Switching from Sweet Spot to a Polarized training strategy

I’m looking into making the switch, but I’m convinced that in order to at least maintain my current fitness, I’m going to need to log a lot more time. What I’m trying to figure out is how much more? Should I try to match the kind of TSS I usually accumulate? Should I trust that if I did low volume sweet spot base last year that the low volume polarized plan from TR will give me enough volume? I guess as I look at all these EASY rides on the calendar, it is hard to imagine getting faster without a large bump in volume.

What are your reasons for wanting to switch? Do you have a lot of extra time to train? And do you have the motivation to spend a lot of extra time training?


Look at it the other way. First, determine what is the max sustainable hours per week. Hopefully, spread over 5 sessions/week. Then subtract 2 sessions for intensity. Then, the other 3 sessions should be z2+ tempo with one of them being a long ride.

Day 1 THR -SS 1:30
Day 2 VO2 1:00
Day 3 Endurance 5:00
Day 4 Endurance 2:30
Day 5 Endurance 2:00

Organize the days at your convenience and maximizing recovery.


There are several reasons.

  1. I"m just wrapping up my third year following the more traditional plans, and they’ve served me well. the first year, my ftp went from 271 to 310, the next year I got up to 330. This year, however. I couldn’t pass 330. I feel a little stuck.

  2. When the weather gets good, I have always swapped the saturday workout for a 3-4 hour zone 2 ride. Every time I hit that time of the season, my performances start to really improve. This year, I couldn’t find the time for those rides, due to a unique family situation, so instead of 3-4 hour rides, I just did the normally perscribed workout.

  3. This year I have just felt totally wiped out by the training load. I am having a much harder time getting excited about yet another really tough interval session. It isn’t every ride, but it has been way more than any other.

  4. I love those zone 2 days. They just feel nice and relaxing.

  5. I have been listening to Inigo San Millan, and hearing things about how Kipchoge trains, and I’m starting to think there is really something to this thing about being more “fat adapted.” In fact, I am feeling convinced that zone 2 training may be more beneficial for my long-term health, even if I take a bit of a perfomance hit (but I really don’t want to take a performance hit.)


Yeah, that is how I plan on tackling it, but my question is this: Will that be enough in order to at least reach the same peak ftp I’ve been hitting. I don’t know how much extra volume is required to hit a “break even” when changing from a lot more intensity to a lot more zone 2. my plan is to have work out 4-5 days for 1 hour, and then 2 hours on saturday until spring, when I’ll bump that up to a 3-4 hour ride. That is really using up all my time.

I can’t answer this one directly. I switched to a polarized approach myself though and maybe I may offer you my personal experience:

First of all, I thought that it is always easier to add on intensity later on than doing to much intensity from the get go and burn out halfway through your season.

Secondly, for me the highest possible FTP wasn’t the main goal (this season). Sounds weird right. But I’m still a developing athlete, so for me it was important that the FTP I train with was actually a number I could use, e.g. hold my FTP for 40min+ or ride at threshold even after several hours of riding. The loads of Z2 in the polarized plans helped me with that.

With that being said, I still reached all time PRs in various power durations with a polarized approach – on the other hand I had way more free time available than you and I’m naturally better at short efforts up to 8min.
So without any scientific evidence, just from personal experience I would suggest: Try the polarized plan with the time you have. Give it some time, then evaluate if you want more intensity. If yes, introduce one day with tempo intervals.
This may break up the polarization, but one of the goals of a polarized training model at least in my understanding is, that you’re fresh for the hard workouts. If you want more intensity, you’re likely fresh for your hard workouts. Can’t add time? Add a little intensity. And you can’t make your hard days hard indefinitely.
Then reevaluate, still to little intensity? Exchange the tempo work for sweet spot.
Please don’t scream at me: I know this may not be polarized training by the book. But it’s my personal conclusion after 530 hours on the bike this year.


You haven’t told us what you have been doing. There’s not such a thing as a conversion factor per se, but you can try matching TSS.

I’ve been doing low volume + a bonus day of pettit. sweet spot base, and sustained power build.

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Difficult to say what’s good for someone else, but similarly to you I made improvements in my first years of structured training and doing a fair bit of sweetspot. Performances in events was good too. But like you, I hit a plateu…

I then adopted 2 hard sessions/week with everything else strictly zone 2. But I found my race performances suffered.

This year I’m gonna find a bit of balance and do sweetspot and Z2 for 3 months in the off season then when I go into build in Jan do no more dedicated sweetspot, (it is fatiguing despite what people might say) and crack on with Threshold and VO2 work with lots of Z2. Sweetspot does serve a purpose, just not all year round for me.


