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Is FTP Dead?

We take on a controversial subject: FTP or functional threshold power. Is FTP dead?

Fast Talk Podcast Q&A
Photo: Thomas Kelley

In this episode of Fast Talk, we take on a controversial subject: FTP or functional threshold power.

Recently, a big debate kicked up on the Internet. Some cycling experts stated that Functional Threshold Power (FTP) was dead. Many of the big names in training got involved in the debate of the value of FTP, as well as what is and isn’t current when it comes to creating a rider’s power profile and determining their training zones.

We didn’t get involved in the debate–we consider everyone in the debate to be friends at Fast Talk–but we also couldn’t resist a good scientific question.

So, we got a number of top coaches into a room to hash out this important question: What is the best way for cyclists to determine their individual training profiles?

Let’s make you fast.

  1. Coyle, E. F., Feltner, M. E., Kautz, S. A., Hamilton, M. T., Montain, S. J., Baylor, A. M., et al. (1991). Physiological and biomechanical factors associated with elite endurance cycling performance. Med Sci Sports Exerc, 23(1), 93-107.
  2. Daniels, J. (1998). Daniels’ running formula. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
  3. Faude, O., Kindermann, W., & Meyer, T. (2009). Lactate threshold concepts: how valid are they? Sports Med, 39(6), 469-490.
  4. Joyner, M. J., & Coyle, E. F. (2008). Endurance exercise performance: the physiology of champions. J Physiol, 586(1), 35-44.
  5. Pinot, J., & Grappe, F. (2010). The ‘Power Profile’ for determining the physical capacities of a cyclist. Computer Methods in Biomechanics and Biomedical Engineering, 13, 103-104.

Episode Transcript

Chris Case  00:00

Welcome to Fast Talk the VeloNews podcast and everything you need to know to ride like a pro.


Chris Case  00:09

Hey, Trevor, I heard you ride a bike. Is that true?


Trevor Connor  00:13

Sometimes, maybe.


Chris Case  00:15

Do you ever go for runs?


Trevor Connor  00:17

Yes, and they’re painfully slow.


Chris Case  00:19

I bet they are, I can only imagine. You ever swim?


Trevor Connor  00:24

No, no, I actually did a triathlon a few years ago, and discovered I was faster walking along the bottom of the pool than swimming.


Chris Case  00:31

What about sinking? Do you ever sink?


Trevor Connor  00:34

That was part of walking on the bottom of the poor, now wasn’t it?


Chris Case  00:38

Hey, well, it doesn’t matter whether you’re a runner, a cyclist, a swimmer, a triathlete, you want to head over to Health IQ website. They’re a life insurance company that specializes in healthy, active people like you, they’re able to give us favorable quotes on life insurance, and they have a special website just for Fast Talk listeners, that’s talk. While you’re over there, you can submit race results, screen grabs of your Strava, or map my run account, or any other proof you have that you are indeed a regular cyclist, runner, or fit person, and you’ll get a better quote, it’s pretty awesome.


Trevor Connor  01:20

Yeah, except I think if I put my runs or my swims up there, they’d be like this guy is on his deathbed, we’re not giving him insurance.


Chris Case  01:26

Just put the cycling results up there.


Trevor Connor  01:29

That I can do.


Chris Case  01:39

Welcome to another episode of Fast Talk. I’m Chris case managing editor of VeloNews, joined as always by the beating heart of Fast Talk Coach Trevor Connor. Today, we’re doing something a bit different on Fast Talk, something we’ve never done. We’re taking on a hot topic, that’s stirred up a bit of controversy. Several listeners have asked us to weigh in with our thoughts, so we’ve decided to jump in, give our listeners what we want and do it in our own way, which focuses on the science. First, a bit of the backstory. Recently, Suffefest, developers of a popular online training system declared on their website that, “FTP is dead.” For years, this increasingly popular estimate of our threshold power has been used to determine our training zones, to craft our workouts. Sufferfest is basically saying that FTP isn’t sufficient to give the full profile of an athlete, and as a result, many athletes weren’t training right and weren’t using the right zones. With the guidance of Neal Henderson at APEX coaching, Sufferfest has started using four metrics to create a more complete profile of each athlete, that includes, FTP, Sprint, power, anaerobic capacity, VO2 max power. Simple enough, we’ve all heard those terms before. However, the claim that FTP was dead, and the announcement of the use of these four metrics sparked a big debate that spilled into user forums, like Fast Twitch. A well-respected pioneer in the industry, Dr. Andy Coggan, pointed out that he had been using these metrics for over a decade, the debate got heated, it got personal, it got a bit ugly. Well, we wouldn’t be here without Dr. Coggan’s pioneering research, and Neal has been a big part of defining modern coaching. Let’s set aside their differences for a moment, we can still see there’s a great scientific question here, is FTP dead? So, in today’s episode, we’re going to focus exclusively on the science behind this debate. Here’s what we’ll address, first FTP, with the simple tools available to us, FTP was a bit of a necessary bedfellow for determining zones and training, but those tools are getting increasingly sophisticated and customizable to the individual. So, the question is, now that we can create far more sophisticated rider profiles, is the old FTP based model antiquated? Second, if FTP is no longer enough, what’s the best way to determine a rider’s profile? Is it the four metrics used by Henderson, which amount to your best 20- minute, five-minute, one minute, and five second wattages? Is it something more like the continuous curve used by TrainingPeaks, that shows your best wattages from one second to five hours? Or are we losing that important sense of feel by getting too focused on numbers? Finally, for those of you who think these metrics are the way to go, and that they work for you, we’ll talk about the best way to find your numbers. Do you need to do regular time trials? Do you look at race data? Or can you determine them through regular training? We’ll focus in particular on a one-hour test developed by Henderson over years of trial and error that’s now at the center of the Sufferfest system. To help us with this discussion, as always, we’ve brought in several special guests from APEX coaching, which partners with Sufferfest, Neal Henderson and Mac Cassin join us. Note that Neal had to leave a little early during the recording, so we’ll only have him for part of the conversation. To offer another perspective, we’re joined by a Fast Talk regular, Frank Overton, of Fas Cat Coaching. Frank worked with Dr. Coggan and TrainingPeaks in their early development days. We’ll also hear briefly from Dr. Inigo San Millan, from the University of Colorado Sports Medicine and Performance Center, and Dr. Stephen Cheung, a physiologist who helped develop a new training tool called Xert. We invited the folks at TrainingPeaks to join us, unfortunately, we never heard back from them, so they are not on this podcast. So, with that, let’s make you fast.


Chris Case  05:42

Oh, one last thing, much of this podcast was recorded while I was terribly ill, losing my voice, so I apologize for that deep gravelly voice you’re gonna hear, that’s actually me. Alright, let’s get started.


Does FTP Define Athletes, or Are There More Attributes To Consider As a Cyclist?

Trevor Connor  05:57

The question that’s been raised, and that we were asked about is, a lot of software in the past has really just kind of used FTP and said, here’s your FTP number, which is your this is your functional threshold, it’s usually defined as, what’s the the power you can hold for an hour, and that really defines who you are, as a cyclist. The debate is whether that’s sufficient, whether there’s more attributes for a cyclist or for an athlete that you need to look at to get the full profile.


