The 1 Minute Test. – How you should do it.

By: Hunter Allen

The FTP test has been written about by hundreds of coaches, journalists, and others since Dr. Coggan and I created the FTP testing protocol back in 2003.  It has been a constant source of amusement and bewilderment over the years to see it misinterpreted, misconstrued and wrong in many articles.  Other articles have gotten the concept correctly, which is a relief.  If you have questions on how to properly execute the FTP test, then grab a copy of our book, “Training and Racing with a Power Meter” where we detail the exact protocol. 

But, this article isn’t about FTP. It’s about the 1 minute test, which is also often done wrong, done incorrectly or not done at all.  The 1 minute test is a test of your anaerobic capacity (AC) , or your ability to do hard, hard work without using oxygen.  These are very short efforts by nature and range from 30 seconds out to 2minutes.  

Riders with a strong AC can attack very hard up a short hill, or attack with 1km to go in a race, or are good at doing hard, short efforts and recovering quickly.   Riders that do not have this ability are generally better at aerobic efforts like steady-state riding for a long time, like doing a time trial, triathlon and climbing.  There are riders that have both a strong AC and aerobic ability and these riders are a threat to win nearly any race.  These are the riders winning the very hard one day classic races and also the grand tours.  It is rare when you see a pure steady state rider win a stage in the Tour unless it’s a mountain top finish and the rider can just grind the legs off the other riders slowly and painfully.    

 What about you?  Where is your AC as it relates to the rest of your energy systems? Is it one of your strengths? Or is it one of your weaknesses that you could improve?   Knowing how much power you can put out for 1 minute will help to you to determine which races or events might be best for you,  understanding when you should attack and put your rivals in a bit of difficulty.   Understanding your 1 minute power can also help you to determine your freshness or fatigue.  Your AC is highly dependent on your current level of fatigue.  If you are really fresh, then your AC will be very high and your average watts for that 1 minute will also be high.  Conversely, if you are fatigued at the end of a hard 3 week block of training, your AC will be low and your 1 minute power will be low.    Knowing this, it is obvious when you should test your AC to achieve the highest power output…..at the end of a rest week, when you are very rested.  If you took your rest even further (haha!) and sat on the couch for a month not riding at all, then went out and did a 1 minute test, it most likely would be your highest 1 minute ever. It would hurt bad and you might puke, but it would be the highest average watts for a minute.    

How to properly test your one minute.

Since freshness is critical for your best 1 minute test then, you test it the first thing in your ride.   It’s not necessary to warm-up very much and certainly don’t do any intervals before your 1 minute.  If possible, you should do your test on a tough hill, with about a 5-9% gradient.  If it’s too steep, you’ll have a hard time turning the pedals over in the last 15 seconds, so the ideal hill actually flattens out a little bit right at the top.  I really like to find a hill where you do crest the top of it just after you finish the 1 minute, so it’s easier to recover after.   If you do not have a hill to attack, then do the test going into the wind, so you have more resistance to push against.   Before you go out to test, you will also need to adjust your “fields” in your computer head unit so that you can see:  Lap Time, 3 second Power, and cadence.  You will touch the “lap” button on your computer when you begin the test and then again when you stop, so that you can learn your average right at the finish of the test and also easily find it in the downloaded data.  AND, it’s super important that you can see your lap time, because at 37 seconds, you will swear that you had to have ridden for a minute already. If you can’t see that timer, you will stop early and then will have to wait till the next rest week before doing it again.  

Here is the exact testing protocol that you should use to crack out your best 1 minute.

Warm-up:  20 minutes of easy riding at endurance pace so that you end up close the base of your testing hill or area.  If it takes 1 hour of riding to get to your testing hill or area, I would encourage you to drive and park, so that you have only about 20-30minutes of riding to do before the test.  Just an hour of riding could impact your wattage average.   This should be no more than 70% of your threshold power (FTP) . Keep cadence between 85-95 and the pressure on the pedals light.  Now,  do (3) x 1 minute fast pedaling drills, where you keep the wattage at 70% of FTP or lower, and just increase your cadence to 110-120rpm for a minute and then ride at 80 rpm for a minute.  It is VERY IMPORTANT your watts stay below 70% of FTP.  This is about spinning the legs, and keeping the watts low.  Do NOT blow your 1 minute test by putting out too much power here.

