JUST ADDED >> How To Polarize Your Training

To become the best athlete you can be, research shows you need to train the way the world’s best athletes do: with the polarized training method.

We’ve added on to our new Polarized Training Pathway to show how you can transform your training and create your own, custom polarized approach. 5 new stories focus on how to polarize your training.

Dr. Stephen Seiler and coaches Trevor Connor and Alan Couzens explore:

· How to polarize your training
· When to push harder and when to pull back
· How polarized training changes as you get closer to racing
· How to measure your body’s response to training stress
· How to time your high-intensity workouts
· How to boost your durability so you can push harder at the end of a long race

Master polarized training and unlock your elite.

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what would be interesting is what is the minimum effective dose for this sort of training. Recently Chris Carmichael had a post about this subject and it is something that has troubled me for a while. There is always for all dose response models a minimum effective dose. It seems to me that most of what Dr. Seiler et al suggest seems to be a very high weekly training dosage. Is there any research to look at when or where the minimum effective dose is and how that relates to training effect? ie more training input more training effect. Typically there is a curve but for people like me the max is not the issue it is the minimum. How do you spend your minimal time most effectively s it reasonable to consider a polarized approach in a limited weekly number of hours, say 2-3 * 1 hour sessions, plus a single 2-3 h session per week.

That’s for me the question too! Most of us have only 6 - 8 hours per week for training.

You @trevor mentioned in your article about Polarized, Pyramidal and Sweetspot, that with Polarized and Pyramidal the training volume is typical higher … and that there are studies with recreational runners which shows that the polarized approach is effective with 4 - 5 hours/week .

BUT …, cycling is not running :slight_smile: .
My question is therefore, if there are only 6 - 8 hours/week available is polarized still the way to go? Or should we mix it up with Sweetspot?

Maybe an article in the Polarized Pathway how to adapt the approach for Time Crunched Cyclist?

This forum contains similar questions. A search may find you lots of detailed info.
In general:

  • a hard session will ensure that you cannot have another hard session on the next day. This is where your polarization starts.
  • if you keep going slow to allow for your stronger fibers to recover, you probably end up with 80/20.
  • if you replace the hard session with a sweet spot session, you might be able to do one again on the next day.

So the distribution is a result of how hard your hard sessions are.
Another thing to consider is the development of your fat oxidation capacity. This happens be at your fat max intensity (to be found in a lab). If you want to go for long races, train a lot in this zone.

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Hi @scooter, sorry I didn’t reply to your question sooner! The irony is that we were so intrigued by your question, I was motivated to write an article about it which we’re going to publish this week. I just got so focused on the article, I forgot reply to you. But I do hope you read the article because it was written with you in mind.

The short version in the meantime, is that there have been several studies published in the last five years showing that even with 4-6 hours of training each week, a polarized approach was either as effective as other approaches (especially sweet spot training) or in one study it was a little more effective.

The important thing to remember is that at that sort of volume, you’re not going to reach something close to your peak potential. The question is more about maximizing the gains you can get our of 4-6 hours and I think a polarized approach is a good choice. But I will also recognize that most structured approaches are going to get you relatively similar gains at that sort of weekly volume.


Thanks Trevor, I am honoured! I look forward to reading the article!

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Looking forward to the article.
To reply to @scooter :
Polarized is recognized as effective for time crunched people, but stick to the principles:
Go slow if you cannot go hard/go hard when you are recovered from there previous hard session.
versus: my schedule says today is a slow day, but i can go hard because I missed the hard session this week.

With little hours you must maximize all the adaptation you can get.

thanks @kjeldbontenbal that sounds good, but the depth of the question is far more than that. How do you dose the hard vs easy. Do you try to stick to strict boundaries ie is in the Seiler world the 3 zones? With 3 vs 5 vs 7 zones the ranges differ to some degree but they are all ranges. So polarized can still be a bit difficult to know for someone not as well informed as you. And the ultimate question is how much is enough to do the following:
1 maintain fitness
2 improve fitness
3 optimize fitness (achieve your optimal levels)
are there sub sets within these 3?

Many people are not that different from me, 2 maybe 3x 1 hour time slots during week nights and most likely one afternoon time slot on the weekend for 2 maybe 3 hours? In such cases if you follow the Chris Carmichael plan it comes with caveats of the outcomes, but if as with many people they want to improve certain areas of fitness what and how is a complex question.

Hi @scooter,
I advise you to get a membership here and read the pathway on polarization.

Dosing hard: explore what you can handle: for instance: do a minute all-out, take rest until your heart rate is back in zone 2 (out of), go again. Once your output is more than 10% belong the previous interval, it’s enough for the day.
Next time, try to increase the duration of the intervals. (and possible also the number of repeats)

Dosing easy: zone 1 or 2 out of 5, or zone 1 in the Seiler model → must feel like ‘i could do this all day long’

you maintain fitness by keeping your ‘hours per week’ steady, regardless the intensity distribution
improve fitness → more hours
optimize → do polarize within the available hours

Fitness is a general term. If you have more hours to spend you can steer towards sprinting or endurance. With 3x 1 hour, i would just make sure you do a bit of everything so you have fun during training the technical benefits of speed variations.

Hi @kjeldbontenbal I have a membership. As noted in my last point there is a lot of difference between optimal and what some people have. As a for instance if one looks at the item Three Rides to Polarize Your Training - Fast Talk Laboratories the total minimum hours is far in excess of what I can commit to. ie

Ride 1: Long, slow distance Frequency: 1-2 times per week Duration: 2.5–6 hours ----2 h is about all I have

Ride 2: High-intensity intervals Frequency: 2 times per week time 40 min? this I could do but then Ride 3 is not in the scope of time

Ride 3: Easy recovery Frequency: 3+ times per week

Duration: 1–2 hours not able to put into a week
so if I were to look at the available tome per week maybe 1 long Saturday or Sunday 2h
1 or 2 high intensity rides maybe Tuesday Thursday
Maybe Wednesday recovery??? Friday is out so maybe instead Monday? but that is pushing it…
so that is why a minimum dosage question was raised and why Trevor has picked up the ball and run with it and I can’t wait to hear his reply post this week. There are many people who do have limited time to do training but want to have some positive effect. We are not trying to win races, just improve a bit or at minimum not slide backwards.

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Go hard on your first training.
Go slow on the following sessions until you feel recovered. Go hard again on the next one.

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his is exactly the article I was looking for and in particular these paragraphs near the end:
Granted, if you’re only training four hours per week, you likely won’t be overtraining, but the more important message is that if you spend your four weekly hours doing four interval sessions, you may actually see fewer gains than if you only did two interval sessions and made them count.

I’d also strongly recommend trying to get one longer workout into that weekly plan if time allows—an hour if you’re a runner and at least 2.5 hours if you’re a cyclist. There are gains from longer slow workouts that we can’t get any other way. These include building our stamina and forcing fast-twitch fibers to work aerobically. That 2.5-hour ride is simply going to produce better gains than several one-hour rides.

That is exactly what I have been thinking and trying to get done. My days are packed and it is hard and as noted life gets in the way. As a for instance, last evening I was all reved up for an interval session, but as I left work, I had a flat tire, which led me to change out all 4 to put on the northern reality, snow tires… so there went the time I had allocated for training… reset and hope tonight is better.