Learn more about The PEATS Program

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Learn how to develop your own training program with Critical Power.

Our eBook, Critical Speed and the Physiology of Training, will give you all the tools to work with. Critical Power and Critical Speed are very similar concepts and their calculation and application to training are virtually the same.

Paddle Sports eBook

Take your paddling performance to new heights by incorporating Critical Power or Critical Speed into your training program. TPE Sports Coaching has two great eBooks to help you design a winning training program. Our core book, Critical Speed and the Physiology of Training will give you the tools.

paddle sports

Our new eBook, Paddle Sports: The PEATS Program will give you the specifics to make your canoeing training program work.





Critical Power: how to calculate CP

The CTT: Criterion Time Trials to determine Critical Power
CTT_cyclingCritical Power is determined from time trials as indicated. There should be a minimum of two efforts, but more can be included as you wish. The more trials, the greater will be the accuracy of the value for Critical Power. However, if you are testing an athlete who is accustomed to performing maximally, and particularly if the procedure has been completed before, then two time trials will give you a good result. There is also an upper limit to the number of time trials that an athlete will (or should!) endure, and that is probably four or five such trials.

When choosing the duration of the time trials, the first point that should be noted is that the time trials should be of varying duration. There has been considerable research into the optimal duration of time trials, with 1 to 10 minutes suggested as the optimal range. At TPE Sports Coaching, our objective in determining time trial duration was to provide some data that was meaningful for a competitive athlete, both for a reflection of performance capacity for specific events, but also to assist in guiding training prescription. During our early work with kayak paddlers, we tried a number of approaches, beginning with an imposed work rate and asking paddlers to hold that intensity for as long as they could manage. It was obvious to us very early that this approach would be difficult to manage when many athletes were to be tested, as the time frame for each test was indeterminate. Accordingly, we switched to imposing the duration and asked athletes to perform as much work as they could in that time. The durations we chose were 90 seconds and 20 minutes (60 seconds and 12 minutes for females and juniors).   We employed this protocol for the four years we tested athletes on a kayak ergometer, and felt that it provided us with meaningful data. We also tested outrigger paddlers and rowers with similar durations.

A benefit of conducting two time trials whose durations are quite different provides useful data for monitoring training. We chose 90 seconds and 20 minutes to give us feedback on speed and endurance changes with a block of training. In fact, changes in these two values were always seen to be more relevant than changes in Critical Power or AWC. (see both the Training Page with Critical Power and the Critical Speed section for a discussion on this). In our early kayak study, athletes’ Critical Power and/or AWC changes were mixed and variable, while the total work performed during a 4-Minute simulated 1000m race on an ergometer showed huge changes in all athletes (and this was followed by a very successful Olympic regatta).

CPT: the Critical Power Test
This test has been utilised by TPE Sports Coaching since 1988, though by the early 1990s, we had moved to performing most of our testing away from ergometers and into the field, hence Critical Speed became our test of choice. We performed this test with kayak paddlers on an ergometer until late 1993, and during that time, with a large number of outrigger paddlers who were tested on a kayak ergometer modified to simulate the stroke patterns of an outrigger. When the CPT was performed, regardless of the ergometer type, the test protocol was always the same: 6 x 5 minutes of exercise at Critical Power as determined from the CTT.

Functional Threshold Power
The development of power cranks for cyclists has revolutionised the application of the Critical Power concept to that sport and others (such as triathlon). In a landmark publication, ‘Training and Racing with a Power Meter’, authors Allen & Coggan have described Functional Threshold Power (FTP) as the central parameter in their training system, and have included measurement of Critical Power as a means for determining FTP (pp39-48). These authors also describe a training system that has many features similar to The PEATS Program.

NEXT: Physiology and Critical Power

Critical Power Calculator
Before you can input data to calculate your Critical Power, you must first perform the Criterion Time Trials. There is no absolute requirement for these Time Trials, and they will vary considerably from sport to sport. You will require an ergometer capable of measuring work (in either joules or kilojoules). Cyclists can perform this on a bicycle modified with a power crank.

In essence, you will need to perform a short-duration (sprint) trial for a duration from 45-90 seconds, and this should be the first of the two TTs. Our individual sport-specific guidelines will provide more definitive information on determining CTT durations for different sports. In general, the shorter your competitive event, the shorter will be this Time Trial (TT1). In cycling, for example, terrain is an important consideration, and for testing purposes, a flat terrain will enable the testing to be performed without confounding variables. A better option would be to perform the tests on a conventional competition track. If performing the test on-road, then each subsequent testing should be conducted in the same manner on the same terrain, and with similar ambient conditions.

The second Time Trial (TT2) requires a longer-duration trial and you should allow at least 1 hour between TT1 and TT2. The duration of TT2 can be 5 - 20 minutes, again depending upon the sport and your competitive event.

We will take cycling as an example here, providing a protocol adopted by The PEATS Program, and the ride is to be conducted from a stationary start:
TT1 = 90 seconds
TT2 = 20 minutes
The MOST important characteristic of these TTs is that they be completed at maximal effort. Record the exact work performed (in kilojoules) plus the time taken to complete that work (in seconds). This is the information to be used for the calculator.


When you have obtained your Critical Power result, check out the comparative values to see where you sit. Here we have values for cyclists, kayak paddlers, surf ski paddlers, and outrigger paddlers for comparative purposes.