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Tell me what I need to know about a ramp test

Old 11-10-20, 12:54 PM
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MinnMan
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Tell me what I need to know about a ramp test

I really only worry about FTP for the trainer, as I never do structured workouts on the road. Even on the trainer, it hasn't been that important because most of my structured workouts are self-designed interval sessions in which I know what my limits are (say, the power I can sustain for sets of 5 60 second efforts).

But today I did a Zwift structured workout (3 minute VO2 max), and I didn't find it particularly hard, which I think likely means that my FTP is set too low. My FTP is estimated based on a 20 minute effort (-5%), and it was done some time ago. So if I'm going to do more structured workouts, I should probably do a ramp test. I'll use the Zwift ramp test workout, as I don't have another app like TrainerRoad, which I've heard is better (does it really make a difference?)

What do I need to know?

Do I just take the test on a day when I have fresh legs (e.g., after a rest day or an easy effort day), or is more planning required?

does the Zwift ramp test provide enough warm up, or should I spin easy for 30 minutes prior?

What else? Will I want to puke?
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Old 11-10-20, 01:29 PM
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There's some information here: https://zwifthacks.com/app/map-ftp-calculator/

You should definitely do it as fresh as possible, the ramping itself is your warmup because the beginning steps should feel ludicrously easy, and the closer you get to puking, the more accurate the result will be. Of course no test protocol is perfect, so you'll see plenty of detractors, but in my experience ramp testing estimates my FTP very closely to other more complicated protocols like the Sufferfest 4dp and outdoor extended climb PBs (with factors such as it being easier to produce more power outdoors and uphill, but harder to go all out when one needs to pedal home cancelling each other out).
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Old 11-10-20, 02:20 PM
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Originally Posted by surak View Post
There's some information here: https://zwifthacks.com/app/map-ftp-calculator/

You should definitely do it as fresh as possible, the ramping itself is your warmup because the beginning steps should feel ludicrously easy, and the closer you get to puking, the more accurate the result will be. Of course no test protocol is perfect, so you'll see plenty of detractors, but in my experience ramp testing estimates my FTP very closely to other more complicated protocols like the Sufferfest 4dp and outdoor extended climb PBs (with factors such as it being easier to produce more power outdoors and uphill, but harder to go all out when one needs to pedal home cancelling each other out).
Thanks. The link is very helpful. I guess I didn't realize that the ramp test wouldn't spit out an FTP automatically.
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Old 11-10-20, 02:27 PM
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Originally Posted by MinnMan View Post
I guess I didn't realize that the ramp test wouldn't spit out an FTP automatically.
The Zwift ramp test will, after you stop pedaling (wasn't clear to me when I first performed it, because I wanted to cool down). The ZwiftHacks tool lets you calculate your numbers if you build a custom ramp test with your own parameters, and perhaps Zwift didn't have a real ramp test when the tool was created.
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Old 11-10-20, 02:49 PM
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Is there an accuracy issue depending on what steps one takes? It seems like taking larger steps would make it easier - i.e., you've expended less energy when you get near to the top of your power limit. If you take smaller steps, you've done a lot of work at pretty high output before your final minute.
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Old 11-10-20, 03:03 PM
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It's best to do an FTP test at the end of an easy week if those are part of your plan.

I would suggest a longer warmup than the 5 minute one built into the Zwift ramp. Easy peddling in z1 for 10-20 minutes prior will only help, even though in reality the test should really only be 4-6 minutes of hard to max effort work. For example, the last one I did with 1 minute, 20w increments was 8 easy steps, 5 moderate to hard, and 2.25 at max effort. It's also important to stop the test when you fail seated (don't get out of the saddle and grind out a few more seconds).

The ramp test is a good tool for setting zones and assessing if your training is working, but it's also not a perfect number. One of the main problems is that cyclist with poor anaerobic power may fail too soon to set zones accurately for aerobic training. I failed my last test well before reaching max heart rate, or feeling like I was really going all out. To me that was an indicator that I needed to work on leg strength and doing some anaerobic work, and sure enough, it does often feel like intervals in aerobic zones are a bit too easy too (you can always bump up the % in Zwift though if you want a harder workout).
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Old 11-10-20, 03:22 PM
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Originally Posted by zen_ View Post
It's best to do an FTP test at the end of an easy week if those are part of your plan.

I would suggest a longer warmup than the 5 minute one built into the Zwift ramp. Easy peddling in z1 for 10-20 minutes prior will only help, even though in reality the test should really only be 4-6 minutes of hard to max effort work. For example, the last one I did with 1 minute, 20w increments was 8 easy steps, 5 moderate to hard, and 2.25 at max effort. It's also important to stop the test when you fail seated (don't get out of the saddle and grind out a few more seconds).

