Polarized Training Discussion (Fast Talk podcast & Flo Cycling podcast)

I interpret it as the exact opposite. To me it is defined as the bulk of the work being in zone1 with a little interval work in Z3. It is only the recreational age grouper that do every ride as a ‘feel good’ ride, hammering the whole hour or two in Z2, that need to be told to slow down.

1 Like

I have a new theory where I think all of this training distribution stuff will end up. This is probably even obvious to the coaches that are 15 years ahead. In the future, I think it’s going to come down to managing central nervous system stress responses. Z1 training basically allows one to do a ton of training without too much CNS stress. You can mix in a little Z3 which you recover from in a day or two. You can even ride the next day in Z1 and still recover.

Personally, I notice that a hard Z3 session leaves me with sore legs (peripheral nervous system fatigue) but I don’t feel central fatigue. If I string together a few days of SST or tempo my legs aren’t hurting but I start feeling centrally exhausted (CNS).

Seiler talks about this case study a lot:

The key take-away from this case study was that while still polarized, what did her in was too much higher Z3. By higher, I mean the really hard zone5 stuff. Interestingly, what they call middle intensity in the stuff is Seiler’s bread and butter intervals: “The most common MIT session was an interval session consisting of 5 × 7–8 min working periods, with 1–2 min rest in between.”

Also if you listen to some of the nuanced stuff Seiler says about interval work, he likes the athlete to leave “a little in the tank”. Doing some intervals where you hit 90% of HRmax seems to be better than hitting 95% because 95% is so much harder to recover from.

In the “Intensify or Extend” lecture, the major point seems to be extend rather than intensify. He talks about the athlete in the study above. He also talks about how his daughter’s training got derailed by too much intensity.

Here is the lecture again:



I still believe this is highly personal, here is my recent 4-week block of training:

and polarized % vo2max estimates from WKO5 (ballpark estimates:

week TSS <65% 65-85% >85% VO2max
3/2/20 185 65 21 14
2/24/20 579 65 30 5
2/17/20 573 47 43 10
2/10/20 513 50 43 7

In the past I’ve seen good supercompensation results from blocks like that, with dramatically reduced or no riding in the adaptation/regeneration week. This week I’m definitely feeling the need to continue rest/adapt/regenerate after that 3 week loading, good thing I’m traveling and not riding until Tuesday of next week :+1:t3:

One reason for the long aerobic endurance rides on weekends is to build an aerobic base capable of supporting long 6-12 hours rides in the mountains. Met a guy on last weekend’s 7 hour ride that did 10 double centuries last year, he got me thinking of targeting 3 or 5 next year and finally getting my California Triple Crown jersey. These type of target events has me thinking more like a triathlete preparing for the bike portion of a full Ironman. I used TrainerRoad’s traditional base mid-volume as my early base, loved it, would be awesome if Coach Chad would remix the TR Full Distance Triathlon Base as a Gran Fondo Base :pray:t3:

After finishing up this late base I’m going to do build in a more polarized fashion.

What about the retracted study of the two Olympic rowers? Polarized didn’t “fit one of them perfectly”.

You may think of it that way, but that is why you consider polarized and pyramidal to be the same, when by definition they aren’t.

Have you seen the TR low volume plans? :rofl:


or TR Sweet Spot Base High Volume, here are a couple example weeks and it sure looks like a Threshold TID to my eyes:

A few years ago I did SSB-1 HV (at 55+ yrs old) and it delivered… a personal best on an 2.5 hour HC climb. But I couldn’t handle it right now, would need to get back to where I was in 2017 before attempting that much intensity packed into 5 weeks.


Polarized can’t be taken as literally as some people here are trying to. 80-20 isn’t some patented set formula that solves everything and Seiler is definitely not presenting it as such if you listen to him going more into detail. His “80-20” and “3 zones” are just simplicification to better describe a model and he will admit as much. One of his most used phrases is how athletes need to “solve an equation” because there is no set formula for success. Main points of polarized are basically

  • everyone has a limit how much intensity they can handle so find that limit and when you train it go hard up to that limit
  • fill other sessions with as much volume as possible without going so hard to risk being fatigued on high intensity sessions
  • make sure to have some really long sessions because some adaptations come only after certain levels of fatigue

So it’s basically couple of principles and not a set formula. Everyone needs to figure out how much time and what intensity brings them most benefits and also what specificity in their training are they looking for so they can adjust their time in zones.
This is why you can hear Seiler talking about some percentages and zones but never 1 set prescription, because there is none, there are some core principles of polarized model and after all, it is just 1 model, not a rule.


