Botched FF Attempt, Looking for Advice

Hey everyone! New SYSTM user, looking for some advice…

I’ve been in Zwift for quite a while and have a decent base built up, but wanted to try SYSTM for the better training plans. I spent the last week or so prepping for my first FF attempt, but fell apart half way through and bailed shortly after starting the 20-minute effort (I’m working through a nasty cold and…yeah…okay, excuses done)…I feel like I nailed the 5-second and 5-minute effort pretty well, but the results got skewed because SYSTM changed my results based on incomplete 20-minute effort. Test results I ended up with:

NM: 964 (my Tacx Vortex maxes out at 950, and I definitely felt the trainer give up on me…)
AC: Not tested; estimated 391 from MAP result
MAP: 316 (was 355, but lowered due to low FTP)
FTP: 222 (I never finished this effort…FTP from recent Zwift ramp tests 273)

I’d say all four metrics are off for one reason or another. So now I’m looking for some advice…I want to get going on a workout plan, but how should I start? Should I start a workout plan based on these botched numbers, and retest at the end of my first recovery week? Should I burn another week getting healthy and prepping for another FF attempt before starting a plan? Just estimate/update my numbers manually for now? Go buy a better trainer??? ( :slight_smile: )Something else?

Any thoughts/advice appreciated!

Welcome to SYSTM!!

If it were me, I’d make sure I’m completely over my cold before doing a FF. It’s a brutal test and if you’re at all weak from your illness, your numbers will probably lower than they could/should be.

You should also be aware, that there’s a decent chance that your FF numbers will be a little lower than the numbers produced from a Zwift test.

That being said, most of the training plans have a Half Monty ramp test around the halfway point. For now you can either manually set your FTP and MAP numbers based your Zwift numbers, or do a Half Monty which will recalibrate your FTP and MAP numbers.

One piece of advice I would give is to trust the plan. Some workouts will feel easier than you would think they should (not like the old Sufferfest), others will be BRUTAL (I’m looking at you Nine Hammers). The training plans are built to take that into account so that your hard days are properly hard, and your easy days are easy.


I’ll second this advice and add a few comments. I would keep the 5 seconds and 5 minute numbers you got from your FF test. Assuming you have an FTP from Zwift, perhaps deduct 5% from it and use that as your FTP in SYSTM. That leaves your 1 minute result undetermined. You can set that from your power curve in Strava, but again deduct a few %, because AC is recorded in a fatigued state, what you would typically see when out riding or racing. AC isn’t a measure of your maximum 1 minute power, but your ability to recover after hard efforts.

With those new numbers, you could either start training or schedule either a Half Monty to dial in your results or another FF.


i definitely second that during a nasty cold is not the right time for any testing, let alone full frontal. Get better, let the legs come back under you and if you think you need to, do another test. You also could estimate your numbers as others suggest above and then see how it goes / check in at hte midpoint with another test.

One thing to note though is, your FTP and your Zwift ramp FTP may or may not be the same, even if you are fresh. All of these things (ramp tests, FF, long-form FTP tests, 20 minute tests etc.) are all ways of estimating a thing that is not directly observable. They all have their strengths but also weaknesses. To get at what is your “real” FTP, you can suss it out based on how the workouts go, but my personal favorite test is the longer-form FTP test. For example, warm up, then ride at what you think your FTP is for 30 minutes. Then, keep riding and increase your power by 5 to 10 watts every five minutes. Then you take the average of the power over the whole thing.

If the ramp test has overestimated your FTP, you will find out VERY quickly. You may need to redo the test starting at a lower number, but then at least you know.

if you’re close to correct about where you think your FTP is, you won’t be able to push it up all that much. if you can get through a lot of those steps at the end, you were underestimating it. But tests like this really help you dial it in and train you what it’s supposed to feel like.


I appreciate all the comments and feedback! Sometimes I get “lost in the schedule” (I started mentally planning for this FF test about two weeks ago, before any hint of sickness) and fail to step back and listen to my body/adapt…also, I knew FF was going to be brutal ahead of time, but I definitely misjudged how epically my legs were going to just say “MMM…NOPE!” half way through…thanks for the reality-check!

I’ll concentrate first on getting healthy ( :slight_smile: ), then start a plan with best estimated numbers and plan on retesting around midpoint.

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I will say that after being used to Zwift, the Full Frontal does come as a bit of a shock. It took me two goes just to get through it, let alone start pacing it anywhere near reasonably!

FF is much tougher than other FTP tests like Zwift. I’m 5 weeks deep into my SYSTM program & definitely liked the data that FF gave me including suggested rider type. I just took the HALF MONTY ramp test which updated/refined my new FTP & MAP values (as well as LTHR).

There’s always the option of re-doing the FF test, but as an alternative if you’re dying to jump into the program you could do the Half Monty ramp, which is an “easier” test to get your FTP & MAP numbers you need. You’d still be running with a guess on your AC but you’re probably close enough to experience SYSTM to evaluate it.

