Test results!


FTP Question decision?
#2

I’ve had a similar experience, where I haven’t been testing as well as I have been training. Last Ramp Test was 256W, but I can finish workouts, even VO2max workouts, at 275W. Got a Ramp Test happening tomorrow going back into SS Base Mid-I, so we’ll see how it goes. I think the initial power bump at each step before the trainer settles on the right power (KICKR SNAP) saps just enough strength to have an impact on the final result.


#3

My last ramp test was the opposite, I was able to dig deep on ERG mode and overshoot my real FTP by a long shot (~30w). I was didn’t know this was the case until completely blowing up halfway through Mt Hale +6 afterwards (105% @ 9min x4). Now I take a very conservative approach to FTP changes and only periodically tweak it based on feel relative to recent threshold workouts…


#4

I think it’s almost inevitable that the three main testing methods will give different results, because they are in effect testing different systems. For me, the 2x8 minute test gives me a really high FTP that I know won’t work for me when doing most workouts. The 20 minute test and the ramp test give lower results, but are usually relatively close to each other.
My general plan going forward is to do the ramp test, then see how that feels for the first couple of weeks of each training plan, make minor adjustments based on feel and then retest after those two weeks if I feel that it is way off.


#5

Don’t you usually use 0.9-0.95 * 20min power?


#6

AFAIK:

  • From 1x 20 Min Test: 20 Min Avg x 0.95 = FTP

  • From 2x 8 Min Test: 8 Min Avg x 0.90 = FTP
    (use the average of both 8 Min efforts when they aren’t drastically different)


#7

The only disadvantage I see for the ramp test compared to others is that to stop the workout you need to “give up”. But giving up is never an option for me, so I tend to go ultra hard and I get a pretty high result. In contrast the other tests are more about pacing so I stick to my plan and survive until the end. I find this to produce better results in terms of subsequent workouts.


#8

IMHO, “giving up” is not the correct description. It is a test to “exhaustion”.

You start pedaling and continue to pedal as long and aim to match power targets… as your body, legs, lungs and such will allow against a stepped resistance increase every minute.

“Giving up” is more of a mental choice, where “Exhaustion” is an inability to continue the current resistance. Probably splitting hairs, but there is different meaning between each that I think matters.

People who can and do pace well are still properly served by the 20m and 8m tests. They can do so at their preference.

But the Ramp test eliminates pacing as a variable, which is something that many people (especially new riders) simply don’t do well. After 3 years on TR and 25 years riding overall, I still count myself in the “terrible tester/pacer” category.

I am fine outside in a race or long event. But turn me loose on a “test” and I either blow up or take it too easy. Both give less than helpful results and I end up with manual adjustments like crazy afterwards. So for me, there is real value in the Ramp.

The ramp is just bloody simple, especially in ERG. Start pedaling and go until you collapse about 20 mins later. I have far less second guessing with the ramp compared to the other tests.


#9

I had a very similar experience and thoughts.

I tried the ramp test (pre-smart trainer) about 6-7 weeks ago and my FTP was way off. The workout i did following (the same day) was at what i ‘thought’ my FTP was (around 40w) higher and felt just right.

I have proceeded with what i ‘thought’ it was and have had a good 6wk training block. But like you mentioned i did find VO2 way harder than anything sweet spot-threshold during this time. I figured this was just the type of athlete i am.

I am interested to try again, but also a little apprehensive - now i have a smart trainer and can use ERG mode i hope its easier like @chado described.

But i’d also really like to try a 20 min test with ERG mode too - i had heard the guys mention this in podcast … i thought it might be a good way to pace the effort.


#10

From what I understand, when Dr. Coggan came up with the concept of Functional Threshold Power, he always intended on it to be determined by a one hour testing protocol (traditional “hour of power”). The number you get from a one hour test is your FTP. That being said, it’s very challenging for most people to go that hard for a full 60 minutes. You need to be well trained and highly motivated to gut that kind of exertion out on a trainer. And doing it outside has its own challenges due to elevation, wind, traffic, stop signs/lights. I believe it was Hunter Allen’s idea (much to Coggan’s objection) to create the 20 minute test, and then subtract 5% from the average power of the 20 minute interval, and that determined a reasonably accurate FTP. Chris Carmichael took it a step further and created the 8 minute test, subtracting 10% from your average power to come up with your FTP. Interestingly enough, there are some 40 minute testing protocols, and you don’t really need to subtract anything from the test interval’s average power to come up with an accurate FTP. Studies have shown that the power that most people can hold for 40 minutes, they can also hold for 60 minutes. The problem is, whether you’re doing 60, 40, 20, 8 mins, or a Ramp Test; each individual testing procedure will likely result in a different number, even if they are performed under the exact same circumstances every single time by the same person.