Frank Overton  06:28

I think there’s in the literature, published a paper maybe 20 years ago, the single greatest determinant of cycling performance is an athlete’s threshold. And translated, this is probably pre-power meters, but translated over to power meters, we can find their threshold, therefore, that’s the single greatest determinant of performance. And so that’s like performance as a 10,000-foot aerial view, and it’s very simple, it’s easy to ask athletes to do that sort of testing, it’s repeatable, it leaves a very little variance in terms of athletes, you know, doing something different or kind of messing up the test. And I mean, cycling science from power meters were 15 years in, I mean, that’s about when the sport science and all these awesome things from power meters have come into play, like 20 years tops, really. So, FTP is just, it’s, it’s a way to get it out there, get zones, and train with precision and achieve precise physiological adaptations, and then also, it’s a way to measure improvement. So, test in November test in March, compare the two numbers, did the training that you did in between work? Did the athlete get faster? It’s very simple, I mean, you know, the Cat3 rider in Pennsylvania can interpret that results, so I think that’s part of the reason why it’s been so popular and well used.


Chris Case  08:05

And, Neal, would you say that that is too simple?


Neal Henderson  08:10

I’m gonna say that, to some degree, I agree with the aspect that FTP, and the sustainable power is extremely important having spent over 12 years of my career working in Boulder Center for Sports Medicine, which is now CU Sports Medicine performance, conducting thousands of tests with athletes, from very novice levels up to the best in the world, there is a value in that, but when we look at actual real world performance, different types of cycling events, clearly require demands that are not specifically driven to FTP, I can go to a track cycling model in a couple different, very specific events. Again, even if you don’t like the track cycling model, we can go to road cycling, and even in a road race, it’s not an FTP contest. The separations that occur are done well in excess of FTP, and those are greater predictors of actual race performance than would be that just sustainable FTP.


Mac Cassin  09:14

Like Frank was saying, there’s the paper came out back in the day, and it said, the single greatest determinant of performance across basically all disciplines is FTP. There’s the general sort of, I don’t wanna say misguided, but this sort of misconception that if you want your FTP to be high, you only should be doing FTP based organs. There’s, there’s other ways you can increase your FTP other than just doing really FTP centric training and getting that higher FTP on race day is important. You’re doing a 40 KTT or you’re doing the hour record, like on that day, what you can do for an hour, that’s going to determine how well you go, but getting that hour power as high as possible, it’s going to take a different route for different people, not to people aren’t gonna be get their best result on that day, they’re not going to do the same training.


Chris Case  10:08

Is it worth at this point, going into a little bit more depth on some of these terms that we throw around, you’ve got people out there that have access to labs, and they can get a threshold in a lab setting, you’ve got other people that don’t have that at their disposal, and they need to go out on the road and have a test on the road, determine their FTP, maybe just briefly describe what are those two, are they only approximates of each other, and how much danger is there and putting too much stock in one or the other of those numbers?


Trevor Connor  10:40

I’ll jump into this one, because that is always been one of my concerns with FTP is how often I see people come up with a number that really isn’t their number. FTP is an approximate of your threshold that would be tested in the lab, and even in the lab, there’s different arguments over how you define threshold. So, there’s MLSS, maximal lactate steady state, which you do with a lactate curve, if you use a ventilation system, there, it’s called VT2, and I’m not even gonna try to explain to you how exactly the curves that are used to define that. But you’re basically trying to find this physiological break point, where clearly your body goes be able to maintain some sort of homeostasis to no longer be able to maintain that, and that is a physiological point, the issue I’ve always had with FTP, which is just what’s the average power for an hour, it’s an approximate of that physiological break point, but it’s not perfect. And I think with every athlete, it’s going to be different, because if some people go out and do an hour test, they might be a really good time trialer and actually be able to average higher than what’s their true physiological threshold. Where somebody who’s not very good at time trialing, they might be 20 watts below what they would actually get in the lab, and you can’t tell that just by having them go out and do the test, and that’s always been my concern. So how do you address that? Or do you think I’m full of it?


Neal Henderson  12:06

Again, the variability between what we see out in the field and in the lab can clearly be quite different from person to person, looking at the type of you have them do so again, the one standard of a one hour average power, for somebody who is very well trained, often is closer to what we might see in the lab, where it is that more significant change of VT2, or when I came up with a one millivolt increase in lactate, followed by a greater than one and a half millivolt was the standard that we used the Boulder Center for Sports Medicine Lab, with four minute long stages of progression in a standard lactate test. But for somebody who is not well trained, one hour power is going to be in excess of that maximal sustained output because they do not have the absolute fitness to maintain that point for long enough, so the one-hour duration is too long for a lot of our average fitness riders that are not again, trying to go up the out.


Trevor Connor  13:09

Doesn’t sound like any of you are saying that we should be scrapping FTP, but you do raise a really interesting question is when you’re figuring out that FTP, what is the best way to do it? Is it in a race? Is it do you go out and do a field test? do you need to go into a lab to get that number?


How To Calculate FTP

Frank Overton  13:25

I like to do the 20-minute test, super standard, it’s very easy for an athlete to interpret and to execute without messing it up. The gold standard is 60 minute max power, you know, 40 KTT, but here in the United States, very few athletes do a 40 KTT, if they do, and I know that, I’m gonna just say I’ll get his threshold when they do that 40 K, and you know, they got a number on their back, they’re motivated, that’s going to be really good data, you cannot ask an athlete to go out and replicate that in training by themselves, very few athletes can do that. So rather than expand that mental match, this is a little bit of sports psychology, but rather than expand that mental match in November or in February, I’ll save that, I just ask him to do a 20-minute test, and I only have my athletes do two 20-minute tests per year, because again, that is also a mental match that I want to have them save. So I use this term mental match, and I should explain it, but if you have a goldfish bowl full of marbles, and that represents all their mental energy for an entire season, you know you do a 40, you ask them to do a 60-minute max test on their own, you might as well just go grab a handful of marbles and toss them into the gutter, but like a 20-minute test is like one marble, you know, doing a VO2 workout, that’s a marble. Yeah, there’s like 500 marbles, you know, every time you do a stage race, that’s a bunch of marbles, so they have a limited amount of mental energy, and so what I’m trying to do is protect, I’m trying to save them mentally, so that they can expend that energy in racing. So that’s why I’m going to do two tests a year, and then after that’s in the offseason, so like right now November, and then maybe once again, preseason, and so I like 20-minute tests for field test, because a lot of the time trials here in the United States and hill climbs are in and around 20 minutes, so now you can compare apples to apples. I mean, that would be a Gala Apple to a Fuji apples, but it’s pretty close, And, you know, so then now you got all these data points all throughout the year that are comparable, 20 minutes. And then once the race season is underway, once they’ve got some race data, then you start looking at individual power outputs, when they went full gas in a race, like five minutes in a wind, in a crosswind, or five minutes on a hill, or one minute like at the up the Morpho Bismarck, things like that. And so, I’m always like, I test, I don’t like test for the, the five-minute powers, I use race data for that. So, FTP gets us started, and I’m a huge proponent of building a base, I love that number for building a base, because therefore, it gives you your sweet spot zones. And then once you have your sweet spot zones, you also have like zone two and tempo, and you’re off, you’re ready to build that huge base, and so that’s what I’m primarily concentrating on. And then we get to the race season, and then you’re getting all these good data points from like, like full gas group rides, or really hard points in a race.


Neal Henderson  16:45

So, some differences in how we do things is we do a lot more frequent testing, evaluating the effectiveness of what we’re doing and adjusting and adapting training schedules relative to those responses, we also find that there’s a confidence gain in the athlete who knows that what they are doing is making them stronger when we are looking at those repeating tests every month or so. So we do again, with much more frequency, the other aspect is and again, a difference in opinion of you know, you only have so many marbles, well, I want a bigger, I want a bigger fish tank for all my marbles, so my athletes know the anxiety of testing, I know that they get stressed out that they learn how to manage that when they go into a race, they know how to manage those stressors and anxiety, they know what they’re capable of when it does come down to a time trial, it’s not like, well, geez, eight weeks ago, I did that I hope I’m close now, or maybe that was my best ever we know that more frequently what they’ve done and what they’re capable of doing, so that they can walk into that race with that kind of confidence and then be able to execute the task.


