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FTP: Cycling Gold Standard?

Leading out a sprint effort
Kim, S. (2023). "Leadout Sprint."

It may be time to start looking at FTP (Functional Threshold Power) in a different light. For many of us in the endurance world, we have been using FTP as the gold standard in determining our endurance performance ability. There are several different methods to determining your FTP, but we essentially use it in cycling to predict how long we can supposedly hold a wattage for about an hour.

I don't know about you, but if you told me that I could sustain my FTP for a full hour, I'd be so excited that I'd wanna "Slap Ya Momma!" (please don't email me hate messages) 😂

Now, don't get me wrong... I think we have a time and place for using FTP and there is nothing wrong with it but if we don't get an entire profile of an athlete's capabilities we could be missing a key component in improving the performance of an individual. FTP almost puts a ceiling to an athlete's capabilities when they are trying to unlock the high end of their "rev limiter." RPE (Rating of Perceived Exertion) can be the best thing to monitor the top end of an athlete's performance during a workout and also gives us a window into how the central nervous system is functioning during that particular workout.

Power profiling an athlete and monitoring their capabilities beyond the limits of FTP based training may be a critical component to unlocking an individual's performance. Using Heart Rate (sigh 😔 to those who don't use HRM's 🤦‍♂️), RPE and power can give valuable insight into the entire picture of an athlete in order to build more durability. Check out this very in-depth review of how we may want to rethink power profiling in cycling as coaches and self-coached athletes.

Narrative Review: "Power profiling and the power-duration relationship in cycling: a narrative review"

Findings: "the following recommendations can be made as a starting point for coaches and practitioners: to derive the parameters to model a power-duration curve a formal test protocol should include one sprint effort (i.e. ~ 10–15 s) and at least three maximum efforts between 2 and 15 min (Karsten et al. 2015; Leo et al. 2021a; Muniz-Pumares et al. 2019; Sanders and Heijboer 2019b). These efforts can be completed in a single testing session, though it is recommended to divide field testing into two sessions over two consecutive days. The order of efforts should preferably be randomized for scientific research or follow the cyclist’s or coach’s individual preference in applied settings."

Take a look at this very in-depth research article as it has been an important part in implementing testing and profiling athletes that I have had the pleasure of training.

If you want more information on this and how this blog rant came about, please check out this podcast:


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