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When is it worth doing an FTP test?

meanredspidermeanredspider Posts: 12,550
I'm busy training quite hard at the moment and I've got myself a power meter. For each ride of each type I'm seeing the NP stepping up. This, from what I can follow, suggests my FTP is probably climbing too. I'm not particularly interested in knowing my FTP for the sake of it nor am I if it's constantly changing. When is it worth doing and why?

If it helps, I'm training for Alpe D'HuZes (6x up ADH in a day) - improved endurance rather than power is going to be my friend in any case. But I'm hooked on this power malarky
ROAD < Scott Foil HMX Di2, Volagi Liscio Di2, Jamis Renegade Elite Di2, Cube Reaction Race > ROUGH
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  • jibberjimjibberjim Posts: 2,810
    Every week, or never, both are possibly fine. What it really matters is what you use FTP for, if you train BY IT, picking powers based on some arbitrary percentage, then as you get fitter then the intensity of your sessions get easier and easier - that's probably not what you want. So very regular testing required - but of course you need to balance against that the chance of getting it wrong. Personally I think that it's useless training that way, both because the percentages of FTP that target specific areas are individual and will likely change over fitness changes, and because you can never know your FTP.

    If you only use it for waving on forums, test it whenever you want, or just make up a number from what your training suggests.
    Jibbering Sports Stuff: http://jibbering.com/sports/
  • napoleondnapoleond Posts: 18,633
    I redo mine when I find the power of my 'sweet spot' efforts based on HR are at my prev FTP.
    Just done another and there was a 38w increase in 6 weeks. Next time it may take 6 months to get 10w. Dunno. But that's what I do anyway.
    Twitter - @NapD
    Strava - Alex Taylor (sportstest.co.uk)
    ABCC Cycling Coach
  • StalinStalin Posts: 208
    edited April 2014
    Post deleted
  • meanredspidermeanredspider Posts: 12,550
    Stalin wrote:
    napoleond wrote:
    I redo mine when I find the power of my 'sweet spot' efforts based on HR are at my prev FTP.
    Just done another and there was a 38w increase in 6 weeks. Next time it may take 6 months to get 10w. Dunno. But that's what I do anyway.


    Andrew Coggan, "If you know your power, then at best heart rate is redundant, but at worst it is misleading."

    If it's OK, I'd prefer not to bring that debate onto this thread too :wink:
    ROAD < Scott Foil HMX Di2, Volagi Liscio Di2, Jamis Renegade Elite Di2, Cube Reaction Race > ROUGH
  • StalinStalin Posts: 208
    edited April 2014
    Post deleted
  • okgookgo Posts: 4,368
    Training is testing, testing is training and you all know how the rest goes.
    Blog on my first and now second season of proper riding/racing - www.firstseasonracing.com
  • jibberjimjibberjim Posts: 2,810
    Stalin wrote:
    To be fair to Dr Coggan, I don't think his training levels are arbitrary. As I understand it his levels are set with sound physiological reasons in mind. The levels merge into one another anyway.

    But the variations in individuals are huge, so whilst there may be physiological reasons for the on average global population, they're as likely as anything to be wrong for your individual physiology.
    Jibbering Sports Stuff: http://jibbering.com/sports/
  • StalinStalin Posts: 208
    edited April 2014
    Post deleted
  • meanredspidermeanredspider Posts: 12,550

    If it's OK, I'd prefer not to bring that debate onto this thread too :wink:

    Seems I was too late.....
    ROAD < Scott Foil HMX Di2, Volagi Liscio Di2, Jamis Renegade Elite Di2, Cube Reaction Race > ROUGH
  • napoleondnapoleond Posts: 18,633
    :?: Interesting (to me) how my training guided by hr has given me bigger improvements with less 'burnout' than when I've previously trained solely on power.
    This was following a detailed physiological test that told me at which HR certain things happen to my woeful excuse of a body.
    Horses for courses. I wouldn't be without my pm.
    Twitter - @NapD
    Strava - Alex Taylor (sportstest.co.uk)
    ABCC Cycling Coach
  • StalinStalin Posts: 208
    napoleond wrote:
    :?: Interesting (to me) how my training guided by hr has given me bigger improvements with less 'burnout' than when I've previously trained solely on power.
    This was following a detailed physiological test that told me at which HR certain things happen to my woeful excuse of a body.
    Horses for courses. I wouldn't be without my pm.

    Interesting to see what Alex Simmons and some others who are anti using heart rate with power think of this approach.

