Tests ~ Which & How?

We're now entering our seventh year of carrying out physiological testing for athletes and have amassed data from over 300 tests and 80 different athletes. 

Our tests are described in detail on the individual test pages on the left so here I'll just cover the basics of the top two

The most popular tests we undertake are the wVO2max, the dreaded 6 minute test; and the VO2max test, commonly known as the Ramp Test.

The end of season run-in has seen some excellent tests and some dramatic improvements from individual's early and mid-season sessions. 

As always, you know I never give out identifiable client details.  So below I've cut-off loads of data from the files given to athletes in their post-test information pack.  The screen shots below are to give a minimum information, pictorial indication of what a test consists.  Obviously the warm up and cool down are also removed!

A perfect wVO2max profile?
There are many possible strategies available when undertaking a test.  Some people have one, others don't; riding as hard as you can until you blow isn't always the best.  Below are six profiles from athletes who undertook exactly the same test.  How different could they be?

In the following profiles the colour codes used are:  Green ~ Power; Brown ~ Heart Rate;  Pink ~ Cadence;  Blue ~ Speed. 

The profile above shows a measured approach to the test.  This is an indication of a rider that's gone straight to their 6 minute threshold and held it for the duration of the test.  This rider knows their body and capabilities very well.

This profile shows a structured strategy and continued assessment of what the rider believes is available in the time left to completion.  This is a perfect time trial!  This ride brought an all time high power output.

This rider had the same idea as the rider above but chose a seamless transition across the whole six minutes.  Another perfect test.  As they all are.   Because they all brought valuable training and pacing information to the athlete concerned.

Now for the howlers!

This one was mine!  Nice and measured start, a big mid test push and an even bigger back end collapse.  Went for a big one and blew it.  Not my best work!  It did, however, show me exactly where my ultimate power threshold lies.  We all have a genetic ceiling to our capabilities.  I know exactly where mine is.  It's the lump in the middle.

This one was undertaken by the same person that provided the perfect time trial output in the second graph above.  Massive early test push, struggle to hold on as lactate strangles progress and pride forcing a kick up at the end.  Sad thing was, this was when they were really on song and at their peak, which led to a little over-confidence at the beginning!  Still, you can see they learnt  from it, a test is never wasted.

This rider never found their rhythm.  Constant gear changes (pink spikes and troughs) while fighting lactate build up, heat generation and increasing fatigue finally took their toll.  Once more pride kicked in at the end but proved unsustainable.  Notice the heart rate through all of this,  Massive drop off in power but no change in heart rate.  Again, a valuable lesson learned.

How hard can it be?
I'll be honest with you, six minutes at threshold is a lot longer than you would believe and not the most pleasant of experiences.  It's like a three lap attack at Les Quennevais. (The local crit circuit for our continental readers). 

The Ramp Test
All Ramp Tests look exactly the same.  The only thing that changes is the point at which the graph stops climbing!

Every minute wattage is added while the athlete keeps their cadence constant.  At some point along the way it stops.  It doesn't fade or dissipate, it stops and it stops with a vengeance.  I'd rather watch one than do one that's for sure.  But again, the information it gives is crucial in helping you understand your body and your limits and putting you on the right path to higher performance.