My Polarized Training Experience (Chad McNeese & others)

If I’m understanding that correctly, Froome has an LT1 of 385W and LT2 of 420W. That would make his POL Z2 range between 92% and 100%.

Based on that he can crush it in the ‘sweetspot’ as much as he likes…

Did you consciously decide to try this as pre-base prior to starting TR SSB? Not sure if that is what you meant by TR SST approach. To my eyes, the TR general build and road race speciality phases have a lot of work above FTP (VO2Max). The TR build/specialty plans with a lot of SST have it because the A event is going to be raced at SST.

Did you take time off from cycling between seasons? I see some pretty high-intensity stuff in the four weeks prior to starting POL.

Just wondering as the study I keep referencing had national level athletes do a detraining period of 4 weeks prior to starting the 9 week study. And classic base training is preceded by time off. I’ve seen more traditional base training (with sprinkling of intensity, so you can call it POL) work on members of our club, from newbies to guys using it to move up categories. I firmly believe POL at some # hours per week will also deliver a wider aerobic base, just not sure how many hours are required.

For whatever it’s worth, anyone that has a Tacx trainer (and maybe any FE-C? I’ve never tried it.) can do HR-controlled workouts using the Tacx Training app. HR response is slow enough that the control loop isn’t great but it does work.

I’m not smart enough to figure out what the axes represent on that chart.

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Great questions. Here is a pic of my year at a glance:

  • Note: I clicked the starting week of my POL specific training to make it easy to see and compare.
    • See the orange bar for Week of Oct 8.

  • I didn’t really “plan” it as a pre-base, but that is essentially how it looks like it will turn out. I had been researching this whole POL thing since the first FT Ep 51 podcast. I had gotten to a point of understanding in general, and had a rough month free in the calendar, so I decided to try it out.
  • See the chart above. I was on a small downturn and casual riding in August (after completing my A-Events, the Tour of Utah Ultimate Challenge and then my final duathlon for the season). I was just doing random rides with no structure after that.
  • Then I got a cold on Sep 2 that kept me off the bike for a week (that’s the massive dip on the chart). So I had a complete week off, and then returned with more “random” rides for fun with no structure.
  • I have seen those studies and saw the de-training period included in each. I recognize the complete opposite in my timing with a solid weeks preceding my POL start. That is the reason I included the reference pic in the OP, since it is counter to what would be a “proper” study.
  • That one detail, and all the other non-scientific aspects I am ignoring, are reasons I don’t make grand claims about this experience. It’s more interesting and informational than really comprehensive, even if you consider N=1 for my own learning.
  • I don’t expect conclusive data at the end. But I have learned some things (like 3-on / 1-off seems like a good option for me) that I think I will apply in the coming season.

My point in sharing this was to maybe help others decide if they think it’s worth a test for themselves, even though I don’t think this is anything close to a “proper” or “full-depth” analysis.

I plan to contrast it with my experience when I roll into my normal SSB1 in mid-Nov. Things like general fatigue level to TSS will be interesting to see (again, very personal), but I think there are likely to be differences in overall feeling based on what I have learned in the work weeks.

I am about mid way through the recovery week. Right now, I am getting through the easy workouts with nice and low HR, but I do feel some fatigue in the legs that I wasn’t expecting. So it’s interesting at the very least.

I think the x-axis is power produced and the y-axis is power source.

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Honestly have a hard time seeing the value in that, given the vastly different preludes to POL and SSB1, but I’ll grab some popcorn and keep reading along.

The goal of early base is to build a wider base. The goal of later base is to build endurance, strength, and pedaling economy. A few things I believe:

  • Traditional base works, and can deliver a wider aerobic base
  • POL works, and can deliver a wider aerobic base
  • Time crunched plans work (TR and POL), but will not deliver as wide a base

Personally I don’t have enough experience to throw in a lot of VO2max work during base, without incurring setbacks, so I’m not planning to use POL for base.

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  • Like I said, just sharing for fun, really.
  • I’ve made no conclusive claims up til now, nor will I do so in the future.
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Yep - now that you mention it, I recall seeing that Tacx has this capability. It’s a capability TR could also add pretty easily if they decide to do it. But it would start to deviate away from their “power is king” philosophy - which I generally agree with, but I also think there’s ways to incorporate heart rate in a valuable way - eg for pacing like this, or looking at HR decoupling during rides, etc.


I’m truly enjoying the discussion, and how its helped me go back to the stack of training books and re-read stuff to plan my 2019 progression.