    Can you expand on the thinking behind the approach?
  • napoleondnapoleond Posts: 18,633
    My body goes through various physiological states at various specific HRs (e.g. start using glycogen, go anaerobic, threshold). The coach prescribed some pretty basic training sessions that I have been able to do consistently, previously used to burn out.
    The 'endurance' rides meant I managed a 4hr ride (59 miles) last week on no breakfast and just one bottle of water. No food/energy drink whatsoever during. By keeping my HR below a certain point as much as possible it meant I wasn't using much glycogen. As someone who was always a pure glycogen burner it's been great for me for becoming more efficient and losing weight. I used to be a right sugar monster!
    In the sweet spot type efforts I've been keeping my HR in a certain area, just below a certain point, although I was trying to pace these well so I didn't start too hard and have to really knock it off. In these sessions I looked at my power to assist my pacing.
    My 'FTP' when I had this test (with http://www.sportstest.co.uk) 6 weeks ago was 232 (I used 235). Although the test didn't give me 'FTP' he extrapolated from the data that it was about that. That is the figure I got through testing a week or so before the test. So, 20 minute tests -5% seem to work well for me!
    My FTP test the other day was 270 and I'm now 3.2kg lighter.
    It works for me. May not work for everyone.
    I don't anticipate a linear improvement and think things may start tapering off. I'm having another test with Sportstest in about 6 weeks or so.
    Twitter - @NapD
    Strava - Alex Taylor (sportstest.co.uk)
    ABCC Cycling Coach
  • meanredspidermeanredspider Posts: 12,550
    Yes - intuitively (I give up and have been drawn in) you expect some correlation between HR and what your body was up to. I've used the <70% HR long slow rides to increase my fat burning adaptation because I too was an 80-85% HR rider. Now, whether that is better measured with a PM rather than an HRM I'm not sure. There's a clear, if not precise, relationship between %power and %HR so one might serve as a rough proxy for the other - it probably depends upon what you're trying to achieve.
    ROAD < Scott Foil HMX Di2, Volagi Liscio Di2, Jamis Renegade Elite Di2, Cube Reaction Race > ROUGH
  • napoleondnapoleond Posts: 18,633
    There was a specific HR for me where I started using too much glycogen, I was basically anaerobic straight away, this HR was really low. REALLY low. 141bpm. Much lower than expected or anticipated from FTP training zones or zones based on Max or threshold HR. My threshold is 167, max 193. As soon as I went above 141 it was only a matter of time before I popped.
    This is why I was always buggered! It was also why I had no endurance. It works out now at about 55-60% FTP!
    However, now I know this and know what to do with it my riding has been transformed.
    Twitter - @NapD
    Strava - Alex Taylor (sportstest.co.uk)
    ABCC Cycling Coach
  • meanredspidermeanredspider Posts: 12,550
    Interesting. I know if I ride at 140bpm, I can ride all day, day-in, day-out. That's actually the threshold I set myself for my long slow rides (my HRmax is 183 though). Dunno what that is relative to my FTP though because I've never done the test. My NP for a 2-hour ride yesterday was 250W and using the technique of looking where the power starts to drop off on my power distribution, somewhere slightly north of 260W would be a fair guess. Going back to my original question, I'm still not sure why knowing this accurately is that important - it's probably slightly more than 260W but I really doubt it's as much as 280W - 265 at a guess. That feels good enough.
    ROAD < Scott Foil HMX Di2, Volagi Liscio Di2, Jamis Renegade Elite Di2, Cube Reaction Race > ROUGH
  • napoleondnapoleond Posts: 18,633
    I now see FTP more as a marker of where my performance is than for setting zones. Or for pacing a 25m TT... On the track, where I will be racing this year, it's meaningless to me. Not least I can't see my bike computer and have no power data to analyse...
    Twitter - @NapD
    Strava - Alex Taylor (sportstest.co.uk)
    ABCC Cycling Coach
  • StalinStalin Posts: 208
    napoleond wrote:
    There was a specific HR for me where I started using too much glycogen, I was basically anaerobic straight away, this HR was really low. REALLY low. 141bpm. Much lower than expected or anticipated from FTP training zones or zones based on Max or threshold HR. My threshold is 167, max 193. As soon as I went above 141 it was only a matter of time before I popped.
    This is why I was always buggered! It was also why I had no endurance. It works out now at about 55-60% FTP!
    However, now I know this and know what to do with it my riding has been transformed.

    141bpm is for you 73% of your maximum heart rate of 193bpm. Many believe that doing the bulk of your training below 75% of maximum heart rate, i.e. a 'polarised' approach works better than doing the bulk of training at or near threshold.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16430681

    http://www.sportsci.org/2009/ss.htm
  • meanredspidermeanredspider Posts: 12,550
    Stalin wrote:
    141bpm is for you 73% of your maximum heart rate of 193bpm. Many believe that doing the bulk of your training below 75% of maximum heart rate, i.e. a 'polarised' approach works better than doing the bulk of training at or near threshold.

    You don't take into account HRrest then? The technique I use does and reckons, for 70% you subtract HRrest from HRmax, multiply that by 70% then add back the HRrest.

