Polarized training is dead

So is threshold training, pyramidal training, and every other TID (training intensity distribution) that you can come up with:

What’s really sad is why this was even a popular topic of inquiry in the first place. #sportsscienceatitsfinest


It’s an interesting read, but I’m not sure it answers many questions about the benefits of one approach vs. another. It’s really just a retrospective on how elite athletes allocate time in zone (while stating that there is a lot of variation within different sports and populations). I guess if you are looking to mimic the elites with your training approach for a specific sport (by assuming they must be doing it right and that the training approach would translate to your physiology), it could be used as a high level training prescription, but that’s about it.

They are quick to call out the challenges of actually finding a correlation between a specific training approach and performance (ie - is one person performing better than another because of the training or because they have better genetics, etc.). Maybe with a bunch more data points and some of this fancy new AI technology we might be able to find some meaningful correlations, but they basically punted on that topic in the study. Again, it’s interesting and has some specific call-outs for cycling, but I don’t see it answering any questions about whether a specific individual would be better off doing polarized vs. pyramidal, etc.

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I’m skimming, but Figure 4 made my head spin trying to look at it on my iPhone, lol.

Here’s some text that stood out to me;

As shown, the cyclists and swimmers spent a lower proportion of their training time in Z1 (<72%) and a higher proportion in Z2 (>16%) than athletes engaged in the triathlon, speed skating, rowing, running, cross-country skiing and the biathlon (all >80% for Z1 and <12% for Z2).


Table 4, shows, that the proportion of training time spent in Z1 by cyclists appeared to be lower (58.1% vs. 65.2%) and the proportion in Z2 higher (35.5% vs. 28.7%), with no difference in Z3 than when the method of quantification was not taken into consideration

Those stood out to me. I’m not drawing any conclusions nor am I suggesting anything either. Just interesting words put together that I read, nothing more.

Pretty interesting read, so far…

That’s not a very 80/20 or 90/10 chart at first glance.

I think if you consider the source material of “polarised training” then you might find it more relevant?

Can’t tell of this is sarcasm or not. Do you like the study linked? What are it’s issues.

Feels like an inside joke I’m not in on


The title I chose is definitely sarcastic. My point/what the study shows is that there is no consistent pattern to how elite athletes train (as anyone who has rubbed elbows with enough already knows). Thus, even ignoring other reasons why they shouldn’t be held up as an example of “best practice” (e.g., genetic differences, time available to train, support systems, etc.), it makes no sense to try to emulate them (or to waste resources studying them in the first place). But, since TID is a popular topic among coaches/athletes/influencers/netizens, I thought that I would share.


I repeat myself but this really annoys me. Neither of the cited cycling TIZ studies considered coasting/descending/not pedalling. I know, this is difficult with HR but not even the one study with power-TIZ considers this. Looking into this studies shows that about 25% of the total time is spent <1.5W/kg. If we assume a 70 kg rider this amount to 105W. However, this is lumped in Zone 1. Looking at some of the Andorra or Monaco based pros, their <100W can be up to 30-40%. Descending a long mountain pass may train your riding skills but not your physiology.


The Dutch have it pretty good. Flat so you can always apply power. Sit up and use the bloc headwind to simulate climbs. Use the tailwind to simulate motor pacing. Brilliant training grounds, and safer, too. Andorra does look nice, though.

Importance of low intensity (<LT1) still emphasised in linked study.

In fact, the present analysis revealed that 91% (n = 160) of all the TIDs involved >60% low-intensity endurance exercise. In some sports this value was even >90%.


Importance of low intensity or importance of volume, that can be achieved only by low intensity?


Read the linked study, every TID still had >60% <LT1 and given the studies were elites and high level athletes all high volume in their respective sport disciplines.

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:+1: Always suspected training for XC skiing is different from cycling :rofl::joy::rofl:

Or to put it another way, importance or necessity?


You mean that there are no universal truths when it comes to training? Fancy that…has anyone told Seiler?


@The_Cog: the accuracy of that snide comment all depends on what you mean by a universal truth. If you mean a simple assertion like “80 per cent of sessions should be low intensity”, then Seiler has realised this himself – at least a decade ago. If you mean a more complex assertion like “Training intensity distribution is an optimisation problem with the following constraints …”, then no, no-one has told Seiler, perhaps because it seems to be a really neat formulation of the training intensity conumdrum as it applies to a variety of different sports.


Can you clarify what you mean by “low intensity”?

Conversation pace for guys I ran with was 6 min pace… but that’s wasn’t exactly low intensity. Even the “80%” non intensity days was still work.

so given that not training, doesn’t get you fitter, the conclusion must be that everything works (cycling to improve cycling), until it doesn’t. we are all the same, basically, but slightly different. things are nuanced and context matters.

ride your bike, train. its fun. its all just temporary gainz. there are no hacks, shortcuts or magic sessions. see what works for you!


This is a common problem in other fields too - especially medicine. However, that doesn’t prevent us from identifying what prescription is best in a specific situation at group level.

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Wasn’t that always Seiler’s foundational assertion, that he saw these Skiers doing most of their training in Z1, only some bit of it in Z3 and almost nothing in Z2?
If not even that was true, what is there to be potentially expected from “polarized”?


But even that’s not universally true. I know/have known plenty of elite athletes that have found great success routinely violating that so-called rule.

About the only universal truth is that the more you train the lower the overall intensity must be, but 1) there is so much variation between individuals and 2) that is so obvious that it really isn’t helpful as any sort of guideline.

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