Trevor Connor  17:52

Just gonna say, having done you’re having tried your test, the fact that you’re doing that to people every month, I’m gonna say Frank has a much nicer coach.


Neal Henderson  18:02

I don’t get paid to be nice, the results talk. So, you know, it’s okay, though, I try to make up for it otherwise.


Mac Cassin  18:11

Trevor, just like you were saying that, you know, in the lab setting, there’s different ideas of what measurement point you take for FTP, the same applies when you’re looking at testing out on the road. This is Mac By the way. Taking 95% of your 20-minute power, might sync up really well with a lab test going to your lower threshold, but it might not sync up well to the protocol that Neal uses, or the protocol that Frank might use in a lab setting. So it gets really difficult to, you know, say that lab based results versus road based results, when both of them, you know, there’s different ways to measure them, and each of them is going to give you slightly different results, you know, the idea of threshold is it’s a steady state effort, anytime you’re doing a max effort to failure, if you’re pacing a 20 minute effort, so you’ve got nothing left at the end, that’s just letting water into your boat so that you sink right when you get to the end, that in itself is not really a steady state, and the amount of water someone can let into that boat varies from person to person. So, they might, right, they both might come out of a 20 minute effort with a 300 watt average, but if one of them is getting more of that power, more anaerobically, or you could say less efficiently, then you can’t really say that their steady state power is going to be the same because they’re not producing that power in the same manner.


FTP as Individualized Data

Frank Overton  19:37

Some athletes FTP I think is like 5% less than what they can do for 20 minutes, but some athletes that are anaerobically gifted are very strong, they’re like 10% less than what they, you know, than their 20- minute power. It just depends, it’s individual, and this is the analysis of the data, you say, “Okay, this guy can make really good one minute power, he can win races by, you know, a one lap attack, he’s got a strong anaerobic capacity, so I’m going to put his FTP at 10% less than his 20-minute maximum field test.” Whereas he, whereas like a, you know, an age based Master racer that’s just in it for endurance, they’re more like 5% less, they don’t have a well-developed anaerobic system that can derive power from the aerobic system to contribute to the power output in the training test. So, there’s that some interpretation to the test based on the strengths and weaknesses of the rider.


Trevor Connor  20:38

Is that something that just comes with experience as a coach?


Normalized Power Buster

Frank Overton  20:42

Yes, but I mean, It’s open knowledge, that 20 minute test is, you know, 5-10%, greater than your 60 minute power, from 98% of the population. The other thing is, it’s you got to be really careful when you’re analyzing 20 minute power from race data, because there’s normalized power, and there’s average power, and you got to be super-duper careful, anaerobically gifted athletes can bust the heck out of that, because they can go really hard and recover really quickly, and they can, it’s kind of, I call it a, they call it a normalized power buster, and their normalized power is way higher than their 20 minute average power, so when you’re interpreting the data and analyzing it, you got to take that into account if you’re going to correlate that back to their FTP, but I just like to have multiple data points from 20 minute max normalized power, and you get that when they go out and slam a group ride every Saturday.


Neal Henderson  21:39

That normalized power busters, that’s something that speaks to me as as I was a anaerobic athlete, and from my early days, pull ball, javelin, and discus were my forte events and track and field, I was a sprinter in swimming, and I chose to do triathlon, which is the exact opposite of the spectrum, doing Ironman races and everything, so I did not work with my own innate physiological strengths, I had to develop endurance and learn things, but I have plenty of examples of that normalized power been well in excess, even for an hour normalized power 15% greater than the maximum one hour power ever sustained, even with decades of professional racing experience in endurance contests, that when I hear the normalized power busting out, you know, the that that happens, I’ve seen it a lot, and I’ve also worked, I was a strength and conditioning coach with an AHL hockey team, and worked with NHL hockey teams and players, and know that across the continuum of the type of people that we work with, not just the endurance world, that across sport, and even our general population that we work without the Sufferfest, we see a much bigger variety in humanity than the typical steady state endurance person. So, we’ve tried to really look beyond that one point to try to understand each athlete respective strengths and weaknesses and be able to then address them in training. So, I started to look at some different things that we could look at, as well as that continuum of not just sustained long-term power, but also these different energy systems, and so using what was kind of out there at the time of five second, five minute, 20 minute, and one minute, where there were some absolute power tables developed looking at power in watts per kilogram, and even kind of associating those with different categories of racer, was something that we started to look at, and actually just doing that all in one single round, to then correlate that then to what we were seeing in the laboratory.


Power Profile

Trevor Connor  23:38

Let’s take a quick step back, and just for some of our listeners, who are wondering about this, what we’re, we’re talking about these different peak powers, or this power profile. The idea here is, I wish I could show you a visual, if you just do a search online, you can see it, but it’s the idea of what is the best five second power you can put out? What’s the best one-minute power you can put out? What’s the best five-minute, 20-minute, and you can actually just extend that all the way out to five hours, and there, I’m sure we’ll discuss at some point, should you be taking every single time point along, that creates a profile of or theory is that creates a profile of you as an athlete. So, for example, you might have two athletes that both have the same FTP, let’s say their FTP is 340 watts, but one is much more of a time trialer and their five second power might only be 600 watts, where the other one might have an amazing sprint and their five second power is 1200 watts. If you only look at the FTP, you’re not going to know that. When you look at these different points, you’re going to see, yeah, they might be able to sit there going steady pace together, but that one person is going to blow the other one out of the water when it comes down to the final sprint, and you need to know those different aspects of the rider to really understand both how to train and if you’re a coach had a coach that person. Is that Kind of an accurate description you would say of power profile?


Neal Henderson  25:04

Yeah, that that explains it. We’re looking for short-term, through long-term, and in between.


Trevor Connor  25:11

Yeah, yeah.


Mac Cassin  25:11

The other significant thing there is looking at the relationships between them, like you were saying, someone’s FTP compared to sprint power, the same thing goes, when you look at someone’s 20- minute power versus their five-minute power. Frank had mentioned, like anaerobically inclined people, you can kind of do a sense fake a 20-minute test, because you’re using that anaerobic ability, you have to produce some of that power. So again, if you just have two people doing 20 minutes tests, and that’s the only effort they’re doing, you don’t get a sense of where that power is really coming from, because you might have two people with 20 minute power 300 watts, but if one of them can sustain 390 watts for five minutes, and the other can only do 345, for five minutes, then, okay, clearly one of them, you know, their max aerobic powers is higher, the other person with a lower five minute power, basically, they’re just working closer to their max ceiling, so they’re more efficient, they can sit much higher, you know, much higher to their ceiling than the other guy can. What you get out of that other than just those numbers is, you know, that, okay, if this person’s already maxed out close to their ceiling, their FTP isn’t gonna go up, if you just have them do threshold and tempo efforts, because that ceiling is what’s limiting them at that point. So that’s when you say, okay, look, based on this person’s result, their five- minute being low relative to 20, then you can say, okay, this person needs to focus on increasing their five minute power before, even if all they want to do is increase their FTP, then you can still let them know that okay, if you want to increase your FTP, your training needs to be focused on this other area that’s holding you back.


Four Durations in Identifying the Rider

Trevor Connor  26:49

So you’re talking about four durations for identifying the rider. One of the pioneers of this whole concept was a researcher named Pino who had twelve durations. I know in the newest version of WKO4, they now have a continuous curve, let’s look at every single time point. So, I guess that my question is, why four versus twelve, versus continuous, versus let’s see how you’re performing in races, and look at where your weaknesses and strengths are in the races, which is the best direction? Why did you land on four? Why did you land on focusing on races?


