My Polarized Training Experience (Chad McNeese & others)



I never even thought of this before but it’s probably true/correct. I think with PMs (and power-based apps/services) being the hot new tech, people have kind of forgotten about the heart & are now overly focused on the legs at every point on the spectrum.

Would be interesting to do a training program like this: LI w/ HR, HI w/ PM. I haven’t read this entire thread but I’m assuming @mcneese.chad is already doing it this way?


Yeah, I totally understand. I work in manufacturing with engineers. Pinning them down to specifics without stated qualifiers is a challenge. My problem with the hedging and wishy-washy claims is that it doesn’t help anyone.

I know lab guys like that recognize the inherent variability in humans and related processes…

But what is the point of all that research and testing if they can’t (or aren’t willing) to boil this down to some form of information that is readily possible to apply?

We don’t all live in or have access to labs for the type of testing they insist is needed for absolute accuracy. If there is to be any benefit to their work, they need to take “real life” into account and give us practical recommendations that we can apply.

Instead of making more firm recommendations and supplying direct reference charts, we get vague statement (like “something around…” or “it’s close to…”) and varying values (from one podcast to the next) from them. They give no useful reference to help us better understand or use the info. So, they leave that job to idiots like me :stuck_out_tongue: , and let us filter through their podcasts to make our own charts. It just seems like a mistake to me.

If they care so much about the info, I would expect them to want to provide something more substantial rather than having us do it (and risk making mistakes… like I did over the course of the last few months while making my charts).


Weighing the trainer mat was just my idea of a silly joke. Do what the man says :point_up:


:smiley: Ha yeah that totally flew over my head then!


I drove from Power, but did pay attention to HR along the way. In general, HR tracked pretty well with the Power. I noted the problem I had in the Longfellow workout (power data issue) that had HR and RPE well above what was intended.

Other than that one problem, I was comfortable using Power as the primary. But I think watching HR is worthwhile in the Z1 workouts, in effort to keep “easy” as easy.


Definitely want to do high intensity using power, due to HR lag and other issues with HR.

For low intensity I’ve found power to be helpful at keeping me honest, and not go too hard. Erg inside and alarms on my head unit outside. And cross check with HR % and breathing/talking. Zone 1 in the polarized model is defined by Aerobic Threshold, something you can’t feel or easily measured outside the lab. And even if measured in lab the value will vary a bit. So pick something easy to monitor, and something where you could have a conversation and you should be in z1.


Weigh myself naked with a full bottle before and after with the remains of the bottle. Not sure about whether to empty my bladder before each weighing though.


Hi Chad

Not sure if he cares so much, to be honest. He just reported on the findings - very logical people, I work with enough of them :roll_eyes: However, I think the findings are tantalising and like you, I have been seduced. Been training solid on TR for over 2 years and followed the prescribed plans to almost a ‘T’. I went off the reservation a bit within the last year from the plans to my own created plans (within TR) to satisfy my deficits. The fact I don’t compete at the minute had a bearing too. What TR has done and been done beautifully has given me a great understanding of structure and power based training, but I hit a limit. So the re-emergence of this old(er) research has piqued my interest at an opportunistic time.

The research before this, has some legs in it, and I think the more modern data is trying to get to where we are - time crunched recreational cyclists. I think most research, especially in medicine, tends to lend it self to gathering pace and then formulating a plan of how it can be delivered. I can’t see anything of this research that has been translated yet to a mass audience. He’s simply put it there for coaches (maybe us) to try and solve.

Like you, I have got a bit frustrated with nuances of Dr Seiler’s explanations and found myself cross referencing umpteen journals, and people who live by it. This was all before I spotted this forum, so it’s nice to know we are sharing the same frustrations.

I do believe TR is compatible with this methodology. Being able to prescribe a specific power range compatible with Heart Rate is great and even more so with the Vo2 stuff. It annoys me a bit that HR was pulled awhile ago, because this would help beautifully. But I guess for others, getting distracted by a high heart rate is distracting from the threshold and Vo2 work outs. So sadly, I monitor via TP as well - which is a bit of a ball ache.

