Estimating Functional Threshold Power

Estimating Functional Threshold Power 

In a previous article we discussed what functional threshold power (FTP) is and why it’s important for power-based training. In this article, we’ll discuss some approaches for estimating FTP for yourself and your riders.

In Training and Racing with a Power Meter, Dr. Andy Coggan, originator of the FTP concept, defines FTP as “…the highest power that a rider can maintain in a quasi-steady state for approximately one hour without fatiguing.” Based on that definition, the “gold standard” for determining FTP would be a 60-minute all-out time trial effort. However, unless you’re working with serious athletes, an all-out one-hour effort is not very practical for most indoor cycling scenarios.

The good news is, there are several less daunting alternatives you can use to estimate FTP. For indoor cycling, some of the most practical options include:

  1. Maximum sustainable power test for a shorter duration
  2. The critical power model
  3. Maximal aerobic power ramp test
  4. Sub-maximal ramp test

Let’s take a closer look at each of these techniques.


  1. Absolutely it does! Thanks much.

  2. Thanks Jennifer. For a 20 minute FTP field test in a 60 minute class can you give some specifics re duration for warmup, duration and cadence range for high cadence spin ups, and, for the intervals leading up to the 20 minute test, intensity and work/recovery durations?

    1. Author


      We’ll be posting some updates field testing profiles in the near future, but the short answer is, the exact duration of the warm-up isn’t super-critical. I would recommend at least 10 minutes, but you could go longer if you choose and time allows. Most of that riding should be in Zone 1 or 2, very comfortable. For the spin ups, you’re looking for a good, controlled high cadence effort, 90+ rpms, higher if your riders can handle it and stay in control. Actual power output during the spin ups isn’t that important, in fact resistance stays fairly low – just enough to maintain control. Those spin ups are typically in the range of 1 minute on/1 minute off. After the spin ups, recover for several minutes, then throw in a 3-5 minute hard effort, followed by another several minutes of easy recovery before you begin the 20 minute test.

      The full field test protocol originally outlined by Hunter Allen & Andy Coggan takes about 75 minutes to complete. Most of us don’t have that long in our classes, so we need to modify that protocol slightly fit the time we have available to work with. For a 60 minute class, I would suggest something like: 10-12 minutes easy warm up, 3 x 1 minute on/1 minute off spin ups, 5 minutes easy, 5 minutes hard, 8-10 minutes easy, 20 minute test, and cool down.

      Hope that helps!

  3. Sorry! Thank you Jennifer Snow Ashbrook!

    1. Author

      Ha, ha! No problem!

      My plan is to get a few power training profiles together to post in the near future! Nice work on regular testing for your riders! Which format do you use?

  4. Great article Karen! Thank you! Can’t get enough info on teaching with power/watts. Would love some class profiles that incorporate ftp in them to help my riders improve on their ftp each time we “test” (about every 12 weeks at my facility)

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