I never said they were the same. And Seiler never gave a “definition” either. It was an observation in a research paper and the name stuck. Here is from 2004 - the earliest I can find:

the intensity distribution recommended for highly successful international cross‐country skiers, adopt a polarized model of intensity distribution. About 75% of their training sessions are performed with essentially the entire session below the first ventilatory threshold (≤2.0 mM blood lactate). In 5–10% of training sessions, major portions of the training are performed between VT1 and VT2. The remaining 15–20% of training sessions are performed as interval bouts, with substantial periods of work above VT2.

There ya go: 75/10/15. Call it pyramidal or polarized. Debating the terms is pointless.

Here is the paper:


Here is what you said before:

“Seilers claim from the very beginning is that cyclists have a pyramidal distribution. Polarized and pyramidal fall in the same boat”

In fact, neither of these are true.

75/10/15 is polarized. 75/15/10 is pyramidal. See the difference?

From Seiler’s first paper on polarized training, published in 2004:

“In contrast, a polarized ‐training model emerges from a limited number of published observations of international class rowers (Steinacker, 1993; Steinacker et al., 1998), gold medal winning time‐trial cyclists (Schumacker & Mueller, 2002), and internationally elite marathoners (Billat et al., 2001). These studies suggest that at high‐performance levels, athletes generally train below the lactate threshold intensity (perhaps 75% of the sessions or training distance), or clearly above the threshold intensity (15–20% of the time), but surprisingly little at their lactate threshold intensity. In essence, the training intensity distribution is polarized away from the moderately hard intensity range represented by the lactate threshold. This appears to be true even for marathoners of international class, who compete at an intensity approximating their lactate threshold (Billat et al., 2001).”

So, no, he didn’t originally make an exception for cyclists, or for marathon runners either. Instead, he claimed that all elite endurance athletes followed a polarized distribution, with emphasis specifically on avoidance of his zone 2. That he - or others - may be saying something differently now doesn’t change this.

These were track cyclists.

1 Like

And what is the point of bringing this up over and over? To prove a point of semantics? That “polarized” training doesn’t work? That Seiler wrote polarized in a paper 10 years ago and that the concepts can’t evolve?

He wrote “generally” not always. Nowhere in that paper mentions avoidance. It’s an observation not a prescription by him.

That paper also mentioned “training”. I think pro cyclists are more polarized in training than their racing. Paris-Roubaix, for example, is 7 hours long with most in the middle zone. That skews total time in zone distributions.

I checked the paper. They were team pursuiters, who not only spent most of their time racing on the road, but also trained like road cyclists.

That would be one weird looking pyramid! :rofl:

1 Like

Billat calls it polarized in that 2001 paper, and at the end of that sentence credits a 1981 paper on elite marathon runners. I’m digging the flashback to 70s running :running_man: :running_woman: craze. Everything old is new again!

Joking aside, was watching a womens biathlon event last night and everyone crossed the finish line and collapsed. Those short XC events are legendary in my mind for showing just how hard you need to train in order to push the body to its absolute limit. I salute all the bad asses of this world that train that hard (and easy)!!! Ride on my friends, and excuse me while I psych :brain: myself up to tackle a polarized build

1 Like

Thats coming very soon. I have all the data now. Just getting age group rankings done (today hopefully!) and then I will do some analysis.


I think another key takeaway of all of this is that appropriate training distribution is dynamic, is not fixed in time, and that optimally athlete and coach take a long-term view. E.g., an overload of Z3 might have had her going fast at one point, but at some point the returns diminished while the costs did not. Other evidence is how many people improve simply by changing up their training, regardless of what the training is changed to.

Another example, someone who has 10 hours to train might get benefits for a while from only doing z1–that’s not too little time to get training stress, at least at first. But then, the returns will top out, and they’ll have to change up. but only AFTER the returns top out.


@iamholland Can’t remember exactly what percentage I mentioned in the episode, but it’s been almost a year and I have a lot more data points now for different athletes. Based on that I would say that on average 92-93% of 20-minute power would be a good estimate.

However, if you know your athlete type (sprinter, breakaway specialist vs. GC, time trialist) you could modify the coefficient to be 90-92% for the former and 94-95% for the latter.

EDIT: As a decent guideline. It’s not going to be perfect, but if your limited to field tests this would be a reasonable approach IMO.