Honestly, I believe that you should just determine whatever test works best for YOU. And then stick to that test every time and try to keep the variables as consistent as possible. If you do your FTP test on the trainer, first thing in the morning, on an empty stomach, with only a cup of coffee beforehand, and listening to music, after getting 8+ hours of sleep the night before… then that should be your strategy every single time. Don’t mix it up and do the 8 minute test with a different power meter, in the evening, on a full stomach, when you slept terribly for 3 hours the night before.


#11

This is precisely my point. If I truly ride to exhaustion, my predicted FTP is 40w+ watts what I can really sustain during workouts, then training becomes unbearable.


#12

Well, you may be one of the outliers that is not best served by the Ramp Test. TR was clear in that possibility when they debuted the test. But based on their own analysis of 7,000+ tests, they felt the test would serve a large part of their training population.

As with any training related item, it’s important to look beyond the simple ideas and see if those details are fully appropriate for each person. It would be great if we had simple and standard rules for every training detail (including testing), but it is simply not possible.

We all vary for any number of reasons, and must be open to adapting to best suit our needs. The Ramp Test seems to work well for many people, but it WON’T work for everyone. Again, not a surprise or something TR has attempted to hide or ignore.

So, if the Ramp test is not appropriate for you, apply and use the 20 or 8 min tests as you need.


#13

To add my experiences. As a time trialler I can pace the 20minute test extremely well and it gives me a high FTP. I think I became very good at 20 minute tests on the turbo! However, the value it gives isn’t one I can get near to either outdoors on 25M TTs and I cannot complete VO2Max sessions completely. When I switched to the ramp test my FTP dropped but I was able to match it outdoors on 25M TTs AND complete the VO2Max sessions


#14

A bunch of interesting responses. Thanks everyone! I think the overall take home message is that we all need to figure out what our FTP, in the context of the selected test method, means for us and our goals.

Even though the Ramp Test gives me a lower FTP, I actually quite like this information as a means of assessing my V02max capabilities which is a relative weakness for me.


#15

Just did a ramp test this morning. Third test in a row with the exact same calculated result, which is ~20W lower than where I’m training. I don’t know if I’m too much “inside my head” while I’m watching the numbers, but I seem to hit the same spot and the brain/leg connection just quits. It would be nice to have an option to hide the numbers.
Today, I was able to tack on one of the new SIT workouts - though a short, lower intensity version. So I feel like my legs weren’t fully cooked during the test, but they couldn’t turn the pedals anymore either.
Going back into SS Base Mid I and will goose my FTP just a bit from where it was.
One thing I wish the plans had was a recommendation for that first workout if you don’t want to do a test; maybe something in the description of the plan or the Week Tips for the testing weeks?


#16

I love the concept of the ramp test but using it with powermatch is a real nightmare. Sometimes, halfway through the test the watts will sometimes drop and you end up chasing the power…I’ve also found that as the power numbers increase the trainer does not track very well.

I’m wondering if it’s better to use resistance mode rather than ERG

My latest test (5 weeks ago) gave me an ftp of 236…had a race 3 days later and TrainingPeaks (and strava) suggested ftp to be 255! Due a re-test after next weeks taper


#17

Depending on how you use the app (ERG vs standard shifting and PC/Mac vs mobile) you can use sticky notes to hide undesired data. I have used that in the past for my PC setup.

Lately, I run the test in ERG from my phone, and just flip it over, run the test until I pop, and then look at the phone again. I hit my best result ever by doing it “blind”.

Not everyone needs this approach, but seeing power or heart rate in particular start to mess with my mind in a test. I am better just staring at a video or chasing a wheel in Zwift and not thinking about numbers in any way.


#18

Hmmm…I may have to try flipping over my iPad on my next Ramp Test.


#19

Give it a shot. I think some of us data nerds might tend to fixate on things too much, and possibly limit our own performance from perceived “limits” that aren’t really there.

I find that’s true for me. Fine in training to a degree, but I am leaning more towards doing ERG, and focusing on anything else other than counting watts, seconds, beats, etc. I am learning to be more “in the moment” and ignore data until afterwards, where it is not detrimental to my performance.


#20

It looks like your 4 last steps were averaging under the target power. But before that, it appeared to be tracking more closely. And if you look at your best 1 minute power, it was about a full minute before the test ended.

It seems to me that the power output you were putting out didn’t track nicely with how the ramp is intended to be run. I would think that if your power had more closely matched each step in the ramp, you may have failed a few seconds earlier, but would’ve resulted in a higher score, from having a better 1 minute max. As it is in your power file, pretty much the entire last minute you did would’ve been quite hard, but literally not counted for doing, because it wasn’t actually harder than the previous minute.

Perhaps try running in resistance mode rather than ERG next time? Or you could try sending an email to TR support and see if they could come up with something specific you could try, to keep ERG tracking more closely.