Sweet Spot or Sour Spot?

Definitely. Likely will ask for help when time comes to create a concrete plan.

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Ha, I was wondering the same

One thing that is generally missing in the debate about polarized vs sweet spot is a hypothesis based approach to figuring out the answer.

By this I mean, developing some POV on the situations is which polarized is better and why, and when and why SS is better. With a hypothesis based approach you could then start to look through existing data I.e. a natural experiment of sorts, to confirm/refute the elements of the hypothesis. And do targeted studies to fill in gaps.

For example, why do x-country skiers do polarized but not most pro cyclists? Do some pro cyclists do polarized but others do pyramid? Is polarized better for some athletes based on their physiology (eg % slow twitch) while sweet spot better for others? You could develop a hypothesis on each of these questions (and more), and then go test the pieces.

Course no one seems to have the time/interest/incentive/ability to really figure it out.

FWIW, the INSCYD approach is the best that I’ve seen on tailoring training based on the athlete physiology and goals. So maybe that’s the way forward, and training modes are a continuum, with no longer any clear distinction between “polarized” and “sweet spot”?

Until then:


This particular individual who wrote the article seems less interested in a debate and more interested in “getting back” at TR because they hurt his feelings/ego:

I don’t like the way Nate Pearson calls me “this youtube guy” without using my name or qualifications.

Interesting how he attempts to smear TR for their focus on Sweet Spot, yet barely even mentions FasCat who’s business model is also built upon SST.


Pro cyclists end up pyramidal because they do 4-5-7 hour races and a lot of racing is in tempo or sweet spot range. If you look at pro cyclists on Strava you can definitely see that their base season is often 6 hour rides day after day in zone 1.

Cross country skiers do 1-2 hour races. Rowers do very short races.

I do think there is more known than is easily available to the average recreational cyclists. The work of Sebastian Weber was being done before him by Jan Olbrecht and before him by Mader.


Doing INSCYD testing is probably the easiest method though it costs around $800/year (4 tests).

All that said, structured training is trying to ring the last 10% out of the body and surf the peaks for race performance. None of this crap we try to do is going to turn any of us into a World Tour Pro. There is no untapped potential locked inside us that we could release if we only found the right training method.

Take Phil Gaimon. he started bike racing late, joined his college team, maybe won his first race, and then upgraded to cat 1 in a very short amount of time. You often hear this kind of story about pros. Did Gaimon do some super secret training program that unlocked his potential? NO. He was just born with it. He went out and rode a lot and ended up way better than all his friends in short order.

Back to SST - To me SST is partly a hack to make up for a lack of volume. You might do 20 minutes of SST to replace a 2 hour ride outside. SST can also be a race intensity simulation and you can often get this doing group rides.

As you go up the continuum of adding more training hours in the attempt to get faster, you have to add more time in Z1/2 and become more polarized. Most people can’t absorb hours and hours of SST. And there are benefits to the long slow rides.

The fallacy is that people tend to have the “more is better” mindset - like more intervals must make me faster, more SST will make me faster, etc. You get the point where you don’t need more intensity, you need more time in the saddle.


And therein is the problem for so many of us ‘time crunched’ non-pro, spouses, parents, etc.

I’m there now. An hour a day, bashing my brains to the stem of my bike is about all I’ve got time for, sadly. I’d love many long, slow, rides of 5+ hours… but it’s simply not in the cards at the moment.



It’s Sweet Spot BASE. Not Sweet Spot YEAR ROUND.


There is a middle ground. You don’t have to bash your head with 7 rides a week with intensity nor do you have to do 5 hour rides. Seiler has said that he’s seen 6 hour a week amateurs improve their lactate curve in six weeks with polarized training.

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and what came after the 6 weeks? What when the body has adapted to riding 0.9x6h of LIT? At some point you have to apply more stimulus or you stagnate. And with LIT this comes basically from adding volume.


