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Bite Size - Re-thinking The FTP

Fellow worshipers at The Church of Watts, we’ve been praising a false idol… we should have been polytheistic, not monotheistic this whole time.

Let me explain.

Functional threshold power, or FTP, is generally defined as the max power you can produce for one hour. That’s a very different number than the power you can generate for five seconds or one minute. And while you can use formulas to extrapolate out from this one baseline to create targeted training plans, there’s just too much variation in the population for those numbers to be really accurate.

There’s a difference between aerobic and anaerobic athletes.

If you’re a crit racer, you can go really deep for 20 minutes, but if you’re an Ironman athlete, you’re going to do better at a longer, steady state test.

These differences are both genetic and trained. But when you give both of these athletes the same test and use it to determine how hard they should be training both for long and short intervals, you’re going to end up with Ironman athletes doing short, hard efforts that are beyond their capacity and crit racers who never get challenged to really “dig.”

The best test there is, is really miserable…

Athletes start with a 12-minute warm-up, then do two 7-second max sprints. From this, a 5-second max watt value is generated.

After a rest period, athletes do a 5-minute max test, which measures max aerobic capacity. Then you get six minutes of recovery, followed by a 20-minute traditional FTP test. Since you’re already fatigued, your average power for this 20 minutes equals your FTP number, there’s no need to take away a percentage, like in many standard FTP tests.

Finally, you finish with a 1-minute sprint, because you clearly haven’t suffered enough already.

As you wipe the sick off your lower lip, though, you can finally revel in possessing a range of numbers that fine tunes your workouts just for you no matter your blessings from the FTP god(s).

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