Questions for Stephen Seiler interview (Polarized Training)

I decided to post a new topic rather than comment on one of the existing topics to make it easier for me to find the actual questions. Moderators, if it’s better to merge, feel free to do so.

To get to the point, I’m interviewing Stephen Seiler next week for my podcast That Triathlon Show. And I thought I’d hear what potential listeners want to learn from in in particular.

So if you have any questions for him or topics you’d like us to tackle, please comment.

The best questions/topics that have the biggest chance of making the interview are applicable to a lot of athletes (not any particular individual) and also, are specific enough but not too caught up in the weeds and minor (typically insignificant) details.


Edited by Chad McNeese, to add a link to the interview discussion thread, related to the questions submitted here.


Q1) Is there actually strong evidence out there that elites avoid certain zones?


So shouldn’t we rename polarised to HLIT (high-low-intensity-training)? Probably not as catchy?

Q2) How intense should intense days be?
VN podcast guys - Seiler fanboys - always “brag around” how hard hard days are. Sort of not consistent with what Seiler said in other podcasts and according to the philosophy that a block of training (week/month/year/career) is more important than a single interval session.


Q3) on his intervals studies, e.g. 4 vs 8 vs 16 min
a) what is an explanation for the 8s being superior? Why is slightly above threshold good?
b) why were there so many non-responders in the 4 and 16 groups? how can we make sure, that we are “responders”?

Q4) what is his opinion of on-off (micro) intervals? I know, he does not favour anaerobic work. Here the context is micointervals @ 90-110% VO2max, not tabata style. These are so popular these days.

Q5) What is he working on right know. What publications can we expect from him in the near future?


Certainly Q3 has a lot of relevance to many people. If 4 * 8 is optimum out of the 3 choices is there anywhere in between that might be better or alternative options to break training up such as 5*7 etc.

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Is a 90/10 polarised split really relevant for an amateur athlete training 6-8 hours a week, when the low intensity sessions are unlikely to be long enough to create the adaptations of the long Z2 rides you’d be doing under a 16hr/week plan?


How to reconcile a polarized model with race specificity. In general for a lot of people like myself, or pros who will be doing a lot of high mountains spend an awful lot of their race time in zone 3 (Coggan model).

Surely training this extensively and adapting to this effort level is useful since it will be the bulk of your effort during targeted events and yet it flies in the face of polarized training (I think).

So basically, is it not still useful to train this zone given that a race performance may hinge on your ability to perform at this level, or will a 90/10 polarized model still be preferred. Where the athlete just trusts that on the day that they will be able to perform well and spend prolonged periods of time at this tempo/sweetspot zone. For me this could involve being in a breakaway in 70 mile road race for example.


In one of the VeloNews podcasts Seiler said cyclists (exception would be track cyclists) should train significantly in zone 3 as it is race specific. Somehow this gets always ignored by the VN guys, even though they asked it themselves.


I think I missed this, the “seeing the forest from the trees episode” VN episode did little to get rid of this kind of confusion. They said you either need to go long, go really hard or recover and then they added a preface that sometimes sweetspot work is useful if I remember correctly, which isn’t very helpful for making things clearer.

Thanks for the reply anyway, I am more interested in how it sweetspot and tempo is integrated into the plan. Because in my head if you are going to spend a lot of time racing at this intensity it is logical to spend a lot of time in that zone, so i would like input to the required volume of this work. As in, is it useful to have prolonged blocks of this kind of work (like SSB), or does Seiler just mean doing a session every week or 2 that works on this (treating it as a high intensity session in the plan). I don’t believe any specific volumes of this kind of work was discussed, could be wrong though.


at 1:01:00 , so in the end of the podcast

He said that only elite track cyclists train polarized. Elite road cyclists do not. And this makes sense - according to him - because of race demands. When asked if road cyclists would benefit from switching to a more polarized model he said “not really”.

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Thanks for asking and looking forward to your podcast.

Some possible questions and some lead in verbiage:

  1. The 80/20 discussion in various forums has sparked nice debate on how, and if, amateurs (e.g. weekend warriors, USA cat 3/4 level riders) can adopt and benefit from the same principles.

For amateur cyclists we know many ride about 8-12 hours a week and this time is precious. Many of these riders will have a goal not to “peak” for a single event but to be “good” for a season.

