My Polarized Training Experience (Chad McNeese & others)


I used to do 4x10 at around that intensity on a regular basis. It’s harder than doing longer efforts at 100%, but clearly not as hard as doing true VO2max intervals at an even higher intensity, and people do those all the time.

So you’re saying you could have done 5 or 6 x 10 at that same intensity?

It’s been a while so this is just conjecture, but thinking back to what they usually felt like I’d say doing 5, or 50 minutes total, would have been possible. 6, I’m not so sure.

But in any case, my point is that 105% of FTP isn’t really that hard - after all, we’re talking about roughly 10 mile TT pace here, but rather than having to stay on the gas the whole time you get to sit up and rest periodically.

Are these small studies typically masters or phd thesis studies?

Six weeks is such a short period of time that I don’t think one can draw this conclusion comparing polarized or pyramidal.

The periodization of the year also changes things. These studies never seem to include racing. A pro cyclist may “train” very polarized but then racing season starts and the end up doing a huge volume of middle intensity riding during races.

you get to sit up and rest periodically, and repeat it without degradation of the effort. last one just as good as the first, as those are important factors that are more important than what % of effort the intervals should be done at. In the research, the intervals were always highly repeatable, and should be done with something left in the tank. The oft repeated workout by Seiler was Olaf Tufta’s 6x10 minute bread and butter workout leading up to the olympics. I’m betting that these guys who get a significant VO2 response from those workouts have rather quick O2 kinetics. For me it’d take almost 3 intervals at that intensity before I got to 87% of max HR. I’m curious how some hard-start intervals fit in to all of this as one of the dangers of going too hard too early is then the stress of the workout is higher than necessary and you dig yourself in to a hole.

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After finishing short power build + crit specialty in September, I moved into a lot of tempo + SS work until now (also handful of 4h+ outdoor endurance rides). I want to extend my base and try the 80/20 polarized approach of >105% ftp + endurance for the next few blocks just to see what it does for me and if I enjoy it. This thread really sparked my curiosity because I’ve never really tried the pol approach before.

My question:
Am I making a mistake by proceeding with this type of training after about 3 months of no threshold work whatsoever? Or should I add in some threshold work before proceeding?

@mcneese.chad your view would be greatly appreciated!

What exactly IS the ramp test measuring? I’m not sure this matter is settled at all. I’ve done several of them, and I’ve also done more than a few 20 min tests, and the body/legs feeling difference between the two is drastic; while it is definitely not some sort of scientific method, it does suggest to me that they are not measuring the same core metric. I don’t know that the reliability/validity is very high at all. Plus I do not know if it predicts racing success. It is good at producing a person’s “Number” but otherwise…?

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The ramp test is measuring MAP, or Maximum Aerobic Power. Which is essentially VO2max power (it may differ slightly but I’m not clear on why). They then take 75% of that number as your FTP.

Studies in the past have shown that the bell curve of people’s FTP’s cluster around that 75% of FTP but IIRC it also had a fairly large spread and also varied woth training experience and background.

So while I don’t doubt that TR has lots of data to show that their protocol works for most people and I agree with lots of their reasons for using the methods (ie pacing) it definitely will not give an accurate FTP for everyone.

I am well short of the most knowledgeable person on this and most training subjects, but think you’d be fine to proceed as you outlined. Assuming you start with a fresh FTP test (whichever you prefer), you should just go in knowing that the over Threshold work will be a bit demanding, you are good to go. It probably makes sense to plan a progression of intensity and duration so you start with “manageable” workouts to start, and add difficulty per typical progression we see in a number of plans.

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That makes sense, appreciate the comment. IMHO it is tenuous to take a percentage of an estimate (and a percentage that relates to a bell curve) when a few percent one way or the other can be the difference between burnout, sickness, and injury.

Perhaps something like Ramp Test for low-volume plans, but a 20 min or 60 min test recommended for medium and high volume plans. TrainerRoad does a nice job of appropriately qualifying their recommendations, but their recs do carry huge weight, and I think it would make a difference in people’s longevity and sustainability.

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So in the ramp test…what is your vo2 power? The last minute average power or something else?

All of that discussion on the Dylan Johnson thread got me thinking. has a pretty good breakdown of TID over the years for me.

2017 and 2018, following SSB and short power/offroad specialty plans. It says 2018 was technically pyramidal, but with only 55% easy aerobic, there’s still quite a lot of middle zone in there. A lot of VO2 max work

I changed things up in 2019, but probably went too polarized in the power, doing mostly glycolytic style repeats (1 min hard with 30-60s recoveries) I think I steepened my PD curve too much, killing my endurance. I got a lot of short 1-3 minute PR’s, but race performance was meh… I was slightly faster, but it just felt like total hell.

And now in 2020 I tried to focus on doing my endurance training more in zone 1 of a 5 zone model, so still 10-20 beats lower than LT1. Life has caused my total volume to drop by about 10% this year, but I also haven’t been swimming since March. Of course with no racing in 2020, the intensity has dropped down a bit.

FTP has been pretty much the same throughout those 4 years, but my PD curve has change a lot within those times. I’m trying now to flatten it out a bit as I’ve found that the steep power curve is fun for MTB racing, but makes it a lot harder to run off of the mountain bike.

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Might be interesting to see the PD curve with all 4 seasons show, to see that detail too (even though you mention it).

yeah, but those are also only as good as the data fed in to them, which isn’t always the best for me. If I was still a paying strava subscriber I could show the PB on a few segments around me I used as fitness gauges. For what I do know, I got my best outdoor 5 minute power this season, by almost 30 watts, but it looks like I didn’t attempt that segment last year. I’m still getting segment prs but the ones from 2018 and 2019 were mostly <= 2 minutes while last year was all longer.

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Looks like you have got your wish @mcneese.chad with ATA. Albeit 2.5 years later.

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Sure enough, :rofl: Funny to see these old post sometimes.

Based on my initial use of AT, it holds some promise. I am seeing some odd stuff right now, but the early weeks were pretty good. Stuff to refine with new tools, but it looks like a good future around here :+1:

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It would be nice to have a dedicated thread where all the people trying AT share the experiences…just saying. Thanks. H

Yup, agreed. I’m still waiting for TR to green light that option (which I requested a while ago :wink: )

I understand why YOU have to request permission for this…but how about the other 100+ testers?..What’s preventing them from sharing?.

Nothing is preventing any testers from sharing whatever they want about the experience.

At some point (not disclosed directly to me), they plan to create a dedicated “experience” thread for everyone to use from that point forward. But for now, they can use the existing thread, as several people (me included) have already done.