Another academic paper saying 6 weeks of HIT increased FTP 0.02% more than LIT

(don’t mind me - jaded and sarcastic ex academic researcher - LOL)


This is what seiler(and others) has repeated over and over

We can argue about this until the cows come home but I think we all agree 1/ that if you train 20 hours/week or more like the pros then you have to go polarised as you can’t do threshold/SS for that long 2/ Any well structured programme will make us weekend warriors faster initially. The tricky bit is what happens when we have been riding a while and have picked up all the easy gains…I have about 7-10 hours/week and try to do a group ride for about 3.5 hours and a combination of SS/over under/threshold/VO2 max for 2 turbo sessions plus a couple of aerobic rides. That is Tue/Wed/Thr plus weekend. I do the hard stuff Tue/Sat as I need a day off if I want to smash it. If I had 20 hours a week I would go polarised…but I don’t - I should imagine most of us are in a similar boat.


I did this experiment on myself last year. After about 8 weeks of Seiler style base I was flying, breaking all my PRs, and my FTP tested 20 points higher. Probably the biggest benefit to a polarized base was my fatigue resistance improved substantially. Three hour group rides got a lot easier. They no longer left me in gutter wanting to do nothing more than sit on the couch for the rest of the day.

My FTP over the year went something like this:

polarized base
added a little tempo and SST but stayed mostly polarized
275 end of the year test (Nov)
For end of Nov/Dec I did a lot of easy rides and rode around 6-8 hours per week.
Two weeks off around Xmas and New years.
Started base miles again and a few weeks later I was flying, breaking PRs, getting Strava KOMs that I had no business getting.
WKO5 predicted my FTP at 291. Though I didn’t test again I believe the number from the results. I was also climbing with a better class of rider in my bike club which I had never done before.

My yearly average for 2019 was 7 hours a week. My biggest week was probably 13 hours and there were only a few of those.

I think this idea that you have to ride 15-20 hours per week to successfully ride polarized is false.

BTW, this is not an anti-SST post. Some SST and tempo can be integrated into a largely polarized approach.

Training is about stimulus and response. If you always pound yourself on the trainer and never let up to allow for adaptation you’ll be stuck in the middle and/or constantly tired or burned out.


I’ve been training ~20h/week for the last 4 years or so. Last winter I followed a strict polarized approach from Nov-March. 2019 was my worst racing season ever, clearly lacked the turbo diesel and the high intensity work led me nowhere. I guess we can find success and failure annecdotes with all training regimes.


I’ve experimented with polarized blocks over the last 18 months, and my current conclusion is that in the future I’ll do a 9 week polarized block only after doing a more “traditional” early base with strength training focus (Aug/Sept) followed by sweet spot base (Oct-Jan) to focus on muscular endurance and build out training load (CTL). For pyramidal distribution I’m a fan of at least one longer 3-8 hour aerobic endurance rides on the weekend.

I’ve seen similar although on 5-8 hours/week. That said polarized does make me feel fresher during the week, although same is true if I do more pyramidal 2 days/week of sweet spot and a true 3-6 hour aerobic endurance ride on the weekend.

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So what does your 20 hour/week look like?

What durations are your SS intervals? If you haven’t stretched them out to multi hour then you probably haven’t maxed out the adaptation yet.

I believe this is true. However there are conflicting messages from respected sources - Seiler who says polarized; TR saying sweet spot, defined as 88-94% FTP; Steve Neal saying tempo/low Sweet Spot, but keep below 83% max HR. It’s hard for an average cyclist to make sense out of all this.

And little acknowledgement of the specific training you might need if you, say, skew fast twitch instead of slow twitch, or have a low LT1.

I get the “just ride more and more consistently” approach. But if I have 8-10 hours to put in, I’d like to understand how to optimize within that envelope. FWIW, I think I’m slowly figuring it out for myself.

Like I mentioned, I think the INSCYD guys have the best approach that I’ve seen. Wouldn’t surprise me that they built on work that came before.


Any chance you have the full text?

I was able to download the text from the researchgate link at the top

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