Polarized Training Workouts & Experiences (80/20)

Most of his rides don’t have power in Strava, but a few have HR, and have very little time > Zone 2 HR. Don’t forget that power zones are quite arbitrary. I can ride at the zone 2/3 power zone barrier and have almost my whole ride be < 125 bpm or mostly zone 1 in a 5 zone model, a good 15 beats below the zone 2 to 3 border. Someone who excels at an ultra endurance event probably has a relatively high LT1, making the coggan zones almost meaningless. If you’re still nose breathing at 80%, it’s still relatively easy.

1 Like

First ask yourself why 80/20 isn’t event specific? I believe that these “Seiler” intervals were just a study done to test out various interval protocols, however they are not a requirement to be done as such to be using a polarized approach. As far as I know, there are only a few basic rules:

  • Do most of your training (80-90% of your time) at easy pace
  • Do the remaining 10-20% above threshold
  • Don’t go too hard on the hard days with HR target ~ threshold HR zone

You can modify the 10-20% above threshold portion to be moderate intensity or a mixture of > threshold and moderate intensity.

Session goal vs time goal… easier to use session goal if you are doing daily training with multiple days of two a days. It’s still probably easier for most age groupers to think of it on a time basis.

1 Like

This is what I found over the last year. SST intervals at 25 min really gave me the climbing and sustained power I needed for the 3 targeted races I did or will do this year. Next year will be more gravel racing and the events around here are big miles and lower elevation gain than some. Hell hole gravel stage race, Croatan Buck Fifty, etc…all near the coast of NC. Only event with climbing will be the 100 miles but lots of climbing. Climbs around 20 minutes. I still find the sustained power of SST will be my biggest benefit. I just can’t fathom dojng the 4x4’s or 4x8’s and getting out of it what I need. I could be wrong but not a chance I really want to take since I be had success with SST so much.



Seiler study a lot cross country skier, where training twice a day is the default. The LIT Session are normally not so long as in cycling. All this led to a bigger session count. Where in cycling the sessions tend to be longer. Normal cycling LIT Session tend to 2-4 hours. In this case a session 80/20 goal let to a tiny HIT time in Zone, that might not is optimal.
As a rule of thumb I like the idea that one have 100 HIT sessions year that you body can tolerate and you are free to distribute it. For example the typical two Sessions a week or organize it more block wise.

And by the way, however we express this rule,. is not carved in stone. Is more an empirical finding how successful athletes train. We see here also a wide variation. Also with the same athlete in different years.

1 Like

Well I’ll be going from short power-> XCO specialty ->HIM specialty. I did an olympic distance road triathlon half way through XCO specialty. It did feel like an early season race, but I did pretty well in my AG considering I did it using my gravel/cross bike, only swapping my 33’s for s-works turbo 28’s. Once I’m done with the xterra season I’ll start prep for a half iron race that has ~6k of climbing, so i’ll be picking appropriate sustained power workouts as my intensity for certain weeks. I’ve found I can’t do 2 days of cycling intensity every week, at least not short power .9 IF type ones along with swimming and running, but I guess i’ll see how I handle the SS/Threshold style workouts of the HIM specialty.

For the record I started doing this in Feb, went from 290-305 ish, but have now backed down setting to 300 since I had a few weeks of bad consistency and now having trouble hitting power targets. I just pick the key workouts that are from the plan for that week and have swapped out the rest for various endurance rides. No more strava segment hunting when outdoors either, keep disciplined and enjoy the rest of my day on Saturdays.

1 Like

Similar here. I maintain intensity days to 3 a week with the one of them being more Tempo than sst. Outside of that I go Z2 hunting for 2 other big rides. I don’t like doing more intensity then 2-3 a week. I feel fresher in the long run

Background - Last many years I’ve followed a typical SST Base to Sustained Power Build to race season progression. Typically competing in an April to August time trial series with events ranging from 8 miles to 25 miles in length. So once I reach a level of fitness I try to maintain as opposed to having very specific goal event.

August last year I fell mtn biking and broke two ribs and did a bunch of muscle and connective tissue damage. Took many months before I was able to start training again. I lost a ton of bike fitness, overall strength and frankly interest in racing for a season. Made commitment to rebuild muscle and did a ton of lifting after healing the ribs. Bike became a secondary instead of primary focus for many months. As I wasn’t near race shape, then decided to take a season off, rebuild on the bike and then decide what to pursue for competitive goals in 2020.

