FTP Field Testing Music Tips and Suggestions

Music for FTP Testing

Without question, music is an essential component of what makes indoor cycling so successful and fun. Music is also extremely personal, so one instructor’s favorite playlist might be unusable for another instructor, and the songs your class prefers might be very different from those a roomful of riders in another city or country would enjoy.

Currently there is a division in the indoor cycling industry about whether an instructor should “teach to the beat” or not. Teaching to the beat entails pedaling so that the revolution of the pedals matches the tempo of the music; in other words, cadence in revolutions per minute (rpm) matches the beats per minute (bpm) of the song. Not riding to the beat means riders disassociate from the beat and simply pedal at whatever their chosen or prescribed cadence is, independent of the musical tempo. Those who don’t teach to the beat will use the “energy” and emotional feel of the song to invoke intensity.

Both methods are valid; there is no right or wrong way—it’s more about how you were taught in your certification and your personal preference, combined with your own musical knowledge and ability to hear musical tempo. Some certification programs (notably Spinning®) have historically focused less on beat matching than other programs. In the past few years, the trend for beat matching has been steadily growing, so newer instructors are more likely to match cadence to bpm than some longtime instructors who’ve been teaching for a decade or more.

Once you learn to ride to the beat of the music, it may be very difficult to disassociate from the beat, especially when working hard (it’s easier to do on recoveries or cool-down songs). Some people who are very musically inclined may find it almost impossible not to pedal to the tempo of the music. On the other hand, there are plenty of people—instructors included—who simply cannot hear the beat. It’s not uncommon.

Other instructors simply choose not to match the beat because they are successful without doing it (I did it for many years), and because it does add an extra layer of complication and time commitment when choosing music, which in turn can limit your music choices.

While this topic can be controversial at times and demands its own separate discussion and educational content for instructors on how to teach to the beat, I bring it up here because for instructors who do ride to the beat, it is very relevant for FTP testing. Why? Because high-energy songs that have a tempo that matches cadences from about 85 to 95 rpm—the suggested range for FTP testing—can be a challenge to find and may require being open to using genres of music outside of your normal preference.

Hey, expanding your musical preferences is always a good thing, right? I know it has been for me!

On the other hand, if you don’t ride to the beat, you simply won’t have this problem and will have a pool of songs to choose from that is vastly larger for your higher-cadence FTP field tests than the rest of us.

Ahhh, I feel envious if that’s you. While I used to not be very beat focused, that changed about seven or eight years ago. Once I discovered how amazing it feels to pedal at 90 rpm beat-for-beat to a song that is 90 bpm, my indoor cycling world changed. I find it extremely motivating, especially at harder efforts, to attach my legs to the tempo of the song, and I’ve noticed an increased ability by my riders to do so as well.

But admittedly, it has narrowed my song choices and has made me work harder to find appropriate music for this type of profile. In this post, I want to share with you the fruits of all my searching over the past few years.

The rest of this post is for those of you who (mostly) ride to the beat and may need guidance in how to select songs for your FTP tests. Although, even if you aren’t beat oriented, I have a feeling you will still love our attached playlists…and some of you may be intrigued about the reasons I provide for pedaling on the beat (or close to it) for the actual FTP test.

I have six Spotify playlists for you for your FTP testing (plus a PDF of my own iTunes playlist that contains some songs you can’t find on Spotify.) Two are lengthy “bucket” playlists of higher-energy songs that work well for FTP testing in the range of 85–97 rpm. One contains electronic genres and the other is more mainstream genres of rock/indie/alternative/hip-hop. They total over 400 songs, but I am constantly adding to these playlists myself and I’d love to add some of your own suggestions that you leave in the comments.

The 5-minute hard effort requires high-energy songs around 5 minutes long. My preference is to use a climbing song since riders will be seated at higher cadences for the FTP test, so I’ve curated a playlist of songs for you to use for this effort as well. I avoid the slowest climbing cadences and lean towards a cadence in the high 60s to 75 rpm.

Finally, we have three 60-minute profile playlists that follow the protocol outline in our FTP testing profile.

Cadence range for FTP testing and what kind of music works for this rpm

3 Responses to “FTP Field Testing Music Tips and Suggestions”

  1. SarahCohen says:

    THANK YOU! I’m not a beat driven rider, or instructor, so finding musical choices at the recommended cadence ranges for an FTP test has been super daunting for me. Superhelpful.

  2. GillianCross says:

    Thunderstruck AC/DC 134 BPM for 5 minute effort.Song is just shy of 5 minutes.

    • This really is a fabulous song for this. I had considered adding it but used 135 bpm as my somewhat arbitrary boundary. No reason to not pedal a little slower! If it works, if it motivates you, if it keeps you going the whole 5 minutes, great!

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