POL for Low(er) Volume Cyclists - Is There Evidence?

So I’ve been thinking about adding a traditional base, or Pol/high Z2 block at the start of my next plan before heading into my typical SSBHV into VO2 then Specialty plan.

On the latest Matchbox Pod, DJ mentioned that the scientific evidence suggests Polarized is optimal for all cycling volumes (specifically mentioned six hours). I tried to find a study suggesting that and couldn’t find a single one.

Multiple studies suggest no difference. One recent one suggests Pyramidal/Threshold actually resulted in faster race results in Half IM Tri. One suggested that a mix of Pyramidal into Pol resulted in the biggest fitness gains (comparing Pyramidal, Polarized, half Pol into Pyr, and half Pyr into Pol).

Currently, it seems like it really doesn’t matter below very high volume?

I do think I’ll tie in more high Z2/tempo rides, but perhaps a whole block is not really ideal.

Of all the commentary around the subject- I think this video from Jesse best aligns with my current thinking on training intensity distribution.

(Ie it’s a distraction).


Having not watched that video yet (I’ll watch once I’ve got the kids to school), your quote here pretty much sums up what I found from reading the abstracts I could find.

And kind of aligns with what I’d been thinking, but I was trying to not let my bias lead my searching.


(And the Oxford lecture on Seiler’s YouTube where he basically says anyone arguing the toss over whether pyramidal and polarised are two different things is completely missing the point :rofl:)


It is important to remember that while you can see training improvements on four hours per week with a well-executed polarized plan, you are still far away from the optimal training dose. That’s true whether your four hours is polarized, sweet spot or all high intensity.


Hmm, interesting.

My interpretation of that one is that it’s likely to provide an increase in some athletes. Those that need a VO2max stimulus. This is also kind of what I noticed in other studies.

Far from universal though.

As you say. 4 hours isn’t a heap of stimulus and any training is better than no training.

I don’t know what the science says, or what the right answer is for which makes you fastest… but I’ll share my experience. I got way in my head after Dylans video and ended up buyinghis beginner base and build plans. I want to like them so bad, but i quickly can’t keep up with the time requirements. Doing 3-4 hour rides every weekend just won’t fit my life. Plus, indoor Z2 rides are brutal. TR just works best for me to stay consistent with. So to me, even if polarized is the scientific way to get faster, I would stick with what you enjoy doing and can do consistently. I lost a year trying to chase the “best plan”.


Rather than debating the topic to death, why don’t you try a polarized block and see how your body reacts?

Here is my (i. e. N = 1) experience with polarized blocks (MV+):

  • I usually do a polarized block before sweet spot blocks and/or if I want to focus on my endurance.
  • Polarized blocks toughen me up mentally, they give me better endurance, but my FTP gains are smaller than during a sweet spot block. I don’t mean to say that this means polarized blocks are worse, just that you should keep an eye on other measurements of your fitness than FTP. Otherwise you might conclude that polarized blocks work worse for you.
  • Combining polarized blocks with sweet spot has been great for me. Think and rather than either–or.
  • I find polarized blocks significantly harder than sweet spot blocks at the same volume.
  • Many polarized workouts have a very clinical feel to them. That was because TR tried to stick very hard to their time-in-zone targets.
  • In the end, the biggest factor is IMHO consistency. So if you hate polarized blocks and you struggle through them, because you find them boring or hard, they are not for you. Conversely, if you prefer polarized blocks over sweet spot, switching to a polarized plan might make sense for you.
  • If you are worried that you are doing too much intensity (SSB HV is very hard), you could start with a MV plan and pad that.

PS I wouldn’t say you are doing Low(er) volume if you have been following HV plans.


I’m usually a classic time crunched athlete with 4-5 hours to train so I’ve had the running assumption pol isn’t going to provide sufficient stimulus, but I agree with the suggestion that if you’re curious you should just try it and see how your body responds to that specific stimulus.

That said, to the OPs question about the literature though, one thing that always pops into my mind is when Dylan interviewed Seiler and specifically ask/stated ‘this works for time crunched athletes too right?’ and he he said oh yes of course there is evidence it works at 8-10 hours a week. That’s more than double the volume of TR SSB LV.


To be fair there isn’t much evidence for sweet spot or all high intensity at four hours a week. Sure there’s gains off the couch as in a few of the studies but little evidence beyond a 6-8 week initial period.


Yeah, that’s kind of what I’ve been able to find. There’s not a significant difference in the scientific evidence. Especially in the low volume (up to 10hr range).

I think the optimal intensity distribution / volume ratio is highly personal (and depending on a lot of external factors as age, life/work stress, training history, preference, motivation etc).

If you start at the baseline of a 80/20 polarized plan, you could say that for an average athlete, this distribution is optimal at (FOR EXAMPLE!!) 10 hours. if you only have 5 hours to train, the total stress/load of 80/20 might be to low. if you have 15 hour, 20% high intensity might be to high. To find the right balance for you, you need to try things and find your limits.

For me personally, at 4 hours a week, I could do sweetspot, threshold and vo2max without any issues, but when I add some volume (and maybe some unstructured rides… ) I -need- z2.
So I have a LV plan to start with, but when I have more time I add or REPLACE wokouts with z2 rides


Remember from the first or second fast talk podcast before this all blew up seiler suggested a pyramidal workout distribution for super low volume training. 1x1.5-2h endurance 1x<60min moderate and 1x<60min interval session per week


Scientific evidence can be overrated. Empirical evidence on how you respond is better. A good coach has longitudinal empirical evidence from many athletes and can help you conduct n=1 experiments. In the end it’s all about n=1.



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Quantum Polarised gains. They don’t manifest until a third party observes them.


Shrödingers adaptions - you have simultaneously adapted and not adapted?


This calendar year, I’ve only been training 4-7 hours and getting good results. Caveat that I’m regaining fitness i had before, but trying to push that time per week as close to 10 as i csn get by may/june.

4 hours a week is quite low… I’d challenge anyone who can only train that much to find a way to train more if they want to get faster.

I’m even doing lower stress than true pol right now, just foing ss and tempo for my intensity minutes, with most of it very easy endurance with respiration rate barely above resting. After my hr strap crapped out in me again i haven’t felt like buying another one.

I spent a lot of time thinking about this chart. Not sure I have any conclusions. Plenty to think about, though.

Both groups, btw, spend 20% of training days targeting Z3 (in a 3 zone model). Z1/Z2/Z3 split was 45/35/20 for the non-polarized training group and 75/5/20 for the polarized training group.

It’s important to not that training load was kept constant across the two groups but load was determined using TRIMP scores. Now, I’ve said good things about TRIMP on this forum in the past & in general I like what TRIMP tries to do…and of course you can see that TSS tries to mimic TRIMP (the predecessor of cycling training load)

But in this case you have to ask yourself…is a minute of work at threshold really 3x the training load of a minute of work at sub-first-ventalitory-threshold? Because if it’s not the results of this study might not make perfect sense. What if the right number is really 1.85x? Well then the non-polarized group achieved similar results with a lower training load. What if the right number is really 4x? Well then polarized must really be the way to go.

I don’t know the answer. But my gut tells me it would be a real extreme coincidence if the relative adaptive training load between sub first ventilatory training time and threshold training time exactly matches the arbitrary numbering of those training zones.

THANKS FOR POSTING! That was an interesting read.

@GoLongThenGoHome since one good turn deserves another, here is another interesting paper taken from the citation list of the paper you linked:


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