Current status - Through weightlifting I’ve rebuilt the strength and am ahead of where I was pre-ribs. That’s a nice accomplishment. On the bike I took decision to work on mtn biking and my short term power for a while. Completed TR Short Power Build and hit the best 5 sec through 3 min power that I’ve had in many many years. But between injury, healing, weights and short power, my aerobic system and frankly mental ability to grind out the 30 and 45 min threshold intervals is way down.

Am here in this thread looking to use the 80/20 approach to rebuild the aerobic and lift myself back to where I was. Have been fascinated by the Sieler and Neal podcasts and views on training. Thought it would be fun for a bunch of us using this training approach to share the journey. Particularly as we seek to hit those magic 2x per week 4 x 8 “magic” intervals !!!

The program I’m working toward rest of spring and summer is to complete Two hard structured workouts a week. Eventually I’ll build up to 4 x 8 at 105% but I’m not there yet even with a reduced FTP from “normal”.

Last week I tried 4 x 5 and missed the last effort. This week on Tuesday I nailed 5 x 5 Actually just above 105%. Here is the workout and note this is a dumb trainer so a bit more jagged than some of you guys are used to seeing.

Wednesday was a Carter easy ride and won’t show that one.

Yesterday I set out to complete 3 x 15 SST as I felt 5 x 5 again was too much and I want to start re-training the brain to do longer intervals. Legs were a bit soft and halfway through the first one I made the call to make it 2 x 15 instead of 3 x 15. Was a good choice as by the end of #2 my HR was approaching race levels. That’s OK, I know the diesel engine is not strong right now and that’s what I’m working on.

Coming up today (friday) is an easy rides and some lifting then this weekend outside for what should be 4 x 6-7 min hill repeats Saturday and then a long Zone 2 ride.

On Edit here is Saturday profile:


Pretty good work averaging about 112-118% FTP (267, 257, 252, 250 watts) and each effort was spot on 8 minutes. So 4 x 8 accomplished (LOL LOL LOL). Since these were hill repeats and outside, a bit easier to put out the extra couple watts vs indoor trainer rides. But happy with the work and pretty tired.

Next week will give Dick’s -2 a shot indoors and see how I do with the 8 min work. Will just keep doing that on Tuesday’s until it works and Thursdays will be SST. Once things start looking good will swap out the SST for more 105% work. During the weekend I’m going to enjoy road rides and mtn biking. So not a true 80/20 but its not all about FTP, LT1, LT2 etc. Point of being strong is to have fun.

Long term goal, and I’m talking next year at this time, is to get my true hour back over 240w (at 60 kg)




Tried Dicks -2 today, clearly I needed to build up to 4x8. Only did 3x8 and not the 3x8 as I had intended. I could tell after 2 of them that I was only going to make it through three, but on the third one, I could tell I had a bit more burn in my legs and I wasn’t going to be able to come close to my power goal. My goal for today was anything over 300 and see how HR works out. Ended up bailing on #3 and then completed the 4th at around the same power avg and HR avg as the first two. Of the 3x8 min sets, looks like I had around 12 minutes of zone 4. Once I switch over to HIM focus I’ll do a series of these to actually build up to 4x8. Kind of like how I do my swim sets, I start out with 20x100, then do 10x200 the next week, 4x500 the next and 2x1000 the final week before a race. Thinking if I can find a 6x5 or 5x6 workout to start out at, then do 4x7, and finally 4x8. The workout text gives the impression that this is the workout that is planned for the last week of a specific cycle. These kind of sets remind me why I liked doing to 2x8 test as it was a really good workout. I don’t like the ramp test now since it just makes me feel like total shit for about an hour, can’t eat my breakfast, and then I’ll cramp up swimming for the next two days. When doing 2x8 at least I would have productive workouts the next few days.


Try the Washington series of workouts. 4x7 at 105% of FTP with various rest intervals. E.g. the +2 version has 6 min rest intervals, giving enough break between intervals to be ready for the next one.



Good addition. I added a link to the primary workout in the lead post.

Nice list of workouts.

The workouts at 7 and 8 min intervals at 108% would be impossible for me. If I recall correctly from some podcast or other (can’t remember which one), Seiler recommended these intervals. But his “FTP” was either hour power or MLSS, both of which are likely lower than FTP from the TR ramp test. So 108% in Seiler’s world is more like 103-105% in the TR world.

So I’ll take it as a victory when I can complete the likes of Washington!

1 Like

Yeah, I make no claims on what is or is not possible within the list. I just wanted to provide a list from search results that is a starting point. People can use the workout as-is, raise/lower the intensity to hit a more desired/possible resistance, or use them as a base for custom ones in the Workout Creator.

