Best FTP test - ramp or 20 min?

I’m about to test my FTP for the second time after several weeks of training and i’m wondering whether to do the ramp again or the 20 min test. The reason I ask is that a much more experienced friend of mine has been training for lots of years did a ramp test after a period of training that he felt should’ve increased his FTP and he’d stayed the same. However, he did a sprint tri and used the bike section to go flat out and measure his FTP and it had gone up. His view is that he has a harder time putting out high power than he does putting out a continuous power and therefore the ramp test doesn’t work very well for him. Thoughts on this?

My first ramp test I got 202 so if I do a 20 min test after sweet spot base and a week riding in the mountains in Mallorca then would I guess at something like 210-220 for the 20 min? My friend suggested starting at 210 and if I feel like I’ve got more in me several mins into the test then try to up my power output for the remainder of the test. Thoughts appreciated.

I’ve had mixed results with the ramp test. I’m highly aeroebic, rather than anarobic, and find the ramp test gives me a result which ends up being far to low. a 20min test seems to be much more reliable for me.

However, whatever test you decide is better for you - i would say make sure you keep with the same one rather than chopping and changing.

Try some threshold workouts too - thats a good validation.

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If you did the ramp test the first time, I would recommend the ramp test again. You want to keep your testing protocol as consistent as possible to truly measure your progress from the training.

Remember, you want a progressive FTP measurement, not a “higher” FTP number.

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Recommend you do the same test each time so that you have results which can be compared. Thus, you should do the Ramp test again. Futher more, It’s not uncommon to see little or no gain after Sweet Spot Base (SSB).

Here is a thought exercise for you and/or your friend. What if after all your training, you change to the 20min test and get a lower value? Is the test wrong? Did you have a bad day? Should you use a different test? Did you lose fitness? What if you change the test and get a higher value? Does that make the Ramp Test bad/wrong?

You do the test to the best of your ability. Take the result and use it to set your workouts. If the workouts are too hard, you might have to adjust your FTP downwards. Likewise, if the workouts are too easy, then manually adjust your FTP upwards a bit. Either way, use the same test so that you’re comparing apples to apples.

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How would you taper to do your best efforts. Say you were planning to do all the best efforts over a two week period, would you taper normally, or take a week off after a VO2 heavy plan. Or would that loose too much sharpness?

Try a 60 min max sustained power test and compare that with your ramp and/or 20 min tests. TR ramp test gave me 319 watts, but I was at 306 watts for my recent 60 min test. Once you have a ratio, you can continue using the TR ramp test and set your FTP as that TR value * the ratio.

The problem with the 20 minute test, or a full 60 minute critical power test, is that it is incredibly disruptive to your training. You have to prepare for several days beforehand, you have to recover, and all the while you’re missing out on regular training. The solution most people land on eventually with them is to do them less frequently - much less frequently.

Even then, they’re not particularly pleasant, and people develop a dread of doing FTP tests. Or they might taper for a few days leading into a scheduled FTP test, have something go awry that day, and end up skipping the test because - with the cost to do an FTP test being so high - they would rather skip it than do a bad test.

The advantage to them, of course, is that they’re very good at not only anchoring your training but also pacing steady-state efforts. The ramp test is usually pretty decent at anchoring your training, but since it goes quite a bit higher than your FTP for short durations, it’s never going to be quite as accurate for true steady state power.

And that’s why TR recommends adjusting your FTP post-test depending on your own experience. Are you an aerobic engine, and the ramp test underestimates your FTP? Do some sweet spot workouts, verify that they seem “easy,” bump your FTP, do the same sweet spot workouts, and verify you can still get them done. Are you a sprinter? Don’t feel bad dropping your FTP a little after the ramp test if you don’t think you can (or prove you can’t) complete workouts at that FTP.

Either way, the ramp test not only anchors your training intervals, but also lets you see progress consistently over time, and even over a short duration, in a way that would have serious consequences on the quality of your ‘real’ training if you were doing 20-minute or 60-minute power tests.

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I’m doing both ramps and 60 min tests as well as 30-40k tts I figure they are good intense workouts and I get a lot of data that way. I’m not doing a big taper beforehand but I do need some recovery after the long ones.