Chad, I don’t believe you’ve made any mistakes, buddy. You’ve just enriched your portfolio and everyone else’s and there is still loads to be learnt. It’s even better that you’re roughly the same age as me (I’m older) and understanding the parts you struggled with and not is interesting and can be almost translated to my little journey.

I think despite what people will say, Threshold work is destructive and his evidence of the monotony of this does prove this and for an older cyclist, I’m not looking for short cuts, just a path that doesn’t kill me :slight_smile:

Sorry if I’ve made some typos, I’m currently training and writing. LT1 of course:wink::joy::wink:


@Deckys what do you mean by destructive? If the criteria is monotony, then you could apply the same logic to long z1 rides :wink:


I found that Power zones were way too restrictive and sticking in say 70% FTP (Power) would be cool for 2 hours - but then, decoupling occurs and HR rises and the effort changes and increases beyond LT1.
Outside or using a PM indoors, you’d just slow down a bit and wait for your Hr and Power to couple again.

The luxury comes, like with a Ergometer, you can, like I mentioned before keep the power static at the point it yields your LT1 and nudge it down a little when the HR goes up. Really not sexy, but efficient. I found that keeping a very steady pace like this, enables good Aerobic decoupling profile for the Low intensity rides


Flip side is also true, HR zones are way too restrictive and sticking at say 135bpm would be cool for 2 hours but then decoupling occurs and power drops and the effort changes.

I’m not convinced your can monitor a slight rise in lactate levels above baseline (LT1) by either HR or power. I think the reality is we are all using HR, power, or ability to carry a conversation as tools to gauge lower intensities associated with improving LT1.


I mean destructive to me. Sitting at SS, Threshold or V02 (in whatever percentage that is) But it sort of correlates with this study - Six weeks of a polarized training-intensity distribution leads to greater physiological and performance adaptations than a threshold model in trained cyclists

by Craig M. Neal
Angus M. Hunter
Lorraine Brennan
Aifric O’Sullivan
D. Lee Hamilton
Giuseppe DeVito, and
Stuart D. R. Galloway

"The urinary metabolomics data are interesting since a significant model was only observed from pre- to post-training for THR. Of course, it could be argued that the metabolites of interest may reflect dietary influences (caffeine intake, phytochemical intake, protein intake), as has been reported in previous metabolomics and nutrition studies (54, 56) and highlighted in a review by Gibney et al. (18). However, dietary intake was controlled with participants replicating their food intake for 2 days prior to the morning first-pass urine sample collections. Participants did not exercise on the day before collection of the samples, and the THR and POL training interventions were administered in a randomized crossover fashion. Therefore, it would seem that dietary intake would be an unlikely key factor here. Alternatively, the metabolites of interest could collectively suggest differences in cellular metabolic/energy stress induced by the THR training. Greater creatinine excretion would normally reflect greater plasma creatinine degradation, act as a marker of glomerular filtration rate, or mirror lean body mass in 24-h urine collections (15). In morning first-void urine, it likely reflects changes in hydration status or possibly reflects energy availability (55). In the absence of dietary influences, urinary dimethylamine is thought to reflect intermediary metabolism (37), whereas hypoxanthine reflects purine nucleotide degradation, which tends to be acutely lower if high-intensity sprint exercise is not undertaken (50). Urinary 3-methylxanthine can be produced by demethylation of theophylline in the presence of oxidizing radicals (44), and increased urinary excretion of this metabolite could therefore represent greater overall oxidative stress from the THR training period. Changes in hippurate excretion are typically associated with gut microflora (62), and activities of gut microflora may play an important role in energy metabolism and/or immune function of the whole organism (28).

Whereas the metabolomics profile change following THR but not POL cannot be fully explained, it may provide some insight into the overall cellular metabolic/energetic stress experienced with the THR training model. Greater evidence of cellular metabolic/energy stress with the THR model would support the notion of longer recovery times from threshold training sessions or may just reflect the higher training load. Either way, this greater stress was not associated with greater adaptation, which may suggest a maladaptive response to the THR training"

Yep, there are limitations to the study (sample size) and a few what if’s, but I think it can be disseminated and ideas applied.

