What is FTP, how do you measure it, and why should you take it with a pinch of salt?

FTP, or Functional Threshold Power, serves as the baseline fitness test for cyclists. In simple terms, it represents the maximum power output, measured in watts, sustained over an hour. And, at its core, it gauges how hard you can pedal for 60 minutes.

Thankfully, the test doesn't demand pedalling flat out for an hour (though you could if you fancy it). Instead, there are slightly gentler methods.


The ramp test

My preferred method is the ramp test, which lasts between 8 to 30 minutes. If you're on a smart trainer, it gradually ramps up the resistance until you can't keep up the cadence. If you’re on the road or using a non-smart turbo trainer, you’ll need to know the power output steps you can sustain. Reach a certain power level, stop the test, and calculate your FTP based on that result.


20-minute maximal power output test

Another method involves a 20-minute maximal power output test. This can be indoors or outdoors. Take XX% of your 20-minute power result to estimate your FTP. For an extra boost, try your local club's 10-mile TT. The finish line tends to bring out those extra couple of %.


How often should you test?

I recommend testing your FTP roughly every 6 weeks. Personally, I've noticed that FTP can fluctuate by 5% in either direction due to various external factors: power meter calibration, health, atmospheric conditions, stress levels, time of day, day of the week, hydration, and nutrition.



On test day, don't put too much pressure on yourself. If you're feeling off or way off the pace early on, it's okay to call it quits. Remember, if you're consistently doing the training, progress should be happening regardless. Alternatively, if you're feeling in top form, go for it!

For me, the club 10 served as my FTP test and also as my racing laboratory. Beyond fitness, I delved into pacing strategies, aerodynamics, equipment, outright speed, and more. These distractions shifted my focus away from that power number, which, let's be honest, will never be as high as we want it. Nonetheless, celebrating progression is crucial!


3 Sessions to Boost Your FTP

Assuming most of you don't have a 25-30 hour/week access to the bike, here are the main sessions I found effective in ramping up the FTP, especially with limited time:


Over Unders:

15-min warmup
20-mins (2-mins z5, 3-mins z3 x4)
10-min rest
20-mins (2-mins high z4, 3-mins low z4 x4)
10-min cool down
VO2 Max Session: (Need guidance here)



15-min warmup
3x 10-mins at sweet spot (top of z3 bottom of z4)
5-mins rest
10-min cool down

Bonus Neuromuscular Session:
This session aims to enhance neuromuscular control and joint stability.


15-min warmup

Sprint in a seated position from a standstill, gradually increasing the gearing
8-second sprint with 8-mins rest in between, varied gear and cadence combinations
4x (4-min z2 at 110rpm, 4-min rest)
Full-Time Bike Rider Bonus: Long Slow Endurance

Rides of 3+ hours at z2 intensity.


What’s really important when it comes to FTP

While FTP tests offer a glimpse into your capabilities, try and remember that they’re just a part of the bigger picture. Preparation, consistency, and even the occasional off day are all part of the game.

The FTP test is like a checkpoint, a chance to track progress and refine your approach. It’s not just about that power number; it’s about celebrating every step forward in your cycling adventure. So, keep pedalling, keep pushing, and enjoy the ride!

If you want to learn more about how we train here at Thighs Club, take a look at our options here.

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