FTP – your Functional Threshold Power – is commonly interpreted as the highest average power you can sustain for an hour, in watts. The number is an indicator of your fitness, and also helps shape your training zones, racing, and group ride category in Zwift.
The FTP test is intense but short, and calls for explosive, give-it-your-all power. Fitness-focused riders will take FTP tests as often as every six to twelve weeks. Remember it’s a benchmark, so as your fitness level increases so will your FTP.
Zwift offers an hour test and a 45 minute test you can access from the workouts screen. The test is only 20 minutes long, the rest of the workout is a warm-up for the test. If you have a smart trainer the warm-up will utilize ERG mode. And then once the 20 minute test begins Zwift automatically turns off ERG mode. ERG mode needs to be off during the test so you can generate as much power as possible. If ERG mode is left on your trainer will hold you at a target watt range regardless of how fast or slow you pedal, which would drastically impact your test results.
So how should it feel? We asked two elite coaches, Kevin Poulton and Greg Henderson, to break down the test into a few manageable chunks. Here are their key tips:
0:00 to 10:00: Maintain your tempo
Build slowly to a pedaling effort that feels challenging but sustainable. “Go out too hard and you’ll soon suffer a sharp decline,” says Coach Kevin. “You should feel almost comfortable,” says Coach Greg.
10:00 to 15:00: Lift your power
Try to lift your power by five or ten watts. “Your power ‘lift’ may be smaller,” says Coach Greg. “But mentally it’s important that these five minutes are a lift section.”
15:00 to 20:00: Empty the tank
This, the coaches admit, is gonna hurt. “Go time,” says Coach Greg. Coach Kevin says push hard enough throughout that you can’t sprint for the finish. “At the end, feel like you have nothing left,” he says. “You should want to stop pedaling immediately.”
Once your FTP test is done, try one of our workout programs like the 6-week FTP builder.
If you really want to drill into FTP and how you can maximize yours check out the Zwift Coaches Podcast with Matt Rowe, Greg Henderson, and Kevin Poulton. They explore FTP and what it takes to maximize yours.
Coach Kevin Poulton is a World Tour coach with extensive experience at the highest level. Under his guidance, athletes have won Paris-Roubaix, World Tour Classics, Grand Tour Stages and competed at the Olympics. He’ll make you faster.
Coach Greg Henderson is USA Cycling’s Director of Endurance Performance. During his 20-year pro cycling career on both road and track, he won 17 national championships and a world championship, raced in five different Olympic Games, and completed 11 Grand Tours. Every Wednesday, he leads live workouts on Zwift.