Cycling, Podcast, Science and Physiology

FTP, Maxmimum Lactate Steady State, and field testing protocols with José Ramón Lillo, PhD | EP#298

 August 9, 2021

By  Mikael Eriksson


José Ramón Lillo, PhD is a researcher at the University of Alicante. In this interview, we discuss a study where Functional Threshold Power (FTP, as measured by 95% of the average power from a 20-minute all-out time trial) was compared to maximal lactate steady state (MLSS) and other physiological markers.

In this Episode you'll learn about:

  • Definitions of testing protocols for FTP and MLSS
  • How does FTP compare to MLSS according to Dr. Lillo's research?
  • How does the warm-up protocol of the FTP-test (Coggan and Allen proposed a long, intense warm-up including a 5-minute time trial) impact the measured FTP?
  • Recommendations for a lower correction coefficient than the original 95% to get a better estimate of MLSS
  • General testing recommendations for field and lab testing 

Sponsored by:

The finest triathlon wetsuits, apparel, equipment, and eyewear on the planet. Trusted by Lucy Charles, Javier Gómez-Noya, Flora Duffy, Mario Mola, and others. Visit for 20% off your order.

Zen8 Swim Trainer Logo

The ZEN8 Indoor Swim Trainer is a tool for time-crunched triathletes looking to improve swim specific strength and technique. Trusted by BMC PRO Triathlon Team, age-group triathletes, coaches and physios around the world. Visit for 20% off your order.



05:15 -

  • I have always been a huge sports fan, so when it was time to choose profession I wanted to work with sports in some way.

    My choice fell on sports science and my research has mainly been focusing on endurance performance within cycling.

Estimating FTP/maximum lactate steady state through 20mins all out field test

09:05 -

  • Maximum lactate steady state is considered ”gold standard” for determining ones threshold power/FTP, but the process of measuring it is complicated and requires several visits to laboratories.

    Therefore, it has been suggested that one can fairly accurate calculate ones FTP through a 20mins all out time trial, 95 % of the average power of the test is the most widely used coefficient for this.
  • Over the years, different warm up protocols before one actually starts the 20mins time trial have been suggested, and one often referred to includes a 5mins all out time trial as part of the warm up.

Study: estimating the reliability of the 20mins field test with maximum lactate steady state and ventilatory threshold 2

17:30 -

  • The objectives of the study was to compare the reliability of the 20mins field test with maximum lactate steady state and ventilatory threshold 2, basically to see how well the results of the 20mins test correlate with the ”gold standard” measurements.
  • 11 subjects (cyclists and triathletes) were recruited for the study, which all had a VO2max of at least 55ml/min/kg and an average VO2max of 60ml/min/kg.
  • In the study, we found that the correlation was very high between 95 % of the power of the 20mins test and maximum lactate steady state.

    However, we did find that the coefficient was closer to 0.91 instead of 0.95 between the average power of the 20mins test and maximum lactate steady state.

    Therefore, we suggest that a coefficient of 0.91 is used instead of 0.95 in order to estimate FTP.

    In our study, most subjects had a maximum lactate steady state between 0.9-0.93 of the average power of the 20mins time trial with very few numbers of outliers, which means that the vast majority of people can use a coefficient of 0.91 in order to estimate his or hers maximum lactate steady state with a fairly high level of certainty.

    The practical significance of miscalculating ones threshold power with 1-2 % is quite low, and hence I would say that the 20mins test is a great way to determines ones threshold power.
  • Note that in our study, the subjects did not undergo a 5mins all out time trial as part of the warm up prior to the 20mins test.

    It is possible that the coefficient would be closer to 0.95 if one perform the time trial before the test.
  • In our study, we also tested the correlation between ventilatory threshold 2 and maximum lactate steady state and the 20mins time trial.
  • We did find that the ventilatory threshold 2 was significantly higher than maximum lactate steady state and 91 % of the 20mins all out test (subjects was only able to ride at their ventilatory threshold 2 for 11mins on average, compared to 60-90mins at maximum lactate steady state).

    However, the practical applications of knowing ones ventilatory threshold 2 is quite limited.

Other tests

48:35 -

  • In terms of other useful tests, it depends a lot on the sport and the athlete.

    I do think, however, that the main thing is that every test that is conducted has a very clear purpose and a potential practical application.

Rapid fire questions

54:05 -

  • What is your favorite book, blog or resource related to endurance sports? ”Exercise Physiology” by Edward Howley, John Quindry and Scott Powers.
  • What is a personal habit that has helped you achieve success? I am displaying a high level of consistency.
  • Who is someone who you look up to and has inspired you? My thesis mentor and a senior professor at the University where I am based.


Mikael Eriksson

I am a full-time triathlon coach, founder of Scientific Triathlon, and host of the top-rated podcast That Triathlon Show. I am from Finland but live in Lisbon, Portugal.

Please contact me if you have feedback on the podcast or want to make suggestions for improvement or send in a question for a Q&A episode.

If you are a long-time listener and appreciate the value the podcast brings, please consider taking a couple of minutes for leaving a rating and review on iTunes/Apple Podcasts, or wherever else you can think of leaving a rating and review.

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

Explore our products and services