Polarized training = year-round build?

I’m certainly not looking to start another Polarized vs Traditional/SS thread, but I’ve been looking into polarized training for a while, and most recently the WattKg 9 Week Polarized Training Plan (Low Vol) given the specific nature of it (vs the “easy days easy, hard days hard” general advice).

My main conclusion is that there isn’t really a stark difference between the TR Build model and the WattKg (as an example) polarized model. Each are ~2 sessions a week of intensity, one fills in the week with longer endurance rides, the other does endurance + sweet spot; but these seem pretty small in the world of actual different methodologies.

Thoughts? Am I oversimplifying it, or are they really more similar than the lengthy threads would lead you (me) to believe…

Sweet spot is middle intensity, so still intensity and thus not quite a (high volume low intensity) HVLI plan like a polarized one. There is a pretty big difference between doing sweet spot rides during the easy days and doing zone 2 power (z1 by HR) for your easy days. The weekend TR rides are generally not easy at all, so depending on your fitness level you need to decide if you want 2 or 3 days of intensity. I haven’t seen the WattKg plan though.

Ditto. Hard to say without a better look at them for reference.

Mike

3 Likes

From one of the recent emails:

1 Like

^mid volume plan

Low volume plan:

I have looked at the medium plan and it looks well written and quite good.
I would disagree with medium level being 400 h/yr and low being 250 h/yr.

Maybe if you are high end age-grouper but I would have thought that for ‘normal folk’ whatever that means , that 300 h/yr would be closer to what most consider as medium.

1 Like

It’s not so much a plan, as a 9 week block based on a Seiler study and another study. More details here: https://www.wattkg.com/long-intervals/

I wouldn’t have called Polarized HVLI, mostly I think the LI part is only there to support the two very high intensity days. For me the benefit of polarized is that on my specific intensity / build days I can go to a higher level (even if only a few percent) than I could if I had the residual sweet spot fatigue in my legs.

I think you’re probably right that the SS workouts are enough different/harder than endurance to materially change the overall plan (“residual fatigue” note above) so I guess it’s more a question of the consistent load of a build w/ SS plan vs periodic load of the polarized plan…

Good point - I had missed that he specifically mentions this as a build phase, moved too quickly to the actual workouts…

Either way started this plan yesterday and looking to complete it over the next 9-10 weeks depending on how my schedule plays out, with slight variations for race weekends. I’m not yet sure if I will move one of the intense days to the weekend race day and keep to 2 days of intensity per week, or simply keep the mid-week workouts the same and swap in racing for endurance on the weekend, need to think more on that.

Racing and intensity are both hard, so they can be swapped. I can’t think of any reason to justify swapping an easy workout for hard race.

I did something similar to this for short power build. I only did the two weekday interval sessions and swapped out z2 work for the other rides. This was sustainable while doing in door z2 rides and really flat outdoor rides but if there were any significant hills the weekday rides started to suffer.

Now I’ll be trying to add a bit of structured intensity to the weekend ride by repeating a specific climb for 20 to 30 minutes of hard work and do one of the planned xco interval workouts duringthe week. Any day on my mtb is considered intensity.

And while you don’t necessarily need to be high volume to be following a polarized plan, you should be doing a large proportion of your training time (80-90%) as low intensity conversational pace endurance work.

Anyone in this thread have any updates after doing a block of this training? I just did a small block that started with 4 weeks of TR SSB and then 6 week block of Polarized by creating all the workouts in TR workout creator. I tweaked some things to make it a little more high volume. I had a 1% FTP increase. I know that’s basically unchanged but I actually enjoyed this type of training because I didn’t feel overly stressed at anytime. After going through it once I feel I can go even higher on the volume (endurance rides between workouts). I might do another block but thought I’d see if anyone else has anything to add or results to share.

1 Like

would love to see anyone’s results from this. I am coming back from a few months off the bike due to injury in my knee. I am considering a 2 intensity day and 3 Z2 day training week. Most likely the 2 days of intensity will be threshold workouts with an occasional block of Vo2max to bump it all up. Don’t know what results to expect but hoping for good ones.

Mike

As he has been a guest on podcasts, Seiler has repeated time and again that there are no “off limits” training zones, and that there is a place for all zones within a “polarized” program.

With reference to his own daughter’s running (and he is her coach) he noted that in the early season, her polarized “hard” zones are in his Zone 2.

