Do you need a Ramp test? Is working out to a misplaced high FTP better or worse than a lower one?

the background-

TR user for around 15 months and new to cycling back then. Early in the process i was eager to see my gains, and they were progressing nicely. after each training plan, as prescribed, i completed the ramp test. For the first few months the increase in ftp was expected and increase training stress manageable. When my improvements started to plateau i found the ramp test was optimistic in my workouts. since last spring i haven’t done an ftp test but have upped the ftp based on feel. my concern is that (from experience) the test sets a rate too high for me to complete the workouts prescribed.

i think i now understand my rpe (and HR, shhh dont tell anyone) to tell me when the sweetspots and threshold workouts are getting too ‘easy’.

I then , hopefully, raise the ftp by 1 or 2%.

my question -

if my ftp is over estimated, am i getting the same benefit vs pain as a workout based on a slightly lower ftp? eg if a sweetspot becomes really hard due to the ramp test uplift, am i getting the desired adaptations by working harder than might be planned or am i better training within my abilities at a slightly lower ftp and able to complete all workouts to my percieved rpe?

is it human nature to suffer more and push the ramp test, and therefore suffer more in the subsequent weeks? Is a more measured rpe appreciation of ftp better, at the risk of working under the planned training stress…

more pain = more gain? perhaps less pain better -i refer to the mantra of 80/20 running.

regards all

Someone will no doubt correct me, but i was under the impression that the issue with using an inflated FTP is more that you’ll be too fatigued to complete the hard workouts to your full ability rather than sweetspot.

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The farther you progress in your training plan, the harder the workouts get. A workout where you spend 3x12 minutes at 85 % FTP is always going to be easier than one where you do 2x20 minutes at 100 % FTP — not matter what your FTP is. So there is a clear progression not just in how physically demanding the workouts are, but also in the mental difficulty level.

And when you up your FTP in the easier workouts, so that e. g. an interval at 85 % of the set FTP value becomes an interval at 95 % of your true FTP. When you now encounter a 2x20 minute at 100 % workout, it will be way too hard for you to manage.

So I propose you test your FTP. Typically FTP tests underestimate your “true” FTP. The only scenario where you get an FTP that might be too high is when you prep too much for your FTP test: you carb load the night before, sleep for 12 hours straight, have the birds wake you, you do the FTP test at your preferred time, and there isn’t a bother in the world. Read: you do the FTP test under perfect conditions. The result will be closer to your true physical limit, but perhaps you train early in the morning at 5:30 am before your wife and kids are up. You don’t have a breakfast beforehand and your toddler woke you up twice during the night. Under these conditions, the FTP numbers from the ideal test might lead to workouts being too hard for you to complete under less-than-ideal conditions.


My very simple and quite possibly incorrect understanding is thus:

If you’re completing a SS interval at an inflated FTP level, there is a chance you’re actually working at your threshold effort.

For me, the negative aspects of this are workload (stress) and recovery. You might have too much of one and not enough of the other.

A positive aspect could be you develop great levels of mental toughness.


I don’t totally agree that the only scenario where a ramp test inflates an FTP is as you describe for two reasons. Firstly it isn’t a measure of FTP, it’s an estimate using a test to failure through riding into anaerobic zones. The second reason is related to the first, people have varying aerobic and anaerobic capabilities (for a given FTP) and differing failure points.

On the latter point I rode for years with a guy who had an almost identical FTP and weight, we both progressed in a similar way over time too. He could ride aerobically all day and every day, he was out of work for 18 months and did huge base mileage. I trained a fraction of the hours but spent time at SS, FTP and over. He was a steady state guy and I was punchier. He did a ramp test that put him just under his FTP estimate from a 20 min test and I was over on the same basis.

There are other threads on here which discuss some workouts being a good FTP validator.

Another friend is a diesel engine kinda rider, he chugs all day long at a high % of FTP but has zero punch. He fails early and low when doing a ramp test every single time, to the extent he has to do a 20 min test to get something representative.


Yeah, I have doubts too that you always have to train at the edge of failure. Better to tone it done a bit and be able to have consistant, productive workouts. Maybe this has to do with experience though, and if you’re new to training you don’t know how hard is hard enough.

That being said, I don’t think you have to skip the ramp tests for fear of ‘overtesting’. Most people test quite true to potential, that is statistically backed, or TR wouldn’t have implemented in that way. And if anything, it might give you a nice ego boost :grinning:

I did not mean to imply that your tested FTP can be inflated, but rather that TrainerRoad uses your FTP to scale workouts and using best case FTP numbers can result in you not being able to finish workouts under more realistic conditions.

