Cycling Physiological Profile Testing (PPT) vs Functional Threshold Power (FTP)

By Shannon Grady – Owner/Founder GO! Athletics

Many triathletes and cyclists often ask if they need other types of physiological testing if they already have their FTP or Functional Threshold Power values.  While FTP can provide specific training parameters and is useful, PPT is individualized and gives each athlete the ability to train and perform according to their own unique physiology and potential.  

The PPT measures actual bioenergetic availability at a specific point in time and does not make assumptions or estimates on an athlete’s physiology or how each athlete has in the past or is currently accomplishing training and performance outputs. The Cycling PPT or Physiological Profile Test, is an incremental step test that measures heart rate, lactate, and wattage to determine an athlete’s current physiological profile, giving a complete picture of the entire energy spectrum. PPT is used to determine: individualized training zones, individualized wattage targets, and current physiological status. PPT additionally provides training emphasis that will yield measurable improvements, which correlate to performance outcomes.  

The value and advantage of the PPT is that there are no assumptions or estimates made on an athlete’s current physiological functioning, power, or capacity limits.  PPT provides a view as to the  “What,” “Why,” and “How” an athlete is accomplishing and can improve training, field testing, and/or performance outputs.

  1. “What” type of energy an athlete has available to perform work/training/racing
  2. “Why” the athlete may or may not be improving in her/his training and/or performances
  3. “How” the athlete should steer her/his training to improve physiology for better performances

With PPT data, the coach or athlete receives highly actionable insight into the training stimulus required to improve training, field testing, and/or performance outputs.

There are limitations in the use of a test and metric such as an FTP, in that there are many broad assumptions and general estimates applied to all athletes when using this test and metric. The FTP or Functional Threshold Power test is a relatively simple field test and can be done by any coach or athlete with a trainer and power meter.  The FTP test is a maximum effort time-trial ranging from 20 to 60 minutes. FTP is used by athletes and coaches in their training programs to: determine individual training zones, measure improvements in FTP, and predict performances.  Unfortunately, FTP testing fails to answer the “What,” “Why,” and “How” to adequately measure an individual’s physiological status or provide true insight into the training required to actualize performance improvements.  Ultimately, continuous use of solely FTP data by coaches and/or athletes will yield plateaus in training and performances.

Given that the physiological blueprints for all athletes are unique and dynamic, Physiological Profile Testing will accurately evaluate, individualize training, boost WATTS, and improve performances!


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