Neal Henderson  27:27

From one perspective, there’s actually a relationship again, back to lab testing and looking at energy systems. The type of energy that we can produce from that immediate ATP, creatine phosphate, and neuromuscular coordination aspect, that peak neuromuscular power is going to be what we’re looking at with five seconds. Even if you go to an anaerobic marker test, which is our classic lab based anaerobic capacity test is a wind gate, your first five seconds is peak power. So, that exists, the 30 second power on anaerobic capacity is what again, has been used in that that wind gate test, we use a one-minute duration, as we’re fully depleting really that that system ATP and CP going down to zero, there’s another really cool lab test that’s horribly heinous as well, it’s a two-minute maximum accumulated oxygen deficit. If you think a one minute all out test is horrible, try two minutes, it’s a lot worse, so we came back to the one minute, so somewhere between that 30 second wind gate, and that two-minute MAOD lies the one-minute effort, and again, with the with the power profiling tables from owner Allen and Andy Coggan, hey, people are familiar with that one minute, and there’s some relative values out there, we’ll go with it. Five Minute power is really pretty close to that power at VO2 max. So again, the ancient classic, if you go way, way back to looking at maximum oxygen consumption, which we know has some relationship to endurance performance, but is not again, the only thing, again, Coil may tell you that threshold is which we also then measure by that 20-minute with the preceding five- minute effort to look at that. So those four values come back to from a physiological sense describing the individual’s energy production capacities, as well as relationships really close to what we would have seen in laboratory testing situations, and we then use the individuals expressed capabilities from that testing to prescribe the intervals throughout all the different types of workouts, rather than just using that single point metric. So, we want it to fit better.


Trevor Connor  29:28

So it’s really basing each of these is looking at a different energy system.


Neal Henderson  29:33



Trevor Connor  29:33

And you’re trying to target those energy systems. So just out of interest, so one counterpoint that I might offer is, you look at the research or somebody like Stephen Seiler, who says really there, physiologically, there’s only two break points. So, there’s that anaerobic threshold or what we’re calling FTP, and there’s a lower one, which is an aerobic threshold or what they would call VT1, and he really doesn’t differentiate anything above anaerobic threshold. So, you’re kind of touching on one of those, and those who don’t even touch on the aerobic threshold.


Neal Henderson  30:04



Trevor Connor  30:05

So, here’s a researcher who’s picking up a lot of steam, that would say, no, it really is a lot more about FTP, and you’re actually missing out on a key metric, how would you respond to that?


Neal Henderson  30:15

In response to that, I would say I work with individuals who are most interested in their performance, and the outcomes are not in any way associated with a VT1 and aerobic steady state, in any of these contests, even in Ironman, is not determined by VT1. So, majority of who we work with are competing in much shorter events, and it is the separations that occur from an effort, basically anywhere from one, two, three seconds, to five minutes, that typically made the difference. Though again, there are some relationships to something like the hour record, with Evelyn Stevens or Roland Dennis, where we care about that power that could be sustained for one hour at absolute, though their training was not exclusive to that threshold. And again, as a secondary follow up to that, a guy like Taylor Finney, who, at age 18 was competing at the Olympics, in the individual pursuit, we were focused on power at VO2 max basically, a four, just over four-minute effort, and all of the standard training that was out there and recommendations were based on FTP and workouts of doing two by 20 minutes never looked like anything he ever did. He was setting American records, he was winning medals, World record for Junior in the 3k, he won two elite World Championships in the individual pursuit, silver medal in the Hila, with training that looked nothing like anything based on threshold. And so again, from a practical and applied side, FTP to me meant very little with an athlete who is training 10, 12, 14 hours a week as a teenager at the top of the sport.


Chris Case  31:55

Just to show you that even the top scientists in the field don’t always agree, we caught up with Inigo San Millan, director of the University of Colorado Sports Medicine and Performance Center, where Neal used to be the head coach, San Millan agrees that FTP alone is not the answer, but unlike Neal, feels that there are key measures below threshold. Interestingly, while Neal offers a very race performance, oriented justification, San Millan focuses much more on the critical physiological systems behind performance. So is FTP, a good metric for determining a rider’s training zones?


Dr. Inigo San Millan: Is FTP a Good Metric for Determining a Rider’s Training Zones?

Mac Cassin  32:33

No, not at all. I see that some people are saying that maybe FTP is dead, or it’s dated, but I think in the first place, it was never an accurate way to look at different training zones. FTP says that this is FTP, that’s that effort you can sustain for a given amount of time, some people talk about 40 minutes or one hour, whatever they want to talk to that, that that that’s your specific metabolic intensity for that specific time. But I mean, you cannot estimate training zones based on percentages or FTP, we’re doing the same mistake as doing the 220 minus your age formula, and percentages of the maximum heart rate, right? We know that that doesn’t work very well, so FTP, in my opinion, is not an accurate way to estimate training zones.


Chris Case  33:29

So, what measures do you use to get a riders profiles and zones? I understand you like to look at some sub-threshold metrics?


Measures Used to Create a Riders Profile and Zones

Mac Cassin  33:40

Yes, you’re right. So that’s the thing about using FTP, to calculate intensities, or above that, we’re just describing the high intensity side of it, and in my opinion, I try to put a whole metabolic map of what are the metabolic responses to exercise at a wide range of intensities. So, for example, FTP or above, the muscle fibers recruited are the glycolytic muscle fibers, which are the type two, fast twitch muscle fibers, those ones are the ones required to produce energy, and be efficient at that intensity, they use a lot of glucose, they’re glycolytic, chances are that if your FTP or above you’re going to burn zero grams of fat, all you burn is glucose. The byproduct of glucose is lactate, is the mandatory byproduct of glucose with or without oxygen, you’re always going to produce lactate whenever you use glucose. Now that that lactate has to be cleared out, and the faster better obviously, so the place where you clear out the lactate is mainly in the slow twitch muscle fibers, basically in the mitochondria of the slow twitch muscle fibers. So, having a more holistic or integrative approach to training, you need to have robust energy systems, so you need to be my opinion, you know, more comprehensive and just focus on the high intensity side of it. So, for us to calculate training zones, it takes, again, that that more comprehensive approach of what’s the metabolic response to exercise, so, as I mentioned to to, to improve the capacity of those slow twitch muscle fibers, you need to stimulate them specifically, in the same manner they use to simulate specifically, the glycolytic muscle fiber, or the slot of the fast twitch. So, for that we, when we do metabolic testing, we look at different inflection points for metabolic signature, or, or, or points, you know, so we see, for example, was the exercise intensity at the one you burn the most fat, we will calculate fat burning, fat oxidation, in grams per minute for the entire test. Another thing that we see was the crossover from fats to carbohydrate, so as exercise intensity increases, you start burning more glucose, and you burn less fat, to an extent you don’t burn fat anymore, and you burn everything out of glucose. So, there’s a crossover point where you start burning more glucose over fat, and that crossover point, and we measure that as well. We also look at different inflection points of lactate, the first point, second inflection point, etc. So, with all these parameters, we have been able to put together a very good robust method to establish individualized training zones for the entire range of intensities from your zone one, all the way to zone six.


Chris Case  36:52

Let’s get back to the question of these four metrics of five seconds, one minute, five minute, and FTP power, and how long they’ve been part of the training zeitgeist.


