Why Work-Threshold and the Incremental Ramp Test?

My last article discussed various thresholds and introduced the Personal Spinning®

Threshold. Since then, I’ve been asked “why work threshold and why the incremental ramp test”? Great questions….


In the Spinpower™ program, the ‘work-threshold’ (Personal Spinning Threshold) marker needs to represent a valid snapshot of the individual’s current level of fitness on the rider, in the Spinpower™ program. Once determined, participants can train in their unique ranges based on a percentage of their Personal Spinning Threshold (PST). The work-threshold and assessment to determine must be right for the circumstances within Spinning® studios. This includes:


  • Individuals of various fitness levels and populations
  • Engaged in an indoor cycling, fitness program
  • Utilize a fixed gear, front flywheel bike
  • Overall class training duration typically lasts 45-60 minutes
  • Peak performance (Race Day) typically lasts 20-30 minutes
  • Non-invasive assessment to establish aerobic and anaerobic training zones
  • Sub-maximal effort, which can be exceeded to elicit training response
  • Easy to learn
  • Scientifically based
  • Reliable and repeatable
  • Effected by fitness


Since Spinpower™ is performed indoors in a controlled environment, on a stationary bike, the same protocol used in the indoor metabolic lab on a cycling ergometer can be incorporated. For cycle ergometry, incremental ramp tests are used, which typically change the workload in timed stages of 2-4 minutes at pedal cadence of 70-90 rpm. Intensity increases progressively over time until time can no longer be maintained, predicting fitness performance. Duration assures physiological response time to the changes in workload for each stage. Research suggests that a sub-maximal, graded exercise protocol of 2-minute duration provides acceptable estimates of maximal aerobic power, because sustainable work of about 2 minutes has an endurance component. Less than 2 minutes suggests anaerobic characteristics. As duration moves past 2 minutes, aerobic endurance becomes an important contributor to sustaining work. That 2-minute work threshold represents a fitness baseline, which implies the border of an aerobic, anaerobic and endurance component, which is the primary predictor of fitness performance.


On the Spinner® Blade ION, work rate is based on resistance X cadence, measured in watts. In the lab, mechanical brake ergometers, like a Spinner, can be utilized as long as there is a means to manually adjust resistance in increments and then keep the work rate components constant throughout the stage. In this case, it is necessary to measure and display cadence and watts. The workload is manually increased with brake resistance. The increased work rate is validated as an increase in watts. The increased workload remains constant during the stage by maintaining brake resistance and cadence. Eventually, a stage increased work-load will affect the riders ability to sustain the resistance and cadence (watts), for the timed 2-minute duration. The last sustained 2-minute average effort is noted as the rider’s work threshold. In the Spinpower™ Program, this is the Personal Spinning Threshold (PST).


The goal in the Spinning® program is to improve riders’ performance of a Spinning® class, on a Spinner® bike. As a result, it is most appropriate to use a sub-maximal repeatable test of their current level of fitness in the Spinning® program. PST is:


  • Spinning Specific, utilizing the Spinner Blade ION
  • One’s personal results, and not that of another
  • Reflects a scientifically validated incremental test
  • Tests aerobic and work capacity of endurance performance
  • Easy to learn
  • Repeatable and Reliable
  • Sub-max, so nearly all can perform
  • Can consistently measure a trainable component of the exact activity


The PST Test is a great fit for the circumstances of the Spinpower program. There is nothing wrong with choosing the precise accuracy of measuring lactate or gas analysis anaerobic threshold, but this is best left for the experts in the field and outside of the Spinpower program. While lactate threshold, anaerobic threshold and PST are not the same, what is conclusive is the tests will get you within a close range of each method. The chart graphs a PST Test performed on the Spinner Blade ION. In this test, gas analysis and lactate levels were also measured. As shown, each threshold occurs at a different time, but is in close range when compared to work rate (watts). Here the rider’s measured LT2 is at 197-223 W and the hypothetical AT from lactate measurement, at 223-229 Watts. Based on gas analysis, AT occurs at 229-256 Watts. Without the lactate measurement and the gas analysis, the rider’s PST was 229 watts.




Since power is dynamic and changes in fitness will move their PST, it is important to retest quarterly, to track progress and re-establish zones to the current fitness level.


Receive extensive education on thresholds, the Personal Spinning Threshold, and taking/administering the PST Test during the Spinpower™ Instructor Training. To register for the gold standard in power-based training or to find a Spinning® studio offering Spinpower™ and the PST Test, go to www.spinning.com     




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