Main Set:  Now, you are ready for the 1 minute test.   But, guess what???  The test is actually going to be 1 minute and 5 seconds!  Yes, you will need to test for 1 minute 5 seconds, so that you capture your very best 1 minute.  When you start, you aren’t able to touch the “lap” button on your computer head unit and accelerate out of the saddle at the same time, so by doing the test for 1 minute 5 seconds, you’ll be able capture the very best 1 minute of wattage output.     

When you start, most likely you will be in your big chain ring (I recommend it).  Jump out of the saddle hard and sprint for 15 seconds, then back in the saddle and hammer for another 15-20seconds giving it your best.  It is VERY critical that you go ALL-OUT for the first 30-40 seconds of the test and then just die a thousand deaths in the last 20 seconds.   The last 20 seconds should feel like it is taking 5 minutes and you are pedaling in squares and barely moving.  I promise, you won’t be going that slow and your watts will still be pretty high.   To produce the highest average wattage for 1 minute though, you need to absolutely KILL IT in the first 30-40 seconds.   There is no holding back.  There is no thinking that you’ll go harder in the last 10 seconds.  You are going to be blown no matter what and the majority of your anaerobic capacity system is used in the first 30 seconds, so it’s better to completely exhaust that AC system with a max effort right in the beginning.

After your 1 minute, continue for the rest of your workout.   This is probably a good day to also do the other durations in the “Power Profiling tests”: 5 second sprint, 5minute Vo2 Max and 20 minute FTP test.  To learn the exact protocol for these, grab a copy of my and Dr. Coggan’s book, “Training and Racing with a Power Meter”. Today is a great day to do some testing and training and as Dr. Coggan says, “Training is testing and testing is training”.    Or, you might want to do a long ride with sweet spot work, or even just some great FTP intervals in the next hour of the ride.   The main thing is that you got in the correct testing of your Anaerobic Capacity and now you will know how this relates to the rest of your physiology.

Let’s examine two different tests where the first athlete did not test correctly and then the second one did.  (In both figures, the yellow line is the power output).  Our first athlete does the one minute test, but does NOT go hard enough in the first 30 seconds.  You can tell this because the last 30 seconds of the effort is a “flat” line.  This means that this rider had enough energy left to produce the same power for the last 30seconds, whereas their power should be degrading throughout the last 30 seconds. See figure 1 below.

For the second rider, this rider does the test properly, with a hard sprint out of the saddle. Notice how this rider’s power peaks and then begins falling off immediately. It continually drops off to nearly the end of the test when he musters up just a little bit more energy for a small increase in the final seconds.  This is how to properly execute your 1 minute test.  See figure 2 below.

In figure 3 below, we see another good example of a 1 minute test. This rider also starts very hard, not quite as hard as the rider in figure 2, but still a hard effort.  This riders power continues to degrade for the entire effort and he leave nothing on the table, so to speak.  Incredible effort here as well.

The 1 minute test is not an easy test and it hurts, but the great thing is that it’s over quickly!   How you do the test is critical to creating your best average watts for that minute.  It’s important that you do the test at the end of a rest week and on a steep enough hill.  Be careful about using any energy on the ride to the hill and then just slam the test right from the start.  You’ll die a thousand deaths, but at least you put out your best watts !    Be sure to test your 1 minute every 8 weeks, just like you do your FTP, as it can give you a great indicator of improvement in your Anaerobic Capacity and also tell you if you are too fatigued.  After a rest week, you should have a good test, and if you don’t then it probably means you need a couple more days of rest. I hope this helps you to learn even more about your unique abilities and the areas you should and should not train.