Using Multiple Metrics and Finding What Works for Athletes

Trevor Connor  37:02

I’m right now looking at an older book, this is Jack Daniels’, Running Formula, actually one of my favorite training books, written in 1998, and I’m actually looking at a pyramid that he created, that I found really, really interesting because in the pyramid, he basically says there are four key training levels. He has your threshold, which would be the, the running equivalent of about that FTP. He has your VO2 Max, he refers to this very high level as reps or economy, but that’s kind of your short, one, two-minute type effort. He doesn’t have that all out sprint, but this is track and field athletes, that’s probably a little less important. He also talks about marathon pace, I found all these really interesting because runners, long before we had power meters, long before we had heart rate monitors, understood this idea of different paces. So, they would talk about their marathon pace, they would talk about their 10-kilometer pace, their one-mile pace, and they all had this innate sense of what was that pace they could hold for that given length of time. Actually, right in the same book, I really found this fascinating, they have a graph showing a lactate profile, and then some of these other metrics, and they have it graphed on running velocity and meters per minute, and if you actually, unfortunately, can’t show this in the podcast, but you look at the bottom row, it has, so the running velocity goes to 330, 250, 272, 293, 310, 330, this particular athlete, they hit their threshold around 330, and their VO2 max around 390. If I erased running velocity, and wrote power down there, and said this was a cyclist test, you’d believe this. This is actually what a Cat2 level rider would look like. This was all 1998, this was pre really anybody using power meters, this was we’re using heart rate monitors at the time, but this goes pretty far back. And the reason I’m bringing all this up is something I have always believed and was taught myself is really good athletes, and really good coaches with experience and time find what works, and so with this idea of these multiple metrics, is this necessarily a really new idea? Or is this really landing on what the best athletes, and you guys as experienced coaches, has just found that works?


Neal Henderson  39:37

Well, I can tell you, this is Neal, I can tell you that my background as a cycling coach is actually kind of secondary to my first coaching background, which is in swimming. And swimming, if you think about it, the time is ultimately how performance is measured. We would gauge our training efforts, even 30 years ago back to the capacity that could be performed for the short, middle and slightly longer efforts really about 30 second, about a two minute, and about a five-minute effort, where much of our pacing was with a little bit than in that kind of steady state, kind of 1500 meter sustained output. So, I personally don’t think that we’re doing anything extraordinarily new in cycling by looking at this short and middle and longer-term power output, looking at these different levels, with respect to the same thing like in running, so we can look at true speed, like 100 meter, a one mile pace, a 400 meter, and say, a 5K or something like that, in a very similar way to judge the effort relative to these different energy systems.


Trevor Connor  40:45

Now, Frank, you’ve been, this has been part of the software you’ve been using for years, you’ve certainly been looking at these profiles, and I’m assuming as a coach, you’ve been, that’s part of how you look at your athletes, correct?


Frank Overton  40:58

Correct. You know, the power profile table, I mean, I’ve had that spreadsheet for 15 years that Coggan and Alan came up with, it’s just like, a bunch of data points from World Class cyclists down to, you know, amateurs. And so, you know, you begin working with an athlete, they’ll tell you, “oh, I’m a field sprinter, or I want to do road racing.” And most people know what they’re good at, like their strengths and weaknesses, that’s pretty simple, like, like a good example of the relationships and  the power profile table is like, so there’s, you know, someone’s got like, Cat3 threshold power, their Cat3, but they got like, wicked good sprint, it’s like borderline world class, and you’re like, you’re thinking about that, and you’re like, this kid’s 22, well, if we can get his power, his threshold power up, you can hang in a professional race, and then get them to the last 200 meters, and unleash that wicked sprint, you know, this kid’s got potential. So, it gives you a good way to approach helping that athlete achieve his goals, whether it’s turned pro, or win field spreads. The Power Profile table on the other hand, like Neal, being anaerobic and doing triathlon, it’s like Tomas Hubbard, his power profiles, like World class, time trialer, Cat4 sprint, and then it’s like, okay, well, let’s not bother with the spread part of Tom, yeah, let’s just, let’s concentrate on your strengths over here. That’s what the power profile table uses, I don’t really test for those numbers, because I’ll just say, “Hey, here’s a, an anaerobic workout, we need to work on your anaerobic capacity, I want you to do two sets of five, one minute on one minute off, full gas as hard as you can.” And then I’ll analyze the data, and they did the last couple intervals, almost as good as the first, and they’re telling me that they saw God, and they had to collapse in the ditch after the workout, and they want to fire me and they hate my guts, and then they text me this next morning, so I was mad at you. That’s a great workout, and then next time, I’m going to be like, let’s do three sets of four, let’s do a little bit more, let’s do a little bit more, let’s extend that aerobic capacity out as much as we can within the time that we have before your goal event. So that I kind of like use the progression of the workouts to expand that like anaerobic capacity, for example, same way with VO2 workouts, and threshold as well. My philosophy on threshold training is never have the athlete do more threshold than they’ll face in the race, so you got to know the power demands of the race.


Chris Case  43:38

So that’s a question for you when you’re giving riders like VO2 workouts,


Frank Overton  43:43



Full Gas and the Power Duration Curve

Chris Case  43:44

What are you? Are you basing their target power for that interval set off of their best five minute in a race? Or are you saying I want you to do this at 120% of FTP or full gas?


Frank Overton  43:58

Full gas. Give it to me in between your ears. Practice how you want to race it’s a sport psych, some athletes can drill it 130%, some athletes are struggling 115%. So, you analyze the data and you’re like, this is something I need to work on, so forth. So, and the other thing is, what if we didn’t have their FTP set right? What if we didn’t have their five-minute power set right?


Trevor Connor  44:22

Right. Like I kinda have a response to both of you, because Frank, I tend to be with you of what we want to see is real world situations and use that to really look at the athletes. So, I love the fact that you’re saying let’s look at what they’re doing in races, because that’s where you get the benchmark. I find sometimes athletes get too concerned about, what am I doing in my intervals? And looking for their strengths and weaknesses there, at the end of the day, go well, how are you performing? How are you doing on Saturday? So, I love that you say that, but I’ll admit when you look at that continuous power duration curve, the one concern I’ve always had with that is it’s taking people’s best numbers ever. So it’s the best 20 minute they’ve ever done, it’s the best five seconds they’ve ever done, and I know in WKO, you can, narrow it down to what were my best in the last 30 days, or I know some athletes tend to look at, well, let’s look at the last two years so I can get all my best numbers, and my concern is always then basing your training off of what was the, you know, that amazing day or that incredible race that you had. So, somebody sees a 20-minute power that’s really 30-40 watts above what they can actually train at, and they try to train at it, and kill themselves. It’s showing their best, not their typical.


Frank Overton  45:53

Okay, best over the course of a year, not useful, best on any one day, like, what y’all are doing in your testing, or if you just like, I mean, if it’s like a, if you get a road race that hits all four physiological time frames and look at the best of that in that athlete did go full gas for all four of those, that’d be a great piece of data. Yeah, then you can use the power duration curve, I don’t use the power duration curve, Um, I think a lot of people they do get caught up in just playing around with numbers and want to like, there’s all sorts of stereotypes of what can I do? What number can I hit? And I don’t find that very useful in training, and I’ll just revert back, maybe I’m old school, just go full gas, go as hard as you can. That’s how it works. Let’s see what the data is after you go full gas, and I love that. So, power duration curves, they are useful in terms of pacing, hey, I got a 12 minute time trial, let’s look at your power duration curve to maybe give you some parameters of maybe how to start the first two minutes. But honestly, after this first two minutes, it’s just full gas. Is this answering your question?


Trevor Connor  47:05

Yeah, no, I just was interested in your perspective, what I find really interesting is we were talking with Ned Overend two days ago.


Frank Overton  47:12

Oh, cool.


Trevor Connor  47:13

And he just started out by saying, I’m not sure I can even help you at all, because I’ve never used a heart rate monitor or a power meter.


