Progression Levels, whether or not you use AT, are a huge leap forward for TR. Effectively, they link your power curve to their workouts which allows an athlete to strategize training around the needs of their events or weaknesses. The more I think about this, the more I come to the conclusion that beyond a baseline assessment at the beginning of training (or after a protracted period of detraining) and 90 days+ of good training data, it actually would be counterproductive to continue to do assessments at all.
This will, of course, require TR to model in something similar to mFTP, but it would likely have far more efficacy and accuracy than an FTP assessment (this assumes that a rider trains regularly and with some semblance of structure. After all, why would you test if you weren’t doing so). The ramp test, 20 minute test, and 8 minute tests all present the same vulnerability, they are built around a standard distribution around the mean surrounding power curves, but in reality, a large subset of riders do not conform to a “standard” power profile rendering the tests pretty unreliable for a substantial number of athletes.
All three tests are susceptible, to varying degrees, to overrepresenting FTP for people with a very anaerobic dominant power curve. They simply don’t exhaust the anaerobic capacity of those riders, whose aerobic capacity could be quite weak making workouts in zones 3/4 mismatched to their desired benefit. Conversely, a rider (often smaller riders) with a steep fall-off at the anaerobic end of their power duration curve will test low and won’t be presented with workouts that will generate the stimulus to push their aerobic threshold higher.
There is enough anecdotal evidence in this forum alone to indicate that people who don’t fall within the “normal” distribution routinely fail assessments or fail workouts soon after an increase. They are typically met with a blanket HTFU or “let go of your ego” response which is at best, short-sighted. Even back to the original Training and Racing With a Power Meter, Allen and Coggan laid out different test durations based on phenotypes. Modern modeling has allowed us access to the power duration curve so defaulting to the “old standard” 20-minute test was satisfactory. Training experts continued to peel back that onion with the understanding that athletes, especially newer athletes, found pacing and sustained efforts difficult and we ended it with abridged versions that were more “achievable” (i.e. Ramp and 8 minute) but perhaps drops off athletes at the tails of the bell curve phenotypically with some regularity.
This isn’t an “FTP is dead” argument, but rather the way we establish it as a one-size-fits-all approach probably should be. I’m not entirely convinced that a 4DP test is a superior replacement either. My thought is with a well-structured plan with variation commensurate with establishing a well-rounded power curve, “estimated” FTP could supersede assessments pretty seamlessly. The limitation is clearly surrounding those training without diversity in their training, riders with extended periods without training, and perhaps lower volume athletes (I think this circles back to variation and populating the curve). If FTP tests aren’t eliminated, at minimum, I think there is a potential for right-sizing an assessment protocol against progression levels, an undertaking that I won’t understate the statistical modeling involved in creating those variants.
I suspect FTP estimation is the vision of the TR team and hinted at in the podcasts to be sure. I am curious as to how TR gets around the problem of not having enough historical rider data to populate that model or control for the period of time after which the tests can be dropped. We see this now in beta. Many of us have seen our introductory levels set at a baseline of 1. We have had to manipulate and cherry-pick workouts to dial in those levels, and that simply takes time. Not having an FTP appraisal during the “learning” period wouldn’t give AT or Train Now much to work with. This would definitely be a deal-breaker for athletes early in their training careers. Those of us who have trained for some time can probably guess within 10 watts what our FTP is and might have a better sense check on this.
Curious about people’s thoughts here. Clearly, my premise has vulnerabilities of its own. Do you think estimated FTP with solid progression levels is satisfactory for training? Would you rather leverage that training day to testing after each meso-cycle? Who is already doing this with WKO and what are your intuitions about your mFTP values?
Edit: I will no longer be responding to this thread 6/30/21