Episode 210: What does a Threshold training methodology look like?

First, this was one of my favorite Nerd Lab’s so far. The debate was fascinating, but more importantly, the various ways one can interpret and dissect the literature was also interesting.

As you can tell from the title, my question deals with the one training method that virtually everyone agreed (slight generalization) was the least effective. I’m curious as to what exactly a threshold plan/structure may look like. To be clear, I’m not talking about threshold workouts (ie Seiler’s 4x8), but the actual methodology.

I tried to find out more, but as you can imagine when you search for “threshold vs polarized/pyramidal” you get more about the workouts, not the methodology.

Hopefully someone here can give me a brief idea of what it would look like and perhaps a paper or two to read.

This is purely a curiosity for me, as I’m wondering if at times in the past I may have used this style.

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HI @edm5001,

Replying on my phone so forgive the short reply… a threshold program and a sweet spot program are relatively similar. The idea is you’re doing that mid-intensity work as the bulk of your training. Upwards of 40-60% of your time.

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Here are a couple papers by Stoggl. He did a retrospective and an intervention study (comparing high volume, threshold, high intensity interval, and polarized training).

Hopefully these studies can give some insight into the varying training distributions and get the ball rolling for more discussion.

Thank you, I will take a look. As I mentioned, this is more a curiosity for me, but I feel like I have fallen victim to this in the past.

When I first started implementing sweet spot into my pyramidal training, I got sucked into the numbers game. The more sweet spot - the higher the TSS. The higher the TSS, the better racer I would be.

Needless to say, doing three sweet spot workouts, while racing on the weekends didn’t equal success. But my TSS got really high :man_facepalming:

Based on @trevor quick response, I definitely want to look at that period. I bet most weeks I was doing at least 50% sweet spot.

Curious to see some of the research and see what it says.

@edm5001 I had a period where I was doing a lot of sweet spot training as well and I echo what you mentioned. I was really flat during my races and didn’t have the punch. Really did not bring about much race success for me. The issue for me was that I was incorrectly implementing sweet spot work into my training cycle.

I think that there is value to sweet spot, but it has to be placed and dosed correctly in your training plan. I would argue that three sweet spot workouts a week plus racing on the weekends don’t leave much room to recover. Once you reach a certain level of fitness, not much is needed during the week to maintain and continue steady growth when there are races on the weekends. If you look into that retrospective study plus some of Seiler’s work, you’ll begin to see a seasonality in the type of workouts and when they are implemented based on when competitions are slotted.

Hi @edm5001, if you’re interested in reading some of the research on sweet spot training, we actually referenced several studies in that last Nerd Lab episode we did (https://www.fasttalklabs.com/fast-talk/nerd-lab-eccentric-damage-and-a-heated-polarized-debate/.) in the research they call it “threshold training” not “sweet spot training.”

While the research wasn’t black and white on polarized verses pyramidal training, it was pretty black and white about threshold training - athletes didn’t perform as well.


FYI your link is bad, it is including the trailing .)
Should be Nerd Lab: Eccentric Damage and a Heated Polarized Debate - Fast Talk Laboratories

Thanks mate :+1:

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I feel like threshold training is very effective at building capacity - if you can handle it. I think I’ve seen a coach say that this is the most metabolically challenging workload. But, I’ve also read that this sort of training produces “dirty” lactate profiles, i.e., elevated levels throughout the power curve.

Tim Cusick tends to use sweetspot/threshold a lot but then shift to polarized leading up to a race.

This is a methodology that makes some sense to me - use threshold work to build capacity but then switch to a polarized distribution to clean up the lactate profile once that capacity is built.

Caveat, this is just my sense of things. I’m no expert.

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There are a few coaches applying that methodology. Tim being one, FasCat “switch from base to race” being another.