Frank Overton  47:20

Deadly Nedley.


Trevor Connor  47:21

And here’s a guy that is absolutely,


Chris Case  47:23

He uses a lot of Strava, interestingly enough, he goes for KOM still, and that’s how he trains a lot, you know, that’s not all. But yeah, he’s amazing, in that he is not using science, he’s using perceived effort, almost exclusively.


Trevor Connor  47:40

But he did describe something very similar to what you’re describing, which he said he uses different climbs, at different lengths, and he knows with each climb, he basically is trying to take that climb as hard as he can, but if it’s a five-minute climb, he’s going to take it harder than a 20-minute climb. So, he just knows how to pace that climb so that he’s pushing himself to his limit.


Frank Overton  48:00

Yeah, I mean, I think if, if it’s work, it’s working for Ned, good for him.


Chris Case  48:05

Not everybody can be so skilled.


Frank Overton  48:08

I mean, he’s so in tune with his body because he’s been doing it for, what, 30 years now? You know, World Champion pedigree.


Chris Case  48:16

Probably more like 45 years, he’s 62.


Frank Overton  48:20

Yeah, Ned used to kick my ass when he was 50, and I was like, in my 30s. But, you know, I mean, going for Strava, I mean, is if you were to choose a five second Strava segment, and a one minute, and a five minute, and 20 minute, you probably could do the same 40P test on Strava, that you could on the trainer if you just found the right segments to go for it.


Chris Case  48:53

Hey, Trevor, have you heard of this life insurance thing? They have that up in Canada?


Trevor Connor  48:57

Chris, we are not that backwards. We do have insurance up in Canada, just the other week I rode my dog sled over to the insurance place to get my insurance. Thank you very much.


Chris Case  49:07

Oh, nice. It must be snowing up there, huh?


Trevor Connor  49:10

Oh, no. Yeah, this summer. We only have three feet on the ground.


Chris Case  49:13

Gotcha. Well, you put the wheels on the dog sled goes anywhere, really?


Trevor Connor  49:17



Chris Case  49:18

Cool. Well, hey,


Trevor Connor  49:20

Those we’re the worst Canada jokes, I’m now making fun of myself. So, Chris, tell us about Health IQ.


Chris Case  49:28

Health IQ is this life insurance company that specializes in healthy active people like cyclists, runners, swimmers, triathletes.


Trevor Connor  49:36

Dog sled runners?


Chris Case  49:38

Yeah, I think that might qualify. So, they’re able to give us favorable rates on life insurance, and they have a special website just for Fast Talk listeners, Head over there, submit race results, screengrabs of Strava, map my run account, map my dog sled ride, whatever you’ve got, any proof that you are indeed a regular cyclist, and you’ll get a better quote on your life insurance all through Health IQ.


Trevor Connor  50:18

Going back to your test quickly for our listeners, I actually personally do your test quite frequently, you start with a couple five second sprint’s, that you take, and you have to do all this within an hour, make it a lot of fun. So, you do a couple five second sprint’s, then you do a five minute, as hard as you can effort, then a short rest, and a 20 minute, all-out effort, then a short rest, and then a one minute all-out effort. And I’ve certainly seen athletes do this, and they complain well, that, you know, when I did a 20- minute fresh, I was 20 watts higher, when I did a one minute fresh, I was 100 watts higher. So, I hate your test. But I think your argument would be this is probably more realistic.


Mac Cassin  51:02

Yeah. So what I mean, the testing protocol that we’re using, and Neal has been using for a long time, you know, he developed it while he’s working with the VCSM, and you know, just seeing lots of athletes coming into the lab, a lot athletes would come from all over the world to get tested there, and then, okay, cool, they had this one data point from one day of testing with him, well, you can’t just expect them to fly back every six months to do the testing again. So, what he set out to do was get lab results from people, and then find some protocol that those same riders could go out and do on the road, that will match up as closely as you can with the lab results, they we’re getting out of like a VO2 max test and a lactate threshold test. That’s how this specific protocol came up, and it’s not just about doing those four efforts in in an hour, it’s the amount of rest between them is also very important, having only six minutes of recovery between the five minute and 20 minute is what makes that 20 minute a much closer representation to your lab based specials, or at least the lab based special that Neal would give you using his, you know, protocol of a one normal jump, one and a half normal jump, and then same thing, the very short rest from the 20 minute effort into the one minute effort, it’s making sure that the amount of recovery you’re getting before that one minute effort is something that is accounted for and controllable. So, one of the issues we have when people, when we have riders go out and do this on the road, or if we’re working with someone remotely and It’s summertime, and they don’t want to jump on a trainer, it’s very difficult to find sometimes good areas to do that, where you can make sure you have a five minute max effort, and then have very little recovery, and within six minutes, you’re started again, on a 20 minute effort. So, in the way that you know things, we order things, you get more information than just what those numbers get. So greatest example of this, in our test is the one minute at the very end, it’s the last effort you do, it’s always going to be since you’ve already done five second max, and you’ve already done a five minute max effort, you’ve done 20 minute max effort, by the time at one minute rolls around, you’re not fresh, you’re not going to pull out your all-time best one minute power, the issue becomes, okay, that’s great if you can do 700 watts for one minute, once good for you, but if you’re looking at doing, say 30 seconds on 30 seconds off, if you can do 700 watts for three of those and then it drops to 650 and then 600 and then 550, then you know what value is that one minute, standalone number giving you to prescribe training? For the test we have at that end, you get a sense of someone’s ability to recover, they’ve done multiple max efforts, and then you’re still asking them to produce power anaerobically, the whole protocol there, it’s really specific. This was, you know, Neal’s had a lot of different variations of this, and this is the one we settled on. So, if you were to do the same if you’re to do this, right in reverse, one minute first and then 20 minutes, five minutes, sure they’re all max efforts, but the results you get are going to be completely different. And for this for the workouts you get in the Sufferfest, they would be kind of garbage you wouldn’t be able, the targets would be all over the place, because it wasn’t one, you know, accounted for correctly.


Frank Overton  54:16

Yeah, it’s a repeatable, that what makes a good test. If it’s repeatable, then you’re apples to apples. You don’t want to do apples oranges.


There Is No Perfect System for Measuring Performance

Trevor Connor  54:24

The other thing I like to that all of you have brought up at one point or another that was actually going to be one of my points is I don’t think there is a perfect system. I have seen athletes take even the best tests and fool themselves into saying the test says something that doesn’t say. I think there is an important part with coaches like all of you, to be able to take that data and say here, here’s what it means.


Frank Overton  54:48

Yeah, I mean, continuing along those lines. I mean, I think FTP is alive and well. I think what it’s important to remember is training specificity. You got your FTP But you’re still going to train specific to the type of event you’re racing, like, if you’re a criterium racer, you’re not going to do FTP style workouts, you know, you’re going to do anaerobic work a lot of sprint’s, or neuromuscular work. So, but I still like for those riders to have their FTP, and that gets us in the ballpark, and then we do full gas interval workouts. You know, similarly, for what Neal was mentioning with Taylor Phinney, of course, he would never do two by 20, you know, FTP is not that important. I still would kind of like to know it, or at least so we could have range for when he was doing like his zones, two, three, and four sweet spot. I’m sure Neal did, but yeah, you’re really concentrating on his four-minute VO2 max power. That’s the training specificity. So, I think, you know, what you guys are doing is fantastic, and I think it’s the way it all comes down to the way you design the training, you know, what are you going to tell the athlete to do? And it’s, yes, there’s a gazillion different ways of testing, really, the secret sauce is how you can take that results and design a training plan and coach them to achieve their goals.


