Review: The Sufferfest App’s Full Frontal 4DP Fitness Test Video
(2018) There is nothing worse in fitness tests than an FTP test.
Except a VO2 Max test. Actually a VO2 Max test is the worst test in fitness. Where the FTP test is a twenty-minute affair, the VO2 is a train wreck in progress. First there’s the drooling. When I got my VO2 Max measured, I didn’t care how much the trainers reassured me it was ‘Ok’ to drool because of the mouthpiece crammed in my gob. I still tried to maintain an air of civility. It did not work. Second, the directions of ‘Go until failure’ never have a welcoming feel to it. I am no Bjorn Daehlie. My VO2 Max was measured and, believe me, it won’t be measured again unless it is absolutely necessary.
A Functional Threshold Power (FTP) test is a twenty-minute effort with a focus on stability. The athlete ratchets up to a Rate of Perceived Effort (RPE) of 7.0 on the scale of 1 (easiest) and 10 (hardest). Take that number, whittle away a scant five percent, on account of the rider’s freshness, and the number gives a theoretical one-hour time trial effort. Whereas a post-VO2 Max requires body fluid cleanup kits, the FTP is more of a noisy affair with a rider potentially howling like a dog over a puddle of sweat.
In this new age of multiple numbers for every measurement it would be inadequate to continue to use the FTP as the end-all-be-all of testing results. Having a theoretical single hour zone of proximal development for an aspiring cyclist is nice and all, but not every rider have a similar riding style. The FTP test cannot accurately zero in on a climbing specialist or a time-trial specialist or a sprinter. Pouring over the numbers does that. It is time to revamp the system for more accuracy. Luckily, the lab specialists at The Sufferfest have done just that. Find a smart trainer, cue up their experiment video Full Frontal, and prepare to be numbered and labeled based on the results.
The Sufferfest’s Four Dimensional Power (or 4-DP) is a test within their video Full Frontal where four types of efforts are measured. The app takes a look at your five-second power, one-minute output, five-minute sustainability, and a traditional FTP test. Because the FTP test occurs third in the sequence, there is no need to divide by five percent. The rider has already been under duress upon initiating that portion of the measurement.
What comes up first in Full Frontal is the five-second-power measurement of your Neuromuscular Power (NMP). There are two chances to get it right. The best output is taken between the two readings. After a lengthy warm-up, the rider is told to unleash fury on the pedals for nearly no time at all. I think for most people this will be the highest number in the test. This result is an attempt to measure the wattage for one lunging at the finish to win a prime or a race. I so badly wanted to replicate a pro rider’s wattage of 1,500+ watts. I did not. Strangely enough my first effort outperformed my second chance.
The second test is the five-minute effort measuring Maximal Aerobic Power (MAP), and it measures sustained power over a time frame at VO2 Max. Here stamina and fitness are measured to produce a lasting result. As for this effort – and the subsequent FTP – this measurement becomes a study in pacing. The video’s uphill time trial frequently reminds the rider to keep the attempt smooth. If there’s a desire to pick up the pace halfway through, some sandbagging happened in the first few minutes. It is supposed to be an uncomfortable attempt. Departing from typical Sufferfest videos, there are copious amounts of inspirational comments splashed across the screen. The Sufferfest is here to encourage and help this time around, not to criticize and demoralize. This result could demonstrate numbers necessary to establish a breakaway or to bridge the gap.
Once properly done in The Sufferfest asks the participant to get off the bike and walk around during recovery. I liked this very much. The twenty-minute FTP test will be on deck. I’ll say it again; I don’t like this at all. As mentioned above, since the test- taker has had three tests up to this point there is no need for maths with this result. Once the twenty minutes are over, the numbers are crunched and recorded. It should go without saying: this effort is brutal. Along with multiple thoughts of quitting there is a constant focus on wattage and cadence. Trying to match the recommended effort is what drove me onward to complete the test. I was properly spent, but there was one more test looming.
The final test is the Anaerobic Capacity (AC) that measures a quick intense effort. It could replicate a stinging attack or a long shot attempt at a solo finishing sprint. The test comes after the second request for the rider to step off the bike and walk around. Once the test proper commences, it is a brutal stomping on the pedals followed by a rodeo to hang on. It is a prevention in acute fading. Everyone will fade; it just depends on how large of a drop happens over the course of sixty seconds. Paradoxically this feels like the longest minute in cycling history.
Once the video has wrapped up it is announced the rider’s test results are processed and emailed. Before opening the email, feel free to guess what type of rider you are. Are you a sprinter? Did you crush that five-second effort? What about a time trialist? Naturally the five-minute test and the subsequent FTP study would have impressive numbers. Attacker? Pursuiter? Perhaps you’re a rouleur or a climber. The numbers from your test will give you one of these labels.
Consider the results email an exciting exhibition in your riding profile. Not only do you get labeled as perhaps a climber, you’ll also have your areas of improvement highlighted. The test results will display the wattage within each test. The Sufferfest will make two recommendations based on your results: videos to cater to your strengths and videos to target areas of improvement. Celebrate the fact that you exist in the moment farthest from your next 4DP test.
Within The Sufferfest’s app, those power numbers are embedded to pinpoint efforts and prevent sagging intervals. The app suggests doing Full Frontal in the beginning of the structured workout regimen as well as at the conclusion. I am currently in the middle of the ten-week program; I will have to repeat this in six weeks. This result can give a rider a breakdown of improvements over the offseason. And when a workout calls for a recovery effort – at say 80% - the app can be manually adjusted to reflect that target effort. In the age of multiple numbers, this takes the guesswork out of arguably the most overlooked training aspect in recovery.
This test is best experienced with a smart trainer such as CycleOps’ Hammer. The direct drive can give incredibly fast real time feedback. Even if you don’t have a smart trainer, finding one just to collect numbers should be a priority with the 2018 season looming. Once your numbers come back, you can structure workouts for outdoor rides based on the information gathered from The Sufferfest’s Full Frontal test. We’ve talked about the ‘enjoyment’ that comes with The Sufferfest’s app. At ten dollars (USD) per month and the ability to put on hold at any time, this test alone is worth the cost of an entire off-season. Just don’t make a habit out of measuring your output. That will make us highly concerned about your enjoyment of suffering by trainer.
For the performance follow-up 4DP article, click here.