I came into October with a little lower FTP from a summer of riding without as much structure. I started doing SweetSpot about 10 weeks ago to my build base again. That is what I did last year but after about 4 weeks into it I decided to try something different. So 6 weeks ago I created all the workouts using the TR workout creator. My 2 quality workouts per week progressed from 3x7.5min 30/15s to 3x8min 30/15s to 3x9.5min 30/15s and a slight bump in intensity when I felt good trying to keep HR between 177-187bpm near the second half of each set. The other quality workout was 4x8min to 5x7min to 5x8min with 2 min. recoveries. Goal HR towards the end of each set 169-177bpm. All other trainer rides were strictly endurance low intensity pace staying under 138bpm but usually stayed in the 122-130bpm range. One ride per week I included 5 or 6 short seated sprints.

Looking back I still think I could raise the intensity a few more percent on the 30/15s to get my HR up a few more beats. The Threshold intervals at 102% seemed to work well.
My FTP per ramp test after this block went up 2 watts. That is 2 watts lower than it was last year after SSBHV and 4 watts lower then it was after GBHV. I’d call it just about even. What is interesting is the TSS during this block was much lower than SSBHV. Actually that’s the biggest issue because in order to build up your TSS you need more volume which can get hard to find the time. So basically that’s why SSB does make some sense if you don’t get overly fatigued. It really comes down to what type of training you enjoy.


3 Likes

My N=1. I finished SSBLV 1 and 2 last year after about 8 months of riding after 8-9 years pretty much no riding after racing into my mid 50’s. I felt that I was missing something after SSB, went into a polarized plan that basically was 3 3 hr zone 2 rides/week with one VO2 max workout. Did this from May to October. Suffered an off the bike leg injury so 3 wks off. Greatly increased my “aerobic durability”, flat or descending pulse power coupling and markedly easier to recover from VO2 intervals, maybe better lactate clearance.

5 Likes

I did the Wattkg 9 week program (400hrs) last year after finishing sweet spot base mid volume. I had started the mid volume build phase but found that I was tired all the time and I was dreading the training sessions. I noticed some interesting results. My FTP increased by about 15 watts to 270 but this was not where I noticed the real benefits. My real gains were in my 5s to 30s power which increased dramatically by 100 watts and my 1 minute power increased by 50 watts and I set PR in all times under 1 minute. For the past few years I have had serious cramps after intense rides of 2.3-4 hrs. The is where I noticed the benefit of the LSD rides. I could ride much longer and sustain a higher FTP, without any cramping at all. Again I set personal bests on long rides at high % of FTP. I could go hard on breaks or climbs, then recover quickly and then go hard again. My club mates were surprised at how much stronger I was and were very interested in my winter training program. I found that on club rides I could ride at a hard but manageable pace and they would be struggling. I would pull for extended lengths of time, and they would complain about the fast pace - a complete turnaround from my fitness the year previously (all TR plans). I consider the LSD key to what I call “raising the floor”, the ability to ride at an endurance HR pace, but at a relatively high power level, which is something LSD rides develop. On club rides when others are in riding at low tempo, I was riding at high endurance, and almost always felt I had extra in the tank. Rarely could my club mates keep up with me on the sprint at then end of a hard 3 hour ride - a big improvement from the year before. And the nice thing about this training was that I did not feel wasted all the time which I did when I was training most of my rides at sweet spot.
So this year I am started with SSbase LV, but also adding some long weekend LSD rides, and will switch to the WattKG 9 week plan after the SSbase. I should also add that after reading up on Seiler’s work, I have reduced my training FTP, because I felt it was over estimated and have paid a lot more attention to my HR and power output together. Its really about listening to your body, not just hitting the numbers. Just so you know, my training starts in Jan at about 6 hrs per week and will increase to about 10 hrs per week come April - nothing too intense.

7 Likes

Looking at the link, this does not adhere to Seiler’s polarized approach. Seiler prescribes 80/20 - 20% of sessions should be high intensity sessions. That means if you ride 5 days a week, then one session with intensity and 4 in zone one.

In the link I see four rides with two doing high intensity intervals in the first week. that is 50% of sessions being HIIT.

The beauty of Seiler’s program is building the aerobic base with the Z1 rides.

This program may work fine for the 5-7 hour a week rider but I’d predict that the rider will eventually stall out or become fatigued and grow to hate all the intervals.

If you go by time it’s actually closer to 90%/10%.

2 Likes