1 Like

I only blame the other Chad for that :grin:

And for suggesting in the workout notes during the last interval on Washington +2 that I stay in my aero position. :confounded:

1 Like

Yeah, seeing Washington -1 and Jacks +2 in the HIM specialty plan. Looks like I’ll just go through the Tuesday progression for intensity and then try to do some good hill climbing on some of the weekend rides.

I"ve been experimenting for the last 8 weeks with polarized (ish) training, majority of sessions have been outdoors hoofing over rolling terrain with no real climbs to talk about. I’ve based my ftp from the ramp tests and have been banging in ~8 hours per week. My intervals are 2 per week, one session of 4 x 8’s taking 4 minutes RBI and usually struggling to hold or finish the last interval. The other session has been VO2 work for ~15 - 18 minutes, not so structured as the 4x8’s. My HR intensity ratios for block 1 - 60/22/18 and block 2 - 68/20/12, need more discipline!

My ftp went from 244 to 253 for the first block, today I just managed to hold 252 which was pretty disappointing. My highest recorded ftp on the ramp test is 263 on a low volume plan. On a plus point my power at LT1 has risen from 195w @ 141bpm to 207w @ 141bpm.

The next block I will set my ftp to 240w (-5% ramp test); aim for 2minute RBI and replace the VO2 sessions with another 8x4, all at 108% ftp.

It’s all about the process, wish me luck with my new prescription and if anyone has any other recommendations drop me a reply :grin:

1 Like

I am struggling to understand the logic of lowering your FTP below the test value.

I see you plan to shorten the RBI, but I see that as a secondary priority when compared to the min goal of stress and adaptations from the work intervals.

Seems like a backward step to me.

My reasoning is that there is an opinion that some people think they over test on the ramp test and to lower my ftp or intensity of ftp means that I will hopefully complete the workout. At the moment I’m still struggling to complete 4 x 8 with 4 minutes RBI, there is no way I can do it with 2 RBI without lowering the intensity/ftp. I’ve stagnated or possibly had a bad test today, what would you suggest?

I am not sure that I am the best to offer specific suggestions here. There is some great discussion in this thread.

It covers the work and recovery intervals and the relative importance of their duration.

This is true, but I would caution against taking this as a typical issue, and only apply in your case if you have firm understanding of your own testing and how it relates to the following workouts.

  • In my case, I found that I had routinely under-tested with the 1x20-min and 2x8-min tests. The Ramp test results felt “too hard” at first for me, but I soon found that I could complete the workouts as prescribed in most cases. What it took was a recalibration of my RPE and my expectations with respect to power and how the workouts “should” feel.
  • I have no idea if you are one who tests above, below or right on in the Ramp test. I just think you should make that call based purely on your own experience, and not that of others. Doing so may be limiting your own training.
  • I mention that as you seem to be disappointed with a lower Ramp test result (as we all would). As such, you seen to be heading in the wrong direction by dropping the FTP.
  • Since the Polarized approach is so heavy in VO2Max, it is appropriate to evaluate what level of stress is appropriate for you. There is MUCH discussion about the variation that we see in people from their age, training history, and physiology. There is no “one stop shop” for correct training values. It requires some testing and evaluation.
  • It seems you are doing this by reviewing HR at the conclusion of the intervals. The one thought I have on this is to make sure you are looking at that properly, to make sure you are hitting it right. I am no expert, but I think you need to be hitting about the last 1/4 of your interval at those target HR’s. If you are only hitting them at the very end of the interval, you may be missing out on the full stress.

I can’t offer more direction as I have only loosely followed the most recent discussion. As I said, there are others far more versed in this conversation. Hopefully one of them can add to and correct anything I have shared, so you can consider your next steps.

1 Like

In the last Fast Talk, even Seiler seemed to admit that the Polarized Program was to address the fact that most amateur cyclists are riding too hard, and that once that was addressed, you could graduate to the normal 5-7-9 zone system. In essence, he created a whole new system just to fix a compliance issue with the gold standard system. While the concept is good and true that many ride too hard (3x a week Group Rider not sure why they can’t get faster), I’m not sure we need a whole new system to address this.

Seiler didn’t create anything - he observed what high level coaches in multiple endurance disciplines have been doing for a long time. (Rowers started becoming polarised in the late 60s)

He coined the term Polarised because in the early studies, looking at rowers and cross country skiiers, there was very little if any work done in the ‘threshold zone’ due to the nature of the racing. Cycling is slightly different, which he recognises, but the basic principle of doing 80% of the work at low intensities and 20% at medium or high is essentially the same, the difference being that there is more of what we would call sweet spot.

To suggest that you could ‘graduate’ from his way of thinking to something else is to say that everything he has observed is nonsense.