A common dilemma many cyclists face is whether or not they should do their FTP test in their aero position. When assessing your body’s physiological capabilities, determine the position that allows you to find your true FTP.

The goal of an FTP assessment is to estimate your functional threshold power as accurately as possible. Your FTP represents the balance point at which your muscles start producing more byproduct than they can effectively process. This results in the type of fatigue commonly described as “popping” or “blowing up.”

Finding this delicate balance requires discipline in a rider’s cadence, pacing pattern and position. When a rider completes their FTP test in a less-than-optimal position, like an unrefined aero position, they risk sacrificing the effectiveness of all their other workouts.

How is this?

In most cases, athletes find it difficult to put out the same amount of power in their aero position as they do in their upright position. As a result, if you do your FTP test in your aero position, your workouts may be too easy when riding in your upright position — and vice versa. If you complete your FTP test in your upright position, your workouts may be too hard in your aero position.

So, back to the big question: how does a rider determine if they should do their FTP test in their aero position or not? It all comes down to whatever position allows you to find your true FTP. The only way to determine your true FTP is if you test in the position that allows you to reach your maximum potential. 

To dive a littler deeper, consider these questions:

What’s the position you’ll use in your competition?

Aero athletes – and we all qualify to some extent – should slowly adapt their ability to produce high levels of power to those positions they’ll use in competition. This can be accomplished through practice, fit manipulations and flexibility training.

Don’t neglect this important trial and error stage. Too many time trialists want to put in a good TT, but will not spend enough time adapting to the rigors of an exceptionally aerodynamic position.

The takeaway here: Learn how your position affects your power output. Then, address anything that works against your efforts to sustain race pace within your fitness capabilities through testing during training.

Over time, what most riders will find is that they can adapt their power to their aero position. But, many times they’ll also learn that their position is too aggressively aerodynamic — no amount of practice is going to yield their highest power output in a posture that’s too severe.

Are you thinking of your intervals as position-independent or position-related?

Conditioning during intervals is either one or the other. Based off the nature of an interval and goals of a workout, athletes should view each interval as either an opportunity to build power output in a specific position or build some aspect of your fitness.

This point further reinforces that your FTP test should be done in whichever position yields your highest sustainable wattage, much the same with VO2max intervals.

For example, in the case of position-related interval, the goal would be to stress a particular energy system or tax the muscles in a specific way. This is time to discover where the balance between position on the bike and working to your full capability lies. If you’re interested in learning more about this topic, I cover it pretty well in my latest Ask a Cycling Coach podcast episode. Check out the show notes here.

Now that you know which position to be in when you do your FTP test, make sure to nail all the other aspects of your assessment. Take note of these tips to help you perform your best during your next FTP assessment.

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Chad Timmerman

Chad Timmerman is the Head Coach and Co-Founder of TrainerRoad — cycling’s most effective training system. He has nearly 10 years of coaching experience as a Level I USA certified Cycling and Triathlon coach. When he’s not developing structured training plans for TrainerRoad, you can catch him sharing his coaching advice on the Ask a Cycling Coach podcast. To get Chad’s best cycling knowledge delivered to your inbox, sign up for his free 6-part email course Train Smart, Get Fast.

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