Understanding how to use and manipulate readings relating to your Functional Threshold Power is going to get you fit; very fit. It is an excellent way to ensure that you are exercising at a very high level for a long period of time, which is also the way to burn a shed load of calories. BPM has 3 models of bike that can allow you to measure your work rate with a great degree of accuracy (Wattbike, Cyclops Phantoms and Schwinn AC Performance Plus), giving you a reading to act as a target.
What is Functional Threshold Power (FTP)?
Well firstly we need to understand anaerobic threshold. When you exercise at intensities up to around 75% of your maximum effort, your blood is generally able to clear away the waste products of exercise quicker than they build up. However, if you exceed this intensity, they build up. It's generally referred to a lactate build-up ... it's actually many things but this description works well regardless. You will be familiar with the burning feeling that high intensity exercise produces and shortly afterwards you will have to cease exercising; your muscles will not be able to work any further.
Your anaerobic threshold (AT) is the tipping point. Exercise at intensities under this point and you’ll be able to continue for a relatively long period of time. Go over this point and you’ll tire quickly.
FTP is very closely related to AT. If you know what your FTP value is, then you can maintain a high intensity for a long period of time. It is your average/mean FTP value that is important. You can, if you choose, keep a steady state, maintaining the same power output for the whole duration … and this is a useful training method for sure; however, to get extremely fit and burn the most amount of calories, it makes sense also to exceed this point for certain very high-intensity durations (intervals), then drop below it to recover. Do this over and over and you’ll get greater results. For more info on interval training, see here.
So how do you test your FTP?
The strict test dictates that you must produce as much power as you possibly can for 60 minutes. This is an extremely demanding test and you wouldn’t be expected to get the most accurate reading on the first attempt as you won’t be aware of your capabilities or the ability to pace the session with the most effectiveness.
A modified test is the 20 minute test. Here you exercise as hard as you can for 20 mins (naturally), but to accommodate the shorter duration, your FTP value is amended to be 95% of the value given. This is your FTP value.
BPM run specific FTP testing classes and also classes that are geared toward maximising your effort related to FTP. That is, during these sessions, there will be a 20 minute phase where the music will be a consistent tempo and mixed continuously to keep the pressure on. You don’t have to take part in the test itself in such sessions (they are after all still just spin classes also), but the option is there should you want; that is, if you don’t want to partake in the test, it will just seem like a regular spin class anyway.
In addition, you can jump on the bikes outside of class times and take the test then. (This can be part of Virtual Training as well).
Check the schedule here for the next class. Any questions just drop me a line on jon @ bpmbikelab.com - get riding!
Wattbikes allow for a very accurate means of setting your work load.
(Hover over the image to pause the screen).
Wattbike Pro: suitable for the physically stronger.
Power output in Watts when using the air resistance.
eg 90rpm at level 4 = 235 Watts