You have a similar FTP to what I had before my last test & while the values can be quite different between people, you could use my values to somewhat validate yours if you want to dive in. For the record, I think SYSTM has been great & I’m seeing gains. Below are my original 4DP FF results from the start of the program & my updated values from the recent HM ramp 5 weeks deep into a plan are in [brackets]:

  • NM: 1228
  • AC: 516
  • MAP: 356 [397]
  • FTP: 278 [303]

I have only been using the Sufferfest / SYSTM training for about a year, but it has definitely helped me stay in shape and improve my “engine”… But, the Full Frontal 4DP is a tough test because (IMO), the issue is that there isn’t any prep plan to learn “how” to take the test and make the most of it, because its not in ERG and the changes from phase to phase are tough to pace.

My results with 4DP and the Half Monty tests have all been disappointing because as hard as I try, I can’t seem to master the LEVEL mode in terms of timing and/pacing and proper gear shifting to get the most of the test. On the upside, since all my tests have felt like epic fails, they can still show patterns or trends if enough of them are accumulated and compared.

Personally I think the 4DP prep plan should be 2 weeks instead of 1 and include training in level mode Vs ERG. The long timers probably already know ways to master it, but personally I like to stick to the training plans as prescribed, and the 4DP prep plan is crummy in my opinion, especially since they put “Primers” which is a relatively exhausting workout prior to the test itself and I’ve always felt fatigued prior to the 4DP because of “Primers”. I do better with a less intense ride immediately prior to a big event or test.


@toddsdonald Try riding your next week or even month of workouts in level mode. You will definitely get comfortable with it fairly quickly using that method.


Thanks I think I’ll try that and hopefully by the next time I do the half monty or 4dp, I’ll be better prepared.


Also Todd, you seem to be a guy who enjoys following strictly the letter of a training plan and gets satisfaction from completing workouts exactly as prescribed, but part of this is just practice at maximal or near maximal efforts which gets easier the more you do it. Like i think back to track and field in high school, i didn’t pace every 1600 appropriately, but i also never had any issue where i was like i really don’t know how hard to run this here or any issue where i blew up in lap 1 and had to drop out, and the reason is because every week we had another dual meet where you could give it a shot. So you were really used to feeling where that edge and trying to push it so that if you did overcook, it wasn’t devastating.

So maybe the answer for us is, not to be afraid to try to throw in max efforts every once in a while, judiciously of course, just to see where we’re at and get used to the feeling.


@toddsdonald Something short like Dogs Life might be good place to start and then move to something like Getting Away With It before you move into some of the more variable workouts. The inputs are going to be selected level (which is influenced by your trainer’s power curve), gear selection and cadence. You can also just pull up one of the open videos and do your own thing. Either write down or voice record your common combinations - so something like Level 1 at 90% FTP at 80 cadence. For the NM stuff I like to practice with Standing Starts and I generally play around with my Level for that one in addition to gearing.

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@toddsdonald All the advice about 4DP already noted will help. It is a huge mental effort and it amazes me what my body can do if I just don’t let it stop. Two more thoughts to share.

  1. Listen to this: In it, Coach Neal talks about some of the key tactics to successfully do a 4DP.

  2. Based on your preferred range of cadence and your target power, figure out the gearing you need ahead of time for each interval. I have a cheat sheet in front of me. From there, you can increase or decrease power quite a bit by just adjusting cadence. Also, if you know what cadence will get you your power target, I find it easier to focus on cadence than on whether I’m hitting power because cadence is a less jumpy metric (at least for me). To sort out the right gearing, you can experiment by riding an open ride in level mode. I supplemented that by doing the math based on my trainer’s power curves, but to do that, you need to know the power curves for your trainer.

Good luck.

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Thank you again. I do have a question regarding using level mode vs erg. Yesterday I tried it on “Primers” and it went okay, (obviously targets aren’t as perfect because of shifting), but I’m curious about the right way to use level mode, (one of the reasons I think it would be helpful to have a 1 week training program dedicated to it and built into SYSTM for the 4DP prep in combination with the physical prep plan.

So: When I use SYSTM in erg mode, I connect the SYSTM software to my smart trainer for power and it automatically reads back power output and adjusts the resistance. I can use it for cadence as well but prefer to use my power tap crank power meter for accuracy on that, (otherwise the smart trainer’s cadence is sloppy because it’s picking up on the rear wheel spin down, lag, etc.)… Long story short, everything is pretty much on auto pilot with erg, and now that I’m running a USB extension with a Bluetooth adapter close to the smart trainer everything works pretty well.

However, in level mode, the software recognizes the smart trainer for something, (not sure what but the icon looks like a lightning bolt with a circle in it). But it picks up the power tap for the power and cadence.

Am I doing this correctly? In primers it seemed to work correctly just by shifting, etc. but I’m not sure if that’s correct because… Well there’s no instructions or built in workout to help understand how to properly use level mode.

