Maximal Aerobic Power: MAP Testing Explained

Maximal Aerobic Power: MAP Testing Explained


MAP Testing is a necessary evil to athletes, and exciting to coaches. Otherwise known as a RAMP tests, these test VO2max, Lactate, and Maximal Aerobic Power (MAP). You may be familiar with V02max and lactate tests but not MAP. MAP is just as useful as FTP for measuring progress and setting training zones…but what is MAP and how is it calculated?


MAP Testing: Cycling


Testing…it’s a necessary evil to athletes, and super exciting as a coach. This is because there’s no way around it – they hurt. They hurt when you’re fit, and they hurt when you’re unfit. But it’s the numbers they produce which makes it all worthwhile.


What makes a good test? A reliable measure for setting training zones and measuring progress. One that can consistently elicit the best results from an athlete whenever tested.


It’s not hard to convince an athlete to do a test – but it’s hard to get the best result, out of every athlete, every time.


If you’ve read anything I have written about testing in the past, you will know that I test my athletes with an all-out 20-minute protocol to find out their FTP.


An all-out test has its drawbacks, though. Things like going too deep in the early part of a season, or not being able to perform at max capacity every time.


If you do a bit more digging into the different scientific performance tests you will come across RAMP tests. These test VO2max, Lactate, and MAP.


You may be familiar with V02max and lactate but don’t know MAP. MAP is just as useful as FTP for measuring progress and setting training zones…But what is MAP and how is it calculated?


I did my first MAP Test (also called a RAMP Test or Step Test) in 1994 and my last one at the Australian Institute of Sport in 2008. So I know they have been around a while. What I didn’t know was how many variations there are. There are British Cycling Ramp Test protocols and plenty of other protocols. For example, the Australian Institute of Sports testing protocols, which include protocols for junior men and women, elite men and women and non-elite men.


The AIS splits there RAMP tests into 2 types. Long graded and short graded. Use Long Graded if you want to know your blood lactate transition threshold i.e. measuring your blood lactate level. Or use Short Graded to measure your max capability, but not HR and lactate). Cadence is another part of the MAP Testing equation. The AIS recommends between 90 and 105 rpms.


Should you do Map Tests outside or inside?


I found a study that compares indoor testing to outdoor testing specifically related to MAP testing. It’s called…


Validation of a field test to determine the maximal aerobic power in triathletes and endurance cyclists


In 2007, González‐Haro et. al. conducted a study exploring whether a field based test was a valid way to assess maximal aerobic power. González‐Haro and his team found that an incremental test protocol assessing aerobic performance worked equally well in the lab and in the velodrome.


It still doesn’t touch on ‘the road’ as a viable place to test on. A velodrome is about as sterile an environment as you can get outside of a lab. (No dis to trackies)


On a different note, but as interesting it was observed in this study, that field-based tests often yield ‘bigger’ numbers than a similar lab test. I have known this anecdotally for a long time, and González‐Haro found that the velodrome produced results for MAP 15% higher than in the laboratory. That is a big gap, especially if you’re setting zones.


If you’re unsure whether to test indoors or outdoors, I say try both a few times and stick to the place that you get the best results from. You don’t want to have that lingering feeling of not doing your best. Not doing a test the best we could have done happens to the best of us, though. We either don’t get the best out of ourselves or we fail at the test altogether. I have had a fairly high failure rate with the 20 min all out FTP test.


For the first time tester MAP testing is a better choice…


There is some discussion around doing both an FTP test and a MAP test. While I have discussed the pros of doing a MAP test vs an FTP test, there must be an advantage to doing a both. But why would someone put themselves through all that testing?


It is worth it to find your FTP:MAP ratio. A ratio that comes up a lot on forums and coffee shops, and coaches and self-coached athletes use it to gauge what to work on next. If you think of VO2 as a measure of oxygen utilisation and FTP as a measure of TT or 60-minute power. You can use MAP as a proxy for your aerobic ceiling. Like how 5-minute power is sometimes used for the same thing. Which gives some clues about whether you need to work on lifting your ceiling, or you can just continue to work on your FTP floor.


It’s not so straightforward though. If you want to work out your ratio, you need to test and have MAP and FTP values that are recent and derived from a reliable protocol. MAP is easier since its protocol is well defined, but FTP needs a little more care to get right. Also, the relationship between MAP and FTP changes depending on where you are in your training, and the composition of your training.


As we get fitter, the rate of improvement in MAP and FTP can differ (and sometimes one can stall while the other moves).


So that’s it for MAP testing, but I’m going to wrap up here by throwing a spanner in the works. There is actually a way to avoid testing for MAP altogether – I came across a study published this year (2014) called:


Determination of Maximal Aerobic Power on the field in cycling by Julien Pinot and Frederic Grappe


“There is no common procedure that would determine the MAP since it is dependent on the test protocol in laboratory and field.


The purpose of this study was to propose a methodology from field data to determine both a field MAP, the time that MAP can be sustained (TMAP).


Twenty-eight cyclists trained and raced with mobile power meter devices fixed to their bikes during two consecutive seasons. The Record Power Profile (RPP) of each cyclist was determined from the maximal power output realised by the cyclists (i.e. record PO) on different durations between 1 second and 4 hours.


The method of MAP determination was to define the upper limit of the aerobic metabolism from the relationship between the record PO (from 3 min to 4 h) and the logarithm of time.


The most important finding of this study is the possible determination of MAP, the time that MAP can be sustained (TMAP) on the field from the Record Power Profile (RPP).


Several practical applications of this field method may be relevant and suitable for the coaches in the training monitoring of their cyclists.”


Hmmmm….no testing ever…sounds like heaven.


The MAP Testing Protocols

British Cycling MAP Test


Non-Elite Male MAP Test


Elite Male MAP Test


Female MAP Test


Australian Institute of Sport Protocols


Elite Male AIS Ramp Test


Elite Male AIS Ramp Test


Junior Male AIS Ramp Test


Junior Male AIS Ramp Test


Elite Female AIS Ramp Test


Elite Female AIS Ramp Test


Junior Female AIS Ramp Test


Junior Female AIS Ramp Test


Standard MAP Protocols


Elite Male 500W MAP Test


Non-Elite Male 450W MAP Test


Female 400W MAP Test


Calculating VO2max on the Basis of MAP


This is a formula to calculate V02max and help you find your V02max.


The formula is the following:


VO2max (L/min) = 0.44 + (0.014 x MAP (Watts))


If we know the body mass of the cyclist in kilograms, it is also possible to calculate his maximal oxygen uptake (VO2max) in milliliters of oxygen per kilogram per minute (mL/kg/min) with the following formula:


VO2max (mL/kg/min) = (VO2max (L/min) x 1000) / body mass (kg)


For example, a cyclist weighing 70 kg who ends the test at 300 Watts has a VO2max of 4.64 L/min, that is 66.3 mL/kg/min.


In fact: VO2max (L/min) = 0.44 + (0.014 x 300 (Watts)) = 4.64 L/min and VO2max (mL/kg/min) = (4.64 L/min x 1000) / 70 kg = 66.3 mL/kg/min.

Training Zones Based on Maximal Aerobic Power


RST Power Training Zones


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