Question 1: Would you suggest an 80/20 work split principles for these athletes pre-season and/or during season?

Question 2: if Yes, what key workouts would you suggest these athletes program? For example: Tuesday 4 x 8 @ 105%, Thursday 2 x 20 @ 95%, Saturday long ride 3-4 hours.

  1. Physiology and training studies are extremely difficult to perform well, are difficult to control, and are rarely replicated. Your findings on interval duration and “bang for the buck” looking at 4x4 v 4x8 v 4x16 has generated a great deal of interest. Particularly as time restricted athletes are always looking for the best return on their time investment.

Question 1: Do you have plans to replicate this experiment in a separate (new) cohort of athletes?

Question 2: Have you considered a larger experiment where after Training Set 1 (and perhaps a recovery period) re-randomizing the cohort to different interval program?

For example the group that performed 4x8 first would be switched to either 4x4 or 4x16 for Training Set #2, then again for training set #3. The primary question being is 4x8 a “magic” interval set or was it something about the cohort in the experiment that lead to the finding?

  1. Given the difficulty of running these experiments in a single location, have you considered “Crowd Sourcing” volunteers for further studies? While this could increase noise, there are a great many athletes training with power, HR and some with lactate, who would be happy to follow a specific program for a period of time and contribute data to a primary investigator for publication. Taking this approach would allow both real world application of theory (for example SST vs 80/20 or 4x8 v 4x4, etc etc) and real world data on impact of training hypothesis. Am certain there would be no shortage of “qualified” volunteers who would complete the project.

  2. What are your top three pieces of advice for amateurs? Am expecting (1) recovery, (2) consistency, (3) go really hard on your hard day. Defining “really hard” would be useful.

  3. What research are you working on that data geeks can look forward to reading / hearing about next?




No concrete question but just a hint at a specific post from @Nate_Pearson which you might want to take into account (as some contradicting point of view) for your interview:


What kinds of exercise should someone be doing if focused primarily on health and longevity? Beyond a focus on performance, I would like to hear Seiler’s thoughts on training intensity distribution for general health, or even overall fitness without training for anything specifically. Would there be more time spent in mid-intensity for these ends?


It had never really been explained is the polarised approach applicable after a base phase and what is the minimum number of hours required to get good results from a polarised approach?

Is there periodisation in the polarised approach? What would it look like?



Just started binging your podcast about 2 weeks ago. I’m confident you’ll get some good time out of him, and I’m really excited to hear the result - I know you’ve been trying to get him on for a while. This issue has been banging about for so long, I can’t wait for any additional clarity you can deliver.

I think Seiler has some very well informed opinions, but in the couple of times I’ve heard him on the Fast Talk podcast no one has really pressed him to address the efficacy of his preferred model for 99% of the population (less than 10 hours to train per week, not to mention those of us who are forced to ride indoors from December–March, where doing anything more than 5-6 hours is A LOT). Frank Overton seems to be the only person that has utilized both Polarized and Sweet Spot and has found Sweet Spot to yield the best results given the time crunch most of us face.

So I would also be interested in getting Seiler’s viewpoint on real-world applicability for us average joes who have at most 8-10 hours to train per week, and can’t always budget in time for a 4+ hour ride every week.



Maybe you should relisten. They are talking about 2 a days with respect to track cyclists - Seiler believes track cyclists could benefit from 2 a days. Normal cyclists who participate in long races, probably not. Trevor kind of fumbles the language in his question a bit, but Seiler himself is clearly talking about 2 a days and their benefit for road vs track cyclists.

He clearly and repeatedly encourages even cyclists who train under 8 hours a week to polarize their training. He is all in on polarized training, for cyclists and other endurance athletes.

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He addresses it a number of times. He thinks that low volume cyclists should structure their training to get in 2 interval sessions and 1 long session a week (so if you had 5hrs to train a week, 2x1hr interval sessions on two separate days with 3hr long ride on the weekend). I’m not saying I agree with it or that’s how I would go, but I’ve listened to these podcasts and he addresses the issue plainly (it’s from one of the FastTalk ones, I’m pretty sure).


Must have missed that, I’ll have to re-listen.

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Great, look forward to listening, I’ll have to keep an eye out for that episode. You do a good job with the podcast :+1:t5:

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