Low volume polarized

I’m 2 workouts into starting a lv polarised 6 block and had a couple thoughts/questions.

I’ve gone for this as I can easily add in zone 2 outside rides before but was wondering if the shorter workouts scheduled are enough for the zone 2 effects to make improvements?

I think it is the right plan for my current fitness, motivation and life state, but wondering if it’s a worthwhile plan regardless.

Just so I get it right, are you wondering if short zone 2 workouts provide adaptations?

Then yes, very much yes.

Of course there will always be a point where you need to do more work to get further adaptations (like most things when you get to a very high level).

But even 1hr of Z2 is very beneficial.

Long story short, when you ride Z2 you train your slow twitch fibres, slow twitch fibres transport away the lactate = you become better at clearing lactate :slight_smile:

Hence why its so important to incorporate low intensity riding.

In my opinion, the LV polarized plane doesn’t have enough Z2 volume.

The origination of the polarized “revolution” - if you will - started with Stephen Seiler observing the training habits of world class Nordic skiers. Meaning, athletes that were training greater than 20 hours a week.

In my opinion - and I am not an expert, a physiologist or a coach - you need to have a couple 2+ hour rides per week to glean a big benefit using this method. I also think you probably need to train >9 hours a week as well.

This is just my opinion and it is gleaned from working with coaches who are more or less polarized, and listening to almost every podcast that exists on this topic.

I repeat: I am no expert.


Can be a frustrating topic for sure. I’ve had this same question. I’ve heard anywhere from 6+ to gain benefit
From this approach to 12-20. I’ve kind of thought those 1 hour Z2 workouts would be better as SS.

I think the biggest gain on doing the shorter ones was just for consistency’s sake and maybe some clearing of the legs? I think that’s what I took from the explanation

I did about 2 months of almost all upper zone 2 riding and running leading up to an IM 70.3 this year. In 2 months I pushed my power at around 132 bpm (my upper limit for endurance) up over 20 watts, which helped me to set a PR (by 34 minutes!). I was questioning the coach the whole time, thinking “I don’t have enough intensity.” Polarized and lower intensity definitely has its place. My advice would be to only do “easy” rides based on heart rate and push the upper limit of your endurance zone (but don’t go over). If I had held my endurance based on power I probably would have left a lot of gains on the table.

I maxed out at 10 hours/week of combined swim, bike and run.


If you’re doing a 1 hour ride and looking to replace an endurance ride, I would do it at tempo and work on your TiZ … like, try to work up to doing 1x30 at tempo, 1x45 at tempo, etc., etc.

If I was doing 6 hours a week and trying to do polarized, I would do a weekend ride of 3-4 hours; a 90 minute Tuesday ride with as much tempo as you could do, and intensity for an hour on Thursday.

Repeat: I am not a coach or expert.


Question: what percentage of your max HR is 132 BPM?

One thing I’ve never heard mentioned (and wondered about many times) is that, from memory, many TR interval workouts I used to do averaged out across the 60-90mins at Z2!!!
In fact, it’s almost as if they were designed that way (no idea if they were).

So actually, your workload from a kj standpoint is identical.

And indeed, framing it like that makes sense of how raising your aerobic threshold during Z2 training gives you a higher “mass” of watts to share out amongst your chosen HI interval sessions.

Pretty much! Thought I might open a can of worms.

Hard to comment if you don’t layout how much time you are doing outside the plan, because LV Polarized is not the plan, the plan is all the work you are doing.

I’m not a coach but HighNorth has some good articles and example weeks, that align with what my FasCat coach is doing with my training.

The latest on aerobic threshold and train in zone2 are interesting reads. The older Polarized Cycling Training has an example 6 hour week.

Your heart also responds to low-intensity training, its not just about your muscles.

I’ll cut to the chase and say they are fans of 2-5 hour endurance workouts. So is my coach.