But I’m a cyclist, not a coach or scientist:mask:

The Polarised concept is a Sprinkling of High intensity to the easy is the way forward. I don’t think (could be wrong) I mentioned staying at LT1 all the time :joy:

Oh, sorry if I wasn’t allowed to post that research :crazy_face:


It seems to me that a lot of people are really over thinking polarised training. Easy on easy days, very hard on hard days, 90/10 and try and stay away from the middle ground as much as you can. Inevitably you’ll still ride in that middle zone, just don’t train there. Simple.


I’ve read that paper several times, nothing in it suggests destructive anything.

For a perspective from a coach and student of sport physiology, I really think everyone should read this Joe Friel commentary:

just skip to the conclusion section:

Again, the subjects in this study may be the key to determining if you should train with a polarized method. Even though HVT (the high volume, low intensity group) had no improvement, a novice (year 1 in their sport) or intermediate (years 2 and 3) athlete may find just the opposite—great improvement in physiology and performance by training with high volume and low intensity. In fact, training as the POL or, especially, the HIIT groups did may soon result in injury or overtraining. These methods are best used by advanced athletes (greater than 3 years in the sport). The more experienced the better.

Intermediate and the less experienced of the advanced athletes may make great gains by training with the THR group’s method—lots of time at about AnT. This way is somewhat similar to what Coggan proposes with his “sweetspot” training methodology with 2 x 20-minute intervals at 88-93% of FTP with 5-minute recoveries. I’ve seen a lot of athletes improve by training that way.

The bottom line is that polarized and TR plans work.


I agree. I didn’t mentioning using HR zones, buddy. I train Low Intensity based on the Good Professor’s best estimation (which admittedly was hard to define) on LT1 - by HR. The ‘Quality’ (if it exists) is done by power.

By all means, Get a Lactate Monitor and a Lab with Dr Seiler, then you might know. The lads at Flo cycling stabbed their ears a few times to come up with their LT1 etc. II can’t afford Dr Seiler so I’m going off what I’ve learnt and currently works in my modality:wink:



Some people just need to know what is ‘easy’ - We’re all used to the ‘no pain, no gain’ model


I’ve definitely suffered from making easy days too hard. Even hearing a local cat 2 racer come out to weekly group ride and say “I’m going to drop off back, my coach said its an easy day and ride below 150W” was not enough for me to always go out and insist on riding 19-20mph on an easy day (“I’ll just make it a shorter ride”). Which is kind of odd, because when I got started less than three years ago I definitely figured out my all day pace for long 1+ hour climbs in the mountains.

One of the first benefits from using TR was to discover how easy to ride during recovery intervals and recovery days. And I’m also seeing it in outside data pre-TR, where I naturally fell into a 2 weeks on, 1 week recovery cycle and found my biggest boost in ftp.


IMO, the biggest flaw with the study design was that the threshold group did zero high intensity work. And the way that they write up their results is trying to be as sensational as possible, while dismissing the portions of the results that don’t strongly support their argument.

“In particular, LT, PPO, and exercise capacity at 95% of pretraining PPO all improved to a greater extent with POL compared with THR training. Although there was no statistically significant difference between POL and THR for the improvement in 40-km TT mean power output,”

So the athletes that did high intensity training improved their capacity for high intensity efforts. Neither group however significantly improved their 40K TT performance.


After reading most of the above posts it seems to me that the difficult thing is determining an individuals aerobic threshold as it will vary in relationship to max HR, LTHR, VO2max etc dependant to a great extent on how fat adapted the individual concerned is. At one extreme someone like Froome will probably have an LT1 quite close to his FTP/Anaerobic Threshold whereas a recreational cyclist who largely eats a standard high carb diet will more than likely have a much greater gap between the two.


I could be missing the point here, but I’m not sure what effect fat adaption has on LT1. Also I don’t think Froome or Team Sky are on a low carb diet generally.