New to power-based training: 3 months in, FTP dropping/fluctuating

Dear TR forum members,

After a hiatus of basically any sport of about 9-10 years, I started training again fall 2019 with the purchase of a Wahoo Kickr.
Since January, I use TR to get some structure going forward.
My FTP has increased since October from about 220 to a bit below 300 now, which is a nice improvement. For a better understaing of the below images/results: my max HR is around 184 and I always calibrate my quarq and Kickr.

I have used 291 W as my FTP to base my training on over the last month, and this was very much manageable (VO2max work was very, very tough, but sub-treshold work was relatively easy). On recent endurance rides I typically can maintain around 220-230 W without my heart rate going above 130-135, while a month ago my heart rate would easily be 150 at that output. So I feel I improved a lot over the last weeks. Which was confirmed by the first outdoor groupride where I felt good all day and the numbers were encouraging.

Howver, the TR Ramp test yesterday turned out very poorly. I failed the test a lot sooner as expected, and the FTP turned out lower as my previous tests (I am now after Build phase 1, starting Build phase 2).
I know outside and inside are not really comparable, but the difference in being able to sustain 350 W outside (see image), measured with a Quarq, as well as being able to sustain 310 W 3h in the ride for over 20 minutes with relative ease, and the TR Ramp test giving me an FTP of 279 is way too much.
Especially since my previous FTP tests indoor (both 20 minutes and ramp, same set-up, same cooling, but without TR powermatch feature, as I didn’t own a Quarq yet), gave me an FTP of around 290 W.

Now I am feeling very much unsure on how to proceed. I have manually adjusted my FTP in TR to 300 as that is what I feel should be in the right region based on my recent training performances. But it could also be that my training last month based on an FTP of 291 W, was too high due to the previous tests overestimating. I am very much afraid that VO2max work will be too intensive now, while if I keep my FTP at 280 as per the last Ramp test, I am not training hard enough. Ofcourse I can manually adjust every time, but at that point I do not see much benefit in doing any FTP testing going forward.
Ofcourse I can retest, but to get a decent estimate, I need to be well rested, which forces me to skip planned training, just to do the test.

I assume I am not the first, neither the last to face the issue of tests being off (or not going as expected). Thus I assume there are people who have dealt with this issue and now how to best proceed.
What would be the wise decision?

Below some pictures of tests and a VO2 max training for reference of HR/power output.

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This is interesting, more so for me given we have a similar profile. My FTP is 293w, it has not grown much after the build phases etc in all honestly, like what you’ve said but outdoors I am also feeling extra strong. One extra: i have got leaner for sure, how about you? How do you feel qualitatively? This also I think is an important measure (feel based measures).

the 20 min test might in general be a better way forward for you, but I would not stress about the ftp number. If you’ve tuned it and it feels like the workouts are how they are designed to feel, you are probably in the right area to make progress.

Interested in replies as I feel fairly similar to this too. I have an ftp test come Monday.

First thing’s first, use the same power measuring tool every ride. So use powermatch with your Quarq indoors. There’s no point in comparing Kickr reported power with the Quarq reported power, especially if you don’t need to.

Secondly, why do you think you performed poorly on the ramp test? Did you quit at a similar RPE to normal? Or did you feel like you prematurely stopped, maybe due to fatigue or poor fuelling? If the former, this ramp test is an accurate measure of your FTP and I would use the FTP number it suggests. If the latter, move forward with your plan using your original FTP and see what happens.

It’s not uncommon for people to have difficulty with either sustained power or VO2 max and manually adjust to compensate for their strengths/weaknesses. You may need to do this too.

Unless I’ve missed it, you didn’t say what FTP your most recent ramp test gave you?


Sepp, just one point…

I was glad to see you write this because it makes this next point much easier to convey…I’m not sure you followed your own advice here! Typically, TR will give you a week of easy stuff before a ramp test. For instance, if I look at general build mid volume week 4 (just before a ramp test) I see pettit, pettit, whorl, mokelumne +1, boarstone…that means intensity factors 0.63, 0.63, 0.63, 0.65, 0.7. Not tame stuff but definitely not stressful.

If I look at your week previous to the 12feb ramp test I see almost 500 tss. If I look at your week previous to the 11jan ramp test I see only 371 tss & the two days immediately previous to the test you took rest. Three days previous to your 12feb ramp test you did a big 218 TSS 0.84 IF effort…the day before you did an 87tss 0.74if effort (which I think was a race).

So this is maybe a simple case of carrying a little fatigue into the ramp test, what do you think?

What about this? Don’t do Palisade tomorrow. Do Pettit instead. Push the 15feb ramp test out a day and just write off Juneau -1…do the ramp test that day instead. Then you will come into the ramp test with about the same training load you had back in January. Try to use like-for-like power sources…

I think you’ll get a better read on your improvement this way.


I agree that feeling is an important measure too.
But that is kindoff the dilemma:
-do I go on feeling with the risk of going too hard in training and reaching peak fitness way too early, burning myself out and having nowhere to go but a midseason base to reset and give up on this first season.
-or do I go on the numbers and dial it back a bit (or retest). From outside riding I think it is clear my FTP should be around 300, possible even 310. The Ramp test just gave me 279, which is down from 291 a month earlier. Was I going too hard previously?

