How to Ace Your FTP Test
Power Zone instructors and Members share their secrets for nailing this notoriously tough fitness test.
If there’s a Peloton class more feared than the FTP test, we don’t know what it is. If you know, you know, and if you don’t know, it’s a 20-minute fitness test on the Bike that should leave you absolutely spent. The idea is to reach your functional threshold power—that is, the highest output you can possibly muster on your best day—in order to determine your actual level of fitness so you can train effectively, get the most out of the Power Zone program of classes and improve your performance. It’s a whole thing.
While many Members don’t know what they’re getting into when they first take the test, those who’ve been there, done that may find themselves wondering how to approach it the second, third or even tenth time around. So we asked those who know—our fearless Power Zone instructors plus a few veteran Power Zone riders—for their best advice on how to attack the FTP test and achieve your best possible output.
Prep Your Mind
The number-one, as-official-as-it-gets advice is not to go out too hard. You want to start in zone 4. Yes, we said zone 4. That’s the huff-and-puff zone. It’s “hard.” You are going hard, and progressively harder, for 20 minutes, so you should get mentally comfy with that.
Peloton Power Zone instructor (and cycling champ!) Christine D’Ercole recommends not taking it too seriously: “Riders should not be afraid of the FTP test because it is not a judgment on one's fitness. It is simply about taking a moment to recognize where one is at that moment in time, on that particular day. Over time and retakes, it may go up and it may go down, either incrementally or dramatically. It is not a linear process. It is not a scale. It is not a compass. Understanding these things will help remove the fear from the experience.”
“The FTP test is about measuring and celebrating your fitness,” says Peloton instructor (and house Power Zone guru) Matt Wilpers, making us wonder if the true meaning of FTP is not “functional threshold of power” but “fitness test party.” He adds, “The goal of the FTP test is to assess where your current fitness is at and then build zones around it so that you improve. You should want to push hard to see where you are at and what you are capable of. It's not a competition.”
Prep Your Body
There are several factors that are going to help you achieve your best on the FTP test—or drag you down. Here’s Matt with his pre-FTP best practices: “Get a good night's rest prior, go through your normal pre-ride nutrition routine, warm up off the Bike and then do at least a FTP warm-up ride on the Bike prior to starting.”
If you’re hemming and hawing about it, here are some reasons to delay your test, according to Christine: “If you are truly not feeling well and may be coming down with something, if you are not well rested, notably stressed, if your nutrition has not been on point, if you are dehydrated, pregnant, injured or hungover.” If those things don’t apply, clip in and…
Set a Goal
If you’re a first-timer, your goal should just be to finish, but if you’re retesting, Matt has a strategy you may want to try: “Personally, when I think my FTP has gone up a little, I try to maintain the same average output I obtained from the last test during the first half of the current test. In the second half, I start to hammer and see how far I can drive my average output up,” he says. “This helps me avoid going out too hard too soon, yet ensures that I won't have a massive gap to make up for in the second half of the test.”
Or Forget the Numbers Entirely
Sounds counterintuitive, but Christine has a different approach than Matt. “For me, focusing on the output number is the worst possible way to feel successful,” she says. “I treat it like race day, when we are required to cover our computers and not look at the data. During competition, one must be present at the race.” She prefers not to focus on the average output number, as any slippage could turn into a negative mental spiral, and instead concentrate on her breathing and her inner coach.
“By training ourselves to hear our self-talk, we can cultivate the ability to catch ourselves in moments of negative self-talk and edit that chatter in real time, mid-race (mid-FTP test), when we want to quit, and use the powerof words to keep ourselves on course,” Christine advises. “I often say to myself, ‘What if I can?’ and ‘I am, I can, I will, I do’ on repeat. This has helped me stay in the game when things are really hurting and really matter, like at World Championships, when I won the Team Sprint in 2019!”
“If you’ve done the training, it’s mostly a mental game, so you have to go in rested and psyched up,” says Member Mena R., who has this invaluable pro tip: “Once you take the FTP once, you know what the instructions are, so I lower the Bike volume, turn on closed captioning and blast my own playlist—I find that really helps get me pumped up.” Lately she’s rocking a badass female playlist packed with Lizzo, Nicki Minaj, Cardi B., Saweetie and Megan Thee Stallion, for those looking for inspiration.
Put the Pedal to the…
“The FTP test gets in my head so bad! Like I know I need to do it, but it’s a battle to get it done,” says Member Amy G. “I told myself it was just like my marathon training. I wouldn’t do all the training and not run the race, so why do the challenge and not do the test? The test is your medal.” So go ahead, hop on and earn your medal!
You’ve got this. Take that FTP test and dive into all things Power Zone training.