Ride on! :smile:

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Agreed. If nothing else, it has allowed us to stoke the POL fire while we consider it along with our other options… and wait for the deep dive into training info that TR will hopefully deliver… to mess it all up :stuck_out_tongue:

Thanks for the great questions and discussion. Interesting stuff.

I’m planning to use a POL approach for the summer, when a) my body is ready for all the intensity, b) its too hot (for me) but the sun is up before 6am so its easy to go on long 3-6 hour low-intensity outside rides and still be home at a reasonable time on Saturday morning.

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Hopefully this is it

I generally agree with the “power is king” philosophy as well, but from my reading, listening, and thinking I believe this is a specific exception to the rule.

For the “80%” rides in a polarized plan, as I understand it, you’re actually chasing a metabolic goal, not a performance one. In other words, during threshold intervals for example, the goal is to spend time at threshold power so it makes sense to ride based on power. With these polarized endurance rides, the goal is to stay below LT1. Unlike most training rides on a bike, power is completely incidental to the goal of the ride. Seems to me you want to ride based on the goal you’re chasing so riding to HR, since we can’t really measure LT real-time, rather than power makes more sense in this case.


If you take a look at Dr. Coggan’s expected physiological adaptations, he states that VO2max will provide strong benefits to:
Increased plasma volume
Hypertrophy of slow twitch muscle fibers
Increased muscle capillarization
Increased stroke volume/maximal cardiac output

Those are just the benefits that appeared to be relevant to the base phase. It also does things like improves your VO2max, as well as a bunch of secondary effects that are improved, but not as strongly as when performed in other zones.

From that perspective, if the point of base is to prep my body physiologically to prepare for later training stimulus, then I want all of those adaptations. There’s a mix here of central and peripheral effects. And it’s laying the foundation to later increase FTP, without needing to do so at the current time.

In fact, if you look at the differences between the expected adaptations between aerobic and VO2max, there’s a ton of overlap. Most of the points either both have approximately the same “level” of impact, or VO2max has a greater impact.

IMO, one of the biggest fundamental differences which isn’t accounted for in that chart, is that you have a relatively limited quantity of VO2max work you can do in a given week, before you run into fatigue issues. Whereas, you can do a TON of aerobic work, and still see benefit.

Anyway, that’s a long way of saying that I don’t think there’s any “penalty” for doing VO2max work during base from a physiological perspective. There may very well be a psychological benefit, if you do a lot of high intensity work throughout the year, and just want a break. That last bit goes both ways though, as having a single high intensity session a week can help break up what can otherwise be a somewhat dull base phase.

That’s not to say it’s required, as clearly it is not. There are lots of people who typically avoid all high intensity work during base, and still perform at a high level. I’d love to see more data actually doing a thorough analysis. Most of the data that I have seen has been either narrow in scope, or more broad like the recommendations in the article I linked below.

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I agree and use the power threshold to make sure I don’t overdo the wattage whilst the HR catches up and then invariably overshoots.

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I have knee issues, and wasn’t making a general statement.

This is definitely n=1 stuff that only applies to me… By “enough experience” I’m pulling in a lot of things that I’ve discovered over the last 3 years. The bottom line is that my knees require a slow build up to perform high-intensity work without incurring setbacks. My training calendar is filled with 1 or 2 week recoveries with no cycling, because of my knees. Sometimes the cause is cycling, a couple of attempts at squats in the gym, and other times dumb stuff like hitting knee in garage.

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That makes a lot of sense from your perspective then. I think the way I read it reminded me of the old “high intensity will un-do your base training” perspective, which was mostly the angle that I was looking at it from.

Carry on good sir!


My current thinking on a rough progression:

  • traditional base outdoors, it would naturally include some intensity
  • SSB1-HV to build muscle endurance (plus some aerobic) and revisit pedal economy
  • SSB2-HV to continue building out muscle endurance
  • General Build
  • Rolling or Climbing Road Race, depending on the rides I’m targeting for May/June
  • POL for July/Aug

It’s largely driven by our club’s series of 10 century rides starting in January, my interest in climbing rides in mountains, and wanting to hang with the lead group on windy Wed night rides. All of them require a lot of absolute power over 20-120 minutes.

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I am looking at the same TR progression, but MV:

  • SSB1 & SSB2 > GB > CRR
    I like the looks of the variety in each phase.

Last year I did this:

  • SSB1 & SSB2 > SPB > Cent
    Which was good, but I lacked a bit of kick when I wanted it.
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