To experiment a bit, while in level mode and working out, I disconnected both the trainer and the power meter, then reconnected those devices, trying just the smart trainer for power, cadence and the lighting bolt with circle, (no idea what that is). Then I disconnected/reconnected devices and tried it with the power tap for power and cadence and the smart trainer for the lightning bolt with circle. Then I tried again with the powertap for cadence and the smart trainer for power and lighting bolt with circle. Either way, it felt the same and the read outs look the same on screen.

I’m sorry just confused what is the correct way to use level mode?

Todd Donald

The way level mode works is that the trainer applies resistance based on the speed of the flywheel. SYSTM has nothing to do with it; the capability is built into the trainer. Then the trainer just sends power as it measures it back to SYSTM.l (if you’ve enabled that sensor). The amount of resistance applied as flywheel speed increases depends on the trainer. Every trainer has its own set of power curves (I.e. non accelerating power as a function of flywheel speed, usually different for each level). Wahoo publishes the power curves for the KICKR. I don’t know what other manufacturers do. For the KICKR, the power curves are designed to mimic different grades (depending on which level) and build in wind resistance and the effect of gravity based on grade and rolling resistance. The KICKR allows you to set the size of your wheel (which is fictional because it’s direct drive), but that has a big effect on the way it translates flywheel speed into bike speed and, in turn, what the power is for a given gear and cadence (in level mode).

So here’s what you’ll notice in level mode.

  1. When you change cadence (or shift) power will spike up (if you increase) or collapse (if you decrease). That’s because of the positive or negative acceleration and is just like what happens outdoors.

  2. Once you’re at steady state and stop accelerating, power will stabilize (up to the smoothness of your pedal stroke). That steady state power is what the power curves represent.

  3. If you pedal faster, resistance will drop somewhat, but power will increase. This is very different from ERG where resistance drops more in order to prevent power from changing. Visa versa if you pedal slower—resistance goes up much more slowly in level mode and there’s no death spiral. Upshifting and downshifting have the same effect as pedaling faster or slower (because they change flywheel speed).

The lightning bolt with the circle is the channel that sends power instructions to the trainer from SYSTM. It shouldn’t do anything when you’re in level mode, although the channel is still there. (Actually, as I think about it, it might also be the channel that tells the trainer to switch between ERG and Level modes—I’ve never tested it.)

If you’re reading power and cadence from a different sensor, that should be fine. It might not be perfectly calibrated to the trainer, but that doesn’t really matter much in my view.

So I don’t think you’re doing anything wrong. Understanding how acceleration effects power (and how sensitive power is to acceleration) is an important conceptual point in understanding how to do a 4DP.

The only thing I do (Kickr Core) is click the settings from ERG to Level 0.

Software/hardware does the rest.

Treat level mode the same as you do ERG. It just means you need to shift to increase or decrease power. I just pick a reasonable level, typically 2 or 3 and leave it there. Then I shift to dial in my power.

That’s an excellent explantation and I definitely appreciate understanding it better now. That would explain why in level mode everything still seems to work despite the power tap providing the power reading and cadence in the software. When I’m in erg mode and the power tap is connected, then there’s no resistance. I like it so far in level mode, as it seems more realistic. Also the power readings match my power meter on my bike which will help outdoors too, because the erg mode always tends to display a power reading of about 20 watts less than the power meter and heat unit show whenever I’m over about 100 watts.

Awesome thanks so much. I think I’ll try leaving it in level mode for the next 2 week block of training.

Here’s a reply I posted on a related, but different thread.

I have to admit it, but I “cheat” for my FF’s and they become not so bad.

Cheating isn’t quite right, but it’s doing something that helps my head.

Since a FF is done in level mode - not ERG - I do a my FF’s while also doing a big Zwift race (e.g. a race/ride with several hundred participants). I time the start of the 5 min MAP test on FF to be at the exact same time as the start of Zwift race. In other words I start my FF exactly 20 minutes 23 seconds before the start of the Zwift race. This lets me use the first ~20 minutes of the FF as a warmup for the Zwift race. The Zwift race starts and I’m off racing AND doing my 5 min MAP test at the exact same time. This will usually put me in the front group of the race, often off the front on my own. When the 5 min test is over, I drift back in the pack, but because I’m doing this in a big event, when the 20 min FTP test starts (5 min after the MAP test), there are still lots of people around me and I can use them as carrots to see how many I can catch during the 20 min of hell.

To do the above, I run SYSTM and Zwift simultaneously on my laptop. SYSTM is configured to record my HR, cadence and power and also set it up as the Trainer Control. Once I start the FF, I switch the workout mode from ERG to Level Mode (level 2 works for me, you might have to experiment to see what level works best for you). I then setup Zwift to read power, HR and cadence, but NOT control the trainer. I use an ANT+ dongle for the SYSTM connections and BT for the Zwift connections. I’m sure there are other setups that would work, but this is how I’ve got it working.

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Good comments and agree. Riding LVL mode is…annoying?