Quality over Quantity vs. 80/20 (or Chad vs. Matt ;))

I’m under the impression that Jonathan, Nate and Chad are fans of Matt Fitzgerald so I’m especially curious about this. In his 80/20 triathlon book Matt takes the stance that an 80/20 easy to moderate/hard distribution gives you the biggest training effect even when only training 45 minutes per day on average. This is more or less the volume of a Olympic triathlon base low volume on Trainerroad and the distribution of load is clearly more heavy on the non-easy side than that - the argument being that for the time-crunched triathlete/cyclist quality trumps quantity and base endurance is an (albeit desirable) add-on for those with more time.
Chad and Matt both struck me as pretty well read sciencey guys but clearly there is a huge contradiction here. Is one of them cherry picking studies or to play devils advocate here maybe it doesn’t matter all that much how you train after all?


They mentioned they are going to talk about polarized 80/20 training on a future podcast. I’m super excited for this one.


Existing Polarized Training discussion in this forum:

My personal Polarized Training test:


I totally agree! Have just read 80:20 triathlon having previously used 80:20 training for running. About to start low volume ironman TR programme, but does seem slightly at odds with Matt Fitzgerald/Dr Seilers theories! Looking forward to the TR podcast on this too.


I’m also a fan of incorporating plenty of low intensity work in training, but I don’t think 80/20 (or similar training methodologies such as POL) will translate well to a TrainerRoad plan.

IMO TrainerRoad is perfect for the high intensity and threshold work… but doing extended low intensity aerobic sessions on an indoor trainer is pretty mind-numbing. Easy aerobic sessions lend themselves much better to when you can get outside in some nice scenery, leaving the hard work to be done on an indoor trainer.

For someone to be consistently performing around 80% of their indoor TR workouts at an easy intensity, they really need to have bought in to the concept of 80/20 or POL. Most people would really struggle with doing so much easy training as it feels so counter-intuitive that you can make gains without hammering yourself every workout.


Does this Matt Fitzgerald have any scientific studies to back up his theory? I was under the impression that you only see the benefit of this type of training if you’re putting in a lot of hours each week, say 15+. For people that train less than 10 hours a week, it’s hard to see how such a ratio of training would be of more benefit.


That is one of the key questions in the Polarized discussion thread (See the links I shared above).

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Agree. Just did petit tonight and found it strangely ‘hard’ in the sense that it was not actually hard but because it was consistently medium with no ups and downs … it was hard if you get what I mean


Agree, trainers are best suited for 45-120 minute focused sessions to build muscle endurance, threshold, and VO2max.

@jonbar123 petit lol, I just completed Traditional Base1 high volume with week3 consisting of 2.75 hour trainer workouts. It was so mind numbing I probably lost 20 IQ points!


I agree, it is “harder” in ways to do the easy stuff, especially long ones. But I think they can really pay back extra compared to outside rides, for the same time spent, if you can do them inside.

The 4 hour Z1 rides I have done on the trainer in my POL testing have absolutely smoked my legs. I suspect I’d have to do 5+ hours outside to get the same loading. In that sense, they can really get more for the same time investment.

But I recognize I am probably a crazy outlier, in actually enjoying those on the trainer. I use the time to read, watch movies, catch up with friends, and do other stuff on the bike since the intensity is so manageable.


My experience is different, the low intensity stuff either inside or outside just makes me hungry. The inside rides are literally a pain in the ass, while the outside rides are the entire reason I got back into cycling. And many of my longer 3+ hour outside rides are solo, meaning I’m in control of pace/intensity/etc just like on the trainer.


Yup, and I suspect that experience is more like the majority of other riders around here. I like doing those solo to be in control outside.

But I get pulled into group rides sometimes because others are not as happy to ride alone. That makes pacing a challenge when you have differing abilities and body types that don’t roll the same.

Interested to know what your reading set up is? Normal books or e-reader?

Can I join you in the outlier corner? :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

I’ve dome plenty of long trainer rides over the years, not sure I could stand many of them in Zone 1 though (unless you’re referring to a polarised 3 Zone system?)

Those long trainer rides are generally pretty specific for the type of racing I do, suit my physiology and give a great training return. No worrying about how many layers to wear, where I’m going to refill bottles, potholes or crazy drivers. I love a good ride in the sunshine like all of us I guess but I do see a clear distinction between ‘riding’ and ‘training’.


I end up reading forums and web articles mainly, not actual books at the moment. I have 2 screens and a mini keyboard for scrolling on sites.

I have yet to try regular books, but might the able to use my aerobars as a base for that.

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Nice, more than one crazy out there :stuck_out_tongue:
Yeah, I am doing Z1 Polarialzed, so around Level 2 per the Dr. Coggan model.

I am a fair weather rider too and love the great convenience of my setup. It is a home away from home? That makes getting on and doing these rides enjoyable.

His work is based on the scientific research of Stephen Seiler.

He touched on this question on a podcast interview he did a few days ago:


  • There is likely a threshold for the minimum number of hours you should be training before applying 80/20, but it’s quite low.
  • One of the studies in recreational athletes (runners) who were running 45 minutes a day, benefited more from 80/20 than a programme with more time spent at moderate intensity.
  • The important thing is that you should intend to do most of your training at low intensity, and you should follow through on that intention.

I’m not buying it. Surely someone who rides less than 10 hours a week on this type of plan would very soon plateau if that’s all they did? Weekly TSS would be low and wouldn’t increase much. Think I’ll stick with tried and tested periodization thank you very much.

It would be nice to see some unbiased studies with time crunched cyclists rather than top class athletes who can give more time to training.


I am about half way through. Again, massive vagueness in the “short time works too” idea. MF says there was a running study with people who ran 45 mins a day and did better on the 80/20.

  • The problem is that he doesn’t bother to explain how many days that 45 mins was (7 days a week or something less???), and gives no clarity on the actual time used in Polarized approach.
  • How is that helpful?

Frustrating to no end. I am sure these guys all know WAY MORE about this stuff than I could likely hope to know. BUT they do a TERRIBLE job in explaining in clear detail about the specifics used to base their claims upon, and more importantly… how the heck we should employ that info.

  • MF is super loose and non-specific other than insisting on more Low Intensity.

They all insist that we are spending too much time in the “moderate” intensities (didn’t like how MF commented on it any more than how DR. Seiler and Trevor Connor in their casts). The dismissive attitude is off-putting and nearly arrogant. Not what I consider a useful approach if you want to win people over to your side of thinking.

I still need to finish listening to the last half, but I don’t find much more use in this cast than what we have in other ones. More of the same vague discussion and insistence we are all “doing it wrong”.


FWIW running is harder on the body, so I would be suspicious of trying to apply lessons learned in running to cycling.