80/20 Polarization Cutoff

This should be a simple answer, but maybe not. I am adding a little feature to my Garmin Datafield I’ve created. So that during a ride, it also shows how much time I spent in each of the 80/20 poles.

The best explanation I’ve seen is that this means 80% below LT1 and 20% above FTP (LT2). I get LT2. And I know that LT1 varies from person to person. And I know the 80/20 rule varies depending on the phase you’re in, if you are in a recovery week, etc. And I know for a particular activity, you don’t always want an 80/20 distribution. So I know “it depends”.

But in general, about what % of FTP should you try to stay below when you want to be in that 80% pole? My default is to set that at 80% of FTP. But that is based on a chart from XERT. Any better estimates?

  • Easy Zone, approx 80% of time, <= 80% of FTP
  • DEAD Zone, minimal, > 80% of FTP & < FTP
  • Hard Zone, approx 20% of time, >= FTP

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80/20 is based on sessions not heart rate or power.


A general figure is going to be wrong for most people. For me I’d say it’s 72% but that’s a guess.

Also a lot of polarized people say to use HR for getting LT1 rather than power, others RPE.

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Anywhere between 80-82% max HR as a cap for tempo. Basic endurance use a “floor” and minimize coasting. There is no difference between Zone 1 and Zone 2 physiologically in that 5-Zone Norwegian model. It’s a fatigue management strategy as to how much of one you ride above the other. Both constitute the (roughly) 80% sessions.

Don’t get caught up too much in the percentages and ignore Xert. Good luck.

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I don’t find the 3-zone model not very useful if you ride with power. E. g. in most polarized plans Z1-of-3 means you are doing endurance rides, not low tempo rides. That means you are staying within Zone 2-of-7. And you are not doing recovery rides either, i. e. above Z1-of-7.

Similarly, you are not being described Z3-of-3, but either Threshold or VO2max workouts.

Thanks @PhilW - but lets say you go out for a “session” that you want to keep in the 80% bucket. You’d want to keep your intensity “easy”. What does easy mean? Don’t push over X% of FTP or Y% of your MAX HR or LTHR?

It means you can speak in full sentences without taking a breath. It’s means your breathing rate is pretty much the same as at rest. It’s means you can take a long drink from a bottle without needing to pause for a breath. It means you don’t try and catch up any riders who pass you.


Easy means Z1 and Z2 (out of 7), i. e. you should avoid tempo (even though it is partly included in Seiler’s Z1-of-3).

Question: how easy is too easy? Z1-Z2 (7 zone system) is quite wide range. Lets say, if you can ride 6h with no or very little aerobic decoupling, is it time to raise intensity for easy day? I mean, still keep it easy but high enough so that decoupling would be in 4-5% range for that duration and keep working on that intensity until decoupling reaches again near zero?

Less than 50% VO2max according to a few top coaches


I’d stay in Z2 mostly, riding in Z1 seems like a bad use of training time. For long rides you could aim at 60-63 %, For longer rides I might go up to 70 %. It also depends on your fitness. If 2 hours at 65 % FTP your heart rate is stays in the 120s, I’d increase power a little or spend more time on the bike.

When talking about percentage of VO2max, is it usually meant percentage of 5min max power (as approximation)?

Yeah, that’s the reason for question: my weekend rides are usually very long but I suspect they are too easy at <70% of max cycling HR. According to image posted by @tshortt 72-82% would be better use of spent time probably then :thinking:

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“Too easy” isn’t really a thing for long endurance rides, so long as you’re still turning the pedals with any sort of effort. The best description I’ve heard was “the hardest pace at which conversation is easy”.

On the other hand, if you overshoot your endurance rides you’re adding a decent amount of additional fatigue for not a lot of gains.


A bit longer than 5 minutes (maybe 5 minutes if really new to endurance training.)

As an approximation…

In running 6-12 minute pace is often cited. The longer end of the range for althletes more towards being elite, 6-8 minutes for recreational / club runners.

In cycling I’ve heard 6 - 8 minute power.

Interestingly (or not) 50% 8 minute power for me is generally 56 - 58% of FTP which is a touch above Coggans Z1 Z2 boundary (it will vary dependant on the althlete but its a proxi)

I recommend if you can’t very comfortably ride at 50% of 8 minute power for 3 - 5 hours, even longer if one has a good endurance base, then you are better taking a rest day.


Your question seems to be, if you have limited time for your easy rides, should you increase intensity of easy rides? Mr “Polarised” Stephen Selier is of the opinion “no”. Easy rides become too hard, and hard rides too easy.

As to decoupling during a ride, there are many variables affecting this including weather, temperature, level of hydration,terrain, how fatigued you were coming into the ride. The 5% decoupling test according to Friel should be a repeatable workout with as many variables controlled as possible for it to be meaningful. I would contest that a 6 hour ride has too many variables both before and during to be meaningful as a test of aerobic conditioning. You could do the same 6 hour ride at the same power two days in a row and one have 5% aerobic decoupling and the other 10% decoupling. Why would you increase intensity off the back of that?


Just do a 6 hour ride on the trainer in erg mode at a constant power :rofl:


I think you’d see 100% mental decoupling in such a session :joy:


Another way to think about it, the point of polarization is to keep the easy days easy enough so the hard days can be hard-really hard. Seiler likes to say solve the equation for yourself. If you’re finding that you are sore and/or underrecovered after “easy” rides then cut back intensity or duration. If you are mixing in a bit of intensity into those rides and still recovering fine for the next interval session then you’re doing okay.

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Not meaning to be picky but how often does anyone ride 6 hours?

Am I just odd for never riding that long? Maybe I should go back to the thread

I think that is way too high.
What gave me a lot fitness were long, easy Z2 rides along the coast with my daughter in tow. I just paced off of heart rate, trying to stay below 135 bpm at all times, preferably below 130 bpm. Going harder ≠ becoming faster.

I’d always err on the going easier when it comes to Z2 rides. It is about the cumulative effect of repeating easy efforts for long periods of time, it matters less whether you did an IF of 0.70 or 0.63.

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