Have you heard people use the terms Functional Threshold Power (FTP), or Functional Threshold Heart Rate (FTHR), but never really understood what they are? Maybe you’re au fait with these terms, but you’ve never measured your own… Well read on because we’re about to clear it all up and also give you a quick 30 minute test so that you can work out your own and consign all this confusion to the past!
If you train regularly and especially if you are training for a specific goal or event then it is a good idea to do this threshold test so you can make sure you are training in the right zones at the right time – we’ll post more about training zones and give some ideas for sessions to effectively utilize these zones shortly so make sure you check back.
This test will determine your Functional Threshold, from which you can then calculate your training zones. Your functional threshold is the highest level of physical activity that you can maintain for approximately 1hr and is commonly called your Functional Threshold Power (FTP) or Functional Threshold Heart Rate (FTHR) depending on the unit of measurement.
WARNING: Before taking part in this test or any physical exercise make sure that you are fit and healthy and free from injury. If you are new to cycling it is recommended that you spend some time building up your base fitness before undertaking this test. If you have any concerns about your health you should seek the advice of a medical professional.
The test can be conducted on either a static or road bike, but you must have a reliable method for measuring either your power output (for FTP) or your heart rate (FTHR). If you’re riding on the road make sure it is free from technical components and that you have a section in the middle with a clean run that will take you at least 30 minutes to complete (or do laps).
The test takes 30 minutes to complete, but you should be sufficiently warmed up before you start so we would recommend riding for up to 30 minutes gradually increasing in intensity and with 2 or 3 short burst (30 secs) of higher intensity.
Once you are warmed up and at the point you want to start the test start riding as hard as you think you can sustain for 30 minutes, aim to have your cadence around 100rpm. After 10 minutes start recording your average heart rate or power output and continue at the same intensity for the remaining 20 minutes. After the remaining 20 minutes have been completed stop recording.
If you recorded HR then your average HR for the final 20 minutes of the test will be your FTHR. If you recorded power then you will have to reduce your 20 minute power reading by 5% to account for the decreased power output you would achieve if you completed a full hour. This is then your FTP.
After you have completed the test you should warm down for at least another 20-30 minutes some of which should be at medium to high intensity – finish with 5 minutes low intensity so the heart rate can return to ‘normal’.
Note: In order to get an accurate result you should take note of the following points:
- Make sure you are fully warmed up before you start.
- The effort for the full 30 minutes should be maximal and sustained. Don’t just slack off the first 10 minutes because they’re not being recorded as you’ll get an inaccurate result and you’re only doing it for your own benefit so that’s pointless.
- It will HURT, but you knew that anyway. To quote Roger Bannister – The man who can drive himself further once the effort gets painful is the man who will win. – Well said Roger!
Don’t forget to check back soon for more info on training zones and how you can utilize them effectively with some of our ideas for training sessions…