Chris Case  56:16

Before we launch into our take homes, let’s hear from my fourth opinion. Dr. Stephen Cheung is the author of the recently published book, Cycling Science, which includes chapters from some of the biggest names in the field. Cheung also works with Xert, an online training tool for analyzing your data, like Apex and Sufferfest, Xert believes in several key metrics and not just FTP, however, like Frank, Cheung and the folks at Xert, believe in using real training and race data to determine those numbers.


Trevor Connor  56:47

As I’m sure you have seen this, this debate going on, question of whether FTP is dead? Meaning, should we be creating the profile of a rider completely based off of FTP? Which is the way it has been for a while? Or is it more complex than that? You are working with a really fascinating product, that we will have more about soon on on the website called Xert, and I know you have an opinion on this question of whether FTP is dead?


Dr. Stephen Cheung: Is FTP Dead?

Trevor Connor  57:25

Yeah, yeah. I think the discussion is really healthy in terms of making people really think what have I been basing my training on? Now, certainly, this whole idea of needing more than just FTP is something that is built into the entire kind of DNA of what we have been doing with Xert, and we really base it on three different parameters, build your fitness signature on these parameters, in real time, based on your power output from every single ride, that’s really a threshold power, there is then also a what we call an HIE, high intensity energy, which some have compared it to an anaerobic work capacity, how much work can you do with your anaerobic reserves? And then there’s also the peak power, how much power you can sustain over one second, so we really approach it from that perspective, of every single ride, rather than having to do specific testing for it, our algorithms allow us to extract your peak power, your high intensity energy, and your threshold power from the specific power outputs of that ride. So, we’ve always been a proponent that it is not just about FTP, not just about a single factor, we strongly believe that there are multiple kind of components of your fitness signature, so yeah, I’m a full supporter of reopening or opening that debate.


Trevor Connor  59:05

It is really an interesting debate. I does seem like most of the tools are heading that way, I know you’ve been there for a while. What I find interesting is when you talked about your three points, the lowest intensity one was that FTP, and I’ve seen that in other tools as well. Is there a value of finding lower points? So I’m particularly I’m thinking of what you might think, referred to as VT1 or aerobic threshold, do you think that should be part of the profile as well?


Trevor Connor  59:36

Yes, absolutely. The problem with kind of an FTP as even the lowest level is that, yeah, there’s still a huge continuum underneath it, most of the time, we’re not training at averaging FTP or threshold power in the exert model, we’re usually writing much below it. So, actually, our latest iteration of our algorithms has been able to extract what we call a lower threshold power, and the model for that really is what would happen if you were completely bogged? What if all of your kind of, in a sense, carbohydrate fueled activity was removed? What is the highest level of sustained power output we have? So, we’ve also been able to extract this, again, lower threshold power, LTP, and we’ve had athletes start using it with quite a bit of success to base their kind of, especially their base period around, putting in as much time as possible at around that LTP, and really building up a lot of volume that way, and building up a lot of kind of training foundation at that level. So, absolutely, to come back to your question. I think it’s even more complex than necessarily just, you know, three model signature, and so that’s what we’ve been working on with this LTP idea.


Trevor Connor  1:01:12

In our conversation, at the table, one of the things we brought up is the issue of creating these profiles using the best one minute you’ve ever done, and the best 20 minute you’ve ever done, and the best five seconds you ever done, because that’s probably not a true profile of you. So, I really like that you say that there’s is more of a real time that’s going to adjust with where your fitness is actually at, least that’s what I believe I’m hearing from you.


Trevor Connor  1:01:40

Yes, absolutely. Yeah. When you are completely fresh, yes, you can bang out this terrific one-minute effort, maybe, but does that ideal fresh one-minute effort really reflect your day to day kind of capacity? And also, does it reflect your ability to punch out that one minute at the end of a long race? So, you know, while there is certainly can be value in doing that testing, you know, the challenge really is, well, what can you do with it? Does it become a really solid, valid benchmark for your day-to-day training? So, I think that’s the other question that you have to ask with these models that require the testing, the specific kind of idealized testing protocols.


Chris Case  1:02:40

So, after having this big discussion about whether FTP is dead, the different ways we can build a person’s profile, some of the history of how long this science has been around, it seems like a lot of it is stuff that people have been using in different ways for decades, fine tuning it, working with their athletes to make it appropriate for those particular individuals, but there’s got to be something new here. From both of your perspectives, what is new about the science?


What’s New in FTP Science?

Mac Cassin  1:03:13

I mean, in terms of the work we’ve done with the Sufferfest and transitioning our sort of ideology into their app is that the trainer market and people doing workouts on trainers has just exploded, you have TrainerRoad, you have Zwift, you have Sufferfest, you have a lot of people going in and doing their workouts on a trainer, a lot of them just want to do it on their own. And again, there’s been a limitation in terms of all those platforms, it’s okay, we need to be basing these targets off of something, FTP is pretty straightforward, it’s a simple number, you can have a repeatable test and do it again and again, but that really limits, okay, if you’re, if you’re taking someone’s FTP, and then prescribing the same workout to a thousand different people, even if 500 of them say they have the same FTP, they’re not going to be able to do the same workout, they’re not going to be able to produce the same power for a one minute on, one minute off type effort. And so, I mean, the in terms of the science of like the rationale behind having different, different personalized metrics of like a five-minute power, one minute power, training target isn’t in itself new. The thing that we’ve worked towards is just making that easily accessible to add, like anyone who can, you know, has a trainer and some way to measure power. So, as I mean, as Frank saying is every good coach doesn’t know is like, for the real best training response, you need to have someone experienced driving a ship, you know, looking at someone’s data and saying, okay, this is where you should do the training, or this next time you do this work out, this is where we’re going to go. All we’ve tried to do is give that sort of greater specificity of workouts to a wider audience, making sure that anyone who wants to get a good one-hour workout in, they’re not going to start it and have the potential of never finishing the thing, or they’re not going to get the end of it and say, “well, that was a waste of an hour because it wasn’t hard enough.” And so, it’s really more introducing this, this level of coaching that’s been around for a long time, as we’ve thoroughly discussed, but just getting access to that to a greater range of people.


Trevor Connor  1:05:24

So it’s not the profiles that are new or different, it’s how you’re applying those to help people train, especially people who don’t have access to a coach.


Mac Cassin  1:05:33

Yes. Although, in that sense, the way we do rider profiling is different than what has been out in the past, specifically, because our protocol, you know, you can’t use Andy Coggan’s table for rider profiling, because, again, those are absolute best.


Trevor Connor  1:05:49



Mac Cassin  1:05:49

Efforts of all times, and that’s not, you look at someone’s one minute from our test and throw it on that chart, and everyone’s gonna say, “Wow, I’m terrible at one-minute efforts.”


Trevor Connor  1:05:56

Yep, and I’ve done that.


Mac Cassin  1:05:58

But that’s not what we’re looking at, and again, even, you know, looking at, it’s what we’ve done for the rider profiling is make everything relative to that rider. So again, if you have, you have two riders, who can do 1000 watts for five seconds, and they weigh the same, on Coggan’s chart, they have the same sprint ability, but if one of them has an FTP of 200 watts, and one of them has an FTP of 400 watts, the rider with 200 watt FTP is, you know, they’re more of a sprinter than the rider at 400 watts, because, you know, 800 of that watts has to come from instantaneous power, whereas the person with 400 watt FTP, like, only 600 of it does. So, you know, we prefer for the rider profiling to really look just at the individual, how they compare to themselves, and not throwing them up on an existing chart where, you know, a lot of average riders are going to say, “Wow, I’m really low on this chart.” Like, I don’t think I’ve ever cracked into a Cat4 for my five second power.