I think this is a completely separate issue. TrainerRoad just only your FTP to scale workouts. Sufferfest, for instance, tests “4D power”, so instead of just using your FTP, they test sprint power, FTP and two more data points in between. I haven’t used Sufferfest, but I assume that they use all these data points to tailor workouts to your power profile.

This topic has come up in the podcast in the past, and according to Coach Chad, there isn’t a (good enough?) scientific basis to parametrically scale workouts based on more than your FTP.

[quote=“Boombang, post:5, topic:24815”]
There are other threads on here which discuss some workouts being a good FTP validator.[/quote]
I don’t think this is what we are talking about here. If, say, you “overtest” your FTP, then a workout with 85 % FTP intervals could become one with 92 % FTP intervals. You can still do them, yes, they are below your FTP after all, but you will accumulate more TSS (relative to your true FTP) and accumulate more fatigue over time. The rest might not be enough to deal with the extra fatigue, which then results in you failing workouts more and more often. So you don’t need to encounter intervals at your FTP or higher to verify your FTP or fail.

Plus, there is a mental component. FTP was meant to be your 1-hour power. Without training few will be mentally capable to handle that.

  1. You can still do the Ramp test, accept the FTP result, and then adjust it down by an estimated value afterwards.

    • As mentioned, you are not alone on “overtesting” via the Ramp. There and many post in at least a couple of threads on this very issue.

    • Many just learn what percentage to drop that final test value to make it work for them.

  2. You can change to either the 1x20-minute or 2x8-minute FTP test protocols.

    • They still exist in the TR library because some people prefer the format or find that the tests do a better job of establishing the FTP that works for setting their training zones better.

    • These tests are different and more challenging in ways, but either one may be a better fit for you and your needs.

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I’m wondering if people are considering how much higher a ramp test FTP may be for an inexperienced rider vs an experienced rider. As you gain experience doing ramp tests, you inevitably get “better” at them, and you start to index your workouts higher and higher against your true physiologic limit. It’s exciting when FTP increases by 30% or more in a single year for some people - but it also sometimes sounds more like ramp test skill increased along with other things like nutrition. Don’t get me wrong, gaining experience in how to push further and further on a ramp test is extremely valuable and will probably lead to more real world speed (maybe even more than increasing muscle mitochondria or some other physiologic measure), but there seems to be a point where a ramp test begins to truly bump against physiologic limits, leading people to think they have plateau’d, when in reality maybe they have just developed more ramp test skill. And to be clear, this skill is valuable and worth developing - next time you’re racing up a 10 min climb, think about your last ramp test and if there are any similarities.

Maybe it’s important to consider this given the risk of mental fatigue when the really big gains stop coming. Coaches on the podcast have mentioned a few times that realistic gains year over year for TSS and FTP are in the 3-5% range, not the 20-30% that some people get when first starting. Maybe when people think they have plateau’d, sometimes they have actually transitioned from a less experienced rider to a more experienced rider?

How’s that for a positive spin? :smiley:

Just some thoughts, thanks for reading!!


I cannot think of a world where having your FTP set too high would be a benefit. Everything that is happening in your body is also happening 10w lower if you are below threshold, it’s just slightly slower.

When you get above threshold, you start to massively reduce the amount of total work you can do as well as increase the time it takes for you to recover for your next workout.

I’ve “been there done that” with the vanity FTP and it feels great to talk about, but I’d much rather hit my workouts, recover, and be able to train more.

My personal experience is that when I had 335w FTP but with low TTE, training sucked and was so frustrating and I stalled out chasing the “harder” workouts all the time.


Agreed. When it doubt, lower FTP setting is better than higher.


Me too. Especially during ramp test beta testing. Could nail the sweetspot and even threshold workouts (including lamarck), but every VO2 max workout I had to bail/ pause/ reduce intensity. I probably wasted the guts of a season of training.


I appreciate all your thoughts here. I think @mcneese.chad kind of sums up my feelings - better to train to a lower FTP setting if in doubt.

As an addendum - today i completed Donner having raised my FTP 6W (270-276W). As my first threshold workout since the rIse i felt it was going to put my new estimated FTP to the test.

So Donner was fine, tough yes, never felt i couldn’t finish, really got in the zone in the final interval. My FTP maybe actually a little higher but the challenge today seemed appropriate.

i may do an FTP test soon just to compare but i think ive learnt a fair bit over the last year to know how i fair in sweetspot and threshold workouts and how my body reacts.


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My experience with a higher (accurate) FTP versus and intentionally lower (10-15 watts, which is what I do) is that the physiological impact of using a higher FTP takes a larger tole on my body, manifesting as cramps, muscle soreness, overall body stiffness, and some shape pains in my badly damaged joint and ligaments. I like to ride outside and XC ski on my days off the trainer so I am OK with a slightly lower ROI using a lower FTP.

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