In the first part of this 5 part series, I discussed the limitations and restrictions of using only the FTP as the sole evaluation of current fitness.
When calculating performance ability, we want to see both our capability through both field testing (ex: FTP 20 min Time Trial) as well as how our bodies respond to stress, removing the mental aspect of load (Blood Lactate Testing). Without both, you are possibly missing out on optimal training opportunities.
Why else should FTP (Functional Threshold Power) not be your only focus in establishing current fitness-
#2- How efficient is the athlete in controlling their power at different cadences AND different positions in and out of the saddle?
It is one thing to hit your FTP on the trainer, in perfectly flat / calm conditions, at a controlled cadence.
We want and need options in controlling our power, while maintaining the same effort (heart rate), regardless of circumstances or terrain.
Just a reminder, we use heart rate as a reference to evaluate how hard the athlete is actually working to produce a certain power. It is very important to evaluate this, as the athlete is getting more fit, that heart rate (effort into the interval) will drop. In other words, as the athlete becomes more fit, the effort gets easier and takes less toll on the athlete metabolically and muscularly.
Now back to my point of needing more than simply FTP to know if the athlete is getting more fit and/or on track to reaching their goals.
I not only want my clients to be able to hit their FTP / Race Pace power numbers, but I want them to be able to repeatedly sustain this threshold at cadences and positions in the saddle that mimic complicated race-like conditions, specifically wind and hills. Most athletes average 80-90rpm on the flats but typically climb at 65-75rpm, depending upon the grade and length of the climb. Many athletes struggle to maintain and not overshoot power on the climbs and in windy conditions, power is harder control and can conditions may be erratic and unpredictable.
So when looking at an athlete's file, I want to see that Client X is first able to sustain their FTP for at least 2x20min, at the normal 80-90rpm, in a seated neutral position on the saddle.
From there, I will to challenge the athlete to sustain the same FTP at 50, 60, 70, and even 100rpms.
Not only am I gauging their power, I am also referencing heart rate to see the discrepancy between their normal cadence interval (80-90rpm) compared to the "climbing and decent" rpms. Again, the heart rate will be lower (less distress muscularly and metabolically over time) the more fit / comfortable the athlete is, at their specific FTP.
As soon as the client has mastered this, I challenge the athlete to maintain that same FTP, while utilizing the four different positions in the saddle: mid saddle, tip of the nose of the saddle with a higher rpm, back of the saddle utilizing a slower more 'paddle boat' like pedal stroke, and lastly standing out of the saddle.
Ideally, as a coach you could throw the typical FTP interval of 2 x 20minutes at a client and within that 20minutes, you could have the athlete alternating different positions in and out of the saddle AND at different cadences and see if the athlete can control their watts within a 20watt range, while maintaining their heart rate within 3-5beats . Once the athlete has accomplished this, then we know the client is proficient in utilizing their Functional Threshold Power.
As an athlete and a coach, I want options in maximizing potential. Utilizing FTP, while simulating complicated and ever changing race conditions is key!
Look forward to sharing the next installment, #3/5 of reasons why FTP should not be your only focus, within the next couple of weeks.