The ramp test is a good tool for setting zones and assessing if your training is working, but it's also not a perfect number. One of the main problems is that cyclist with poor anaerobic power may fail too soon to set zones accurately for aerobic training. I failed my last test well before reaching max heart rate, or feeling like I was really going all out. To me that was an indicator that I needed to work on leg strength and doing some anaerobic work, and sure enough, it does often feel like intervals in aerobic zones are a bit too easy too (you can always bump up the % in Zwift though if you want a harder workout).
That could be me, too. I guess I'll find out.

Thanks for the insights.
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Old 11-10-20, 04:43 PM
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My suggestion would be a longer warmup with a couple short, hard efforts that run your HR up without burning up your legs. You want to be really warmed up. The time I tried it with just the Free Ride for a warm up with no sprints, I blew up WAY early. A week later, I did it again, but with an additional 15 minutes of warmup with two sprints taking HR up to about LT, and got a 20w increase in FTP. Plus, the time I blew up I only got to 162 bpm. With the longer warmup with the sprints, I had no problem running HR up to 174.

I also found it easier to push a higher cadence than they suggest. They say 80-95, but I found it easier to put out the power at 95-105. But that's me.
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Old 11-11-20, 03:01 AM
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^^Ditto^^

After a 5-15 minute warmup, try a 30 second sprint to get your heart rate up, then ease up again for a few minutes, as a leadup to the ramp test.

My heart rate is often erratic and unreliable as a gauge for serious training (due to meds for an auto immune disorder). My heart rate goes from 60 bpm to 90 just walking around the house getting ready for a bike ride. Then it hits 130 bpm just coasting downhill from my place to the main drag. That's mostly stress, a combination of having been struck by cars too many times, and terrible drivers in my neighborhood. As soon as I'm a couple of miles away I'm fine. So it takes up to 30 minutes before my HR is a useful gauge for anything.

I discovered, pretty much accidentally, that my usual habit on a favorite training route seemed to prepare me better for the rest of the ride. It's a 10 minute easy ride from my door to the beginning of my usual workout route. There's a short bottleneck where some drivers get impatient and do stupid stuff, so I use that as a short sprint zone of about 30 seconds. I found that really helped complete my warmup for the rest of the ride.

But that doesn't work for everyone. Some trainers cite studies that indicate going too hard too soon in a training session can hinder the rest of the session. But try it for yourself and see if one or two sprints after a 5-10 minute warmup help jumpstart the rest of your workout.
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Old 11-11-20, 09:59 PM
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Originally Posted by canklecat View Post
^^Ditto^^

After a 5-15 minute warmup, try a 30 second sprint to get your heart rate up, then ease up again for a few minutes, as a leadup to the ramp test.

My heart rate is often erratic and unreliable as a gauge for serious training (due to meds for an auto immune disorder). My heart rate goes from 60 bpm to 90 just walking around the house getting ready for a bike ride. Then it hits 130 bpm just coasting downhill from my place to the main drag. That's mostly stress, a combination of having been struck by cars too many times, and terrible drivers in my neighborhood. As soon as I'm a couple of miles away I'm fine. So it takes up to 30 minutes before my HR is a useful gauge for anything.

I discovered, pretty much accidentally, that my usual habit on a favorite training route seemed to prepare me better for the rest of the ride. It's a 10 minute easy ride from my door to the beginning of my usual workout route. There's a short bottleneck where some drivers get impatient and do stupid stuff, so I use that as a short sprint zone of about 30 seconds. I found that really helped complete my warmup for the rest of the ride.

But that doesn't work for everyone. Some trainers cite studies that indicate going too hard too soon in a training session can hinder the rest of the session. But try it for yourself and see if one or two sprints after a 5-10 minute warmup help jumpstart the rest of your workout.
Interesting. Are you sure that those readings around 130 bpm are real? Pretty frequently I get readings of around 130 bpm early in a ride or trainer session when the HRM (Wahoo TICKR) isn't yet getting a good electrical connection to my chest.. Then if I begin to sweat a little, a good connection kicks in and rather rapidly it goes down to a more reasonable reading (reasonable for an easy effort, that is).
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Old 11-11-20, 11:19 PM
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Originally Posted by MinnMan View Post
Interesting. Are you sure that those readings around 130 bpm are real? Pretty frequently I get readings of around 130 bpm early in a ride or trainer session when the HRM (Wahoo TICKR) isn't yet getting a good electrical connection to my chest.. Then if I begin to sweat a little, a good connection kicks in and rather rapidly it goes down to a more reasonable reading (reasonable for an easy effort, that is).
Oh, yeah, it's real. I double check everything, including with a BP cuff and manual palpation. (I worked in patient care for years.)

It's stress from being hit by cars too damn many times, twice with serious injuries. Always takes me awhile to get past the initial anxiety and settle into the groove.

Although I had similar pre-fight reactions when I was an amateur boxer -- high HR and BP. So did Muhammad Ali, as Cassius Clay, before his first bout with Sonny Liston. But I was a fast starter and just anxious to get it going. I think it was Sugar Ray Leonard who said if you're not at least a little scared before getting into the ring, you aren't paying attention. There's another guy in there waiting to clobber you back if you don't get him first.
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