FTP is dead, The Sufferfest claims, and launches 4DP training

Functional Threshold Power isn't the best metric, company claims

From Zwift to TrainerRoad, most of the popular training apps center around your Functional Threshold Power (FTP), or the maximum power you can sustain for one hour. But The Sufferfest claims FTP isn't the way to go, and the training company has a new metric called Four-Dimensional Power. 

Designed in collaboration with Neal Henderson and Mac Cassin of APEX Coaching, the 4D Power program uses four metrics to create a power profile that identifies rider type to help guide their training.

Most training apps use FTP to calculate efforts and interval intensities over the course of a workout. For instance, a tempo workout will prescribe intervals at around 75 percent of your FTP, and VO2 Max workouts will have efforts at something like 120 percent of your FTP.

FTP 2.0

“FTP only measures sustained aerobic ability and is a poor predictor of how an athlete produces power above threshold. It doesn’t tell you how well someone can sprint, deliver repeated attacks, tackle punchy climbs or launch a solo breakaway,” Henderson said.

"Looking at anything below FTP, the (power) zones are very similar from person to person," Cassin continued. "As soon as you go north of FTP the variation in the population is just massive, there are guys who are really good at sprints who can put down big watts but struggle with long efforts, and then you get other guys who can do eight minutes way harder than they should be able to based on their FTP, but can't sprint."

Herein lies the inherent problem with FTP training, based on FTP alone there is no way to know what a rider is capable of when they go beyond that number. As Henderson put it, it's a bit like buying pants just based on waist size.

"You know they may fit around your waist but if its 30in long and you need a 36in length, then those pants don't fit anymore," he chuckled. "Just like the right FTP will not fit the same workout dependent on your neuromuscular, max aerobic power, and anaerobic capacity abilities. So what we are doing is setting thresholds for those metrics above FTP that are better targeted to the individual's capacity."

This is going to hurt

Through The Sufferfest App, 4DP uses a fitness test called Full Frontal, which was developed by Henderson over years working with top-level athletes across many disciplines.

The test is broken up into four types of efforts —  neuromuscular, anaerobic capacity, maximal aerobic power, and FTP —  and the sequencing is designed to not only better isolate your FTP but also gauge your other physiological systems above threshold.

The idea behind 4DP is to look at how you perform above threshold to better tailor workouts
The idea behind 4DP is to look at how you perform above threshold to better tailor workouts

The results are compiled into a 4DP profile which identifies what type of rider you are based on your strengths and weaknesses —Sprinter, Attacker, Pursuiter, Time Trialist, Climber or Rouleur —  and highlights specific areas for improvement.

"In just a flat 20min FTP test, you can't tell if your aerobic ceiling is super low and you need to work on it, or if your ceiling is really high and you need to be doing nothing but sustained stuff," Cassin said. "With this testing protocol, you can look at the results and say, OK you want to be doing a criterium and your five second (power) is great, but you one minute (power) is really bad. Knowing that you're not necessarily going to be doing a bunch of sprints, instead, you want to be doing more anaerobic capacity training."

From there The Sufferfest App will take the results and tailor each workout based on your specific numbers, so that you get the most effective intervals based on your individual capacity.

"The customisation of workouts is huge and something that you could really only do with a coach before. The most beneficial part of Full Frontal, you can really get a clear picture of where someone stands fitness wise and the test highlights what sort of training they should be doing based on their goals," Cassin told BikeRadar.

"I think it's going to be a game changer for those people who don't want to hire a coach for themselves and want to do it all on their own. It gives them a blueprint of where they are and where they need to be headed with their training."

The new 4DP training system is now available through The Sufferfest App which also includes Mental Training, Yoga for Cycling, Nutrition and Training plans, and full access to The Sufferfest’s full library of training videos.

Colin Levitch

Staff Writer, Australia
Originally from Denver, Colorado, Colin now resides in Sydney, Australia. Holding a media degree, Colin is focused on the adventure sport media world. Coming from a ski background, his former European pro father convinced him to try collegiate crit racing. Although his bright socks say full roadie, he enjoys the occasional mountain bike ride, too.
  • Discipline: Road, mountain
  • Preferred Terrain: Tarmac mountain climbs into snow-covered hills
  • Current Bikes: BMC TeamMachine SLR01, Trek Top Fuel 9
  • Dream Bike: Mosaic Cycles RT-1
  • Beer of Choice: New Belgium La Folie
  • Location: Sydney, Australia

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