How to Do FTP Tests for Indoor Cycling

Indoor cycling is a fantastic activity and will give you so much back for everything that you give to it. Like with any sport, it’s vital to know that we are improving and getting better at it. So how do we see our improvements while using a spin bike or bike trainer? Typically with indoor cycling, we expect to see a few things from all our indoor bike or turbo trainer time.

What is a Fitness Test For Indoor Cycling?

A fitness test is typically a max power test to see how strong a cyclist you are and how strong your cardiovascular engine is. You start with a thorough warm up and then go into either an all out effort for a certain amount of time, or you might find yourself consistently ramping up the power. There are many different tests, but what is for sure it you will be taken to your critical power level.

Why Do We Test?

To see what level we are currently at it’s really easy to get into the habit of just training and feeling fitter, but how do you know you’re getting better unless you know the level you are starting at. We do tests to see our base level so that we can progress it further.

To create a training structure

Testing will also help us structure our training to ensure after the testing, when we do the training, We can work in the suitable training zones and make sure we’re doing our indoor training properly. The only way to find these zone is to test and see where we are to start with.

To make sure we are hitting our goals

We test to see improvements in our fitness and progression towards our goals. They are vital to make sure the training we are doing sends us in the right direction. If you are making progress, the training you’re doing is effective. The way we can see progression is to test regularly.

To challenge ourselves

When many of us were in school, tests weren’t fun, but tests on the bike can be. If you didn’t want to challenge yourself, you wouldn’t be on the bike in the first place. The ultimate challenge of indoor cycling is to do structured tests, as these will challenge you to your maximum.

To see how we compare to our friends

I believe that competition is healthy, and it is vital to have people to challenge you and drive you forward in your goals. Doing tests and seeing how you come up against friends is a fantastic way to challenge yourself and others. It is very motivating and I find that when I’m training myself, I dig a little deeper trying to catch up with my friend’s fitness levels, and they do the same to me. Overall we are more motivated and fitter.


What Tests Can We Do For Indoor Cycling?

There are many different types of tests you can do, and many indoor cycling applications like Peloton, Zwift, and Echelon will offer specific tests for you. You will prefer to do more than others, don’t be shy of tests you find challenging as they all should take you to your highest level, and you will feel awful doing them.

What do we require to do tests?

When it comes to doing a fitness test, you will need something to gauge the level of how hard you are working. Many high-end magnetic spin bikes will have a power meter that, through a strain gauge, can tell you how you are pushing into the pedals.

If you don’t have a power function on your bike, this can be challenging, but later in this article, we’re going to run through a few different ways of testing.

Also, many people use a heart rate monitor. These are great devices to see how hard you are working or how your body adapts to specific resistances. Using a heart rate monitor, you will be able to see the level at which your body is working.

Functional threshold power

You will commonly hear the term FTP test. This is what many indoor cyclists do to test their fitness and see how they stack up. It’s a straightforward test, and most applications you might use will offer this. If you are unsure what it is, it’s a long warm up with a few intervals, and then it goes into a 20 minute flat out effort. You check what average power output you did over the 20 minutes, then you minus 5%, and this is your FTP Score. This is what they call a long FTP test.

You will also have a short FTP test. This will start with a few short intervals and then go into an 8 minute max power effort. You take your average power output from the 8 minute max effort, minus 10%, which will give you an FTP score. To do an accurate FTP test, you need a spin bike like Keiser M3i with power measure or you can use a pair of power meter pedals for any spin bike or road bike.

Ramp Test

A ramp test is very different from a functional threshold power test and works not just in your maximal aerobic power but in all your training zones. You start with a warm up and then slowly build your power higher and higher through the low to high training zones until you can’t go anymore.

Where you end up will calculate your FTP for you. The ramp test is an incredible way of learning your FTP and does make it fun having at the training zones to work through, not just a maximal aerobic power effort like the FTP test. In my opinion, I prefer a ramp test to the FTP test.

Hour Test

The hour test is one I tend to do quite regularly. I warm up for five minutes, then I hold the highest power I can for a whole hour, and then cool down for 5 minutes. I do this test because it’s not about raw power output. It’s about pace and keeping yourself as motivated as possible for quite a long period of time.


What Do We do with Our FTP Test Results?

Now that you have your results, you can tailor your training to you personally. With your FTP score, you are going to want to go online and look at your training zones. Look at different indoor cycling sessions using training zones and start training to them in a structured training plan.

This will make the session beneficial to improving your fitness, and you will have so much fun being challenged at the correct levels for you while going through training plans.

How to test Fitness on a Spin Bike Without Power Function

A power function on a bike is a fantastic tool, but if your indoor trainer or spin bike doesn’t have a power meter function and you don’t want to invest in power meter pedals or cranks, how can you test to see if you are improving? You have to get a little bit creative, but you can make it work.

Testing with resistance levels

Firstly if your spin bike has levels on it like the Nordictrack S22i, you can judge your fitness by, for example, seeing how you can hold certain levels for. Then after training for a month, try again and see if you can better it.

Testing without resistance levels

If you don’t have levels on your bike or a power meter, it can be a bit more complicated, but it can be done. You will require a heart rate monitor and an application like the Wahoo Fitness application to track your heart rate.

You are going to want to mark the resistance dial at a place you feel challenged and take it lower, then warm up for 5 minutes. After that then, you will need to go to that level for, say, 30 minutes while tracking your heart rate. Check the heart rate and make a note of the average. Make sure not to remove the mark from the resistance.

Do a month’s training, then go back and repeat the test. If your heart rate is lower, you are getting fitter, and your indoor training has been successful.

Conclusion

You don’t have to test, but it does add a lot of structure to your training and will help make sure you’re making good improvements for all the time your spend while on the bike. I personally highly recommend it, and it can help you make fitness benchmarks and a training plan to structure your training.

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