I tried the polarized too, I didn’t lose any fitness but didn’t get any better either. I think that for polarized to work you probably need to do >3h rides in the low tempo/high z2 range. It will probably make you faster than sweetspot if you can invest the time that is but if you can’t… sweetspot might be better

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Do you mean 3 hours a week, or multiple 3 hour rides a week?

Not at all, you can do it at 60% of FTP and still get most (all?) of the Z2 benefits with less fatigue. You are right about volume, though.

My N=1: due injury had to restart from base in middle of summer. First month did just low Z2 (6x, 11-13h/week), second month same low Z2 but one day/week had threshold workout (PL at ~4). Now, in third month, have 1x Z4 + 1x SS90 and remaining still at Z2 with 60% FTP.

Good news: TTE is now better than ever before, those SS90 feel really easy/moderate, I’m doing them in single interval 90min → 105min → 120min. This last 2h interval is coming next weekend and I’m pretty sure it is not much harder than 105min interval, just more time consuming :stuck_out_tongue:

Bad news: with current SweetSpot PL, there is no way I can choose SSB 1 or 2, they look horrendous for indoor training. This is what TR proposes for SSBHV1:

EDIT: this 60% of FTP is just random number. I actually cap intensity by HR that just happens to be at 60% usually, depending on day.


I’ve been thinking that using heart rate to set a threshold for Zone 2 work makes a lot of sense.


I have incorporated polarized training into my, hmmm, training. I don’t adhere to polarized-only, for me it is more another arrow in my quiver. And I take it out when I want to work on mental and physical endurance as opposed to raising my FTP.

This is precisely my experience. I have included polarized blocks for the past two seasons. I have frontloaded a polarized block before I started each training plan (starting with sweet spot) and inserted a polarized block when needed. The effect was exactly as you described, they increased my endurance at a certain power, but barely changed my FTP. This is not a ding against polarized blocks, I’m just saying that you should measure fitness more broadly and be ok with this.

In my case, this is exactly what I wanted: before each season (or after a longer break) I wanted to work more on my endurance at power rather than upping my power, and polarized does that.

I’d like to add something, though:

  • Don’t expect polarized to be easier, I find polarized blocks much harder. For the hard workouts I need to bring my A game.
  • Make sure you have set your FTP correctly. Threshold workouts should really be threshold workouts and not sweet spot workouts.
  • If you switched to polarized, because you burnt out on sweet spot training: be careful and distinguish what you are after, less days with intensity or a polarized power distribution.
  • Sometimes you just need different training stimulus, i. e. neither polarized or sweet spot may be better, it is just that you need different stimuli in different phases.
  • Try it out for yourself and see how your body reacts. Even if something works one way for 90 % of the population, perhaps you are amongst the 10 %.

True, but in my experience you need to up the volume a bit. Still, riding at 60 % outdoors is quite enjoyable if you get the hang of it, especially on the flats.


In my experience that changes quite a bit as your fitness develops. Personally, for very mellow Z2 rides, I try to stay below 130 bpm. For harder Z2 rides, the limit is 138 bpm. But I doubt it’d make a big difference if I set the second limit at 135 bpm or 140 bpm, though.


multiple 3h+ rides, type I fibers take a long time to tire…

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When you find a nice route, 3h+ rides at low Z2 are great, especially when you get good at being aero. Depending on the wind and other conditions, I usually do 33–38 km/h at about 200–220 W average.


I’m not sure if dividing training to purely polarized or sweetspot is the best approach. I’d rather split my training into separate blocks and then, for each block, try work out what’s the best way to get the desired training effect.

So for exaple:

Aerobic endurance (or base):

  • lots of long’ish workouts below LT2. Long z2 rides, tempo and sweetspot. Usually two or three harder workouts and a long ride per week is plenty.
  • workouts are moderate and sub-maximal.
  • high overall volume, pretty much as much as you can tolerate.
  • you should be able to keep doing this kind of training for weeks on end. Usually 8-12 weeks is enough.


  • two or three hard VO2max-workouts per week. Workouts are pretty much all-out.
  • to be able to reach your max. heart rate in workouts, you need to be sufficiently recovered which means low intensity and lower volume workouts in between.
  • no long sweetspot or tempo workouts becouse they lower your VLAmax and therefore hamper your workout performance.
  • lower overall volume to accomodate recovery.
  • no more than 4-6 weeks due to high stress (both physically and mentally).

So as you can see above, the approach differs vastly depending on what you’re trying to achieve. Polarized model is necessary when you’re doing very hard, almost all-out efforts weekly. On the other hand, there is a place for tempo and sweetspot sessions in base phase (and maybe in race-specific phase, depending on your event).


Indeed, because low Z2 does not provide too much support from pedal strokes, it is also good workout for core, triceps and lower back.