Trevor Connor  1:06:55

And you still have me beat. Frank?


Frank Overton  1:07:00

Well, I’m not sure if there’s anything new per se. I mean, I haven’t like seen the landmark research paper come out that says some, some. Yeah, I think Mac and Neal have introduced a new protocol for testing, which is cool, and it’s, you know, they’re using it to work for their athletes. So, there’s that, but and there’s, there’s always been the power profile chart, and I’ve never really used it that much other than, like, if you’re never gonna have like an athlete, go out and do their power profile testing, just because it’s not the real world, it’s not like the kind of power that can make in the in the races. So other than the sensational headline of the FTP is dead, I don’t think anything is quite new other than, it stimulated a discussion and some thought amongst everyone to, you know, examine how they are measuring performance or how they’re testing for it.


Chris Case  1:08:01

And would you say that, from that discussion, and that thought process, you’re going to change anything that you’re doing? Have you learned anything today?


Frank Overton  1:08:08

Yeah, yeah, you know, I mean, I might tinker around with, yeah, I’d like to try the 40P in an hour, I’m not going to have an athlete test on the trainer, I always find that they have trouble making the same power on the trainers they do out on the road, this whole rolling inertia thing, I call it the trainer effect. So, there’s that variable that’s introduced into the into that. Also, when I work with an athlete, like a durable versus the Cat3 with the wicked sprint, we didn’t even do any sprint training at all, or, you know, any, we did a little bit of anaerobic capacity work, but I don’t need to know those numbers to design, because I’m going to be concentrating on the designing a training plan specific to his goals. We’ll work on his VO2, work on primarily threshold, we’ll get in a little bit of anaerobic capacity in there, but I won’t be doing too many sprint’s. So, I don’t need to use that in in their testing protocol. Similarly, if I’m working with a crit racer, it’s really nice when you know that they’re just focusing on crits, because you can just toss threshold training out the window, not to say that they don’t do it, you use that to build up like base, but when you’re getting into the specificity phase, there’s no threshold in there at all, that’s nice, because then you can design the training plan even more specific. So, to have tested that is kind of for me, I think that’s just a waste of time. So, I don’t even go there. So, I think I guess what I’ve just realized in talking is I’m gonna design a method of testing specific for that athlete and his goals based on the power demands of those races.


Mac Cassin  1:09:54

Just one quick point, for pretty much everyone I’ve seen there’s a difference between their indoor and outdoor and, and we actually had a user do their 20-minute indoor, they did the same, they did the test outside, their 20 minute power was spot on exactly 242 inside and outside, and then each effort that got longer, there’s a proportional greater difference, which is pretty standard for what we’re seeing. But the, the key thing is if, okay, you can do 1000 watts outside for five seconds, you can only do 800 watts inside for five seconds, okay? For these numbers you’re getting from our test, they’re going into workouts you’re going to do on the trainer, so if it’s taking, say a workout, you know, a sprint workouts taking 90% of your five second power, this is the target you should be shooting for. If you put in that thousand watts outside, okay, it’s going to come up and say, do 900 watts for five seconds inside. But if you can only do 800 on your trainer, that’s not a realistic goal. That being said, we have all our athletes that we work with that we get training outside, we have them do the same test outside too, so we get their outside numbers versus inside numbers. They really don’t like us during those time periods when you do two tests like that, but you know, again, it’s all it’s all relative.



Chris Case  1:11:14

So, both to Frank and Mac, are there any take homes you want to address for the folks out there listening? Just the simple, I believe this is what you should have learned from today.


Frank Overton  1:11:28

I would say take homes are three things, repeatability, execution, keep it simple, and test specific to your goal event.


Chris Case  1:11:43

Nice and concise, nice and concise, 20 seconds he did it in.


Mac Cassin  1:11:49

So, I get another 40 seconds? Yeah, so from my perspective, the takeaway of this, this whole conversation is whatever testing protocol you use, you you just really need to make sure it just matches up with the training methodology that that goes along with it. I think that will solve a lot of gripes people have with any protocol with any model. No, this isn’t super new stuff, different duration efforts to set different intensities for different durations, that’s not really groundbreaking, the difference is, is that, you know, now we’re getting access to that knowledge that coaches have had for 15 years, we’re getting that knowledge to thousands of people who before it really did think that FTP was the only thing that mattered. The number of people on TrainerRoad, on Zwift, on Sufferfest, who the only thing they think that matters is FTP is just kind of surprised me when I first started working with them, coaches, we have our own little bubble of everyone kind of knows what they’re talking about and knows what they’re doing. You kind of forget that there’s a whole population out there that doesn’t have the same background knowledge you do, and we really take it for granted. And so, this is kind of our first step at trying to kind of spread that knowledge to a greater audience and make sure that they’re getting the most out of their training.


Trevor Connor  1:13:08

I think my take homes, and I wish I could be as concise and well explained as Frank, I think he just threw all of us down. Yeah, I think you’re spot on by saying, in some ways, these concepts are not new, but what is new is, how available it is and how sophisticated some of the information that’s available to everybody now. And I guess my advice to the listeners is, learn yourself. That’s what I really got out of this, learn your strengths, learn your weaknesses, learn what you need to work on, as you said, especially for your target event. Just focus on that FTP would be a mistake, that might very well be the thing that you really need to fix, make sure you look at all the different sides of your strengths or weaknesses. You can do that through numbers, you can do that through feel, you can do that through saying, “well in a race if I’m in a breakaway, I can ride everybody off my wheels.” I think my FTP is pretty good, but we had a one-minute climb everybody drops me so maybe my VO2 max isn’t very good, there’s lots of different ways to find it, but make sure you’re looking at all that information and interpreting it and training accordingly. The only thing I would personally add to that is be careful about turning yourself too much into a number. I love that Frank keeps talking about the feel of it, and just go as hard as you can. On the flip side, if you are never ever looking at the numbers, maybe you want to consider them, because you are getting some really good information out of them nowadays.


Chris Case  1:14:44

I’m not even gonna attempt it.


Trevor Connor  1:14:48

Chris has some wonderful points, but he has lost his voice.


Chris Case  1:14:52

You can go by feel, you don’t need any numbers, that’s my take home.


Mac Cassin  1:14:56

The Ned Overend method.


Chris Case  1:14:58

The Ned Overend method. I occasionally use my Strava. But one take home I do have, it comes from my effort the other day. Numbers are meant to be hit, not necessarily beaten. So, if you have a target in your mind or on your screen in front of you don’t think of it as something to beat all the time, like this is a target to be hit, not exceeded, because if you do that, you’ll go into the red and you might explode.


Trevor Connor  1:15:38

Sorry, Neal doesn’t have a take home for us, but he had to jump out of here to go pick up his daughter. And I’m sure he would have had some amazing things to say, but we’ll just have to catch him next time.


Trevor Connor  1:15:47

That was another episode of Fast Talk. If you got anything out of this episode, we hope you see that when you look at these debates and these hot topics, often there’s a lot of subtlety to it. So, I was personally fascinated by the conversation and it gave me a lot to think about on both sides. As always, we love your feedback, email us at Subscribe to Fast Talk in iTunes, Stitcher, SoundCloud, and Google Play. Be sure to leave us a rating and a comment, while you’re there. Check out our sister podcast, the VeloNews podcast, which covers news about the week in cycling. Become a fan of Fast Talk at facebook at and on twitter at Fast Talk is a joint production between VeloNews and Connor Coaching. The thoughts and opinions expressed on Fast Talk are those of the individual. For Chris Case, who I think is lying in the corner right now coughing his lungs out, there he is, Mac Cassin, Neal Henderson, and Frank Overton, I’m Trevor Connor. Thanks for listening.