Really helpful input from everyone, thank you kindly. I’ll stick with the ramp tests because 1) that’s what I started with and 2) I’d not thought through the heavy impact on training of the steady state type of FTP test.

I’ll also reset my expectations on my FTP perhaps not having gone up as a result of the training I’ve been doing.

“The problem with the 20 minute test, or a full 60 minute critical power test, is that it is incredibly disruptive to your training.”

I don’t buy into this at all. If you’re doing a plan that involves some considerable duration at sweetspot, then swapping that out for a 60 minute test is not going to disrupt you at all. Sure, you may be fractionally more fatigued than you would if you did 2 long SS efforts but it’s not going to be anything major, chances are the day after will be easy or a rest.

I’d agree that you should be repeating the test you did last time and should be coming into this 60 minute effort with low fatigue but I mean does anyone taper for a test? What is the point? My personal opinion is that we always carry some fatigue, training is done with some fatigue so why look to artificially inflate your FTP by being in a training state that is not the norm for you.

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I don’t taper like I would for a race with openers, but my Ramp Tests always come after a recovery week so I am rested.

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fair point, I guess if you follow the plans to the letter this makes total sense.

It’s just a number and 10w difference isn’t going to make a big difference in your training. Do Farquhar set at 220 and see if you can make it through. Sounds like you want a higher number and will fail your VO2Max sessions.

The difference between a workout (whether it’s sweet spot or VO2 max) and a performance test is that you should finish the former feeling like you could have done one more interval if you had to. And that difference plays out in the recovery time, too. If you are testing for your 60 minute critical power and you feel like you can do a workout the next day, I’m sorry but you could have gone harder on the test and gotten a more accurate number. If you want an accurate number, you have to push and it has to hurt.

And I think once you accept that you’re willing to trade off some accuracy for better recovery, something like the ramp test starts to make a lot more sense. While a faithfully-performed 60 minute critical power test will give you the best single data point (and that’s incredibly useful to researchers working on the best ways to influence threshold power and cycling performance, but who only get one test at the end of a study to evaluate), as someone training to get faster and doing workouts regularly… you can draw on a lot more data - the results of every workout you do - to inform and tweak your threshold power and arrive at a far better picture of your performance across the spectrum of fatigue, stress, and nutrition.

This is false.

Doing a 40-60 minute threshold test to exhaustion will not compromise your ability to do a workout the next day in the same way a 5+20 suprathreshold test will.

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Everyone seems to be jumping on the ‘This is the right way’ bandwagon here. Maybe your opinion is valid for you and not for other people? a 60 minute ftp test isn’t that big a deal to me, and a 20 is very repeatable. Both give a more accurate representation of my ftp, defined quite literally as the max effort you can sustain for 1 hour. If you can sustain a max effort for 1 hour then there can be zero doubt that the 1 hour test is the most accurate.

If what you want is a decent estimate at how hard the sum total of your training plan will be? Well I would suggest you take their recommendation and see how you go. Always have an eye for your goals and how the plan is helping you achieve them.

Using the same measure again and again to check your progress is a smart thing to do, as long as what you are measuring is the thing that is improving. If you are targeting 40k tts or iron man races then maybe you should do a 20 or 60 minute test…

:sunny:

I’m not advocating for a particular assessment, more just saying that people rule out longer tests out of a false belief it will disrupt your training.

Ideally assessments should be matched to rider type and goals, as well as individual physiology, but that’s a conversation for another thread.

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I wouldn’t characterize what I wrote that way… I tried hard to highlight the pros and cons of different tests. Although apparently I ran into trouble for saying there are any cons to 20- or 60-minute tests? I dunno, seems like an awful lot of people keep choosing not to do them.

Except this isn’t the definition of what your FTP is. It’s a popularly held belief, but not factually accurate. Your FTP is the physiological marker where you are no longer able to process lactate as fast or faster then you are producing it (MLSS). All FTP protocols are trying to make approximations as to this marker. The most accurate test for this is blood lactate testing and even that can vary from one day to the next. I disagree with your statement that “there can be zero doubt that the 1 hour test is the most accurate”.

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The best FTP test is the one you’re most willing to do again. If someone finds the 60 minute test to be the one they are willing to do every 4-6 weeks, then do that. I personally find the Ramp Test to be the least-worst, so that’s the one I do.

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