    So if NapD's HRrest was, say, 55, then (193-55) x 0.7 + 55 = would give him a 70% HR of 151
    ROAD < Scott Foil HMX Di2, Volagi Liscio Di2, Jamis Renegade Elite Di2, Cube Reaction Race > ROUGH
  • napoleondnapoleond Posts: 18,633
    I do blocks of 3 days on, 1 day off due to my shifts. In each block I'm doing 2 days at this 'low' zone, sometimes only an hour due to work, and one day at higher intensities, be that a track session, race, structured interval session outside, turbo, whatever. Or a long 'easy' ride such as that 4hrs on empty one. Whatever you classify it as, call it etc it's working like a charm!
    Twitter - @NapD
    Strava - Alex Taylor (sportstest.co.uk)
    ABCC Cycling Coach
  • StalinStalin Posts: 208
    Stalin wrote:
    141bpm is for you 73% of your maximum heart rate of 193bpm. Many believe that doing the bulk of your training below 75% of maximum heart rate, i.e. a 'polarised' approach works better than doing the bulk of training at or near threshold.

    You don't take into account HRrest then? The technique I use does and reckons, for 70% you subtract HRrest from HRmax, multiply that by 70% then add back the HRrest.

    So if NapD's HRrest was, say, 55, then (193-55) x 0.7 + 55 = would give him a 70% HR of 151

    http://www.sportsci.org/2009/ss.htm

    Not in this instance, there is an example above where 85% of training was at 55% to 75% of maximum heart rate.
  • meanredspidermeanredspider Posts: 12,550
    Stalin wrote:
    http://www.sportsci.org/2009/ss.htm

    Not in this instance, there is an example above where 85% of training was at 55% to 75% of maximum heart rate.

    Jeez - my life is too short to read all of that - but I agree with the principle: it's the same as the methodology I follow. The book I use is just much easier to read. Basically he says train below 70% (measured by "my" method) on long, slow days. Then, on fast short days, he doesn't care what you do. He says it's usually harder to get athletes to go slow enough than it is to go fast.
    ROAD < Scott Foil HMX Di2, Volagi Liscio Di2, Jamis Renegade Elite Di2, Cube Reaction Race > ROUGH
  • napoleondnapoleond Posts: 18,633
    Tbh I never read any of that pubmed/sportsci stuff.
    Twitter - @NapD
    Strava - Alex Taylor (sportstest.co.uk)
    ABCC Cycling Coach
  • StalinStalin Posts: 208
    Out of interest, did the coaches say how stable the 141 bpm heart rate might be over time etc?
  • napoleondnapoleond Posts: 18,633
    No, hence I'm going back in another few weeks. It'll be interesting to see what the next test says!
    Twitter - @NapD
    Strava - Alex Taylor (sportstest.co.uk)
    ABCC Cycling Coach
  • meanredspidermeanredspider Posts: 12,550
    Here's a real précis of the book I have followed to good effect

    http://www.marshallcf.com/assets/book_r ... 0Idiot.pdf

    It just talks about running here (that's when I started using this) but does cover cycling in the full version. There are two broad concepts for training Hard and training Easy

    1. It leads to more fat burning adaptation
    2. The Easy days allow you to recover for the Hard days

    I like it for it's simplicity and I've found it effective.
    ROAD < Scott Foil HMX Di2, Volagi Liscio Di2, Jamis Renegade Elite Di2, Cube Reaction Race > ROUGH
  • napoleondnapoleond Posts: 18,633
    That seems to be pretty much what I'm doing
    Twitter - @NapD
    Strava - Alex Taylor (sportstest.co.uk)
    ABCC Cycling Coach
  • StalinStalin Posts: 208
    napoleond wrote:
    No, hence I'm going back in another few weeks. It'll be interesting to see what the next test says!


    Sorry another question, was it their idea to train using the heart rate 141bpm as opposed to the power which occurred at that heart rate? As your FTP has improved the power number where the physiological changes take place would also have moved.
  • napoleondnapoleond Posts: 18,633
    Yeah, stick to the heart rate, the power will obviously increase as a function of improved fitness, the heart rate not so much. Then have a retest and see where I am.
    Twitter - @NapD
    Strava - Alex Taylor (sportstest.co.uk)
    ABCC Cycling Coach
  • StalinStalin Posts: 208
    Napoleon, So a substantial improvement has been made by decreasing the intensity of the bulk of your training. Have you increased the hours spent training or has that remained constant?
  • napoleondnapoleond Posts: 18,633
    As a result of me not being permanently battered and having better structure around my shifts I've managed to increase my hours a little.
    However all that has happened is I'm still doing the intensity although more controlled but I've added about 4hrs of low intensity around this.
    Twitter - @NapD
    Strava - Alex Taylor (sportstest.co.uk)
    ABCC Cycling Coach
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