First: Agreed, I only have the quarq recently, so now I go on the Quarq. Outside I performed better then my previously set indoor FTP would indicate, however, the indoor Ramp gave me a lower number then previously (279 watt)

Second: It became hard to push on, but if I look at cadence compared to before, I grinded longer the first Ramp test. But looking at HR (177 at the end), I would say I went far enough. I could have squeezed out some extra seconds probably, and completed the last minute, but fail immediately with the next step up. That would have given me some extra watts in FTP, but not put me at pair with the previous test. Fueling/fatigue could be. I had a hard ride on sunday, took a monday rest, went for a short endurance ride on zwift on tuesday where I easily was keeping around 220-240 W at HR 130-140 for 1.5 hours. I took that as a sign I was recovered, but maybe there was some fatigue.

It is clear for me that VO2max work is hard for me, but that might be just having very limited experience. Generally I would say I am more of a diesel fro sure.

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I’m having a hard time understanding your testing protocol and measuring device, so this may be incorrect - please let me know if I’ve misunderstood.

Did your previous FTP test (that gave you 291W) come from a ramp test done with the kickr measuring power and your most recent FTP test (that gave you 280W) come from a ramp test done with the quarq measuring power?

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Great points and thanks for having such a detailed look.

Initially, the ramp test was planned on tuesday after a day of rest. The sunday before a 2 hour endurance ride was planned. However, the weather was nice and I joined a club, so I joined them on a ride instead, which was indeed much more intense and longer as initially scheduled. For that reason I put the Ramp test to wednesday instead and did an easy ride on Tuesday (not a race :wink: average HR of 132, I was just talking and reading some stuff on my mobile phone). I took that as a sign I was recovered.
Some fatigue is however a definitive possibillity that can’t be excluded. But would that lead to such drastic reductions in Ramp test performance?

Thanks a lot for the suggestions on the training plan!
I am a bit afraid of pushing planned training out of the way for the sake of testing. In the end we use the numbers only to get the training right. I am not sure about skipping workouts just to perform well in a test to be honest. Is that really worth it? I was planning on redoing the ramp indeed, but without powermatch this time, and record the Quarq data seperately.
I still wanted to do the London stage of the Tour de Zwift (last month of membership). What if I just do that one instead of Palisade and keep my power around 200 for the duration instead of pettit? Then have a rest tomorrow, and do the ramp on saturday, and if that goes well, ride for 15 minutes at recovery and add a shortened palisade after to keep a bit in line with the structure of the plan?

Correct. I didn’t have a Quarq previously, so I just used the Kickr. After I got a Quarq I did some dual measurments to confirm they are in line (average difference being 3-5 watt with the Quarq measuring lower. With that I did a month of training which went well, although the VO2max was very painful and hard to complete. The sub-treshhold all was easy, also the 30 minute blocks (everything with powermatch).
Outside I only had the Quarq ofcourse, and performance was much better as inside, but that is to be expected I understand.
The test yesterday was with Quarq as PM and with powermatch, so basically how I have been training for the last month. But my performance was very poor, or at least much below expectation, as I am feeling much stronger as a month back (which is to be expected since I only started training recently and improvements are big in the beginning).

I think the salient point is truly around changing your measuring device. I don’t think you need to insert a new test or make an adjustment to your FTP - the simple matter is the quarq will read differently from the kickr and you have exactly one FTP test completed on the quarq. Use that number and see how things are going in a week or two and then adjust or retest if necessary.

Don’t overreact because the number is different with a different measuring device. People often overreact and put themselves into a hole when a different power meter gives them a different (read: lower) FTP.

These same people don’t overreact when a different power meter gives them a higher FTP…human nature being what it is


Despite the other comments about technical details I think it is important to weigh up both of those options.

  • I think going on feeling is important for each rider. I would search the forum or TR site for some advice on how each zone feels, and what to expect after a given workout. I used this to add an extra few percent to my FTP and it has worked really well.
  • Use the numbers too, but over a period of time. Also consider how much of each type you have trained. The Ramp Test does rely on partly to have some VO2 strengths, hence why the 20min may suit you more. I did the 20 min test, and ended up with 290w, as opposed to the ramp which was lower. Ego-wise I kept the higher, and so far it has felt really spot on for my workouts. I reckon I am also similar, i am a complete diesel machine now and with the extra VO2s Chad is now throwing in I am starting to get that upper edge. I can however hold SS forever, which I personally like.
  • Were you going too hard? What was your recovery like? Are you completely blown the day and 2 days after?
  • How are you fuelling for the tougher workouts?

You are probably right, but that would mean that my training so far has been too hard since I have been on Quarq/Kickr powermatch for almost a month now. Although it felt all pretty manageable (just VO2max which was really really pushing it, but that is also the nature of these intervals I think).
Also, if with the Quarq as a standard now (FTP 279 with ramp inside vs. >350 W for close to 8 minutes outside seems a very big discrepancy). I know inside can be a bit lower, but 30 watt difference is a bit too far off.
So considering all the replies (Thanks so much!) most likely it is a combination of factors (outside being generally higher, changing from Kickr to Quarq as powersource (although both measure very similar if I compare side by side), too close after a hard ride (thus some fatigue), and maybe some other factors (mental: motivation, distraction. Physiological: bit low on blood sugar, Mg/Ca ions, vitamin B/hemoglobin etc. that always fluctuate a bit).

I think considering everything, I take it a bit easy for now, pick up the scheduled training with my old FTP and see if that feels right and test again in the near future without powermatch but with dual Kick/Quarq recordings.

Good point, I will do that. As I said, I haven’t been training for about 10 years, so my understanding of how certain workouts should feel and how I react on them is very limited.
I didn’t feel like going overly hard. Recovery was fine. Workouts are so short that (max 1.5h mostly) that the next day I don’t feel that anymore, much like how my winter spinning used to be when I was still in competition: very intensive, but quick recovery.
I just eat normally. I don’t really change anything based on my training. For tough workouts I usually prepare a bottle with an isotonic drink in addition to water.