Answer: For most athletes, no. Depending on the familiarity and experience with an FTP value, athletes can realistically sustain the power level of FTP in a range from about 40-70 minutes.

** Our default testing format to estimate an athlete’s FTP was changed to the TrainerRoad Ramp Test since this post was published

Why Your FTP Might Not Equate to Your “Hour Power”

8- and 20-Minute FTP tests allow athletes to derive a highly useful estimate of lactate threshold on which to base power levels from to become a faster rider. But calculating FTP in a 60-Minute, all-out effort takes some serious stamina; both in your mind and your muscles.

The pain tolerance and mental fortitude experienced under extreme discomfort are both things that must be trained and well paced. In fact, most riders will likely see a difference between an FTP value provided from a shorter testing format and one from a 60-Minute, all-out effort because of these very reasons.

“Why shouldn’t I just go out and do an hour-long effort to determine my FTP?”

  • First, most athletes don’t have the mental discipline and physical stamina to withstand the discomfort necessary to sustain an hour-long effort truly representative of their highest, tolerable lactate levels.
  • Second, consider the training benefit that comes from this type of effort and its impact on subsequent training. Efforts like this require ample recovery and can derail a well-structured, progressive training plan due to the inordinate amount of recovery required by all but the fittest cyclists. Now consider the difficulty (and dread) associated with repeating an effort this long and fatiguing every 4-6 weeks. No thanks.

Scientific Support for Using FTP Estimates

Although an FTP estimate is exactly that, an estimate, it provides the metric that corresponds closest to a rider’s lactate threshold: the muscular metabolic capabilities that are found to be the best determinant of endurance performance beyond short efforts. FTP is used to represent the limitations of an athlete’s muscular metabolic capabilities at an hour long, max-capacity effort. Power levels are then broken down based off of one’s capabilities at something near that hour long, steady-state, maximum effort.

Owing to the limitations of obtaining a useful value from performing an actual hour-long, all-out effort, the difference between the FTP value you’ll get from an hour-long effort and one of the shorter testing formats is generally acceptable. You will reduce this gap overtime by training in a progressive, structured manner. Fortunately, we have a testing format that will allow us to successfully monitor our training progress without hampering our recovery and training that follows.

Final Thoughts

While the FTP you derive from the 8- and 20-minute testing format might not be the same as the power you derive from an all-our 60 minute effort, it’s not exactly meant to be. In the context of training, the purpose of estimating your FTP through a controlled testing format is to inform your training.

Realizing your FTP will happen over time. What we mean by this is you’ll train at your newly calculated FTP and become more proficient at being able to sustain it for increasingly long durations. By following a progressive, structured training plan you’ll gain the mental fortitude and physical stamina to become increasingly apt at handling sustained efforts at your FTP estimation.

For more answers to your cycling training questions, listen to the Ask a Cycling Coach podcast presented by TrainerRoad. New episodes are released weekly.