Testing is common in all sport. It is essential to benchmark your performance and measure how effective any changes to your training are; be that the sessions you complete, your nutrition, mental prep, or anything else.
This post is going to take your through exactly what to expect and how to get it right.
Covered in this blog
- Is testing accurate
- How does testing work
- What happens to your body during testing
- What is FTP testing
- Conducting an FTP test
Is testing accurate
When performed a VO2Max test in a laboratory, the athlete will be wearing monitors and apparatus, such as a breathing mask, that will be connected to a machine that accurately monitors the inhale and exhale patterns of the athlete, or taking other metrics. Measuring the amounts of oxygen in the breath to determine the V02 max of the athlete.
The athlete will also be in a perfectly controlled environment to ensure that there are no other variables to influence testing results.
When you conduct testing at home, you probably don't have this level of kit! Therefore, there might be a degree of inaccuracy in your results. The more variables that you introduce, the greater the the chance of inaccurate results.
For this reason, it might be smart to conduct most of your testing indoors, especially common tests such as Functional Threshold Power (FTP).
How does testing work
There are many different ways to test your FTP, but for the purpose of demonstration, I am going to talk through two of the most common tests; the ramp test and the 20 minute test.
If you use software such as Zwift, RGT Cycling, or FulGaz, I suggest you simply select the relevant test from their workout library and follow their instructions. Don't worry if you don't get it right first time, there's a learning curve to this, but don't try to repeat the test straight away - allow sufficient recovery, and consider waiting until your next easier week to retest.
The test will start out with a warm-up of around 20 minutes. This might include some efforts to get your body going. The ramp test will then start of at an achievable power and gradually increase, minute-by-minute,. until you can't complete anymore. The 20 minute test is a more steady test, 20 minutes max effort. They will both be followed by a 10 minute cool-down.
Tests typically last for no more than 50 minutes.
What happens to your body during testing
Your body will go through a number of heart rate related changes. Obviously, your breathing and your heart rate will be elevated during the test. You will sweat and if you are in a lab, and wearing a mask, you may feel uncomfortable. I would suggest getting used to the mask if this is possible before the test.
The muscles that are worked here will be your heart and your diaphragm. Alongside the muscles in the upper and lower body (obviously!).
Imagine all the feelings you get when you are working at your max level on the bike. This is essentially how you feel during testing. You are working at your max capacity.
What is FTP Testing
Functional Threshold Power, or FTP, is essentially the most amount of watts you can sustain for an hour. This is very popular with cyclists as it is accessible, and easily done on machines in the gym, at home and on your actual bike (if you have a power meter).
If you use a platform, such as Pillar, to analyse your training, knowing your FTP can be crucial to ensuring you have accurate data.
Conducting an FTP test
The protocol for completing an FTP test is explained above, so let's look at what you can during the test and best ways to efficiently complete it.
Firstly, your heart rate will rise, and you will begin to perspire just as you do on the bike. You will also get some lactic acid build up in the legs as you will be working at an intensity above the level of which your body can clear it, for an extended period of time. You might deplete your glycogen and electrolyte levels too.
Approach this test as you would approach a ride. Include electrolytes or salts into your drink and fuel up properly before the test. Essentially, create an experience that is as close as possible to riding the bike.
When you imagine how it would feel to take part in a test like this. Imagine how it feels to ride a flat stretch of land or a steady hill for around 20 minutes. You are digging deep as you want to maintain a high level of watts and your gearing on the bike will reflect this. Try to keep everything repeatable, which is why we recommend taking testing indoors, that way you have a more accurate comparison next time you test.
Lastly, and it might sound like a contradiction, but enjoy it! If you can approach testing more positively, you are more likely to achieve a positive result.