I just took a ramp test today and while I was riding a thought crossed my mind- to get repeatable ramp test results you need to be sure to quit at the same RPE. Last time I took the test I decided that I probably could have gone a little longer before quitting. Today I pushed harder and my FTP increased. But I don’t know if it increased because it really went up or because I did the test better. How does everyone manage being repeatable when they quit? Do you even think about it?
I just took a ramp test today too. I personally give up when my legs or body shuts it down leaving nothing left on the table. My last ramp test I was coming off a 7 month hiatus since we just had a baby, and I think it measured too low. That or my fitness came back faster than expected. Either way I just raised the workout intensity up ~5% when they were getting too easy.
The test really only works if you push to complete failure. That failure can and does take a slightly different end each time. One day may be the legs, another the lungs, on a bad day it could be your head.
Ideally, you keep the variations between tests to a minimum and make sure to give “maximum effort” each and every time. Ignore RPE or other ideas besides stretching yourself to the limit.
I usually have to tell my brain “not yet” a few times along the way. Usually as my cadence starts to slow down at the end is when I know I’m done, but I’ve been able to push past my brains failure point during each test by telling myself “not yet”, “you’re not done”, or “don’t bitch out now” out loud
I did ramp test today, too. My point of failure is usually when cadence drops and I can’t hold around 75. Not sure if it’s my head, legs or lungs that make the command decision to stop, but it’s pretty consistent from test to test. I usually know I’m done one step before it happens. It happens so fast that I always second guess if I could have gone longer.
I appreciate this question because I feel like my most recent ramp test overestimated my FTP. That being said, I try to push hard until my legs literally give out and I’m hanging over the handlebars in pain. It’s not a good feeling and I’m sure if I were on the road doing this I would have fallen into traffic.
That being said, I do my ramp test on a 2018 Wahoo Kickr which is a smart trainer with a fairly heavy flywheel. At some point it becomes physically impossible for me to overcome the flywheel weight without standing, and since you’re not supposed to stand on a ramp test then that is when I shut it down.
Hmmm, I keep going despite my cadence dropping to 50. As long as I can keep the pedals turning without standing I’ll keep it going. But I can see your reasoning as well, when will I ever grind at 50 rpm without standing?
I usually quit before failure but failure is probably only about 20 seconds away, so for me that translates to only probably 5-8 watts higher ftp. That probably isn’t too meaningful in setting training zones so I don’t sweat it too much.
I am rather new to TR (started back in February) but after several tests I am finding my balance by not pushing to failure, rather sticking to when Chad says something like “You know this is your last minute.”
I am all for a patient, steady improvement rate rather than looking for big jumps at the cost of intense pain, so by sticking to that point I am getting a slow but steady increase in FTP, and avoid the shock of suddenly harder workouts in the next phase of the plans.
But be careful you don’t sell yourself too short. Those timed instructions from Coach Chad are set to somewhat arbitrary timing (assuming an accurate incoming FTP, conservative gains, etc.) - your many individual variables will affect how well or poorly they correspond to your ramp test on the day.
I believe that line in the instructions actually starts with the word if, “If you KNOW this is your final minute…”
Any test - in the case of FTP, a ramp, 8 minutes, 20 minutes, 60 minutes test - will have variable results, because it measures a variable thing: you. Your physical and mental ability to push yourself to the limit, regardless of the test protocol, will depend on a large set of variables, which go from what you ate and drank and in which quantity over the last few days, how well and how much you slept, what mental state you are in, what physical efforts you did over the last few days, etc. You could test to a given number, and be unable to do a threshold workout at that level the following week. Recognize the variability of your body, recognize the fact that any test is a snapshot at a given moment in a given state, monitor your performance through your training program, and adjust accordingly - increase the demand if you see you can, decrease it if you must, etc.
I’ve taken to recording my failure mode on the ramp test as one of three categories:
Muscular - I physically can’t turn the pedals any more
Cardio - I can’t keep going any more as my heart and lungs are going to explode
Mental - I just can’t bargain with myself any more to keep going (I find on these I record an FTP that is a little low but only by a few watts)
I’ve only done the test a few times so far since starting this but will be interested if I see any trends develop
I like your classifications - The Mental one is the hardest to overcome, or the most variable. The Muscular and Cardio failure mean it was a good test (at least pleasing in the sense that it wasn’t my mind being weak).
Agreed, although so far it seems like the mental failures tend to mean I’m at >90% on both cardio and muscular and can’t deal with both simultaneously so I’d likely have failed for one or the other within one interval anyway meaning my FTP seems pretty close to correct
There’s an interesting bit in one of the Flo podcasts with Steve Neal, where he talks about a rider who can go an extra 3 minutes if he sits him next to one of his team mates doing the test at the same time…
I tried to ask my wife to come next to me and give me some « don’t give up » to gain some seconds of work, but it lacked of energy and conviction from her
I should ask some cycling mates to skype, or better, we could organize collective ramp test !
Certainly would make a difference. I was a guinea pig in a study that involved multiple Vo2 Max tests over 5 weeks & having two people shout at you helped me ensure failure was from the body & less so the mind. Doing a ramp on my own, the mind tends to kick in a bit sooner.
Personally it’s all close enough to get a number to train from.
The ramp test has an unusual “reward” structure. All the other workouts have defined intervals, so I can urge myself to get to the end. Not so the ramp test, where my reward for lasting an extra minute is … another minute.
So what I do is think of the ramp test as having three phases:
Phase 1 is the warmup phase, which requires little focus or motivation.
Phase 3 starts at the duration needed to match my current FTP (around 19:30). The motivation comes from registering a bump in ftp: each additional 3 seconds means 1 W higher FTP, or something like that. The work is immense, but the motivation is strong and very granular (“just three more seconds! Now another 3!”) with a powerful reward for each micro-success.
Phase 2 is the really tough one, mentally. At least for me. It’s not easy, it’s not short, and the reward is weak (“quit now and my ftp drops”). So I try to break it down and focus on getting to the start of Phase 3. For example, at 11:30 I tell myself “I’ve now started an 8-minute assessment.” Then at 14:30 I equate it to a 5-minute interval. I continually count down the minutes and seconds. The goal is just to arrive at 19:30. That becomes my “interval,” knowing once I reach 19:30 I’ll face a very different motivator.
It’s still brutal, though.
I suspect that those who have the ability to tolerate extra pain, or look for others to sustain the effort are setting themselves up to be outliers. I assume that the test has been calibrated from a large amount of data, and caters to the central percentage of TR users, and so I doubt that it’s truly in the spirit of the test to try all the possible tricks to ignore that extra minute of pain instead of taking it in a more natural, non-masochistic way.
In the book Endure by Alex Hutchinson he mentions a study where they test to see how long you can keep your hand submerged in ice water. Elite endurance athletes tested much better than the general population. Stands to reason ability to suffer can be trained, and is part of your ftp.