FTP Testing: Can You Teach One Without Knowing What It’s Like Yourself?

Is it possible to teach a challenging FTP (functional threshold power) test without ever having put yourself through one?

After all, it is a fairly straightforward assignment: ride at the highest power output/RPE you can sustain for 20 minutes. Simple, right? (Although there are other iterations of the test, for the purposes of this article we are going to assume instructors are using a traditional 20-minute FTP test.)

While the description of the test is simple, anyone who has completed a few will tell you that performing them is anything but. Something described as our “best effort” already provokes a certain level of apprehension and anxiety. During those 20 minutes, there will be a sustained wrestling match between the mind and the body about what is doable and what is not. The reality is that many variables affect the rider and, ultimately, the test outcome.

So let’s rephrase the question slightly…rather than “Can you coach an FTP test without having done one yourself?” (to which we must answer yes, you could), the more relevant question is, “Will doing an FTP test make you better at coaching it?”

Spoiler alert: I’m gonna come down solidly in the “yes” camp on this.


  1. Excellent article, and SO helpful! Thank you! During a testing class, I typically have my riders measure 4 power numbers over the course of the 60-min class (after a good warm-up, and with plenty of recovery between efforts.) We do a 1 min avg, 5 min avg, peak power (usually done twice if time allows) and the 20 min average. I typically have done the 1 and 5 min tests first, followed by the FTP test. The 5 min avg gives riders a general guide for where to start their 20 min test (slightly lower power and then I coach on sensations/proper RPE after the test is underway.) I’ve done the peak power measurements before and after the FTP test, and I’m not sure which is better. Thoughts? I can see pros and cons to each. I guess I’m leaning toward after since my main priority is to get a good, accurate FTP test. I do think though that peak power after will not probably yield the most accurate results? Thoughts and guidance appreciated. 🙂 Thanks again!!

  2. Love this Lenita!!!! As you know, I have wrestled with this dragon and once I separated what I WANTED the number to be from what number I could actually hold, all of the test anxiety went away. Once you can remove the emotion from the result, the process is so much easier. By making the observations as objective as possible, I was able to set and surpass each one since. It is such a worthwhile effort, not only for personal growth and understanding but it will also make each of us a much better instructor.

  3. I run quarterly FTP sessions and few “like” FTP day. BUT they buy into the idea that if you aren’t willing to measure something it doesn’t really matter to you does it?. Have yet to have anyone say “I come to your classes just to stay status quo…”

    Nothing builds credibility faster than being able to express the personal struggles we experience in testing ourselves. When we can speak the language of their “pain” and then provide them strategies to mitigate it we build resonance with them as PEOPLE not just students/clients. We become imperfect human-beings just like they are…trying to better ourselves along the way.

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