FTP Test and Ramp Tests, does the end justify the means?

Does the manner of the test alter the alter outcome of the test?

20 min FTP = ??? FTP, or
Ramp Test = ??? FTP

Or is it just time constraints, or personal preference?

TIA

Per Ardua

My personal opinion is that it’s very difficult to time everything in a 20 minute ftp such that you nail it and finish at the last second with nothing left in the tank. Did you do the first 5 minutes too easy? The last 5 too hard and have to back off a bit?

With the Ramp, you go until you die. You might have a bad day on the bike which gives you lower than expected, but if you go till you can’t go any more, you know you did the best you could do that day.

Having said that, I would do the FTP instead if you have physical reasons for not being able to push super high watts (example, I have a tricky knee that can make me quit the ramps even though my legs and lungs had more to give).

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Both tests are etimates of your ftp. The ramp test assumes that your ftp is 75% of your best one-minute power. With a 20 min test, you usually take 95% as your ftp. But both percentages can be different, depending on your fitness. With the ramp test, a especially high or low vo2max will affect it, and some people over or under test. Similar with the 20min test, though perhaps less extreme. On the other hand, if you don’t already know your ftp fairly well, its very hard to pace the 20 min test.

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I agree regarding the timing thats why I prefer the RT

Exactly my thoughts, even though I know my last FTP, do I 2,5 or 10% higher than my last.

Ill stick to RPs for continuety as I know ill stop when Im dead

Studies have shown that ramp tests give a pretty accurate estimate of power-at-VO2max (pVO2max).

But ramp tests were not originally designed to estimate FTP. It is a hack ‘discovered’ by Coach Ric Stern in the 1990s. Trying to use a fixed percentage like 75% is really just a ballpark guess at FTP. It is really that simple.

As a result, its one reason you see threads popping up and concluding with “the ramp test overestimated my FTP” because it became obvious that workouts were too hard.

GPLama covered the topic of ramp tests with Dr. Stephen Lane and his recommendation was to use the ramp test to obtain MAP (power at VO2max), and then use (82% of that) to pace a 20-minute test to get a better estimate of FTP. Coach Ric Stern said the same.

Going back to the science, in podcast 189 and in original How VO2 Max Work Makes You Fast — The Science Behind It All blog post (info below has been removed during 2020 rewrite), Coach Chad explains:

  • the last minute of a ramp test is power-at-VO2max or “pVO2max”
  • FTP is generally 78-85% pVO2max
  • when its 78% do more sweet spot, and when its 85% do more vo2max intervals

So what does all this mean in practice?

  • ramp test is pretty accurate at estimating power at VO2max
  • your FTP is some fraction of pVO2max, and it changes over one or several training blocks
  • developing a good feel for riding at FTP is both a skill and helpful with deciding if you have a good ftp estimate or not

Kinda messy, huh?

You can see why some just say “accept ramp results and move on” and others suggest doing a 20-min test or a threshold workout or a long ride at estimated FTP to help decide if ramp’s FTP estimate is reasonable or not.

Australia’s Dr. Stephen Lane recommends using ramp (with 2.5 minute steps) to estimate FTP and then use that to do a 20-minute test in this 2016 GPLama YouTube video that pre-dates TR’s use of the ramp test: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZtKTdf9yhZE

In the past TR has recommended doing a threshold workout as a simple test to confirm your FTP. I think that is a good recommendation for anyone using the ramp test. My personal favorite is doing 20-min tests somewhat infrequently, and then doing something longer (40-70 minutes long) to confirms my new FTP and training zones. In addition such a long test gives great confidence in ability to ride hard with a faster group, or pace a long climb, or pace a breakaway / time trial.

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Do you think that it makes sense for older athletes to lean towards 20 minute and longer tests over ramp tests?

I recently saw a video by Steven Seiler about a study that investigated decline in FTP and VO2max across age groups. They saw that FTP did not decline as quickly or as significantly as VO2max as the subjects aged and part of the reason for FTP not declining as much was fractional utilization (FTP as a percentage of pVO2max) increased.

Seems to me that if someone has high fractional utilization the 75% of MAP will underestimate FTP and if fractional utilization increases with age the ramp test would tend to underestimate FTP as one grows older. I am inclined to also think that the ramp would not work as well for people with ‘classic’ timetrialist power profiles (strong 20+min, okay 5min, not so great 1min or 15sec) as they are likely to have high fractional utilization.

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Yes I think that is another reason. If you want to get fancy, do a ramp test for a good vo2max estimate and 20-min or longer for an FTP estimate. Then calculate FTP/vo2max (fractional utilization) and per Coach Chad use that to determine when to push up FTP from below (via sweet spot), and when to switch to vo2max work.

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I’m not sure if I should say fortunately or unfortunately, but I need to focus on vo2max work. :sob: My FTP has been up around 85% of pVO2max for a while. I’m currently having a little analysis paralysis as to whether to go with a traditional base -> vo2max focused build progression or polarized base -> threshold focused build.

Is there a consensus yet on the actual definition of FTP?

Do we have a inkling of how to find our FTP based on this generally accepted definition (assuming there is one).

AFAIK Andrew Coggan was one of the originators of the term so I would go with his definition.

It is basically an estimate of power output at a certain physiological state: anaerobic threshold / lactate threshold / maximal lactate steady state. To measure it you’d need to do a different kind of ramp test, probably on a trainer, and have blood drawn and lactate measured throughout the test. By looking at the curve you could identify around where lactate threshold / maximal lactate steady state is and the approximate power at that state. I have done it, and it requires helpers and special equipment and is still prone to issues and sucks getting your finger or ear pricked over and over again. It isn’t something I would want to do every 4-6 weeks.

The field tests (ramp test, 2x8min, 20min, and other protocols) all make certain assumptions of the relationship of FTP to the power numbers produced during the test. Those assumptions may not be applicable to all people and certain individuals will have better results with one test / set of assumptions over another. I may be an outlier and because of that the ramp doesn’t work as well as a 20min+ test for me. It could be totally fine for many or most people.

Seems a bit controversial.