For the outside ones, it’s a 90 min workout before I turn around then I’m in z1 - z2 mostly as the return leg is mostly gently sloping down. So it’s 90mins for TR and about 150 all in.
If I want longer I can go further and do some loops around a reservoir but cos I live in a very hilly area there’s going to be a few z6 efforts heading upwards.

It would be pretty much this ride each time I want to z2 outside.

It’s got to be worthwhile compared to having no plan at all.

You can always adjust to suit yourself as you see progress/increased motivation.

Sorry I don’t have TR subscription and can’t see your ride. I’ll make an assumption and simplify by saying you target 2.5 hours (150 minutes) of endurance riding, at something like 50-75% FTP. Correct? How many times/week? One complication is TR AT will customize the target %, and endurance rides are primarily about logging hours at relatively low intensity. Think ranges and not a specific % FTP.

The key point is you should be thinking of riding as steady as possible and within a range. FWIW my endurance target is 180-215W or 128-142bpm but its not a problem if I end up doing 170W average or pulling it down to 150W average if its really hot outside. I never worry about short punchy efforts to get over a steep hill.

Fort the last 2 years my training weeks have been built around a 2 to 2.5 hour mid-week endurance ride, and a longer 2-5 hour weekend endurance ride. My interval days also have a lot of endurance. It works.


Approximately 72% of max HR and about 84% of threshold HR. It was based on DFA alpha 1 (HRV ramps and steady efforts).

Try now.

But today it was floating around 100w to 120w, just heading up a cycle path, then a bit lower heading home cos it’s a downward slope.

Probably do it 2 or 3 times a week, or at least that’s the plan!

It doesn’t work, like I said earlier a subscription is required to view workouts on TR:

I’m then logged out of the forum and have to login. Did it twice in case something changed, but it still works the same. Good times.

Adaptations in the muscles are primarily from muscle contractions, and not intensity. Similar with the heart, you need to get above resting HR in order for the heart to more forcefully pump at low intensity (improve stroke volume).

There is a floor, otherwise sitting at a desk would get you aerobic fitness. There is also the concept of focused work around the transition where you go from primarily burning fat to burning fat/carbs. And stressing type 2 muscle fibers to become more aerobic. And strain/recovery. These are all discussion topics after you consistently are putting down endurance hours every week.

Just being nosey, WW … do you set yourself a target for a max amount of time spent in Z1 for your Endurance rides?

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No, however its flat around here and not an issue to ride steady for hours and hours (for example see my ‘Strava moose’ post here Too high intensity for base training - #19 by bbarrera).

I respond to volume. Recently did an HC climb after a couple days not feeling well. Here is 5100 feet of climbing with only 100 feet of descending, it was literally straight uphill for 4+ hours and I just wanted to get the work done without worrying about hitting the 180-215W target (in green on chart below) in plain sight on my Garmin:

lots of z1 power, from the past I knew that length of time and relatively low cadence were going to deliver adaptations. Sure enough, within 10 days I was already seeing adaptations and highest power-to-HR of the year on my two hour Tuesday ride (and it was very warm on that day). And last week (about 4 weeks after the climb), I hit all-time power-to-HR on a 2 hour endurance ride in the gym, partly because the average temp in gym was around 65 degrees / 18C and a LOT lower than my usual 80-100F / 27-38C outside summer rides.


To be clear, I like to put things under the lens of force production:

  • 20-24Nm average torque on FLAT endurance rides around 70% FTP
  • 22.5Nm average torque in gym last week on Stages SC3 stationary bike for 2 hours around 79% FTP
  • 22.3Nm average torque on that long HC climb at 58% FTP with half z1 power and half z2 power at 66rpm average

simplifying, all three of those very different %FTP rides had essentially the same muscular demands on legs.

Not everyone is comfortable spinning in the 60-70rpm range, I have no problem or issues with it.


That’s interesting. (Without actually bothering to put numbers to it), I’ve often wondered if there’s not more value in torque than we give it attention for :thinking: